Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Cartoon I'd Like to Draw

If I could only draw...

This would be my political cartoon of the week:

A large housecat with the face of George W. Bush, presents a gift at the feet of his owner, George Bush I:

a dead rat with the face of Saddam Hussein.

Cats often present such gifts to their owners, unaware that the owners find them icky – to say the least – but to the cat it is the ultimate gift of homage and devotion.

The cartoon is meant to suggest that the current Pres. Bush was motivated not so much by a desire to make the world a better place, but by a desire for parental approval and revenge against Saddam who apparently had plotted to assassinate the former Pres. Bush. So while nobody is arguing that the rat should be spared, the gift of it remains, well, icky.

I'll spare you the other 800+ words - for now.

Friday, December 29, 2006

It's Already a Success; All it Has to do Now is Occur!

Why I object to giving out *best of the year* awards before the year is actually over: this one is definitely a contender for

Best Attempt at Elevating Truthiness and Spin to a Whole New Level

It's about halfway down the page in this CNN transcript from Dec. 28, in which some reporters are interviewing one Fran Townsend, billed as a “Homeland Security Adviser”:

HENRY: You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we're going to get him. Still don't have him. I know you are saying there's successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That's a failure.

TOWNSEND: Well, I'm not sure -- it's a success that hasn't occurred yet. I don't know that I view that as a failure.

A success that hasn’t occurred yet.

Finding that quote about made my day. It is the one simple phrase that sums up the Bush administration’s philosophy: facts be damned, just stay the course and expect our goals to fall into our laps. Sooner or later. (And if they don’t, it’s the fault of our opponents.)

Will it work for me too? Shall I start shovelling the snow that hasn’t fallen yet from my front walk?
Perhaps I should take a trip to Oslo next year to collect the Nobel Prize that I haven’t been awarded yet, or start spending the lottery fortune I haven’t won. Yet.

That kind of thinking would get me thrown in the looney bin; in Washington, it gets you hired as a government spokesman.

Buyer beware.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sex Offenders, Guns, and Jimmy Buffett, Oh My!

Update on a news story I blogged about in October, in which an American teacher, convicted of a sex offense for fondling an underage student, was allowed by US authorities to serve his sentence as a parolee, living in his home with his wife and child in Canada:

The good news is, Canada has deported Malcolm Watson.

The bad news is, he remains here nevertheless, pending an appeal which could take as long as a year.

Part of the issue is what kind of *rights* Watson has, as a permanent resident. That is for the lawyers to figure out. What continues to irk me is how an American judge can unilaterally decide that a person convicted of a sex offense may return to live in another country. I’m sure the US is only too glad to be rid of him on a day to day basis, and if he were a Canadian I’d understand if he were to be deported back home, but he is not a Canadian, merely a resident married to a Canadian.

While Watson may or may not pose a realistic hazard to the Canadian population, it is not acceptable for this decision to be made by a foreign court, and if there is a loophole in Canadian law that permits this to occur, it needs to be closed. Immediately.

Somewhat better news, for those living near the Great Lakes on either side of the border:

The US Coast Guard has abandoned its plan to carry out live-fire machine gun training exercises from ships on the lakes. This was a bad idea for many reasons, one of the least obvious perhaps being that the accumulation in the lakes of ammunition containing lead is a serious environmental hazard. Unfortunately, some such training was carried out last summer but was then suspended pending public hearings.

According to this article,

the exercises were justified by the Coast Guard as essential if officers were to be properly prepared to defend the United States against terrorists who could attack by boat from Canada.

Essential? There is no other way to train people to fire guns from boats? A wave pool comes to mind...

Finally, singer Jimmy Buffett has decided that he cares more for seals than for working people and their families. He has joined the chorus of rich and famous celebrities who protest the annual seal hunt in Canada but apparently has it in not only for the sealers, but also for those in the fishing industry. How else to explain his restaurant chain’s boycott of Canadian seafood?

I just love how these privileged celebrities parachute themselves into an issue with the result that real harm may be done to hard-working families that barely manage to eke a living out of the land and sea. In contrast, those who carry around guns and shoot forest creatures for sport get a free pass to the point that in Texas, a law is pending that will permit the blind to hunt with special, laser-pointing-equipped guns. According to the bill’s sponsor:

This opens up the fun of hunting to additional people, and I think that's great.

In a world in which the blind in Texas must not be denied the fun of hunting, but sealers and fishermen are to be denied the means to make a living, something is clearly wrong.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Obscure? Who You Calling OBSCURE?

Poor Stephen Harper.

Scary in his own country, and now obscure outside of it, at least according to Chris Matthews, host of the MSNBC political show, Hardball.

On Tuesday’s show, Matthews interviewed potential presidential candidate John Edwards and decided, somewhat playfully, to quiz him on foreign affairs in a similar manner to how then-candidate G.W. Bush was quizzed during the 2000 campaign.

The transcript is here; scroll down about a third of the way, or search for the word “Canada”.

Edwards did not do too badly, correctly naming the leaders of Canada, Mexico, Iraq, Germany and Italy but missing South Africa. But what really really REALLY has me steaming is this: Matthews, obviously impressed, remarked,

I‘m going to go back in my box because Harper is pretty obscure.

Obscure: Among other definitions,

of little or no prominence, note, fame, or distinction

far from public notice, worldly affairs, or important activities; remote; retired

Previously Matthews had called the country Italy obscure; I take exception to that as well, particularly since Italy, unlike Canada, was a member of the “Coalition of the Willing”. But how, how on EARTH can a (presumably) educated talk show host call the elected leader of one of the US’s largest trading partners (if not THE largest) and the country with which the US shares the world’s longest undefended border, OBSCURE?

Furthermore, Edwards then was unable to elaborate on Harper’s first name or, and this is important, POLITICAL PARTY.

Can you function as President of the United States without knowing the political leanings of your allies? That might make it difficult to know which countries indeed ARE your allies, wouldn’t it?

Now, I realize that anything, even a mushroom, would be an improvement over the current President. But we are looking ahead here and maybe trying not to repeat past mistakes?

After the little quiz, indeed immediately after it, Matthews launched into a discussion of why “America” is hated throughout the world.

I had to laugh.

Among many other reasons, some arguably valid and some invalid, perhaps “America” is hated because its citizens and its leaders can’t tear themselves away from gazing into their own navel long enough to acquire some sort of global perspective.
(That language substantially cleaned up from what I actually wanted to say.)

This is a long-running pet peeve of mine dating back decades: anything that happens or relates to anything outside of US borders is looked upon with disdain and indifference in the US if it is looked upon at all.

Several years ago, way before 9/11, I entered into such a discussion with an American acquaintance, asking why there was no interest there about events in Canada. She replied, because you are not a threat to us.

But how did she know that if she didn’t know anything about us?

Now that the unthinkable has happened, Americans are a little more aware that there IS an outside world but I feel they still do not attach enough importance to being educated about it – if not for themselves, as citizens, then at least for their leaders and policy-makers. It seems like the electorate champions mediocrity, while those like Al Gore just make people nervous.

This happens to be not only my opinion, but that of political columnist Roger Simon, who stated on the Wednesday edition of Hardball,

Americans distrust people who are too smart. Remember, Adlai Stephenson ran into this problem. If you seem too intelligent—Dukakis had this problem.

When questioned, in an incredulous tone, by Matthews, who pointed out that Bill Clinton has a very high IQ, Simon replied,

We want it both ways. Clinton was smart enough to hide his intelligence. He ran as a good old boy, the boy from Hope. He ran as a nice guy that you want to live next to.

Smart enough to hide his intelligence.

Doesn't that just speak volumes.

This phenomenon is also reflected in some of the responses I received for an abbreviated version of this rant, in the comments section of this Newsvine post. My favourite, "that's what staffers and briefings are for", neatly sums up why and how the US has gotten into the mess that it's currently in.

I don’t get it. I will never get it. People who tolerate and excuse ignorance end up setting an abysmally low standard for those they depend on to lead them and – dare I say it – keep them safe.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A New Front in the War Against Hugging

Today’s news brings another skirmish in the global war against displaying affection.

Not to be outdone by the politically-correct Brits, this time it’s Americans who are asserting their right to be protected against unprovoked cuddles.

A four year old boy in a suburb of the appropriately-named Waco, Texas, served an "in-school suspension" for “inappropriate physical behavior interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual harassment.” The incident is on the child’s record, much to the chagrin of his parents who are fighting it.

The crime?
He allegedly “hugged a teacher's aide and rubbed his face in the chest of (the) female employee.”

Yeah, and?

In some cultures, children are nursed until age four or five. Rather than a “sexual” impulse, rubbing his face in an adult woman’s chest probably meant he was hungry. Or maybe, just maybe, that he liked her.

People have a great tendency to anthropomorphize animal behaviour - that is, to ascribe human emotions and motives to what they observe animals doing. In this case, I fear the school district is adult-izing the behaviour of a four year old in exactly the same way. A child that age is not equipped to sexually harass anybody; they are too busy smashing their lunchboxes over their friends’ heads and disassembling small insects.

I had two boys of my own, and spent some time as a kindergarten lunchroom monitor.
I was hugged, and kissed. A lot.
By both boys and girls.

Perhaps I should have alerted the school that four year old girls were expressing homosexual tendencies by hugging me.
That would be as outrageous as what the Waco school has done.

I don’t remember it ever happening but if a child were to do something that made me uncomfortable, I would simply stop him (or her) and explain that it wasn’t a nice thing to touch someone in that place, using the same way and tone that I would if he (or she) were behaving inappropriately in some other manner.

Sexual harassment is a serious issue, one which society has tried to ignore. I fear that classifying a young child’s embrace as something of that nature is just another attempt to discredit the claims of those who have endured real harassment, by implying that their complaint is as ridiculous as this one.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Same Story, Different Spin

Being obsessive, I subscribe to breaking news e-mail alerts from various news sources.

Two of these just came in, one from CNN and one from MSNBC, and I had to shake my head at the seemingly conflicting headlines:

From CNN:
Panel: Leaders did not break rules in Foley matter.

House panel: GOP leaders negligent in protecting teen pages.

Further reading revealed that both headlines were accurate; the panel did say there was negligence but that no “rules” were broken.

The obvious conclusion is, the rules need to be changed. Perhaps when they were drawn up, the possibility of members of congress pursuing inappropriate relationships with under-age pages was not foreseen; but it’s now a fact and, sadly, needs to be addressed even though such an issue really does insult the integrity of anyone in public service.

Beyond that, I was amused at the predictable but blatant spin accorded the news by these two sources. The story, from Associated Press, was clearly the same one although written a little differently by each site. I suppose they get a raw feed of information, or something, and then edit it. The spin mostly took place in the headlines referenced above and in the more complete headline on the story pages:

CNN: Panel: Leaders negligent, broke no rules in page scandal

MSNBC: House Ethics finds GOP leaders negligent - with subtitle, in smaller font: Republicans did not break any rules in Foley-Congressional page scandal

Interestingly (to me, anyway) Fox News had a more balanced front page headline:

AP: Ethics Panel Says No Rules Broken, GOP Negligent in Foley Scandal

but titled their full story,

No House Members Broke Rules in Ex-Rep. Foley's Congressional Page Scandal,

and toned down the word “negligence” to “could have done a better job” in the report.

Kind of not the same thing, I think.

For news consumers the message is, get your information from a variety of sources, try to separate facts from opinion, and let it all settle in your own mind, from which the whole story will eventually emerge, or as close to it as is possible.

Or if that takes too long, just read my blog.

Monday, December 04, 2006

News Item: Tories end tattoo program at federal prisons

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced Monday that the government will not continue a pilot project that offered tattoos to inmates.

"Our government will not spend taxpayers' money on providing tattoos for convicted criminals,'' Day said.

"Our priority is to have an effective federal corrections system that protects Canadians, while providing inmates with access to acceptable health-care and treatment programs.''

Supporters of the pilot project say the move is a mistake. They say safe tattooing saves millions of dollars in health care and social costs by reducing the number of AIDS and hepatitis C cases.

It is a good thing this was cancelled before I found out about it or my head might have exploded.

MY tax dollars went for pay for PRISONERS getting tattoos? Whereas if my sons or I wanted a tattoo, being law-abiding citizens, we would have to pay - AGAIN - because we already paid for some convicted criminal's tattoo?

This is almost as bad as the program that provides free needles to junkies in Vancouver.

Look I like to think I am progressive but there is such a thing as TOO MUCH. I can't believe the government actually spent money to let prisoners get safe tattoos because if it didn't, the prisoners might use dirty needles and get sick, for which the government (i.e., my taxes) would pay for their health care!?!?!?

Prisoners. People who have been convicted of crimes serious enough to require INCARCERATION fergawdsake. They shouldn't be getting ANY tattoos, what is this, freakin' summer camp????

So people languishing in jail are to be indulged in their whims of vanity and encouraged to self-actualize, when money could be better spent in about a BILLION BETTER WAYS, for one, helping people such as this woman before she becomes so desperate that she kills herself and her young child.

Many points to the Conservative government for axing this ridiculous program.

Note to self: Maintain a scorecard. Election is coming...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Back to Reality

It appears the jury is still very much out on whether the Liberals made a good choice in electing Stephane Dion as their leader yesterday.
I still feel he was the best among the choices given with regard to his policies and his personal style, vibe, that intangible whatever.

(Charisma? No. But I don’t expect anybody will ever top Trudeau in that department. Canada had its first love affair with Trudeau, and no subsequent love is ever quite the same.)

Dion might not be the most electable or winnable leader for the Liberals but I think it is to their credit that he came out on top instead of a Harper-lite (Iggy) or a recycled failed NDP Provincial Premier who was nonetheless supposed to be the *one most feared* by the Conservatives.

Editorials are understandably quite mixed: my local English paper, the Montreal Gazette, says the result will be “good for Canada”.

The Ottawa Sun’s columnist is less optimistic about the wisdom of the choice, naming Stephen Harper as the ultimate winner.

Many French Quebecois are not at all happy, even though Dion is part of their “Nation”, because he has a passion for a united Canada rather than a concept of an association of nations, such as Harper’s or Ignatieff’s.

I came across this article in the French media which expresses some displeasure (putting it mildly) at the result.

The Quebec Liberals would have preferred Ignatieff despite his having absolutely no history in Quebec and his hawkish neo-con leanings which generally do not go over well here at all. It must be because of the Quebec-Nation thing but I am disappointed that they would place so much weight on that and so little on important issues such as foreign policy and the environment.
After all, whether part of Canada or its own Nation, or both, Quebec still resides on Planet Earth and has to breathe, eat and drink what the rest of us do.

Finally, to inject a little perspective, the Liberal Leadership Convention was largely ignored by US mainstream media. Understandable in a way, since the Liberals aren’t even in power, but shouldn't it at least be worthy of a short mention?
CNN and MSNBC have nothing at all on their websites, while the New York Times and Washington Post do have articles but you have to search for them.

The Post’s write-up pretty well covers it, except for one thing: it claims Harper is fluent in French which is definitely not the case. As for Dion’s English, well he is vastly more comprehensible than Chretien and that is enough for me.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dion Wins!

A full day of political maneuverings and analysis with absolutely no idea of the outcome until the very end:

It was heaven.

I sat in front of that thing for nearly ten straight hours.

No commercials.

No blogging this afternoon either, as my internet connection was down, as was the TV cable. I almost went blind from watching the local channel through fields of snow. But far be it from me to complain.

I am pleased with the outcome. Stephane Dion is the new Liberal leader and it feels like the Liberal party is back.
If nothing else they sure updated their site in a timely fashion!

I am especially pleased that the environment is one of Dion's priorities. A little less pleased that his support of Israel is not on the scale of Harper's, but it's no worse than any other Liberal I suppose.

At least he's not accusing them of war crimes.

I’m not all that dissatisfied with Harper’s leadership but a party that embraces more of my values would be a refreshing change. The Liberals needed time off for renewal and they seem to be accomplishing it very nicely. I am very impressed with Dion’s passion and composure, his obvious intellect and mostly his love of Canada.

Choice, that is all I wanted.

A couple more observations from the CTV broadcast: the loose fish metaphor may have been overdone but it was nonetheless appropriate. The commentators referred to convention delegates who, for one reason or another were released from their obligation to support a certain candidate, as “loose fish” on the floor. Same thinking as “loose cannon” I suppose but in true Canadian form, a less violent image.
You never know where those darn fish will flop to.

Or maybe it’s on account of the delegates spending hours upon hours there – thus acquiring a certain odor?


The other thing was, I wondered if the representation of Michael Ignatieff on his posters had anything to do with his loss. He was shown with the top of his head cut off.
I thought this was rather strange, for a candidate whose prime qualification was supposed to be his academic experience and intellect.

Unintended subliminal message, perhaps? Or does he feel he can run Canada with only half a brain...

Happily, we don't get to find out.

Still Five... But Not for Long

Leading up to second ballot results, a few observations:

Much is being made of Stephane Dion’s being *everybody’s second choice*.
While that is mathematically a good thing, it doesn’t resound well for the future federal election campaign. I can see the bumper stickers now.

I was amused by Scott Brison’s explanation of how he, a former Progressive Conservative, can endorse a former NDP Premier: He quoted the song, “Stuck in the Middle With You”, the middle being the Liberal Party:

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you...

I don’t know how many might have caught this but Mike Duffy is on the 3-coast bandwagon, coast to coast to coast - the third coast being the Arctic, which is in dispute as Canadian territory.
Good on Mike.

Most creative observation that I saw:

“The morning started off like kind of a damp squid for you”: Lloyd Robertson to Ignatieff.

Lamest explanation for a poorer-than expected showing on the first ballot:

Michael Ignatieff: because he was the last speaker, a significant number of his delegates failed to vote.

Yeah, right.

And the corollary, Ignatieff supporter and former Ontario Premier David Peterson: “there are two kinds of momentum, superficial and real...”

Latest news of the deal between Kennedy and Dion seems to be all kinds of momentum; and now Ignatieff and Rae are shaking hands. Uh-oh...

Eight Becomes Five...

Random thoughts upon watching the Liberal Leadership Convention on TV:

The bottom three candidates have dropped out after the first ballot. That leaves five, and a minimum of one is eliminated with each further ballot.
Therefore the convention can have a maximum of four more ballots: 5 candidates, 4 candidates, 3 candidates, 2 candidates.
Someone please inform Lloyd Robertson who gleefully predicted it could go for five or six more.

Does anyone else find it extremely strange that Scott Brison, after his wonderful impassioned speech focused largely on environmental issues, decided to support Bob Rae instead of Stephane Dion?
Furthermore, it is a spectacle that possibly could occur only in Canada, that a former (Progressive) Conservative politician would ultimately endorse a former “Dipper”.

Great to see Mike Duffy again! He is back after months of recuperation from open heart surgery.

Personally I am rooting for Stephane Dion, although I will be satisfied with anyone but Iggy. Rae makes me nervous because Ontario’s economy was a mess while he was Premier. He says he’s learned but I’d as soon go with someone else.
I don’t know much about Kennedy; I do like Dion’s passion and his concern for the environment. The only qualm I have is that I have found NOTHING about his foreign policy position and that is important to me.

Why not Iggy? Don’t get me started. He is in my opinion, as inept as John Kerry and scarier than Harper.
I think he is a closet neo-con and with all the stumbles and gaffes I have no idea where he really stands and what I do see, I don’t like, not at all.

Just please send good vibes for my cable and internet connection which were out for 12 hours yesterday because of the wind and ice storm.

More to come, Videotron and the cable gods willing...