2011-12-18

Paikin on Israel's Strategic Imperative

Zach Paikin is running for National Policy Chair of the Liberal Party of Canada. He is intelligent, charming, multilingual, respectful, and well-spoken. In a recent disavowal that his politics could influence the Party, he wrote that the National Policy Chair "is powerless to affect the actual policy of the party." I decided to look further into his political writing and opinions.

“Israel needs to be prepared to enter West Bank cities if necessary, and must be able to create a territorial arrangement therein that suits its interests. Furthermore, ceasing all financial and diplomatic ties with the PA is sure to have major impact. Same goes for Gaza: Israel needs to be prepared to go beyond what it did in Operation Cast Lead and achieve something much more similar in scope and result as Operation Defensive Shield (2002).”

posted by zpaikin 07Sep2011/2312h

“ceasing all financial and diplomatic ties with the PA is sure to have a major impact.”
Israel’s blockade of Gaza has been roundly criticized from within and without Israel for its humanitarian impact, obstruction of the peace process, and damage to relationships with Israel’s allies. To extend a similar policy to the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority will further alienate Israel’s negotiating counterparts in the occupied territories and inflict suffering on non-combatants in the continuing conflict.


“Israel needs to be prepared to go beyond what it did in Operation Cast Lead.”
Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s invasion into Gaza in late 2008, killed 1,400 Palestinians at least half of whom were civilians. In the end, 13 Israelis were killed, three of whom were civilians. While the accusation that Israel deliberately targeted civilians (contained in the Goldstone report) has later been retracted by Goldstone himself, there is abundant evidence that homes, food production, schools, and healthcare facilities were destroyed, crippling Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. Israeli Defense Force veterans of the operation voiced their shame at the heavy-handed tactics employed in a report released by Breaking the Silence.



Paikin characterizes the Arab Awakening as a Sunni Awakening, a religious revolutionary counterpoint to the Shia Awakening that followed Iran’s 1979 revolution. Yet the January 25 Revolution in Egypt was accompanied by a set of demands that included the scrapping of Egypt’s existing constitution (whose second Article declares that Islam is the state religion of Egypt and that Islamic law is its principal source of legislation) in favour of one inspired by Western liberal democracies.


The promise of a plural society and liberal democracy in Egypt needs to be enabled by the West, particularly by those purporting to be liberals themselves, rather than drowning out this rallying cry with a narrative that focuses on Israel’s strategic implications. The region is watching how successfully Egypt navigates its constitutional reforms. Egypt will doubtless be a model for other nations in the region, for better or worse.

There is no question that Egypt’s emergence as a liberal democracy is threatened by a rampant military—with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces casting itself as the sentinel on guard against the Islamists—and surging popular support for the Muslim Brotherhood. At least the Salafist Al-Nour Party has a total of only 5 of the first 168 seats decided to date, a convincing renunciation of the party’s strict Islamist platform. The SCAF’s continued insistence on independence from oversight by the government could result in another Pakistan if the West throws its lot in with the SCAF and not the parliamentary assembly.



Paikin links the threat of political instability in the Middle East to Western nations by raising the spectre of a reprisal of the OPEC Oil Embargo of 1973. Rather than focusing on a policy of energy independence to remove this Sword of Damocles, Paikin instead advocates for a turning of the screw: pre-emptive strikes on Middle East states by Israel. He seems nostalgic for a time when compliant tyrants reigned everywhere in the Middle East. He juxtaposes this nostalgia for the devils we knew with his plug for
Israel as “the region’s only liberal democracy.” Does he truly aspire for Israel to enjoy some company in this category? Or for Israel to enjoy only hegemony, whatever the cost?


Columns by Zach Paikin:

The Good
- combine US and Canadian resources to fight terrorism and cyber-warfare
- sign a joint Canada-US carbon tax policy
- go beyond traditional free trade agreements to reduce barriers to mobility and investment
- make bilateral agreements with India and China a top priority
- make education, agriculture, and technology prime components of our aid strategy

The Bad
- proceed with the purchase of 65 F-35 fighter jets
- negotiate a ballistic missile defense pact with US and Europe
- double the size of the Canadian military

The Ugly
- press the United States to keep Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay as long as possible
- designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization
- replace CIDA with "more effective, independent operating units"; i.e. eliminate CIDA

2011-12-14

F-35: Multi-Billion Dollar Mistake

Maj Stephen Fuhr (ret) served with the Canadian Air Force as a fighter pilot, flight instructor, and Operational Fleet Manager for the F-18 for over twenty years. He is increasingly frustrated with the government's promotion of the F-35 as the only solution to Canada's urgent need to replace its aging F-18 fleet.

"The people who are supporting it are in love with the idea of the F-35. The problem with it is that it can't deliver the capability it promised on time and on budget, and that's extremely clear to everybody on the planet except the current government."

There are cracks appearing today in the Defense Department's resolve to go with the F-35. Finally, the Chief of Canada's Air Force, Lt-Gen Andre Deschamps, conceded that we are reaching the limits of what would constitute a minimum size for our air fleet with only 65 jets. As costs continue to grow, Canada may find itself having to make a decision about taking fewer planes or increasing the capital budget, a decision that Julian Fantino said is now being deferred to 2013. Deschamps noted that "The number 65 gives us the capacity to cover all our missions with confidence." The corollary? The Air Force could not fulfill its missions if the number of jets dropped below that level.

It is time for the government to evaluate alternatives to the F-35 or risk an operational capacity shortfall: as the F-18's currently in our fleet are decommissioned, we risk not having enough fighters to cover the gap before delivery of our next generation aircraft.

Australia, a country of comparable size and disposition, has elected to defer a decision on the F-35 and take delivery of F-18 Super Hornets instead.


2011-12-13

The Latest Immigration Innovation: Grappling Babies

Grappling Baby

Stephen Colbert famously coined the term "truthiness" on the very first episode of the Colbert Report. His most recent neologism? Grappling Baby.
grap-pl-ing ba-by. noun The all-too-common occurrence of a pregnant woman in Mexico aiming her birth canal at America to launch her baby over the border so then she could climb in using the umbilical cord.
Folks, if you don't think this is happening, you are living in a dream world. That's why I'm calling on the Department of Homeland Security to deploy thousands of volleyball players to the border to spike these criminals back to Mexico.
Grappling Baby Spike

2011-12-01

Recommended Search From Conan

Wanna find out about Christmas? Conan suggests:
giant men with big packages squeezing into tight places

Some Conan material for the faithful








Friedman on the Corporatist State

Milton Friedman, the much vilified Chicago School economist, put together a book and series of TV programs in 1980 to inculcate the public on his vision of capitalism called Free to Choose.

In one of these, Friedman faces off against Michael Harrington, of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. In the course of his response to Harrington, Friedman surprised me—alarmed me—with views that echo my own.


"I am not an anarchist. I am not in favor of eliminating government. I believe we need a government. But we need a government that sets a framework and rules within which individuals, pursuing their own objectives, can work together and co-operate together."
--Friedman

"I do not believe it’s proper to put the situation as “Industrialists vs Government.” On the contrary, one of the reasons I’m in favor of less government is because when you have more government, industrialists take it over and the two together form a coalition against the ordinary worker and the ordinary consumer. I think business is a wonderful institution provided it has to face competition in the marketplace and it can’t get away with something except by producing a better product at lower cost."
--Friedman

this version is suitable for framing:

"My own view is that market systems are the most efficient means of allocating resources. But a free, unregulated market produces outcomes that are harmful to the commonwealth. The state is entrusted with serving the interest of the commonwealth by structuring protections against exploitative or harmful practices: safeguarding the air we breathe and water we drink; protecting workers from hazardous workplaces; protecting consumers from fraud; protecting our commerce from foreign ownership; and so on. The state sets and enforces the rules of the market, then allows the market to operate."
--Me

Where Friedman and I differ most profoundly is not on the role of the state in the market economy, but on the role of the state in supporting the vulnerable in our society: the sick, the young, the poor, the unemployed.

For Friedman, the individual is left to his own devices: You're on your own. Are you sick? Tap your savings, tap your benefits from private insurers (you know, those great altruists who have only your interests at heart?), tap your family or your employer (as long as your health is in their enlightened self-interest, they'll help you). Are you unemployed? It must be a consequence of that pernicious measure known as the minimum wage. Eliminate that and the free market for labour will allow you to find an employer willing to pay you something for your services. It might take more than one job to achieve a subsistence wage, though. Maybe three. Or make yourself more marketable by buying your education from a private college.

When the vulnerable are neglected, addiction rates rise; crime rates rise; illness, illiteracy, poverty all rise. Life expectancy falls. Our society becomes more hostile, and more suffering is packed into our shorter lives.

Friedman's warning about the corporatist state are accurate, though. For example, our current government shills shamelessly for the oil sands, and obstructs any impediments to their development, choosing corporate over commonwealth interests. That's the Calgary School of Economics at work.

2011-11-02

In-A-Gadda-Gaz-ebos, Baby: Clement Faces Music Today

Greg Weston sets the stage for today's committee hearing thusly:

"The federal minister responsible for cutting government waste is being called before a parliamentary committee Wednesday to explain how his own Ontario riding became paved in $45 million of political pork."

This has to be one of the best opening lines of a work of prose since "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

In brief, the government earmarked funds in support of border security and the G8 summit. Over $45 million was spent in Tony Clement's riding of Muskoka on projects that neither improved border security nor supported the summit. Many spending decisions were made directly by Clement in concert with the municipalities, circumventing the government's own safeguards against spending abuses. The man who treated these millions as his discretionary re-election slush fund is now the head of the Treasury Board.

I remember a certain up-and-coming Leader of the Official Opposition who rightly chastised the Government of the day for misappropriating funds from the public purse:
"Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party somehow believes it can make a plea bargain with itself. It is trying to be above the law.
"This scheme was not set up for the benefit of a few bit players or a few ad companies. This was a scam, first and foremost, by the Liberal Party, of the Liberal Party and for the Liberal Party.
"Will the Prime Minister get up and admit that he has a responsibility to go after every single cent of the $40 million that are still missing"
Who was that intrepid MP, holding the Government to account for the People of Canada? Why, none other than 2005 Stephen Harper, a distant cousin of 2011 Stephen Harper.

Today's Stephen Harper is not merely above the law, he is the law. When his Minister tampers with a document and lies about it to the House, he stands up beside her and says she's his gal. When a Minister leaves behind Top Secret documents at his main squeeze's flat, he makes a show of bouncing him from Cabinet, only to have him return three years later. When the integrity commissioner he appoints shuts down all complaints and shields the government from scrutiny, he gags her testimony, hands her a half-million dollar severance, and blocks any inquiry into the gross malfeasance of her office.

Follow Kady O'Malley's coverage of the G8 committee's proceedings here.

2011-10-21

We Are The 99, Eh?


WE ARE THE 99 EH


Couldn't resist. Reminds me of watching the Great One and one of the all-time great hockey dynasties, the 1980's Edmonton Oilers.

Some Canadian stats courtesy of the Globe and Mail.



2011-10-12

Chris Hedges on the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Speaking on CBC's the Lang and O'Leary Exchange, Chris Hedges (author of The World As It Is) fended off O'Leary's ham-fisted personal attack to clearly enunciate the root of the Occupy Wall Street movement's grievance, and where he fits on the political spectrum:
"Those who are protesting the rise of the corporate state are in fact, on the political spectrum, the true conservatives because they are calling for the restoration of the rule of law.

"The radicals have seized power, and they have trashed all regulations and legal impediments to achieve a reconfiguration of American society into a form of neofeudalism."


See how consistent this sentiment is with the Tea Party Patriots' mission statement, which includes the following on Free Markets:
A free market is the economic consequence of personal liberty. The founders believed that personal and economic freedom were indivisible, as do we. Our current government's interference distorts the free market and inhibits the pursuit of individual and economic liberty. Therefore, we support a return to the free market principles on which this nation was founded and oppose government intervention into the operations of private business.
The anti-corporatist agenda is fuelling both of these movements because both the state and the market have betrayed the trust of the people they serve. Where the Tea Party movement diverges from Occupy Wall Street is in how it regards the role of the state and the virtue of markets.

My own view is that market systems are the most efficient means of allocating resources. But a free, unregulated market produces outcomes that are harmful to the commonwealth. The state is entrusted with serving the interest of the commonwealth by structuring protections against exploitative or harmful practices: safeguarding the air we breathe and water we drink; protecting workers from hazardous workplaces; protecting consumers from fraud; protecting our commerce from foreign ownership; and so on. The state sets and enforces the rules of the market, then allows the market to operate.

The state should not pick the winners by direct investment in the marketplace; it should invest in infrastructure that enables the market to function. The state should not encumber development with inefficient regulatory review; it should have the organizational capacity to expedite reviews such as environmental and foreign ownership assessments. The state should not bolster industries that the market has consigned to the trash heap; it should enable the retraining and redeployment of labour when the market changes tack.

What is clear from the outrage on the streets is the despair that Americans increasingly harbour for their future as a nation. Implicit in these movements is the pledge that never again shall American taxpayers be asked to shoulder the burden for the malfeasance of the market and the abandonment of the state. Americans should celebrate the sentiment that unites these movements instead of what divides them, and exert their full force in the political arena.

2011-10-11

Colbert Benefits From Hugh Jorgan


I was watching a rerun of last week's Colbert Report wherein he exposes the 501c4 scheme of laundering political contributions from an anonymous shell corporation into a PAC or Political Action Committee. The dialog was so good, I transcribed it for your enjoyment below. During the conversation, I noticed that on the screen crawl of HEROE$ listing Colbert's PAC contributors appeared the name Hugh Jorgan [screen cap above]. Cute.

SC: These c4s have created an unprecedented, unaccountable, untraceable tsunami, and I feel like an idiot for not having one. Here to make my move to secrecy and obfuscation completely transparent, please welcome former general counsel to the McCain campaign and my personal lawyer, Trevor Potter.

SC: Now, Trevor, I have all these people at the bottom of the screen who’ve been giving me money, individual Americans. But I haven’t gotten any of the big corporate money. That’s why I have a SuperPAC! Why wouldn’t a corporation give money?

TP: Well, they’d be nervous about giving in a way that their name is publicly disclosed. People might object to what they’ve done: their shareholders, their customers…

SC: Okay, so that’s where a c4 comes in. A corporation or an individual; can give to a c4, and nobody gets to know that they did it. Right?

TP: That’s right.

SC: Okay, so how do I get one?

TP: And that money can be used for politics.

SC: Oh great, that’s good too—

TP: So, we need to get you one.

SC: As long as it goes through me, it can go to anything it wants. So how do I gets me one, Trevor?

TP: Well, lawyers often form Delaware corporations, which we call shell corporations, that just sit there until they’re needed—

SC: So they’re just some anonymous shell corporation?

TP: Right, and I happen to have one here in my briefcase.

SC: Let’s see it. What’s it called?

TP: It’s called Anonymous Shell Corporation—

SC: That’s got a real ring to it Trev.

TP: —registered in Delaware—

SC: I don’t have to go to Delaware, do I?

TP: No, it’s already been done for you.

SC: [whistles] Okay, okay, badadum, badadum, okay: Anonymous Shell Corporation, filed in Delaware. Okay, I got this; so now I have a c4?

TP: Right, now we need to turn it into your shell corporation, your anonymous one, and we do that by having normally a Board of Directors meeting.

SC: And who’s on the Board of Directors?

TP: Well, just you. We can—

SC: Sounds like a nice group of people.

TP: —just have you do this.

SC: Okay, let’s do this. [hammers gavel] And I’ve shattered my champagne glass. I hope there’s no sensitive electronic equipment down there. Alright, call to order. Let’s do this thing.

TP: Alright, so, this says that you are the sole director of the corporation—

SC: I am. [begins signing document]

TP: —and that you are now electing yourself President, Secretary, and Treasurer—

SC: Sounds like a great board.

TP: —and you are authorizing the corporation to file the papers with the IRS in May…2013.

SC: So I could get money for my c4, use that for political purposes and nobody knows anything about it til six months after the election.

TP: That’s right, and even then they won’t know who your donors are.

SC: That’s my kind of campaign finance restriction. Okay, so now I’ve signed it. I have a c4?

TP: You have a c4, it’s up and going.

SC: So, without this, I am transparent. With this, I am opaque. Without it, you get to know. With it, “You go to hell.” Without it, “Here’s who gave me my money.” With it, “You know what, your mutha gave me my money.” Well, I like that, Trev. Okay, now I can get corporate unlimited donations of unlimited amount for my c4, what can I do with my money?

TP: Well, that c4 can take out political ads and attack candidates or promote your favourite ones—

SC: Uh-huh.

TP: —as long as it’s not the principal purpose for spending its money.

SC: No, the principal purpose is an educational entity, right? I want to educate the public that gay people cause earthquakes.

TP: There are probably some c4s doing that.

SC: Can I take my c4 money and then donate it to my SuperPAC?

TP: You can… [sly nod]

SC: [smile spreads slowly across face] Wait, SuperPACs are transparent—

TP: Right, and…

SC: —and the c4 is secret. So I can take secret donations from my c4 and give it to my supposedly transparent SuperPAC.

TP: And it’ll say given by your c4.

SC: What is the difference between that and money laundering?

TP: It’s hard to say.

2011-10-05

Wikileaks: Old School Liberal Backroom Politics


A wikileaks cable released on August 30 has given me the most compelling reason to date to be involved in the Liberal Party's renewal. The cable describes the Liberal leadership contest of 2003: the calculated withdrawal of Chretien, the charade of electing Martin in order to placate the membership's sense of democracy, the compliance of Manley and Copps in the charade and their respective exit strategies. The sordid details of the process were breezily reported in the cable issued from the US Embassy in Ottawa to Washington. [emphasis added]

SUBJECT: (C/NF) CANADA,S LIBERAL LEADERSHIP CONTEST: A RACE  FOR THE CURE 
Classified By: POL M/C BRIAN M. FLORA. REASON 1.5 B and D.

1. (C/NF) SUMMARY. With the official launching in April of the leadership campaigns of Deputy PM John Manley and Liberal backbencher Paul Martin, the three-way contest to succeed PM Jean Chretien -- Canada's race for a political cure -- is officially on. Though the Liberal Leadership convention is slated for November, observers believe that Martin,s victory will be sealed in September when the dozen or so delegates from each of 301 Liberal ridings across the country are announced. The trick will be getting Chretien to quit before his announced date of February 2004 -- a daunting task -- in order to minimize the transition chaos. Meanwhile, our meetings with Martin supporters and close advisors indicate a pragmatic leadership-in-waiting already engaged in damage control within the GOC and at work on a blueprint for U.S.-Canada relations. If Martin's May 1 foreign policy speech is any indication, under his leadership we can expect a positive change in Canada's handling of the bilateral agenda. END SUMMARY.

2. (C/NF) A successful businessman and former Finance Minister, Paul Martin leads the three-way race in campaign funds, organization and name recognition. Discussions with a range of Martin supporters, from consultants to Members of Parliament, and Martin staffers, suggest that PM Chretien,s likely successor already has a quiet handle on the rudder of the Canadian ship of state. Chretien's reputation as a gritty and tenacious politician notwithstanding, we understand that pro-Martin MPs dominate the Liberal Caucus and are poised to quash controversial "legacy" initiatives -- such as political party finance reform and, it appears, marijuana decriminalization -- that would undermine the new PM,s agenda. Whether the Caucus and the Party can persuade Chretien to retire early -- for the sake of Party and Country -- is another question.

3. (C/NF) In his first major foreign policy statement May 1, Martin painted a pragmatic and business-practical vision of "Canada,s Role in a Complex World," identifying Canada,s relationship with the U.S. as a cornerstone of that role. He pledged a "systematic and coordinated effort to confirm and strengthen the Canada-US partnership," to include a permanent Cabinet Committee on Canada-US Relations chaired by the Prime Minister and a House of Commons Committee on Canada-US relations. In the context of North American security, Martin called for development of a comprehensive national security policy for Canada, the only G-8 country without such a policy. Though the very fact of articulating a "vision" would distinguish Martin from Chretien, the one-time Finance Minister and backbench challenger was also well spoken and thoughtful in his delivery.

4. (C/NF) A key element of the Martin campaign strategy has been to emphasize the differences between Martin and the PM, in both style and content, and to portray a pro-active and pragmatic (as opposed to reactive and ambivalent) philosophy of governance. The contrast could not be greater, or easier, to achieve: While the PM pledges (non-existent) support for a UN intervention in the Congo, Martin offers to share federal gas tax revenues with Canada,s beleaguered, cash-hungry cities. Similarly, as Martin and his advisors focus on a blueprint to re-invigorate the US-Canada bilateral relationship (6 months ahead of the convention), Chretien seizes the international venue of the G-8 summit to sharply criticize the economic leadership of President Bush and boast about Canada,s economic success. Fortunately, if anecdotal evidence and media comments contain a shred of truth, so far the PM is not winning the PR battle.

5. (C/NF) Veteran observers have speculated that the three-way leadership contest is a fig leaf to avoid the "un-Canadian" and "un-Liberal" appearance of a Martin coronation, and probably involves behind-the-scenes agreements among the PMO, the Liberal Party and the candidates themselves. A retired former Canadian Ambassador-turned-consultant who claims to "know" Chretien says that such political arrangements are not unusual and would be desirable for the sake of image among the Canadian public. Deputy PM John Manley's stake in such an arrangement would be to develop his prospects for a post-Martin Prime Ministership (visibility, experience etc.) whereas Heritage Minister Sheila Copps' likely reward might be a prestigious "permanent" (to age 75) appointment -- perhaps as Senator -- that would guarantee her income to retirement age and a generous government pension. Proponents of this theory point to the recent and unexpected retirement of a senior Senator -- at Chretien's "request"-- as paving the way for such rewards to loyalists.

6. (C/NF) COMMENT: With a majority of Liberal MPs (including Cabinet Ministers) openly in the Martin camp, as well as Liberal Party President Stephen LeDrew, the logical reality is that PM Chretien no longer controls the House Caucus. This could explain his bizarre anti-American public musings -- the only thing under his control, and with the added benefit of making PR mischief for the growing majority only too eager to push him out the door. In this regard, we should not underestimate Chretien's capacity to manipulate the system if it serves his purpose, including to prorogue the Parliament until after the November election and/or sticking around as PM some three months after Paul Martin is elected Liberal Leader. At the same time, at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel. END COMMENT. CELLUCCI

2011-09-27

Conservative Attack Zone: Target the CBC

The CBC will soon be the target of an aggressive disinformation campaign by the Conservative Party. The main strategy: have Canadians do a spittake when they learn the CBC costs them one billion dollars a year.

To pre-empt some of the disinformation that will be circulated along with this attack, I thought it would be valuable for Canadians to put the cost of the CBC in perspective.


Proportion of annual federal expenditures: 0.428 %
($1,074 m of $250,860 m)

Cost of CBC per capita: $31.23 per year or less than 9 cents a day
($1,074 m per 34.39 m Canadians)

Cost of servicing the national debt per capita: $881 per year or $2.41 a day
($30,300 m per 34.39 m Canadians)

I took a look at how spending on the CBC has changed over the last five years, and I selected a few other government programs for comparison.


Even the most partisan Conservative can see that while the government is calling for public broadcaster blood in the name of budget cutting, the security apparatus of the government has enjoyed dramatic increases in funding. The military, border security agency, and intelligence agency all received dramatic funding increases of over 40%, and correctional services expenditures increased a whopping 74% while CBC's funding declined slightly.

During this period, CBC rolled out extensive web-streaming services, podcasting, a third radio network, and still preserved an actual news-gathering organization, not mere infotainment punditry.

The real agenda here is not cost-cutting, or value for Canadian taxpayers–they're already getting that. What's really going on is that the government wants to neutralize the public broadcaster:
Public broadcasters are frequently the target of Conservatives because they consume public funds and they speak the truth. And as Stephen Colbert observed, "reality has a well-known liberal bias." (at 6:38)

2011-09-21

Caution Re: Apparent Cancer Progression


In the August 10, 2011 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, authors from Memorial Sloan-Kettering published a simple and provocative study (abstract). Lung tumour nodules were measured on CT scan, then patients were rescanned just fifteen minutes later and the nodules remeasured.

The main findings: differences in nodule measurements in excess of 1 and 2 mm were common (57% and 33%, respectively). Most significant is the risk of misdiagnosing progression. RECIST criteria for progression (>=20% increase) were met in 3% of these cases, about 1 in 30.

Oncologists need to keep these findings in mind when evaluating small serial changes in tumour measurement, and when making decisions about initiating or abandoning treatment.

2011-08-31

BC Premier Clark Dumps Early Election Promise


Christy Clark made a few significant promises during her run for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party, and the premiership of BC. Among these was a promise to seek a mandate as an elected premier:

"I think two and a half years in government as an unelected premier is an awful long time," Clark said in Victoria. "I think British Columbians might be right to say, by the time 2013 rolls around … 'We want to get a chance to vote for you under the basic principles of democracy.'"

Sounds pretty laudable. Today we learn that commitment to democracy is out the window.

“I was really clear about [seeking an early mandate] when I ran, but I've had enough citizens tell me that they don't think it's the right time for an election,” she said.

I get it. You pledged to do one thing during your campaign, then when the political context shifts immediately after you're confirmed, you decide to renege on your pledge. That seems really familiar...where have I seen that scenario before? Oh yes, it was your immediate predecessor, Premier Campbell. His broken promise was the reason for his abrupt departure.

So, how does this play out? It'll take eighteen months to restore the PST, apparently. Before that time, the fight will have gone out of Vander Zalm's army of canvassers, and a new preoccupation will emerge. Then you can campaign on a new mandate that includes maintaining the HST. Lo and behold, no change in the tax, and the 'people' will have endorsed keeping the tax.

Maybe I'm wrong.

2011-08-07

The Paradox of the Populist Shift to the Right

On Fareed Zakaria GPS today, Zakaria's panel discussed the debt ceiling, the deficit, and the downgrade. One thing that caught my eye was this exchange Zakaria had with Ariana Huffington:

FZ: Ariana, how can you explain this: that you have had the biggest financial crisis and recession one would argue, in some part caused by the irresponsibility of the private sector, and the response not just in the United States but across Europe, has been that the right has been strengthened and the left has been discredited?

AH: I think the reason is that the public mistrusts government because government has bailed out major financial institutions that brought us to the brink of collapse, that basically government now is providing welfare for many entrenched interests. Government is not there any longer to support the weakest among us or the most vulnerable. I mean, you see this sort of intersection of lobbyists, big corporations, and Washington is really what people are turning against. If somebody--

FZ: And they think of the left as the party of government, so--

AH: Exactly, even though, in truth, government has bailed out many more powerful [financial] institutions...

I think the exchange encapsulates the paradox of the populist shift to the right and its underlying cause:

- The government reduced oversight of the financial industry
- Deregulated financial institutions destabilized the economy and caused the recession
- The recession dispossessed citizens of their homes, jobs, and wealth
- Government bailed out financial institutions with taxpayer money
- Government can't be trusted with our money
- Government must be smaller: Vote Conservative!
- Smaller government will lead to reduced oversight of industry
- Repeat democratic death spiral

2011-08-05

Harper Selects Senators Alone In His Shower

Mike Duffy on Senate reform, speaking on CBC's The House, June 25, 2011:



"If you get a process whereby a Prime Minister by convention respects the democratic rules set out in this legislation, and only appoints people who have been elected, it'll be very hard in the future for any other Prime Minister to go back to the stand-in-the-shower-and-consider-who-you-want-to-appoint method of democracy, which is what we have now."


Maybe this statement has more to do with Mike Duffy's fantasy of his own Senate appointment process than with how the Prime Minister actually select senators.


Duffy gave more insights into the current process as he explained the value of a nine year senate term.


"The nice thing about a nine-year non-renewable term is that if you gain election, you do have independence because you're not going to run for office again, you're not trying to curry the favour of the Prime Minister to get some sort of event for yourself in the future, you can be brutally independent in fighting for what's right, both for your province and for the public, and I think that is a very good mix."


A nine-year non-renewable term also ensures that the senators are beyond the reach of their electorate. Pretty nice gig in theory: get elected, do whatever you want for nine years, receive pension and don't look back.

2011-07-28

Canada Demands Israel Renounces Nukes


In distinction to Stephen Harper's high profile sophistry about the pre-1967 borders at Deauville, Canada stood with nearly all nations of the world in support of nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East.

Included in Resolution 65/88, adopted December 8, 2010, are clauses specific to Israel:

"The General Assembly...

"Recalling that Israel remains the only State in the Middle East that has not yet become a party to the [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons]...

"Reaffirms the importance of Israel's accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, in realizing the goal of universal adherence to the Treaty in the Middle East;

"Calls upon that State to accede to the Treaty without further delay, not to develop, produce, test, or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, to renounce possession of nuclear weapons and to place all its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities under full-scope Agency safeguards..."

All nations—including DPR Korea and Iran—voted in favour of this resolution except for Israel and India, who voted against it, and Pakistan, Bhutan, Cote d'Ivoire who abstained. Unsurprisingly, India and Pakistan, wanting to shield nuclear programs of their own from scrutiny, decided to align with Israel's rejection of oversight, despite being the second and third most populous Moslem nations in the world: Pakistan, 174m Moslems; India, 161m Moslems.

2011-07-11

CBC Perpetuates Myth Of Harper Opposing 1967 Borders For Israel

In a report on CBC's website today, a caption beneath a photo of Harper at the G8 read as follows:

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed that Canada had objected to any language in the final communiqué that included mention of Israel's pre-1967 borders at the G8 meeting in Deauville, France, May, 2011."

In actuality, when pressed by Terry Milewski at that conference, Harper acknowledged that Canada's position on Israel—with support for UN Resolution 242 and support for a two-state solution—is long-standing and that he is not deviating from it. Moreover, Harper signed the Deauville declaration which states the signatories' "strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama on May 19, 2011." That "vision" explicitly supports the use of the pre-1967 borders as the starting point for any negotiation.

2011-06-14

Is This Your Canada?: More Aid For $2m, More Bombs for $60m


The discredited Minister of International Development, Bev Oda, announced yesterday that Canada would increase its aid to Libya with another $2m. Last Thursday, Defense Minister Peter Mackay sought another $60m to extend the combat mission in Libya.

Your taxpayer dollars are being used to deliver democracy to Libya from the payload of a bomber. Is that your Canada?

And just so we remind ourselves of this government's commitment to democracy at home: the extension of the bombing missions in Libya to September 2011 would sustain the per-vote subsidy to political parties in Canada until September 2013 ($27m per year).

I am relieved Peter Mackay resisted the temptation to 'assist' Egyptians' fledgling steps toward democracy.

2011-06-08

Republican Health Plan Haiku

On tonight's Colbert Report:

Blood in the urine
A tingling down the left arm
Walk it off grandma

US Embassy: Can Harper Deliver on Military?



A recent cable leak describes Prime Minister Stephen Harper as unable to deliver on his "Canada First Defence Strategy." The Afghanistan mission left Canadian Forces so overextended that a "short operational break" will be necessary to allow the Forces and funding commitments to recover.

Harper's goal, the cable continues, is to transform the Canadian military "into the kind of expeditionary force that the government had described in the 'Canada First Defence Strategy,' seeking to evolve Canada's 'medium weight' army into a force capable of conducting both major combat and counterinsurgency operations against traditional or asymmetric threats nearby or far afield, as well as in rural, urban, and littoral domains."

According to the cable, authoured March 2009, because Harper has struggled to increase defence spending in the context of trying to restore fiscal balance, he has failed to meet his commitment to spend 2% of the budget on defence.

Well, not anymore. In the latest Treasury Board 2011-12 Main Estimates, National Defence will be taken care of quite nicely, thank you. While the Departments of the Environment and Agriculture--just to name a couple--are experiencing cuts of 20%, National Defence is enjoying unprecedented spending. Harper will finally achieve his target of 2% of budget in 2011-12:


A net increase of $191.8 million is due to an increase in operating costs of $368.9 million, a decrease in capital costs of $191.0 million, and an increase in grants, contributions and other transfer payments of $13.9 million. The major changes are:

• $281.4 million for Budget 2008 commitment to allow the automatic
annual increase on defence spending to 2% from the current 1.5% beginning in 2011–12;
• $221.7 million net increase in the spending profile for infrastructure projects;
• $120.3 million increase for Canada First Defence Strategy and to support Canada’s domestic and international security operations and challenges;

• $321.8 million net decrease in the spending profile for Major Capital Projects; and

• $102.3 million decrease due to cost containment measures to reduce the rate of growth in operating expenditures announced in Budget 2010.
This is Harper's vision for Canada. Slash billions from government except from the military and healthcare. His platform for healthcare spoke only of pouring money into the system at 6% a year for another decade--not exactly a nuanced, policy-driven approach from government with a whole Ministry at its disposal.

Even when the country is tens of billions of dollars in the hole, and Harper refuses to replace public servants shed from the payroll through attrition in nearly every government department, shedding government capacity right along with them, Harper is expanding the military, enabling it to embroil Canada in more missions like the one in Libya, a nation that poses no direct threat to Canadians. No one believes his numbers on the cost of the stealth fighter program. And once he expands the military to his target of 70,000 regular and 30,000 in reserve forces, he'll create a massive long-term payroll liability--soldiers and officers are public servants, too--over our 2009 levels of 20,000 regulars and 19,000 reservists.

We saw what happened during the G8/G20 summits when security forces are over-resourced for their mission: they go looking for problems to solve even when none exist. When police were handed a billion-dollar hammer, every protester started looking like a nail. I hope we won't see similar unintended consequences from more than doubling our military.

Welcome to your Secure, Stable, Prosperous Future.

ADDENDUM: From the Manning Centre's 2011 Barometer
Canadians are not convinced that a strong military is a pre-condition for promoting Canada's national interest, and the level of support for "patriotism and a strong military" has fallen by 30%.


2011-06-05

The Truth: Harper Calls For Mideast Peace Deal Based on Israel’s Pre-1967 Borders

I've had a little fun mocking our Prime Minister's supposedly staunch defense of Israel at the G8. But here's the truth: he agrees with Obama's speech. He agrees with UN Resolution 242. He agrees that the 1967 borders should be the starting point for negotiation with mutually agreed land swaps as outlined by Obama, and endorsed in the G8 statement that he co-signed.

To contend otherwise plays into Harper's spin machine.

2011-06-02

US Embassy: Rae "Forceful, Eloquent, Better Read, More Substantive" Than Ignatieff


A cable released by wikileaks on May 27, 2011 describes a luncheon between the US Ambassador and "Liberal Party Leadership" Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae that occurred October 23, 2009.

The cable relates that Rae's only remaining stated political ambition is to be Foreign Minister. The account of the dynamic between Ignatieff and Rae is notable:

"The dynamics between one-time friends and later rivals Ignatieff and Rae remain clearly tense, with Rae arriving late and then immediately dominating the conversation, while Ignatieff sat back almost meekly. Rae was by far the more forceful and eloquent of the two and showed little deference to his party chief, without at any time displaying any rudeness or personal animosity. He came across as better read and more substantive than Ignatieff, who stuck mostly to pleasantries and generalities."

2011-05-30

Levant: "Pointless Troublemaking and Ethnic Grievance-Mongering"

On today's "The Source with Ezra Levant," the host had some choice words to describe NDP MP Joe Comartin's insistence on Supreme Court nominees fulfilling the criteria of being bilingual, female, and aboriginal.

EL: What's going on here? Well, all of a sudden, the NDP--their motherland is Quebec, two thirds of their MPs are [from] Quebec. Isn't this just them taking the role of the Bloc Quebecois now? And throwing some ethnic grievance, some red meat out there to get Quebecers to say, 'Yeah, we hate Canada!'? Isn't this them playing the role of the Bloc, just troublemaking, pointless troublemaking and ethnic grievance-mongering?


I don't agree with Comartin's restrictions. You can't narrow the talent pool for such an important office with arbitrary requirements. However, if they are preferences, and if Comartin is willing to dial back the ultimatum-rich rhetoric, I could support that.

Levant's rant is over the top, as usual. He describes Comartin's preferences as language, gender, and racial quotas, accuses Comartin of affirmative action, and invokes Martin Luther King, Jr, to do it, asking for the content of a nominee's character and not the colour of his skin to be a more appropriate approach to the nomination.

To accuse the Bloc's representation and now Quebec NDP representation as pointless troublemaking and ethnic grievance-making is condescending, dismissive, and openly hostile to Quebec and to the party. Levant starts out on the right track, then makes a logical leap too far. Maybe he has to chug from Dullsville to Crazytown to get the ratings he needs to sell the Dr Ho and Marineland ads. What he gains in ratings, he sheds in credibility.

Today he goaded some punk rockers into responding with anti-Semitic threats by first insulting their talent, their music, and their intelligence, then letting it slip that he's Jewish. He practically rubbed his hands with glee in anticipation of posting more hate mail to his screen.

2011-05-27

Terry Milewski, Journalist

Terry Milewski is a rare specimen of an endangered species, a journalist. He questioned the Prime Minister today on his decision to break with his G8 colleagues and obstruct the mention of pre-1967 borders in a joint statement regarding Israel. According to Reuters, a European diplomat noted that, "The Canadians were really very adamant, even though Obama expressly referred to 1967 borders in his speech last week." I salute Terry Milewski and his challenge to the Prime Minister's inconsistency with Canadian policy and our allies.


TM: We've supported since 1967 Resolution 242 which calls for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in the '67 war. Canada supports two states. My question is where are on earth are these two states supposed to be if not, as per Canadian policy long-established, in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Israel proper, with agreed swaps around the 1967 lines? What's your problem with that?

SH: I didn't suggest there was a problem. Canadian policy, as you say, Terry, on these issues, is long-standing. I think it's important that any statement on the Middle East have balanced references to the various positions. I think the statement that was agreed to is a balanced statement. I think if you're going to get into other elements, then obviously I would like to see reference to elements that were also in President Obama's speech: such as, for instance, the fact that one of the states must be a Jewish state, the fact that the Palestinian state must be demilitarized. I think it's important that any statement on this question be balanced, as was President Obama's.

The G8 statement is notable for its vagueness. There is nothing specific about the borders. There is no prohibition on the building of new settlements or extending existing settlements in the West Bank. There is no mention of Hamas, a coalition with Fatah, acts of terror, or military incursions. There is no statement of criteria for IMF and World Bank support in anticipation of the Paris donors' conference.

Except for one thing: a "demand" to release Gilad Shalit. On this one point, the G8 could be clear, specific, emphatic, and unflinching. Perhaps there is an inverse relationship between these attributes and the substantiveness of the G8's demands, requests, recommendations, or suggestions.

You can find the Deauville Declaration here. Or here.

The statement on Israel from the preamble:
"We are convinced that the historic changes throughout the region make the solution of the Israeli-Palestine conflict through negotiations more important, not less. We urge both parties to engage without delay in substantive talks with a view to concluding a framework agreement on all final status issues."

The fuller statement on Israel:
"67. We are convinced that the historic changes throughout the region make the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations more important, not less. Aspirations of the peoples in the region need to be heeded including that of the Palestinians for a viable and sovereign State and that of Israelis for security and regional integration. The time to resume the Peace Process is now.

a. Negotiations are the only way toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict. The framework for these negotiations is well known. We urge both parties to return to substantive talks with a view to concluding a framework agreement on all final status issues. To that effect, we express our strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama on May 19, 2011.

b. We appreciate the efforts and the progress made by the Palestinian Authority and the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad as they are building a viable State as recently commended by the IMF, the World Bank and the ad hoc liaison Committee.

c. We look forward to the prospect of the second donors’ conference for Palestine in Paris, also in view of the resumption of negotiations.

d. We call on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to abide by existing co-operation agreements and to abstain from unilateral measures that could hamper progress and further reforms. We call for the easing of the situation in Gaza.

e. We demand the unconditional release of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit without delay."

If you're wondering, as I did, who Gilad Shalit is, you can find out here. He is an IDF soldier who was abducted by Hamas in a 2006 cross-border raid. Importantly, he holds French and Israeli citizenship. He has been likened, implausibly, to Nelson Mandela in a cynical inversion of the apartheid dynamic of Israel and its occupied territories.

2011-05-19

Reflections on a Shellacking


In response to an innocent inquiry from a friend of mine on facebook, I posted the following reflection on supporting the Liberals during the 41st General Election. I served as the Campaign Manager for Kris Stewart, the Liberal candidate for Kelowna--Lake Country.

Writing this was therapeutic.

To be honest, I expected we'd lose a few seats going into the election. Despite the fact that the Liberal platform was sound and developed over the course of a year; the OLO had been honed organizationally by the Leader's tour last summer and the Open Mike tour through the fall and winter; and the Party had sufficient resources to mount a good campaign; a couple of things were still bothering me about our chances.

We couldn't consistently poll over 30%
Ignatieff was out hustling for votes all over the country, appearing in swing ridings multiple times. There were clear instances where we were on the right side of an issue but it wasn't moving public sentiment: Afghan detainees, long-form census, illegal migrants, mandatory minimums, deferring corporate tax cuts. It didn't seem to matter.


The Conservatives withstood all scandals
Though there were really egregious breaches of explicit promises made by Harper, of checks and balances in our democratic institutions, of the duty of Cabinet to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, the Conservatives were never punished for it by shifts in public sentiment. They hovered at 35-40% as a cascade of malfeasance poured out of the PMO. And the opposition triggering an election for yet another abuse of democracy seemed to many Canadians a self-indulgent nuisance. Even Bev Oda wound up walking away with an outright majority (54% of the vote in Durham). What message does that send?

The attack ads work
We’ve all seen the polls that put Ignatieff’s approval at around 15%. He was never able to capitalize on the goodwill that accompanied his acclaimation in the spring of 2009. Some of the responsibility for that is his, some is the Party’s, and some belongs to the Conservative spin machine. I was watching TV with my twins and froze the PVR on a frame from an Ignatieff attack ad—red background, Ignatieff grinning and waving in black and white—when Gabriel looks up at me and says, “Michael Ignatieff. He’s not here for you.” My six-year-old. He doesn’t know who Ignatieff is or give a rat’s ass about politics, but this message sunk in for him, and for every Canadian paying as much attention as he was to politics. There are a lot more of those than you think.


Conservatives were prepared for and wanted an election
They had revved up their anti-Ignatieff ad campaign yet again, with more than 4,000 TV spots. This was supported by a government-sponsored campaign for the Economic Action Plan, ads that were branded like the Conservative Party. The tens of millions spent on these ads outside the writ period were not subject to election spending limits, or rebates for that matter. The Conservatives invested a lot of capital in laying the groundwork for a campaign.

Targeting ridings works
The Conservatives were very focused on swinging the dozen ridings they needed to achieve a majority. Whether that meant targeting ethnic communities, wooing veterans or volunteer firefighters, pouring infrastructure spending in, attacking individual incumbents, parachuting in star candidates, trotting out the PM in visit after visit to factory and chamber of commerce events—whatever it took, they were going to add the 60,000 or so votes they needed in just a few ridings to push for a majority. I saw that leaked memo from Kenney’s office and it affirmed that impression.

Once the campaign was underway, I thought Gilles Duceppe could put off our coalition albatross by implicating Harper in the 2004 negotiations. Harper remained consistently on message, and limiting media to five questions per day ensured that. Stable Majority Government. No Reckless Coalition. Lower Taxes, More Jobs. Did you know that the phrase “the Ignatieff-led coalition with the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois” appears in the Conservative platform FORTY TIMES? I counted. Ignatieff’s refreshing openness to questions unfortunately led to compromising answers, and a dilution of his message. I felt absolutely betrayed by his statement a week before the election that he would entertain participating in an NDP-led coalition.

The NDP surge in Quebec at the Bloc’s expense legitimized a migration from Conservative or Liberal support to the NDP as a credible alternative in Anglophone Canada. Layton had always polled well on approval, twice Ignatieff’s numbers and always ahead of Harper. His blow to Ignatieff on attendance in Parliament stung. It didn’t matter that the platform the NDP floated couldn’t hold water. Virtually no one looks at those documents, let alone critically.

Back to your question. I did work tirelessly on this campaign. Along with many other volunteers in our riding. We conducted a well-run, on-budget, high-profile campaign that I’m proud of, with an army of over seventy volunteers. There were some glitches and things I’d do differently. But they wouldn't amount to much of a change to the bottom line. Our campaign got more Liberal support than any other in the BC Interior. And we still were in third place and won only 11.8% of the vote. It is a dismal number.

I used to believe the old saw that politics is local. I understand better how our local potential is dictated by the success of the national campaign. In exceptional circumstances we can crack the ceiling of regional party affiliation tendencies and leader support. Look at Ralph Goodale in Wascana. He got nearly half of all Liberal votes in the province of Saskatchewan. But he is certainly exceptional.

I am taking an active role in the renewal of the Party. That will have to do for now.

2011-05-17

"Strategic Voting" Sites Don't Work


Please see the Pundit's Guide exhaustive analysis of how the strategic voting sites failed to deliver on their promise: to provide progressive voters insight into the likeliest party alignment that would unseat a Conservative or prevent a Conservative from getting into office.



Essentially, the performance of these sites make it clear that they are unable to provide quality, local, timely data that can achieve their objective. They frequently make wrong, counterproductive calls. They are even dishonest about their performance post-election. Fortunately, enough Canadians ignore these sites that their damage in the last election was limited.

The best thing for a well-informed, well-intentioned progressive voter to do is pay attention to their local race and choose the best candidate. Do not allow strategic voting sites to usurp your vote and misdirect it.

Strategic voting sites to ignore:
strategicvoting.ca (inactive since 2008)