Saturday, September 06, 2008

Harper: Arrogance

The latest Conservative Election Ad.

Oh, wait. It's not an election ad because it was on television today and there's no election call yet. So it's not an election ad. That would be illegal, campaigning before the election has been called. So this is some kind of ... other ... ad ... for something.


It's Stephen Harper talking about how we owe everything to military veterans.

"What you always remember when you meet a Canadian veteran is that everything we have in this country was earned. And those men and women went out and put their lives on the line for this country. Never forget what they contributed. But more important, never forget how precious it is - how precious what we have is."

This is followed by a title screen which says, "Canada. We're better off with Harper"

Okay, let's start with the technicalities. Most Canadian veterans didn't put their lives on the line for this country. No one has attacked us in 200 years. All of the Canadian veterans "you meet" volunteered their lives for this country, but they were used to defend other countries, other people, other resources. Most famously they defended Britain, liberated France, Belgium and the Netherlands in two World Wars. Then they kept the peace in Cyprus and around the world. Now they're in Afghanistan ostensibly to help reconstruct the country though they spend most of their time fighting along the path of a proposed natural gas pipeline.

Now even more seriously. Believe it or not, Mr. Harper, we have never forgotten how precious what we have is. We never forget the war of 1812, the Red River Rebellion, the fight over Representation by Population, the repatriation of the Constitution. We never forget our intrepid veterans of both World Wars or those who are dying in Afghanistan. So why are you using this to make us think we're "better off with Harper"? Are you trying to suggest that those who oppose you have forgotten those sacrifices.

I won't lie to you. This ad offends me on a level so deep that I have hard time understanding what ticks me off the most. Somewhere in there is an arrogance. Somewhere in there is a narrow minded "only conservatives love the military". Somewhere in there Stephen Harper is riding on the coattails of the noble volunteers that make up our armed forces.

The last bit is the worst. "Never forget how precious what we have is".


That from an arrogant politician who hates everything about this country and wants to reshape it in to the United States? That from the man who called his own country "a northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term"? From the man who only backed away from his plan to privatize our health care system when we told him Tommy Douglas was the greatest Canadian? That from the guy who can only measure foreign policy effectiveness by counting the number of guns we have?

I think not, sir. I think you have forgotten what is precious to us.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers

Friday, September 05, 2008

Peacekeeping: We Don't Do It Anymore

Way back when, I wrote a mildly over-the-top piece on how much Conservatives hate Canada. Basically, the values that most Canadians hold are not the values that the Conservatives - or even the Liberals - seem to hold.

The most obvious of these views is the value we place on peacekeeping.

Even the Ministry of Defence knows this. They conducted a study and found that most Canadians still want our soldiers to be doing peacekeeping.

The Canadian Press article starts out with some simple facts about the feelings of Canadians. Percentages of this and that. What it comes down to is that most of us think of ourselves as a peacekeeping nation.

Then the article gets shifty. After mentioning one comment from one person about not being able to picture "a Canadian soldier carrying guns.", we have this quote:
Traditional peacekeeping, which usually meant monitoring ceasefires, largely disappeared with the end of the Cold War.

Right. Nice lie. This is the how the news media slips opinion in to news.

This misleading statement would make you think that traditional peacekeeping opportunities have disappeared. They haven't. What has disappeared is the desire of our military and political leaders to undertake those missions.

Rwanda was there, desperately needing help to prevent a genocide. Dallaire even knew what to do. But the rest of the world, Canada's government included, opted to do nothing. They let "traditional peacekeeping" fail in a grand and horrible way, with 800 000 dead, so they could pretend that "traditional peacekeeping" was itself dead.

And now the Canadian Press is helping them with this pretence. And at the end of article they're going to lament how little we trust journalists.

Referring to failed Bosnia-Serbia intervention, the article continues:
That frustrating experience shaped the attitude of a generation of soldiers, who were eager to shed the United Nations blue beret, which they saw as a symbol of weakness and indecision.

Really? The soldiers saw it as a sign of weakness? Who is writing this article? Where is the survey that demonstrates this? Is this the infantry or the military brass? Besides which, it doesn't matter what the soldiers think. It is the civilian population that selects the missions. If those enrolled don't like peacekeeping, they don't have to stay enrolled.
Yet the public clings to the romanticized notion of brave soldiers standing between belligerents.

Yeah. We stupid, ignorant Canadians have these stupid, romantic morals and values. God, we're so fricking naive, aren't we?

But there is hope, because there are these two comments, the first from Desmond Morton, a military historian at McGill University:
“I think the (peacekeeping) values are profound, and while I may think they may not be wholly realistic, they are rather more attractive than the values I encounter in the United States”

What? You're actually going to acknowledge, in a national paper, that Canadians aren't just Americans with a National Inferiority Complex? You're actually admitting that there are some values that are different between one country and the other? Be careful. Jeffrey Simpson is going to call you a "knee-jerk anti-American" any second now (any evidence you present notwithstanding).

And this comment:
“Many participants claimed not to trust the media to report events in Afghanistan accurately,” the survey said.

Well, that's good. At least people are learning. That's very promising.

But of course, we have an excuse from the Canadian Association of Journalists, Mary Welch:
“In these kinds of situations there's always a shoot-the-messenger kind of mentality,” Ms. Welch said.

We're not shooting the messengers. We're "shooting" the liars who tow the government line and get our soldiers shot. We're expecting journalists to stand up, not roll over. If you find us distrusting you, it's because we've caught you lying too many times.

The fact is that Canadians should be in charge of what their military is doing. At this time, we are not. The Liberals failed to steer the military in to the post Cold War peacekeeping force that we wanted. The Conservatives are taking that military force and using it aggressively. Neither party deserves to be leading this country if they aren't carrying the morals and values of Canadians with them.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers

Thursday, September 04, 2008

B.C. Bubbles

So the British Columbian Appeals court upheld the "bubble zone", that 30 metre protective barrier that keeps protestors from physically blocking access to abortion clinics.

Good. You can have your free speech from within shouting distance of the clinic. You just can't physically intimidate the women who are making this choice.

The anti-abortion people, the ones who call themselves "pro-life", are trotting out their standard set of arguments, presenting their standard set of straw men.

"Can any "pro-choice" supporter out there please answer the simple basic question of when life begins?"

"Is the baby really going to change so much in 12 hours that now it's OK to kill it* but killing *him/her a few hours later would be murder?"

... and whining about how Canada is the only country in the world without an abortion law.

Even if that last were true, so what? What that means is that a woman is free to choose her course of action. What this leads to is a very, very small number of late-term abortions in extremely risky or nonviable situations and a larger number of early-term abortions. The system is trusting women to make moral decisions and (surprise, you fundamentalist misogynist loons) they are making moral decisions, so what's the problem?

As for when life begins, you'd think that this would be the whole crux of the matter, wouldn't you? Unfortunately, you aren't helping if you aren't going to define life either. Human sperm and eggs are alive. They move and respond to stimulus. They do all sorts of things that living things do. Combined, they represent a unique genetic combination and continue to do things that living things do. And then 60 to 80% of them spontaneously miscarry. What makes the fertilized egg so much more special than the sperm and the egg when they were separated?

But it doesn't even matter, does it? Illegalizing abortion has only ever produced illegal and dangerous abortions. Try reading some of the stories of abortion doctors when they explain why they got in to the business. It's usually because they saw the horrors that women inflicted on themselves attempting to end an unwanted pregnancy.

Women who don't want babies won't have babies. Making abortion illegal won't change that.

If you want to stop abortions - as everyone does - the answer is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Birth control would be a lot more effective if people weren't lying about condom effectiveness, the side effects of the pill or, worse, simply refusing to teach it.

You want to stop abortions? Then start teaching sex education. Start making more effective forms of birth control. The abortions will stop when people are educated and technology advances to the point where abortions are unnecessary.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Hypocrisy or Irony?

(When there's enough sick people to take care of, you end up doing all your blogging at once, in the evening, when you get them to bed.)

It's hard to tell, sometimes, whether what you're seeing is hypocrisy or irony. If Kurt Vonnegut had written the plot, I'd know. If it were Mike Harris telling me that teacher testing was meant to "improve education" when we had Snobelen on tape telling us that we wants to take the government "out of the education business", I'd know it was hypocrisy.

So when the Conservatives tell me that they changed meat packing plant inspections because of their belief in the free market, I have to wonder if they really believe in the free market.

The Conservatives go completely off message when they send $80 million to a dead Ford plant in Windsor in a painfully, embarrassingly transparent attempt to buy votes. If the free market is really working properly, Mr. Harper, why don't you let that Ford plant die while the people who are invested in proper technology prosper? Why are you propping up a company that the all-knowing, benevolent god you call the Free Market has decided to kill?

Is that hypocrisy, or are you merely running your government ironically now? Next up you'll be telling us that it's okay for a Prime Minister to manipulate election dates to his own best advantage, or dropping those anti-abortion bills, or appointing Senators, or stealing MPs from other parties right after election day, or ... well, never mind.

(h/t to Jay at the Sleveen Institute)

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers

Conservative and Liberal Embezzling

So if you're a Liberal or a Democrat, you might run a scandal like this.

1. Create Sponsorship fund
2. Send millions of dollars in Sponsorship money to your buddies for no actual work.

The scam is costly, but the amount of money the embezzler gets is equal to the amount of money lost by the taxpayer. The taxpayer lost 10 or 100 million, all of which went to the embezzler. There were no side effects.

It's a scam and you should catch those people, fine them, put them in jail. In general, we do seem to catch them.

If you're a Conservative or a Republican, the way to scam the taxpayer out of money is more complicated.

1. Invest money in a Defence contractor, become a lobbyist for the Defence Industry, or get on the Board of Directors for such a company
2. On a trumped up pretence (WMD, terrorist links, spreading democracy), start a trillion dollar war in Iraq or expand a multibillion dollar war in Afghanistan
3. Of the massive amounts of money spent, skim a small amount off the top via stock options or later appointments to the Board of Directors or reinstatement as a lobbyist

First of all, the Republican way of embezzling money is fantastically inefficient. While Dick Cheney will undoubtedly collect millions, as will his pals at KBR and Halliburton, the cost to the U.S. taxpayer is in the trillions of dollars.

The second difference are the side effects. While a straight up embezzling scam might cost you some credibility with taxpayers, starting a pointless power-grabbing war in the Middle East can actually have consequences for generations. We're talking millions of dead people.

The third major difference is that the Republicans and the Conservatives don't get caught. You can't criticize what they've done - not in the mainstream - without getting shouted down for being unpatriotic or for failing to "support the troops". Mark my words, Bush and Cheney - for all they've done - will never be punished with jail time or fines. Gordon O'Connor will never be jailed for his switcheroo from lobbyist to Minister of Defence or be held responsible for permitting our soldiers to hand over their prisoners to the Afghan authorities who would torture them.

And that last one is the worst difference of all. Because just as aggressive war was considered the supreme war crime because it contained all of the other crimes within it, the failure to catch and punish those who perpetrate this type of embezzling contains within it all of the future debt and death of embezzlements to come.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers

Palin's Inexperience

I don't care.

I really, really don't care.

Yes, I think they picked her because she was a woman with all kinds of weird skeletons in her closet. The plan was to pander to the religious right while simultaneously making her look like the embattled woman to draw in the bitter Hillary fans.

But I really don't give a flying fornication about her inexperience.

Politicians don't necessarily need loads of experience. That's what ministers and secretaries are for. Sure, it's nice if you have some clue how things work and whether you're a governor or a senator, you've got that clue. It'd be nice if you had an idea about the geopolitical ramifications of the war in Iraq rather than telling people than god wants you to win the war.


What matters is her politics. And her politics are just wrong.

She's in favour of teaching creationism. That makes her not just ignorant but contagiously ignorant.

She's in favour of abstinence only sex education. You don't need to mention any part of her personal life to know that abstinence only sex education does nothing but spread STDs and increase teen pregnancies.

She thinks the war in Iraq is a religious mission.

She's apparently opposed to abortions even in the cases of rape, incest, danger to the mother and hopeless cases.

The list of her actual opinions on issues from censorship to religion to foreign policy are bad enough.

I don't really care about her "inexperience". It looks like her experience is a hundred times worse. The things she would do intentionally would do far more damage than anything she might do by accident.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Palin Ploy

The word you're looking for is "stagecraft". While the networks made a big deal out of the impeachment hearings by calling them "stagecraft", I would charge that the selection of Sarah Palin is a more accurate example of the genre.

She's been a governor for only two years. Her sole foreign policy experience is being "near Russia" (because there are no other countries near Alaska). There is this hilarious CNN clip in which a Republican operative dodges every which way to avoid the foreign policy question, which the Republicans hold as all important. Notice how he never, ever answers the question of how Palin could possibly be qualified for this job.

Her teenage daughter is unmarried and pregnant.

On top of all this, she is, in point of fact, a woman.

And that, my friends, was the point of choosing her.

The whole reason John McCain, the guy who calls his wife names and has a horrible appeal to feminine voters, chose Palin is because she is an extremely objectionable female.

What do they want to happen? They want to see the news covered with attacks on her inexperience and her pregnant teenage daughter. They want the world to come crashing down on her. For one, it makes McCain look good, but that's not the real purpose. The real purpose is to have everyone attacking a woman.

This is their last ditch attempt to get all of those disgruntled Hillary voters over to their side. All of those voters who believe that Barack beat Hillary because he's black and she's a woman (not because of actual differences is policy) are up for grabs as far as the Republicans are concerned. If they can somehow convince those bitter voters that Sarah Palin is the political reincarnation of their own Hillary, victim of sexual discrimination, maybe they can squeak out an election victory.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Palestinian Rejection

Oh, those silly Palestinians! Why do they hate peace so much? All they ever seem to want to do is declare jihad and have endless war. What's wrong with them?

Well that's what you'd get if you read the headline of the latest G&M article:

Palestinians reject partial peace accord offered by Israelis

I couldn't find the Ottawa Citizen headline, but I'm sure it's the same.

The article highlights how the Palestinian "leader", Mahmoud Abbas (whom I believe lost the last election) was insisting on an all-or-nothing agreement. "All-or-nothing" is, naturally, a quote from the Associated Press article, not from Abbas or anyone speaking for the Palestinians.

AP was nice enough, however, to put this little mysterious bit in at the bottom.
The Palestinians charge that Israel is swallowing up West Bank land they claim for their state. Israel counters that it is not expanding settlements; rather, building inside settlement blocs it plans to keep in a final peace accord.

This sort of thing always make he sigh heavily.

Of course the Palestinians would reject this proposal. If the proposal contains in it language that makes Israeli settlements inside this future "Palestinian state" permanent, then of course it will be rejected. And any nonsense about "not expanding settlements" completely misses the point. The settlements shouldn't be there. Period. The fact that the Israelis intend to keep these settlements as part of "a final peace accord" is the problem.

The present arrangement completely carves up "Palestine" by placing Israeli settlements everywhere inside its borders, and then having roads going between these settlements that are only for the use of Israeli settlers. On top of that, there is the "separation fence" (which is sometimes a fence, sometimes a wall) that carves further sections of "Palestine" away for Israel.

It would be completely irresponsible, even for a stooge like Abbas, to accept any agreement that allowed or made permanent the settlements the Israelis have built for themselves inside this supposed Palestinian state.

If you want all of the terrorism to end (and by that I refer to both the Palestinian suicide bombers and Israel's collective punishment), if you want peace between these two peoples, then the agreement has to be that Palestinians will stop terrorism simultaneously with Israel stopping its attacks and disbanding its Israeli-only settlements. No Palestinian leader could ever bring an agreement to his people without this concession. He would be ridiculed if not shot outright.

Pretending, as this headline does, that the Palestinians are responsible for the "rejection" is ridiculous. The offer was made to be rejected.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers