A Canadian's perspective on domestic and international issues. Independent coverage of Canadian federal, provincial and municipal elections and anything of interest in Canada.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Canadian media bias in favour of BIG

I find it very amusing how so many Conservative hacks, when realizing that blatant attacks on the Liberals only make them look bad, choose to blame the “liberal media”.
As a former member of the so-called “liberal media” I have to say they are not so “liberal” as they are populist. Look in almost any newspaper in this country and count the number of times you read the words liberal, conservative, Dion and Harper. Then look in the same paper and add up the number of times you read the words Green, NDP, Layton or (What’s the name of the new Green leader, it appears so infrequently I can’t recall what it is).
The point is this, the media tend to play the two big parties off against one another, like they were covering a boxing match or a hockey game. This serves to further marginalize the other parties. When you hear the NDP mentioned, it is more often as an afterthought. When the Greens are mentioned it is most often as an “also ran,” and in many cases you do not hear mention of them at all.
Worse yet, there is seldom any comment from the Independents, who unlike the Greens, actually hold some seats in the house.
If there is a bias in the Canadian media it is neither pro-Liberal or pro-Conservative but pro-Big Party.
In most newrooms, at election time, the senior reporters are assigned to cover the big parties. The newbies and interns get sent to cover the smaller ones. When the coverage is printed, the big headlines are assigned to either the Liberals or Conservatives, and the smaller ones to the “also rans”.
Facts is: the newspapers realize that most of their readership is middle of the road so they cater to the middle of the road, giving the lions share of space to the two big parties.
For anyone, Liberal or Conservative, to accuse the media of having a pro-Liberal or pro-Conservative bent is nonsense. If anything, the media has a pro-status quo bias. One example of this is right here in this whole kafluffle about the recent Conservative attack ads and the responses to them. Its all ‘what do the Conservatives think’ and ‘what do the Liberals think’, and there is so little attention paid to what the other parties and the independents think, one would swear that there are only Liberals and Conservatives, and no others.
If Canadian voters really want to do something to change the way political campaigns are managed and reported on in this country, then we need to ignore what both the big parties and the media are selling, and go out there and vote for people who are not members of either big party, and unrecognized by the media.
These attack ads, and the response to them by the media and party hacks, makes clear what is really wrong with Canadian politics. Us!
If we really want to stop all this negative BS then we need to stop rewarding it with our votes and our patronage. We need to stop buying and reading the papers, watching the TV, and lapping up the mudslinging. Then, when the election comes around, we need to vote for someone off the radar.
Maybe then the parties and the media will get their come-uppins and come around.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Expel Wilkins, Give Arar Diplomatic Immunity!

So, despite being cleared of any connection to terrorism and of any wrong doing by a federal commission here in Canada, the United States still refuses to take Maher Arar off their terrorism watch list and prohibit him from travelling to the US.
Apparently the US is basing its decision, to ban Arar, on his travel history and his associations with certain individuals and groups in Canada and abroad. This means that Arar is banned from US territory because he’s been known to attend a mosque where suspected terrorists worship, he’s a Muslim, he’s been to Syria, has been supported by other persons on the terrorism watch list, and has spoken out about his experiences with US intelligence services.
The US terrorism watch list, which has existed for many years under different titles, has many names on it. One of those names is Mohammed Ali, former heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Once upon a time that list included the name “Farley Mowat”, because Mowat, the distinguished Canadian novelist, had admitted to firing his BB gun at US planes when he was a kid. Apparently I am also on that list, because I had the audacity to write to the US President and voice my opposition to his intitial invasion of Iraq! It must be difficult for them because I have exactly the same name as a former FBI and CIA director. There are many others on the list, and many of them are guilty of little more than having names similar to known criminals, or they have simply spoken out. Apparenlty free speech is allowed in the US as long as the free speaker does not attempt to exit or enter the US.
Today the US says it will not remove Arar from its watchlist, ever. They site his contacts and travel history. Based on that, there are several names that should be on the list that aren’t. One name I can think of is ‘Donald Rumsfeld.’ We’ve all seen the photos of him, glad handing and joyful, with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Another name that should be on that list is George Bush senior, who has a long history of association with the bin Laden family, and was a senior official with the CIA when Osama bin Laden became a CIA operative. A third name that should be on that list is Condaleeza Rice, who for many years, before she became a member of the current US cabinet, did the party circuit in Los Angeles, a circuit we know to be full of subversives. Then there is her known association with all sorts of terrorists both as National Security Advisor and now as Secretary of State. Her travel record shows her travelling frequently to so-called terrorist states all around the world.
Vice-President Richard Chaney would also make a good canidate for the list, based on his involvement with Enron and his widely publicised penchant for playing with guns. Should we allow known crooks and gunslingers into Canada?
If Arar is on a watchlist because of his travel history and his associations, then surely these people also need to be added to that list.
Better yet, maybe Canada should start a terrorism watch list of its own and start denying people on it entry to Canada based on their travel histories, associations, and personal history. One person who would definitely belong on such a list is the current US President. Many here in Canada believe he is the biggest terrorist alive today, and some have even worked to have him tried for crimes against humanity. Surely someone expected of such crimes would belong on the list.
Another name that would make that list is the US Ambassador to Canada. He belongs on it because of his links to the Bush family and to white supremists in the US. He’s also clearly a bigot who has little respect for due process, and a hypocrite who favours Canada handing over personal information about its own citizens but refuses to allow the same to be done in reverse. Moreover, his recent comments which impune the character of Maher Arar amount to nothing short of slander.
So, perhaps this is how Canada should deal with the US refusal to exonerate Maher Arar, and to remove his name from the watchlist. We should make a no-fly list of our own and place a bunch of US citizens on it, then refuse to remove their names, nor to explain why we refuse to remove their names.
To be fair, the Americans are simply erring on the side of caution. That’s why Mohammed Ali is on the list. There must be thousands of terrorists with that name. If they have to keep them all out to make sure the one who will do damage doesn’t get in, then so be it. Trouble is, there are probably terrorists named Barack Obama too! It is likely true of the name Maher Arar, there has to be a terrorist with that name, doesn’t there? The one we have here probably isn’t the one they need to be afraid of, but if they just remove his name, then the Maher Arar who is a terrorist, might get in, right!
Speaking of the list, you know who else was on that list? Most of the 911 bombers, that’s who! Apparently it didn’t stop them from boarding the planes and hijacking them, did it?
The US makes a lot of noise about freedom and justice. According to founding principles of justice, a person is innocent until proven guilty, and as such, no government has a right to act against any person, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or who they associate with, until such times as that person is proven guilty. Still, the US insists it has the right to prejudge people based on where they are from, where they have been, and who they have seen. At the same time the US disregards the principle of innocense until proven guilty, it asserts its right to force its values of ‘democracy and justice” on other nations and their citizens by assuming guilt until proven innocent, and even when proven innocent, the US still claims the right to punish based on suspicion of guilt. All this in mind, is it any wonder the US are not succeeding in spreading their “democracy” to Iraq?
The United States should not only drop Maher Arar from its watchlist, but it should compensate the man for his trouble, to the tune of millions. And if it doesn’t, then Canada should step up and protect Mr. Arar from any further injustice at the hands of the US government.
If I were Prime Minister of Canada, here’s what I would do. I’d start by recalling the bigot Wilkins to Ottawa and then I’d expel him, for impuning the reputation of a Canadian citizen. Send him to Washington with a clear message that Arar’s name is to be cleared from the list. If that doesn’t work, then add the names Rumsfeld, Rice, Bush, Chaney and Wilkins to whatever no fly list Canada has.
If that doesn’t work, then I’d offer Mr. Arar a job with Canada’s foreign service and provide him with a diplomatic passport.
Bottom line in all this, the US are being ignorant. They are acting like school yard bullies who, upon being found assaulting a defenseless schoolmate, are refusing to acknowledge the assault and the innocense of their victim. They are trying to hide the fact that they are bullies who have no just cause for their aggressive behaviour. We should treat them as such.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Harperons go Green!!!

Suddenly, the Harper Conservatives have turned green!
What’s responsible for this unexpected concern for the environment?
Why are they giving money to save Stanley Park, to enhance green technology, and to save our planet?
Could it be the unexpectedly warm weather in Ottawa?
Could it be the dramatic winter on the west coast?
Could it be that every recent poll shows the environment is Canada’s number one election issue, and the Harperons realize they will soon be back in opposition if they don’t get on it now?
Methinks, beyond a doubt, its the latter rather than the former.
How many times when the Harperons were in opposition did we hear them rant and rave about how the Liberals only concern was polls?
How many times did we hear Harper himself express his dismay and shock that the Liberals were more concerned with public opinion than they were about principles?
How many times did we hear the Harperons bemoan the fact that the Liberals were a rutter-less party whose only concern was winning the next election?
How many times did he call the former government opportunists?
How many times did we hear him reiterate the promise that his party would be different, that they would act on principle, not polls, that their mandate would be based on party values, not power?
And now the Harperons are in power, what are we getting?
When Stephen Harper assumed the mantle of Prime Minister it became clear off the top that he had no intention whatsoever of making the environment a priority. In fact, he introduced an environmental policy that did absolutely nothing to address the issue, for at least 50 years. Now, a mere few months later, it has become his number one priority.
Why? I don’t think I need to answer that question for the people of Canada. We’re not stupid, we know why, don’t we?
Fact is, the Harperons were not so much elected as the Liberals were un-elected. We threw the bums out because of their opportunism, their double speak, their flip flopping, and their corruption. We did not elect Harper because he had a better idea. We elected him because we were sick and tired of his predecessors! Now many of us are wondering if that was such a good plan.
And what are we going to do about it?
Well, from what I’m hearing and reading, what we’re going to do is de-elect him, just as we did Mr. Martin. We’re not going to move to a party that has a better environmental policy. We’re not going to elect a bunch of independents because we want to send a message. We’re not going to move left. No, we’re going to elect anyone at all! We’re simply going to de-elect the current devil and, in all likelihood, put the old devil, who we know a little better, back in office.
The polls say the environment is our number one issue. If that’s true, we’d be on the verge of electing either a Green or an NDP majority. Instead, we’re most likely going to give the Liberals a minority. Why?
Seems to me we’ve got ourselves in a position where we can no longer go to the polls with the intention of electing a new government. No, we’re not even going to the polls with the intention of electing anyone. Instead we’re going to the polls with the sole purpose of getting rid of the current forked tongue opportunists.
I wonder how long we’re going to stay on this merry go ‘round.
If in fact, as the polls suggest, the environment is our number one priority, then lets not be foolish. Let’s do our research. Let’s find out which party has the best environmental policy and put them in power, coast to coast, with the biggest possible majority, so they can get the job done.
And lets relegate the rest of these wishy washy, do anything to get back in power, opportunists and bunglers, to where they belong, in the dust bin of Canadian political history.
Its up to us. We’re the ones with the real power, the power of the pencil on the ballot.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dare a different approach to drugs

When I was a kid we used to have police officers come into our school to talk to us about drugs. Us kids loved the occassions because it meant some time off from regular studies, and we could all get a good laugh about how little the cops really knew about drugs. And we’d often celebrate afterwards by slipping out into the school parking lot to share a fatty.
When I was 14 my Dad, who was convinced I was doing drugs, even though I’d never even seen them, sent me to see a movie called Riot on Sunset Strip. The movie had been reccomended to my Dad by local narcotics officers. I went to see the movie, which featured young adults smoking joints and floating around rooms, or eating LSD and having sex. Most of us kids attending that movie left the theatre wanting to try drugs. Hell, if drugs helped you defy gravity and made it easy to get sex, then why not.
It also played well into our teenage rebellion, if the cops, the teachers, and our parents were all against this stuff, then it must be good. As kids, we were also quite bright and could easily see the hypocracy. We all saw our folks stepping out and getting drunk from time to time while telling us we couldn’t drink. Most kids I know, including myself, set out at an early age to try booze. We all wanted to get drunk, mostly because we were being told we shouldn’t.
I knew a lot of kids who got into drugs, but before they got into illicit drugs, they tried alcohol, the only legitimate drug that really affected our minds. For many, most, our gateway drug was alcohol. We moved on from it, looking for highs that weren’t so damaging to our bodies and minds. When the push came to ward us away from the illicit stuff, more and more of us sought them out. If our authority figures were so hell bent against the stuff, it must be good.
Not much has changed. Alcohol is still the first drug most kids try. But alcohol is not such an easy drug to abuse without getting caught. It stinks, it makes you act weird, and it is not so easy to hide. Other drugs, such as THC, LSD, magic mushrooms, even heroin and cocaine, are much easier to disguise. They fold up into nice small packages that can be easily concealed, most have no scent at all, except pot, and unless a teacher or parent is skilled at detecting signs of drug use, it can be quite difficult to tell if a person is high. These drugs are also easily obtained. You meet your dealer in a cafe or a back alley, or out on the street corner. To get alcohol you basically have to hang out by the bar or the liquor store, where you can easily be noticed.
I grew up in the 1960s. Its a whole new century now, and still the police are using outmoded principles and ideology in their attempts to curtail drug use and proliferation. It didn’t work back then, and it isn’t working now. Twelve years ago less than 30 per cent of Canadians acknowledged trying illicit drugs. Today that figure is over 45 per cent, yet the police, who continue to support school programs like DARE, and to spend far more on enforcement than on harm reduction, continue to claim success! Its a sham.
People who abuse drugs and alcohol do so mostly because of social mallais. For instance, my own case. I got into drugs partly because my Dad was always accusing me of doing drugs. At one point I got sick of his accusations and decided to give him something to talk about. There was no communication at home, there was just an iron fist and a lot of preaching. I was in the throes of teenage rebellion and instead of understanding, I was receiving commands.
I was also a bit of a good boy. Yes, I was the kid with morals who’d bought all his Christian upbringing, a goody-two-shoes, so to speak. This made me a bit of a pariah in my youthful social circles. As soon as I tried drugs, that was cured. Suddenly I was popular as school! I was cool.
The other thing drugs and alcohol provided me with was an escape. I could get drunk or high and just forget about all the abuse at home. Under the influence I was transported out of my mundane existance and into a world that was colourful and exciting. Alcohol in particular, helped me to overcome shyness and gave me courage. For all intent and purpose drugs were giving me something I wasn’t getting at home. It didn’t matter if the cop at the front of the class said they were bad, drugs were working for me. They lifted my problems, helped me forget troubling things, made me popular with the other kids, and fullfilled my teenage desire to rebel. The cop at the front of the class just represented another authority figure I was able to baffle.
In the end, alcohol, not illicit drugs, almost killed me. It damaged my liver, removed my friends, lost me several jobs, robbed me of money, took away my self respect, and quite nearly killed me. I’d turned to it, forsaking most other drugs, because it was easier to get, and more acceptable in the society where I lived. I could get drunk and the cops would take me home. If I stuck a needle in my arm I could end up in jail. My original gateway drug eventually turned into my drug of preference.
Just about 18 years ago I gave it up. Not because of any teaching I got in school, not because of pressure from outside sources or family, not because I was afraid of jail time, but because it was killing me and I was ready to quit. At the time I also stopped using any sort of hard drug, including perscription pain killers, mood altering pills and the like. I did this not because of anything I’d been told, or anything I’d learned in school, or any trouble I’d had with the cops. I gave it up because I was ready to give it up, and I wanted to give it up. All the DARE programs in the world had no effect, what did have an effect was my own desire to do right by myself.
The long and short of it is this: Kids get into drugs because they are trying to deal with the issues in their lives. They get into drugs due to peer pressure. They get into drugs for escape. They do this despite the fact that police and other authority figures are constantly telling them they shouldn’t. No amount of badgering ever kept a kid from doing drugs, no threats of imprisonment or even death ever kept a kid from doing drugs. Kids get into drugs because that’s what kids do, they get into things they are not supposed to get into! Telling a two year old not to pull all the pots and pans out of the cupboard is not gong to stop a two year old from pulling all the pots and pans out of the cupboard. And telling a sixteen year old not to smoke pot isn’t going to stop a sixteen year old from smoking pot, in fact, it may well encourage a sixteen year old to smoke pot! Any police officer who stands up and says programs such as DARE work, is lying to his or herself. If anything, such programs only push young people to be more secretive and subversive about their drug use.
Since the 1960s many governments have gone on anti-drug crusades, increasing the number of DARE-type programs, increasing criminal penalties and sentencing for drug possession, and launching all-out anti-drug campaigns, while cutting services and financial aid to poor families, curtailling social services and harm reduction programs, and ignoring all the evidence that such actions do not work.
The USA is the prime example. The so called War On Drugs down there has done nothing to curtail drug use and has served only to increase the number of people incarcerated, so today the US has more of its own citizens in jail, per capita, than any country in the world. Still, the drug trade blossoms, even in the jails!
According to a recent study put out by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS , of the $368 million spend targetting illicit drugs, 73 per cent goes to law enforcement, and a mere 14 per cent to rehab, and less than three per cent to harm reduction, despite the fact that harm reduction has been proven time and again, here and abroad, to have a positive efffect on reducing the crime associated with drug use, and to increase the number of drug addicts seeking treatment for their addictions. Meanwhile the result of enforcement-based practises has been to increase the number of drug addicts, the level of drug related crime, and the spread of infectious diseases.
In countries were harm reduction, decriminalization, and rehabilitation take a front seat to law enforcement, authorities acknowledge not only a lowering in crime levels, but a reduction in drug usuage, AIDS infection, and an increase in revenues that can be applied towards harm reduction.
In Holland, for example, where soft drugs such as pot and hash have been decriminalized, and coffee shops are allowed to sell small quanitities, authorities report a decrease in the number of new users. At the same time, because of quality control inspections, authorities report less and less health issues related to the sale and consumption of bad drugs, or soft drugs that have been spiked with harder substances. Street dealing is almost non-existant, and revenue available to help combat drugs has increased.
During a visit there last spring, operators of so-called hash bars, told me that 90 per cent of their clientele comes from beyond their borders, and the number of local people using soft drugs has dropped.
Because the soft drug issue is in hand, and because of the revenues created through taxation of the coffee shops, law enforcement and health authorities have been able to focus their attention on the hard drug problem. They have taken a five step program approach to hard drug usuage and prevention. The components of this program include: shelter, income, access to care, daytime activities and safe drug use. If you are caught using hard drugs in Holland you are sent to a clinic. There you receive assistance finding a home, you are assisted with income generation, put in touch with social workers, invited to participate in healthy lifestyle activities, and provided with drugs that are clean and a safe environment and the tools you need to use those drugs. The result has been a dramatic curtailment of hard drug usage, a marked increase in the numbers of addicts seeking treatment, a decrease in criminal activity, a marked decrease in drug related death, and a slowing of the AIDS infection rate, unheard of anywhere else in the world.
According to Dutch government figures, there are between four and five thousand hard drug addicts currently living in Amsterdam Holland. Yet, when you walk the streets of Amsterdam you see little evidence of a drug problem. There are few beggars in the streets, very few pushers, and there is nowhere near the drug related crime that can be witnessed in any major Canadian city. You do not find broken needles on the curbs, people sleeping in back alleys, or dying from overdoses, that you will definitely see in cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.
In Vancouver, since 2003, there has been a safe injection site. Businesses located in the area serviced by the safe injection site report a clear reduction in the level of petty crime in the area since the injection site opened. Health officials report a decrease in the number of overdoses and other health related issues in the area. Even some members of the police have come forward to say the site is working. It is saving lives and taxpayer dollars, yet the Government of Canada is waffling on whether to continue funding the site, saying they need more data.
In what I believe is a complete dereliction of their mandate to look out for the health and welfare of the Canadian people, the current Conservative government in Ottawa is pursuing an ideological approach to the issue rather than one of logic and reason. They are continuing to assert they need more proof the centre is doing some good, but what they really seem to be waiting for is some evidence to the contrary. While studies that support the overall effectiveness of the safe injection site, both in terms of health and law enforcement, continue to be released, the government continues to wait for any information that will allow them to close the site down.
What’s worse, is police forces across the country seem to be goose stepping right along with the anti-harm-reduction message. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they continue to claim anti-drug campaigns, such as DARE, are working. During the last federal election the RCMP went so far as to demand the safe injection site be closed. It was an odd interjection by the mounties into public policy, especially considering the RCMP do not play a large role in policing the area where the safe injection site is located, a location which is under the jurisdiction of the Vancouver City Police!
The RCMP seem more intersted in securing funding for programs that all studies show do not work, than they are in the public good. While anti-drug policies clearly are having little effect on curtailing drug usuage, they do make a lot of extra work for policing agencies, and police officers. Its seems Canada’s police forces are more concerned with making sure their members are taking home good paychecks than they are in actually doing something about the problem. Think about it, if police officers are no longer preoccupied chasing around small time drug dealers, then maybe there will be less need for police officers, which would result in less need to finance police departments. If there’s no criminals, there’s no need for cops. It seems cynical, but what other reason can there be for continuing to pursue programs that have been proven time and again to be unproductive and patently useless?
The reality is, if police were less preoccupied with busting grow ops and soft drug users, they would have more time to go after some of the bigger criminals in our society, like the drunken drivers, the fraud artists, corporate criminals, crooked politicians and other villians who do far more damage to our society than the couple smoking a joint in the park.
Canadians like to see themselves as world leaders. We profess a lot of ulturism and progressiveness in our view of the world. It is time we applied some of that leadership, ulturism and progressiveness to drug policy.
These are not strangers who are dying in back alleys, who are overdosing, who are succumbing to AIDS, or going to jail. These are our own sons and daughters, our own fathers and mothers, our own brothers and sisters. They are into drugs because drugs were there for them when we were not. Most of them either come from broken homes or from abusive. They got into drugs because they couldn’t find other ways to deal with their issues. Many followed this path despite the best efforts of the churches, the police, the teachers, and the parents, who told them not to do it. They got into it, but they’ll never get out of it until we start providing the ways and means for them to do so.
Remember the two year old, who would not leave the pots and pans alone, despite the fact you told him no, despite the fact you locked the cupboard doors, no matter how many times you punished him? Eventually he gave up the pots and pans, most often when you found other things for him to do, and when it stopped being such a big issue for you. You talked to him. You provided him with options and he eventually moved on.
We need to apply this same approach to our drug problem, and yes, it is our drug problem, not their drug problem! Not his or her drug problem. It is our drug problem, and all the preaching and and law enforcement in the world isn’t going to resolve it!
Decriminalization, harm reduction, and communication are working in many places. Criminalization, law enforcement, and preaching are not.
When are we going to get it?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Stop the Lawyers Party in our Parliament

Its not often you will find me agreeing with a mad dog Conservative wing nut but, I think Garth Turner is onto something when he talks about electing a small slate of independents to the House of Commons.
I personally would take the idea of couple steps further and say, let's not only elect some independents, but lets make sure they are not lawyers, and lets elect more than just a few of them.
Think about it. Our current PM is a lawyer. The leader of the NDP is a lawyer. All four major candidates for the Liberal leadership are lawyers. More than half of our elected representatives, federally and provincially, are lawyers. Heck, even Garth Turner is a lawyer.
The idea of electing independents is a good one. The idea of electing independents who are not lawyers is an even better one.
Most of us folks out here are not lawyers. Heck, there's more nurses out here than lawyers, more plumbers, more carpenters, more janitors, more hair stylists, more cab drivers, more bus drivers, more engineers.
If our government is supposed to be a representation of a wide cross section of the general population, then why is so top heavy with lawyers?
Well, first there's tradition. Our first Prime Minister was a lawyer.
Second, there's subversion! Fact is, our parliament has been so full of lawyers for so long they've made it so anyone who is not a lawyer finds in nearly impossible to get into the house. There is one way to get into the house without being a lawyer, and this is if you have so much money you can afford to hire lawyers to help you get into the house.
Of course, there are ways to not be a lawyer and get elected to the house. Tommy Douglas did it. He was a preacher, but he had some very clever lawyer friends, and an idea the general population liked, healthcare. Chuck Cadman did it, he however had to experience a tragedy, the loss of a son, with which most people could empathize, even the lawyers. Sadly, these guys were the exception, not the rule.
Unfortunately, after so many years of lawyering, our parliament has become something of a post graduate frat house for lawyers, and even worse, so have the political parties.
Look at the top brass of all Canada's political parties. All of them are run by lawyers, even the Greens, and the NDP.
Our political parties today have more in common with university fraternities than they do with any sort of democracy orientated grassroots political movements. Folks, its not just the laws of this country that are written up so that you need a law degree to decipher them. The party platforms and mission statements are written the same way.
These lawyers have set up the parties in such a way that it really doesn't matter who the leader is or what that leader wants to do. If what the leader wants to do does not jive with the party establishment's view of what should be done, then the party can just get rid of the leader. Sadly, this leaves the voting public with little choice but to vote for a party rather than a person. It doesn't really matter who the person is, or what they stand for, what matters, thanks to the lawyers, is the party position. Unfortunately, that party position has been authored by a bunch of lawyers, who hang out with a bunch of other lawyers. In the end analysis, you wind up voting not for the person you think can best represent you, but for an ideal authored by a group of lawyers who may or may not even be aware that your constituency even exists.
Go downtown of Friday night. In one bar you'll find a bunch of people in working clothes drinking beer, in another you'll find a load of office workers with their ties loosened, in another you'll find the gays, in yet another you'll find half the law community. Walk into any one of those bars without the proper credentials, or clothing, and you'll find yourself feeling like a stranger in a strange land. Unfortunately, this is what our House of Commons has become. If you're not a lawyer, and you don't have a clear connection to any one party, then you stick out like a sore thumb, and chances are, unless you're prepared to give yourself a total make over, you're always going to be a square peg in a round hole.
Even more unfortunate, this has been going on for so long that most people just accept it as, "the way things are."
Well, it may be the way things are, but contrary to such popular notions, it is not the way it has to be. We can change it. And its not all that complicated, despite what the lawyers and their parties want us to believe. In one fell sweep we could take out both the lawyers and the parties!
Its quite simple really, just vote for the candidate in your riding who has neither party affiliation nor a law degree. It doesn't matter who he or she is, what they're politics are, or what they do for a living, as long as they are neither a lawyer nor a member of any party!

Garth Turner says we should elect 15 to 20 independents to the house, and asserts that such a group could potentially hold the balance of power. This is true. However, if we elect 15 to 20 independent lawyers, we may do some damage to the parties, but we will not break up the frat house stranglehold the lawyers have on our government. If we really want to change things in this country then we need to take it a step further and get rid of the lawyers as well.
No, I'm not suggesting we get rid of all the lawyers. They do after all make up about three percent of the national population, and should rightfully make up about the same percentage of our federal house, but it wouldn't hurt to get rid of the lot of them for an election cycle or two.
Think about it kids. Imagine if our government made up laws that average Canadians could understand. Imagine if our members of parliament were looking out for the hair dressers and plumbers as well as the lawyers! Imagine if our foreign policy was designed by people who have lived in places where our foreign policy makes a difference!
What if our tax laws were designed by the people most affected, rather than by well-to-do members of the upper income tax brackets, to wit - lawyers!
What about the idea of a military spouse having some say in the nation's military, or a labourer having say in labour law, or an artist in cultural policy?
What if our laws were to be written by the grandma up the street who has always shown a great deal of common sense in her approach to community relations?
What would our public transit system look like if it were designed by someone who actually rides a bus?

What would happen if we not only broke up the party's stranglehold on our electoral system, but got rid of the lawyers as well?
Methinks we might get a taste of what real democracy is all about!
Keep that in mind next time you go to the polls.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Harper shuffles a face lift

Let’s remember Stephen Harper, since he became Prime Minister, has kept a tight lid on his cabinet, not even allowing them to respond to mail sent to them without his approval. With that in mind, it is obvious ministers, such as Rona Ambrose, were acting wholly under the direction of the Prime Minister’s office. If Ms. Ambrose came under pressure for a poor job performance while in the Environment portfolio, it was at the behest of the PM, and therefore, it was not Ms. Ambrose who failed in the postion, but the PM, who not only selected her for the position, but directed her activities while in the job.
By and large this shuffle is an attempt by the PM to deflect criticism. While doing nothing to improve the environment, the PM can now say, “Look, I’ve made changes.” But has he really made a change?
No, and he really has no intention of making any real changes to his policies. Stephen Harper is a Bay Street industrialist. His campaigns have been largely financed by big league industrialists. As such, he’s not about to do anything that would seriously affect the support he receives from those sources. Any major attempt to clean up the environment and to institute environmental protection policies would have a serious effect on big business. Such policies would most certainly dig into corporate profits. This in turn would weaken the support Harper receives from those sources. With only a slim minority government, and with another election looming, it is not likely Harper will do much to hurt campaign finances. So, Mr. Harper has made a cosmetic change. He’s removed Ambrose from the portfolio, hoping to diffuse the situation. He is not introducing any new policy, or approach. He’s just changed the face, and is hoping that will be enough of a distraction to take the electorate’s mind off the problem.
In reality it doesn’t matter who the new minister is because his strings are still attached to Mr. Harper’s hands. Yes, the new minister will employ a few different tactics, as he already has by coming out and admitting “things are heating up.” His job will not be to change the Tory plan, but to appear to be more willing to listen and acknowledge the problem. However, when its all said and done, the new minister’s job will be to carry through the Harper plan, which is to maintain the status quo.
Mr. Harper has also appointed a few more ministers, most of them former Mulroney insiders. Why, because of recent news stories that claim Mulroney was the most environmentally conscious PM in history. Its a load of hogwash, but it seems to play well in the media. Fact is, the environment wasn’t a major issue when Mulroney was PM, so it was pretty easy to deal with. Truth be told, Mulroney wasn’t all that good for the environment, and it was during his years in the house that things really started to fall apart. Remember, it was Mulroney who changed the deal with Canada’s railroads and expanded the use of semi-trucks to transport our nation’s raw materials. Semi trucks are big time polluters, they require highways, which have their own negative effects on the environment, and they use fossil fuels. By and large trains are far more efficient than trucks. So, if Mulroney was an environmental thinker, why did he put more trucks on the road and less trains on the tracks?
It seems to me Harper and his cronnies are counting on Canadian’s short term memory with all this stuff about Mulroney. Mulroney was one of the most divisive political figures this country has ever seen. He presided not only over major over political and geographical divisiveness, but even managed to split the right, and quite nearly demolish his own party. It was during the Mulroney years that the Reform Party got their start and that Canadian’s decided to reduce the Conservatives from a majority to two paltry seats! The Canadian electorate was so fond of Mulroney and the Conservative party they nearly wiped them off the political map. At the time there were good reasons for that. Mr. Harper is hoping we’ve forgotten those reasons.
When its all said and done, Mr. Harper’s cabinet shuffle is little more than a trip to the coiffure, with a side stop for at the cosmetic counter. He’s hoping the new look will make us think better of him and his government, and while they may suddenly be easier to look at, underneath its the same old tired right wing loonie coming around looking for support.
From the start Harper knew the Environment portfolio was going to be contentious. He placed Ambrose in that portfolio with that in mind. He chose her to be his scapegoat knowing full well he would have to move her out. She was a relative unknown, not someone who was necessarily viewed as a Harper insider, and far enough away from the PM that he would not necessarily be tainted by her performance. He offered her up knowing full well it wouldn’t hurt him too much when she got shot down. Now he’s placed another relative unknown in the job, for much the same reason.

Now some pundits out there seem befuddled by the fact Harper has yet to bring long time supporter and reformer Diane Yabloncy into cabinet. Yabloncy is a major player in the Conservative ranks, and is a top contender to be the party’s next leader. She is also an experienced corporate dealer and business woman in her own right, and is quite smart for a righty. Her absence from cabinet is a mystery to some, but I think there’s good reason for it, and it has nothing to do with Harper not liking her. This is a woman who has run major Canadian businesses. She’s her own woman. Such a person is not going to be willing to operate in an environment where she’s not allowed to receive or respond to her own mail without first running it by someone else. The top-down management style of Harper is not the sort of work environment Yabloncy is going to want to get involved in. She likes to be on top!
There is also the matter of her future. Although she’s been a strong supporter of Harper, she’s also thinking about the future. Chances are she supported Harper because it was clear he would win. She likes to be in the winner’s column, and is smart enough to pick a winner. However, she’s also planning to one day lead the Conservative Party and she knows that appearing too close to Harper might not be the best prerequisite for that job. Harper is a divisive character, Yabloncy knows that. She also knows the current Conservative Party, and has seen them turn on their leaders before. Too close a relationship with the current boss could hurt her long term plan. For now she is keeping her mouth shut and towing the party line, but there will come a day when she positions herself against the current leadership in order to gain the leadership. At that time, she’s not going to want to be seen as having been part and parcel of the current regime. Its not that Harper doesn’t want her, its that she doesn’t want in under Harper!
When its all said and done the new Harper cabinet is lest garrish in hair style, the makeup is a tad more subtle, and the costuming less Hallweenish, but the emporer is still the same old emporer and nothing has really changed.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Saddam's Execution, Mother of All Cover-Ups

The execution of Saddam Hussein, justice, or the Mother of All Cover Ups.
George Bush must be doing one helluva dance today. He calls it “justice served” but I for one wonder how he would feel to be tried in an Iraqi court!
Hussein should have been brought to trial in front of the world court, not the Iraqi court. His crimes were against humanity, not just Iraq.
Had he faced the world court he would have received a fair trial. It is questionable whether his trial in front of an Iraqi judge was fair at all. The situation being what it is in Iraq, it could be argued that neither the current Iraqi government, or its courts, are legitimate. Both exist at the courtesy of the American and British occupiers, and not, some would argue quite correctly, at the will of the Iraqi people.
Furthermore, had Hussein been tried in front of the World Court, he would undoubtedly still be alive. And if Hussein were alive there would still be a chance he would talk. If he talked, maybe he would explain how he became the president of Iraq, where he got his guns, who supported him, and why they turned on him in the end. With him dead, his lips are sealed, which is why I think Bush is probably dancing.
There is also the little matter of capital punishment. Death penalties are supposedly deterrents, but criminals do not think about deterrence when they commit crimes. Most criminals do not beleive they will be caught, so deterrence does not figure into criminality, at least there is no evidence that it does. Many US states still practice capital punishment, but there is no evidence the practice has resulted in less capital crime.
Revenge is another motive for capital punishment, an eye for an eye. However, there is no evidence that revenge ever solves anything, nor is there any evidence that it makes any of the victims feel better. I’m sure there are a lot of people glad Saddam is dead, but does his death improve their quality of life? Not likely. Iraq continues to be in deadly turmoil, even with Saddam gone, and it will continue to be in turmoil.
What is learned from executing criminals such as Saddam. When Hitler’s henchmen were hanged, did it stop the advent of neo-nazi movements in Europe. I think not. In fact, it gave neo-nazis some martyrs to rally behind. Has the execution of serial killers brought an end to serial killing? No!
When are the people of this planet going to learn? We don’t learn how to stop crime by killing criminals. Maybe, just maybe, if we kept them alive, studied them, interrogated them, watched them, ran tests on them, we might learn something about them. And if we learn something about them we might, just might, find out what makes them tick. And if we find out what makes them tick, then maybe we might, just might, find out how to prevent such people from committing crimes in the first place. If we kill them, then we never know.
Finally, what about the criminal. Seems to me that killing these people just lets them off. They never have to live with their actions, they don’t have to be around to see what thier crimes do to their victims. They never have to answer any questions. They don’t have to live with their actions. Some believe they are judged by God, but we have no evidence of that. In fact, to folks like Hussein, a death penalty is something of a reward. Saddam went to his grave believing himself a martyr to a cause. If he’d lived he would have had to face the rest of his life in jail, his power stripped from him, his cohorts gone, his wealth lost, his life ruined. If we really want revenge, would it not be sweeter knowing he had to live with himself and his actions?
Personally, I think the execution of Saddam was a crime against humanity because now humanity will never know the whole story, the history, and without that history in our consciousness, we mostly likely will have to relive the whole experience again, with some other tyrant.
But the worse thing about the murder of Saddam is that we will never know, from the horse’s mouth, just what role the US played in his ascension to power and his many years of abuse, and that amounts to the Mother of All Cover-ups, because his accomplises will never be named.
Methinks George Bush Sr. is also doing a dance today.