Sunday, November 30, 2008

Send this message to your MP!

I support a new coalition government that will provide economic leadership and hope. I want you to support it too. It's time to put our country first.

Je soutiens un nouveau gouvernement de coalition qui servira les intérêts économiques et donnera de l'espoir au pays. Je veux que le vous ayez soutenu aussi. Il est temps de mettre notre pays en premier lieu.

Thursday was a New Moon

A good time to begin things. 
Like coalitions.

'Voter apathy, civic cynicism and outright disgust with politicians is based on political leaders refusing to say what they mean and, even worse, failing continually to do what they say. Voters are increasingly savvy and are simply tired of politicians telling them what they think they want to hear and then turning 180 degrees and doing something completely different... At the core of the Speech from the Throne lies bear the ethical reality that shapes the government. It is a government that will say anything, do anything, promise anything to get elected and simply cannot and will not be trusted by Canadians. The throne speech reveals at its core that the government is morally bankrupt. It has lost its moral compass.' 

James Laxer: 'Stephen Harper does not deal well with what he interprets as public humiliation. Lacking a sense of humour, which means a sense of proportion, he is not well-suited to political life in a democracy where give and take is of the essence. The only thing this man understands is conquest, which is why even the members of his own party don't really like him... If the Conservative government falls, the campaigns to replace Harper as leader will be well underway by Christmas.'
Image source here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Quote for the day

Andrew Coyne: Parliament should not be treated as a plaything, that lives or dies at the Prime Minister's pleasure;... elections should not be rigged to the governing party's advantage, in timing as in any other respect;... the public should not be deprived of fair and open competition among the various contenders for power.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Small man of confederation

Paul Wells: In this environment, expect confusion and cue-taking. Harper will continue to contradict himself while letting the rest of the world decide his next steps. That last bit should come as a relief... Given a choice, Harper will avoid spending on things that work or last, because we might conclude that's what government is for... In every case he will wait for Canada's neighbours, especially the Americans, to move first. He has been rattled by recent events... The country that Harper has always viewed as a model rejected cronyism for meritocracy. It's the kind of thing that shakes a guy's faith in himself.

Adam Radwanski: It takes a special kind of immaturity to look at an economic crisis -- one that has people worried about their jobs and their homes and their life savings -- and consider only how it might be turned to your advantage. But then, for all his ideological roots, Harper has demonstrated time and again that nothing interests him so much as cementing his hold on power... This is a leader who very clearly sees politics as a game, and who sees government -- rather than what you do with it -- as the ultimate victory.
Image source here.

Quote of the day

Norman Spector: Is the economic prognosis for Canada so bad that Mr. Harper has concluded that it's better to be in opposition than to be in power with a minority government at this time?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tears for Mumbai

The Aga Khan thanks Canada

Ismaili Muslim leader says Canada's diversity model for 
the world

The Aga Khan thanked Canada for welcoming Ismailis, a moderate group within the Shia wing of Islam, who were forced to flee persecution and conflict in their own countries over the years.

'Canada has been the country which has been most generous, most thoughtful, most helpful in bringing people to Canada from these difficult backgrounds, offering them a new opportunity... to live in a society which is pluralist, which is conscious of quality, which is conscious of human development and human values. ...

'You have given them the wherewithal to return to their countries in due course and bring back to Africa, bring back to Asia... the pluralism, the values of Canada, the knowledge society that you have created here. ...

'Knowledge in its purest form is often abrasive,' the Aga Khan said. 'When this knowledge comes into these societies it creates difficulties, creates reactions because the societies are not prepared... What Canada has done is it has humanized that knowledge.'
Image source here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Halifax? 'Remote Corner Where Rough Grass Grows'

The Atlas of True Names traces etymological roots of global place names and translates them into English. The 'City of Boatmen,' for example, is also known as Paris. The Land of the Firekeepers is Azerbaijan. Italy comes from the Latin word vitulus, which means 'calf.'

That dot on the East Coast of the US looks like it should be New York, but it's labelled 'New Wild Boar Village.' (York, in England, derives from the Old English eofor for wild boar and the Latin vicus, for village.) Up our way there's a 'Remote Corner Where Rough Grass Grows' that we know as Halifax.

On the back of the map is an index of all place names, both current and etymological. To order a copy, go here. For a photo gallery, go here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22, 1963

JFK and the Unspeakable: 
Why He Died and Why It Matters
by James W. Douglass

Douglass has made the strongest case so far... The conjunction of unrestrained elements in cold war America -- defense industry elites, Pentagon planners, and the heads of the intelligence community -- were the forces that led inexorably to Dallas. 
-- Gerald McKnight

By far the most important book yet written on the subject. 
-- Gaeton Fonzi, former Staff Investigator, US House Select Committee on Assassinations

Many readers will find themselves -- like myself -- for the first time, compelled to call for an authoritative criminal investigation. 
-- Daniel Ellsberg

'As long as he pleads guilty'

Interview with 
Jacques Vergès:

Der Spiegel: Are there any people whose defense you would not take on out of principle?

Vergès: One of my principles is to have no principles. That's why I would not turn down anyone.

Der Spiegel: Let's say, Adolf Hitler...

Vergès: I would have defended Hitler. I would also accept Osama bin Laden as a client, even (US President) George W. Bush -- as long as he pleads guilty.

Der Spiegel: You can't seriously be mentioning Hitler, Bin Laden and Bush, and their failings, in the same breath.

Vergès: Every crime is unique, and so is every criminal. That alone makes such comparisons impossible.
Image source here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Moving beyond Arctic sovereignty

Donald McRae 
in the Globe and Mail
What is the loss we fear? We cannot lose land. No one is challenging Canada's sovereignty over its Arctic land territories... We cannot lose our rights over the waters and the seabed in our 200 nautical-mile exclusive economic zone. Again, no one is challenging that right and our boundary in the Beaufort Sea with the United States could be readily resolved through arbitration. We cannot lose our right to an extended continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles under the Arctic Ocean. We have to define the limits of that shelf, which is what we are doing.

Furthermore, there is no gigantic 'grab for resources' in the Arctic, although the Russian flag-dropping stunt two years ago fuelled such speculation. But the event was a publicity side play in the course of scientific investigations to determine the outer limits of the Russian continental shelf. Indeed, scientific research of this nature is what all of the Arctic-basin states are currently doing, Canada included. And this is not a free-for-all with each state trying to out-manoeuvre the other. There is a framework of legal rules and mechanisms for determining the extent of the shelf and for dealing with overlapping shelves between states, and all of the Arctic states are operating within them...

Of course, there is the question of whether the waters of the Northwest Passage are the internal waters of Canada and governed solely by the laws of Canada or an international strait governed by international rules. There is a legal framework, too, for dealing with that question and the issues are clear. The United States could at any time challenge Canada's position in court, but it has never shown any interest in doing so...

It is time, therefore, to stop talking about 'Arctic sovereignty' and look at the real challenges... for the five Arctic-basin states -- Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark/Greenland, and Norway... co-operation by these five states is the best way to secure Arctic security... It is time for Canada to stop worrying about losing Arctic sovereignty and act instead as an Arctic leader, giving voice to the indigenous peoples of the North and engaging the United States in forging a new regional partnership to act as responsible stewards for this unique and fragile environment, for the benefit of all Arctic peoples.
Image source here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Operation Enduring Disaster

Tariq Ali: Breaking with Afghan Policy

Washington's hawks will argue that, while bad, the military situation is, in fact, still salvageable. This may be technically accurate, but it would require the carpet-bombing of southern Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, the destruction of scores of villages and small towns, the killing of untold numbers of Pashtuns and the dispatch to the region of at least 200,000 more troops with all their attendant equipment, air, and logistical support...

Given the thousands of Afghans killed in recent years, small wonder that support for the neo-Taliban is increasing, even in non-Pashtun areas of the country. Many Afghans hostile to the old Taliban still support the resistance simply to make it clear that they are against the helicopters and missile-armed unmanned aerial drones that destroy homes, and to 'Big Daddy' who wipes out villages, and to the flames that devour children...

I learned a great deal from Jules, a 20-year old American soldier I met recently in Canada. He became so disenchanted with the war that he decided to go AWOL, proving -- at least to himself -- that the Afghan situation was not an inescapable predicament. Many of his fellow soldiers, he claims, felt similarly, hating a war that dehumanized both them and the Afghans. 'We just couldn't bring ourselves to accept that bombing Afghans was no different from bombing the landscape' ...

The effect of the war on those carrying out the orders is leaving scars just as deep as the imprints of previous imperial wars... Domestic pressure in the US to pull out of Afghanistan remains weak, but could grow rapidly as the extent of the debacle becomes clearer and NATO allies refuse to supply the shock troops for the future surge.
Image source here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Up where we don't belong

Counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen tells 
The New Yorker: 'We have built the Afghan police into a less well-armed, less well-trained version of the Army and launched them into operations against the insurgents. Meanwhile, nobody is doing the job of actual policing -- rule of law, keeping the population safe from all comers (including friendly fire and coalition operations), providing justice and dispute resolution, and civil and criminal law enforcement. 

'As a consequence, the Taliban have stepped into this gap; they currently run thirteen law courts across the south, and ninety-five per cent of the work of these courts is civil law, property disputes, criminal matters, water and grazing disputes, inheritances, etc. -- basic governance things that the police and judiciary ought to be doing, but instead they're out in the countryside chasing bad guys. Where governance does exist, it is seen as corrupt or exploitative, in many cases, whereas the people remember the Taliban as cruel but not as corrupt. They remember they felt safer back then. The Taliban are doing the things we ought to be doing because we are off chasing them instead of keeping our eye on the prize -- securing and governing the people in a way that meets their needs.'

Kilcullen could have said, 'The Taliban have established law and order across much of southern Afghanistan. What can we learn from their success?' ... In a war that was originally billed as being driven by moral imperative, how has it come to pass that in this 'good war' our allies are corrupt while our opponents are able to establish some system of justice? To ask such a question is not to excuse the brutality of the Taliban, but merely underline how utterly lost we have become in a country and a region we insist on trying to reshape while it still eludes our understanding.
Image of the Korengal Valley from The Boston Globe.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


by Eric Bogle

And I can't help but wonder now Willie McBride
do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
the killing, the dying, it was all done in vain.
For, Willie McBride, it all happened again
and again, and again, and again, and again.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Psychopathy: awareness is growing

Bullies may not just be mean
Reuters: Brain scans of teens with a history of aggressive bullying suggest that they may actually get pleasure out of seeing someone else in pain... While this may come as little surprise to those who have been victimized by bullies, it is not what the researchers expected...

"The reason we were surprised is the prevailing view is these kids are cold and unemotional in their aggression," said Dr. [Benjamin] Lahey, whose study appears in the journal Biological Psychology...

In the aggressive teens, areas of the brain linked with feeling rewarded became very active when they observed pain being inflicted on others. But they showed little activity in an area of the brain involved in self-regulation.

"It is entirely possible their brains are lighting in the way they are because they experience seeing pain in others as exciting and fun and pleasurable," Dr. Lahey said.

For more information:
And the classic:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Postmark Tehran

As you know, the opportunities provided by the Almighty God, which can be used for elevation of nations, or, God forbid, for their collapse, are transient.

I hope you will prefer real public interests and justice to the never-ending demands of a selfish minority, and seize the opportunity to serve people so that you will be remembered with high esteem.

Americans who have spiritual tendencies expect the government to spend all its power in line with serving the people, rectify the critical situation facing the US, restore lost reputation as well as their hope and spirit, fully respect human rights and strengthen family foundations.

Other nations also expect war-oriented policies, occupation, bullying, contempt of nations and imposing discriminatory policies on them to be replaced by the ones advocating justice, respect for human rights, friendship and non-interference in other countries' internal affairs.

They also want US intervention to be limited to its borders, especially in the Middle East. It is highly expected to reverse the unfair attitude towards restoring the rights of the Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghans.

The great nation of Iran welcomes basic and fair changes in US policies and conduct, especially in the region.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Against 'creeping revisionism'

Douglas Coupland's 
Monument to the War of 1912

Vancouver-based artist and author Douglas Coupland hopes his new military monument will help stop what he calls a "creeping revisionism" of the War of 1812...

"A lot of people have grown up thinking 'Oh, Americans lost that one, didn't they?'" Coupland said after unveiling the "Monument to the War of 1812" near Fort York in Toronto.

"But once I began getting involved in the project and doing research, I began noticing that the Americans are now starting to change history and they're saying, 'Well, actually we won that,' or, 'Actually, we didn't lose' or whatever.

"So it's a war monument but it's also an incitement for people to remember what's going on in the present as well as in the past... Without Fort York there would have been no Canada -- the British would have lost Canada to the Americans in the War of 1812, and Canada would have been absorbed into the U.S." Image source here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

People get ready

People get ready, there's a train a-comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.

People get ready, there's a train to Jordan
Picking up passengers coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board 'em
There's hope for all among those loved the most.

There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just to save his own
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For there is no hiding place against the Kingdom's throne.

People get ready there's a train a-comin'
You don't need no baggage, just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
You don't need no ticket, just thank the Lord.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Canada for Obama

A massive majority of Canadians prefer Obama in the American presidential election according to a new national poll of 1,000 Canadians conducted by Environics Research. A similar proportion expects him to win, and three-quarters think the outcome of the US election will make a difference for Canada's future.

Seven in ten Canadians (71%) would most like to see the Democratic Party candidates win, compared to just 13 percent who would prefer the Republicans. Another 14 percent have no opinion or do not favour either candidate...

Canadians in all regions and socio-economic segments prefer the Democratic Party ticket, as do a majority of the supporters of each of Canada's main political parties... It is notable that even among Conservative supporters -- who would be expected to have the greatest ideological affinity for Republicans -- the Democratic ticket is preferred by more than a two to one margin.
Image source here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

'It scares the hell out of me'

John W. Dean
Republicans rule, rather than govern, when they are in power, by imposing their authoritarian conservative philosophy on everyone, as their answer for everything... Ruling, of course, must be distinguished from governing, which is a more nuanced process that entails give-and-take and the kind of compromises that are often necessary to find a consensus and solutions that will best serve the interests of all...

Republicans' authoritarian rule can also be characterized by its striking incivility and intolerance toward those who do not view the world as they do. Their insufferable attitude is not dangerous in itself, but it is employed to accomplish what they want, which is to take care of themselves and those who work to keep them in power...

The leading authority on right-wing authoritarianism, a man who devoted his career to developing hard empirical data about these people and their beliefs, is Robert Altemeyer. Altemeyer, a social scientist based in Canada, believes about 25 percent of the adult population in the US is solidly authoritarian (with that group mostly composed of followers, and a small percentage of potential leaders)... They are people who, in Altemeyer's words, are "so self-righteous, so ill-informed, and so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do will change their minds."...

The fact that the pre-election polls are close -- after eight years of authoritarian leadership from Bush and Cheney, and given its disastrous results -- shows that many Americans either do not realize where a McCain/Palin presidency might take us, or they are happy to go there. Frankly, it scares the hell out of me... If Obama is rejected on November 4th for another authoritarian conservative like McCain, I must ask if Americans are sufficiently intelligent to competently govern themselves.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Expanding War, Contracting Meaning

Andrew Bacevich: A week ago, I had a long conversation with a four-star U.S. military officer who, until his recent retirement, had played a central role in directing the global war on terror. I asked him: what exactly is the strategy that guides the Bush administration's conduct of this war? His dismaying, if not exactly surprising, answer: there is none.

President Bush will bequeath to his successor the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone. To defense contractors, lobbyists, think-tankers, ambitious military officers, the hosts of Sunday morning talk shows, and the Douglas Feith-like creatures who maneuver to become players in the ultimate power game, the Global War on Terror is a boon, an enterprise redolent with opportunity and promising to extend decades into the future...

In this sense the global war on terror relates to terrorism precisely as the war on drugs relates to drug abuse and dependence: declaring a state of permanent "war" sustains the pretense of actually dealing with a serious problem, even as policymakers pay lip-service to the problem's actual sources. The war on drugs is a very expensive fraud. So, too, is the Global War on Terror.
Image source here.