Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Government of Canada is Above the Law

At least, that's what the Conservatives seem to think. This is particularly rich coming from a party that stresses "law and order" (read: locking up harmless potheads in droves) isn't it?

The House of Commons has passed a law demanding that the government live up to its Kyoto commitments. Under parliamentary tradition, the government is responsible to the House of Commons. If the Conservatives do not implement Kyoto, they will be in breach of the law. Pretty simple math.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Accountability Looks a Lot Like Patronage

The Conservatives really are something, aren't they? After years of complaining about the courts being stacked with "liberals" (a bogus allegation) they're doing the same thing in reverse, stacking the courts with conservative ideologues.

Canada's legal community raised fears that the selection of judges will be politicized in "bare-knuckle partisan battles" that will damage the credibility of those who sit on the country's superior courts.

Well, that would be what they want, wouldn't it? It's a well-known fact that the Conservatives have little to no respect for the judiciary in this country, though Canadians have consistently expressed a great deal more confidence in judges than in politicians. If the goal is to reverse that trend, what better way than to appoint a bunch of partisan hacks to the bench?

It gets better. How are they doing this? Simple: stacking the judicial nominating committee with unqualified hacks with ties to the Conservative Party, including firefighters and graphic artists.

Gee, aren't you glad the "corrupt" Liberals are gone, replaced by the "accountable" Conservatives?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Budget

This has been said, but it bears repeating.

The "fiscal imbalance" is a crock. Most serious people familiar with the issue know this; to this day, I have never seen a convincing case made for its existence, and have seen countless ones made claiming, with sound and solid numbers, that it is a myth. Stephen Harper is a respectably intelligent economist, and thus surely knows it doesn't exist. Jean Charest and Andre Boisclair probably know too.

Nevertheless, Jean Charest and Stephen Harper have something critical in common: they both need to fix the fiscal imbalance if they want to meet their primary political goal - in both cases being re-elected, in Harper's case with a majority.

If Charest loses the coming Quebec election to the Parti Quebecois, the Conservatives will be at a disadvantage in their campaign against the Liberals, the Liberals being traditionally seen as the party best able to handle the threat posed by the PQ. This raises the question of the so-called "fiscal imbalance" - the ridiculous notion that Ottawa has too much money and doesn't fork over enough of it to the provincial governments. Nevermind the fact that Ottawa actually gives more money to the provinces than the originally postulated size of the imbalance. But being that it was a myth to begin with, it's hardly surprising that the size of the imbalance can be changed to suit whichever political actor needs to use it to his advantage.

Quebeckers, for their part, are convinced that the imbalance exists - mostly because all of their major political parties say that it does - and that Jean Charest promised to fix it. That means Jean Charest's chances of winning his election depend in no small part on his success or failure on this issue.

Harper and Charest need each other. Expect the federal budget - due around March 20 - to contain lots of goodies for the provinces in general, and Quebec in particular. This will give Charest a boost and possibly deliver him the election, and Stephen Harper will defend a weak flank. It's a win-win politically for them, though given that the fiscal imbalance is a myth, it's hardly a win for Canadians.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Proof that the White House lied about WMDs?

I don't want to get too excited about this, but Patrick Fitzgerald, the (very clever and very aggressive) prosecutor in the Scooter Libby perjury case seems to smell something bigger, and Sully thinks he might know what it is:

"Cheney was scared - so scared he took a huge risk that eventually led to the loss and public humiliation of his most trusted aide, Scooter Libby. But why would he be scared? The most plausible inference is that he knew he had deliberately rigged the WMD evidence to ensure that the war took place. He knew, even if the president was blithely convinced otherwise, that the WMD evidence was weak, and his success in distorting the evidence was threatened by Wilson. Not that Wilson had all the goods - Cheney must have known this was a minor matter. It was the danger that journalists or skeptics pulling on the thread that Wilson represented could get closer to the much bigger truth of WMD deception. This is a huge deal for one single reason: if true, it means that the White House acted in bad faith in making the case for war. There is no graver charge than that. In fact, if true, it's impeachable. I don't want to believe it. But I find it increasingly plausible that this is what Patrick Fitzgerald smells in the Libby case. He can't prove it yet; he may never prove it. But he's getting warmer; and he won't give up."

If Fitzgerald somehow pulls off a miracle and finds substantial evidence - or better yet, proof - that Cheney and his cronies rigged the WMD evidence to serve their own neo-conservative/war profiteering ends, then what we on the left of the spectrum have long-suspected is the case will finally be vindicated, and the Bush/Cheney presidency will be sure to be remembered for what it really was - criminal.

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Rising Star?

David McGuinty has been getting a lot of face time lately, hasn't he? More than his older brother, that's for sure. McGuinty, as the Liberal environment critic, is being the best apologist for the Liberal environment plan I think I have ever heard, and he's doing it almost daily. His frequent appearances on political talk shows and news channels lately have offered a spirited attack on the Conservatives' environment front, as well as a clear elucidation of Liberal views on the matter. He's also been performing well on committee, particularly when he goes up against John Baird.

I must admit, I've never really had much of an opinion of McGuinty one way or the other - again, I usually associate the name "McGuinty" with the premier of Ontario - but lately he's been impressing me. Where as previously I would have figured he would be unlikely to carry over his shadow cabinet responbility into a cabinet responsibility should the Liberals win the next election, but now I'd say it's a distinct possibility.

I'm going to make a prediction and say McGuinty will be someone to watch in the future, possibly as future (way down the line) leadership material; he's certainly young enough - the same age as Gerard Kennedy, actually - and seems pretty quick on his feet. (Wouldn't it be funny if the next leadership race featured McGuinty v. Kennedy?)


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

One more reason to be for floor crossing...

In the last few years, the Liberals have picked up Scott Brison, Keith Martin, Belinda Stronach, and now Garth Turner. They've lost Pat O'Brien, David Kilgour, David Emerson and Wajid Khan.

On balance, I have to say the Liberals came out on top. The only real loss out of that bunch was Emerson, but he's toast in the next election, anyway. O'Brien, Kilgour and Khan didn't leave soon enough, as far as I'm concerned.

As for Turner himself, well, we'll see how that goes. Hopefully his experience with the Conservatives has shown him that the secrecy of caucus is sacrosanct, and there will thus never be any (legitimate) reason to boot him from caucus. It's a huge loss for the Green Party, obviously, and to be honest I was hoping that he would sit as a Green, mostly because I want Elizabeth May to be included in the leaders' debates.

One thing I must say is that it was a stroke of genius for Turner to promise to contest a by-election if Harper called by-elections for Khan, Fortier and Emerson. That won't completely eliminate his inevitable characterization by Conservatives as a hypocrite, but it should blunt their words a great deal, as Turner has made it clear that he would be happy to live up to his principles, as long as they were applied consistently. (It's a convenient coincidence that by-elections for Mississauga--Streetsville, Vancouver--Kingsway, Halton and wherever Fortier were to run, would probably result in Liberal victories.)

Anyway, I join many others in welcoming Garth to the light side of the Force. I did leave a comment on his blog to the effect of, "You should join the Greens," but this works too.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Generations II

To make some further observations, as always trying to label individuals by the standard of a collective is difficult if not impossible. I believe the point is, though, that even taking into account the vast amounts of variance found amongst individual human beings, the overall character of a generation as a collective cannot help but be shaped by the forces of history, namely the stages of the cycle they inhabit when they are born and come of age, and with this character so shaped, they cannot help but impact the stages in which they live their midlife and old age.

To take my category, Heroes (Civics), we are born during an unravelling and come of age during a crisis. This generally causes the early lives of a Civic generation to be relatively easy, though characterized by uncertainty about the future. Civics then come of age during a Crisis, which really shapes them. The current, "just deal with it" Millennial generation does indeed have more in common with the "suck it up" GI Generation than it does with its immediate Gen X "whatever" predecessors, or their "love is all you need" Boomer parents, and the preceding "make your own future" Silent generation, which saw many young people in the aftermath of World War II immigrating to the Americas from Europe (like my grandparents, who are both a part of that generation). I mean think of the catchphrases that are so popular with our generation, "Deal with it," "Get over it," "Get over yourself," "Cry me a river, build a bridge and get over it." That kind of heartless crap hasn't really been popular in western parlance since the GI generation, really, and I do think it's very much a product of the fact that most of us were born in the Unravelling of the 1980s or 1990s, a paradoxical time of both terrible uncertainty, economic prosperity and reduced government services resulting in more poverty. And my own experience sort of gives some credibility to both the idea that people are individuals and thus not entirely shaped by their generation's norms - as I more often than not find myself rejecting this sort of "deal with it" rhetoric - but at the same time individuals cannot help but be shaped at least in some way by the collective - as I find myself more often than I'd like to admit giving into that cold, toughen-up attitude.

Meanwhile, the coming Artist (Adaptive) generation will be shaped by the Crisis in which they are born; a world of increasing warfare, shifting global powers and alliances, and of course the consequences of decades of social neglect of the poor and the ever-shrinking middle class, spurred on by more and more globalization resulting in lower and lower wages and a continuing stratification of social classes. Actually, I think the shrinking middle class could be a defining characterisitic of this generation, as more and more families find themselves on one of two sides of a divide of well off or poor - and of course, it's the poor who usually end up fighting in wars. Mix that with continuing global conflicts, and you've got a generation very similar to the previous Artist generation, which was very much shaped by the fact that they were born and grew up during the twin crises of the Great Depression and World War II, while their older brothers and parents fought to survive in both war and the peace that preceded it.

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"Punishing the West?"

According to a Strategic Counsel poll in the Globe and Mail today, the vast majority (63%) of Canadians think we should at least attempt to keep our Kyoto commitments, while less than a third (30%) believe we should attempt a "made-in-Canada" solution. (7% don't know.)

What's most striking is that the poll numbers out west are:

Kyoto - 55%
"Made-in-Canada" - 37%
Don't know - 8%

If environmentalism in general and Kyoto in particular is "punishing the west," as so many opponents like to claim, then the west must be pretty masochistic.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007


Question: which movie holds the current record for most uses of the word "fuck?"

The answer is a bit on the nose.



I thought this was kind of neat. True, it could be seen as a bit wooly, and very Anglo-America-centric, but it's also striking in what it reveals.

I'd venture a guess that a good number of bloggers are part of the same generation, known variously as Millennial, Generation Y and Generation Next, and would typically be those born between 1979 or 1982 and possibly somewhere between 2001 or 2003, depending where you want to draw the line. I think 2001 is a good place to draw it because of September 11th, and how much that event has impacted the world since. 2003 works too, though, because of the invasion of Iraq, which stands to have long-range consequences itself.

According to Strauss and Howe, history occurs in fairly consistent cycles. This is a somewhat more sophisticated version of the oft-repeated idea that history is like a pendulum. Each cycle has four stages, as a year has four seasons, and as a year is marked by two extremes (Summer and Winter) and two transitionary periods (Spring and Fall) so two is a historical cycle. The two extremes are an Awakening and a Crisis, and the transitions are a High and an Unravelling. The imagery this evokes is, needless to say, pleasing in an aesthetic sense, as one can fittingly imagine Spring being a High, Summer as an Awakening, Fall as an Unravelling and Winter as a Crisis.

The way the historical cycle that we're in right now (the "Millennial Cycle," from 1943 to about 2025-ish) starts as always with a High (1943-1960; economic prosperity, technological innovations, advent of television) followed by an Awakening (1961-1981; the consciousness revolution, hippies, anti-war movement), then an Unravelling (1982-2001; collapse of the Soviet Union, the US as global hegemon, beginnings of the rise of China, India and religious radicalism) and finally, we're now in a Crisis, which seems to make sense, given what's going on in the world these days.

There are four different types of generations. Prophets/Idealists (born 1943-1960) are typically born during a High, come of age during an Awakening, live midlife in an Unravelling and old age in a Crisis. This is probably the generation of the younger generation's parents, AKA the Baby Boomers. Before them were the Missionary Generation (born 1860-1882), who ended up being, among other things, part of labour movements, the first generation of black leaders after the American Civil War, leaders of temperance movements, and in their elder years those who led the fight against fascism in World War II.

Nomads/Reactives (born 1961-1981) are born during an Awakening, come of age in an Unravelling, spend midlife in a Crisis and old age in a High. This generation could represent some younger parents or possibly some young adults. Also known as Generation X. The previous ones were the Lost Generation (born 1883-1900), who fought World War I and had their numbers severely culled as a result (hence "Lost").

Heroes/Civics (born 1982-2001) are born during an Unravelling, come of age in a Crisis, spend midlife in a High and old age in an Awakening. This is my generation, known alternatively as Generation Y, Generation Next, the Millennial Generation, etc. The last generation of Heroes were the GI Generation (born 1901-1924), who fought World War II and then gave birth to the Baby Boomers and generally acted all stuffy during the consciousness revolution and think the 1950s was the greatest time in the history of the world (god I hope I never end up like that).

Artists/Adaptives (born 2002-2025?) are born during a Crisis, come of age during a High, spend midlife in an Awakening, and old age in an Unravelling. The youngest children today are a part of this generation. They're variously titled the New Silent Generation, or Information Generation. For a vague idea of what they have to look forward to, the last Artists were the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942), some of whom fought in World War II even though they weren't technically old enough to do so; others were just kids during the war, like my grandparents. In England they were called the Air Raid Generation. They were considered "silent" because they were caught between the GI's/"Greatest Generation," and the "world-changing" Boomers. They generally suffered through war and depression as youngins, making them more sensitive, hence "artists." They tended to be a bit more okay with the 1960s than the stuffy GIs, but still not a real part of it like the Boomers.

If the cycle continues to hold, the next 15 years or so should see the playing out of a major secular upheaval, followed then by about 20 years of peace and prosperity, and finally a new spiritual awakening after that.

More thoughts later...

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