Thursday, September 29, 2005

Help Jasmine

DazzlinDino and Andrew at BBG are organizing a campaign to help a little girl get treatment for a rare form of cancer.

Let's get every blogger, no matter their political stripe to pitch in and help give this girl's family some hope and help.

More information is here (warning it's a Word doc).

I will post more information as it becomes available.

Principles of War

War is wrong.

Sadly, however, war and military action are sometimes nescesary.

In order to resort to war and military action only when absolutely nescesary, here are some principles that should be followed.

1. War and Military Action is permissible :

a) if you have been attacked directly, either via a terrorist attack (9\11) or the armed forces, regular or irregular, of another country;

b) if you are facing an armed insurgency within your own country;

c) if you are facing and armed insurgency in your country supported and financed by another country;

d) if there is a provable immediate threat of genocide or "ethnic cleansing" violence in your own or another country (Rwanda, Bosnia);

e) if your country is in provable immediate danger or threat of attack from another country or group;

f) to conduct rescue and extraction missions from foriegn nations in civil war, from terrorists, insurgents or organized crime gangs;

2. The above war or military action must:

a) be proportional to the act or threat against you - no nuking a country for a "9\11". Use only as much force as reasonably nescessary to remove the threat. This could range from covert actions, supporting guerrillas, to raids and then to all out war, with allies;

b) be directed at the actual parties that attacked you or provably are an immediate threat to you or another country, or are harbouring those that attacked you or are an immediate threat;

c) be the last resort, used only after diplomacy, sanctions or negotiations in the regular diplomatic channels (these do not need to be public) have failed and with the support of the international community. Alternatives such as supporting internal opposition should be the first course of action;

d) be undertaken without international support only if the threat is provably immediate and real;

e) be done in conjunction with and in support of other international bodies and tribunals such as the International Criminal Court or the UN War Crimes Tribunals;

3. War and Military action can range from supporting pre-existing internal rebels or guerrillas, to commando raids (to arrest indicted war criminals and dictators), no-fly zones all the way to full war. It does not mean rushing directly to military invasion and occupation of another country.

4. It is not acceptable to use war and military action to aquire resources, spread an ideology or impose from the outside a particular system of government;

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."
-Sun Tzu, the Art of War

Any questions?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Stephen Harper is the Best Man to lead the CPC

Yes sir.

I fully support Stephen Harper as leader of the CPC. M. Carol Jamieson is wrong. For the sake of Canada, we need Stephen Harper to stay on. Why, another leader might increase the fortunes of the Conservative Party and make them a real threat to form the government someday. And nothing could be more damaging to Canada than the Conservative Reform Alliance Party taking power and implementing their socially divisive and backward policies.

24% to 28% is good, but ole Steve can drive them down further, with just a few more speeches and a little more angry rhetoric.

As an NDP member, I can think of no one better to lead the CPC than Stephen "Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory" Harper.

Keep up the good work Stephen.

Hat tip to Section 15 and Socialist Swine. Let get everyone behind the Maximum Leader.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Passing of a Righteous Hero


Righteous Man.


These are words that are both accurate and yet not adequete to describe Simon Wiesenthal, legendary Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor, who passed away today at the age of 96. He survived, when 89 members of his family did not, and went on to find and help bring to justice some 1,100 Nazi war criminals, including Adolph Eichmann.

He fought for years against Naziism, fascism and racism of all kinds. On a personal note, it was his story that inspired me, as a young farm-boy, to never sit placidly by when these kinds of things reared their head, even in Canada. He is one of the reasons I am so vocal and occasionally emotional in my defence of minorities and of my attacks on neo-fascist ideas.

He was the personal embodiement of the phrase "never again."

He will be missed, but I hope that the world never again needs a Simon Wiesenthal.

"There is no freedom without justice" - Simon Wiesenthal

Amen, brother. Amen. Let's all take a moment to remember his life, and promise that we should be the conscience of the world, so the next Simon Wiesenthal can simply live his life as an architect.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Oil and the East-West Divide

I have been in a few heated discussions of late over at BPOC, around the Alberta surplus and what should be done with it and by whom.

Let me state right now, unequivicolly, that the Alberta surplus should be controlled and managed by Alberta, not by Ottawa. Alberta has its surplus because and lack of debt because of years of belt tightening and a general lack of funding for provincial infrastructure by the government, as well as the recent jumps in the price of oil. I have heard of schools with asbestos in the walls and dangerous highways killing Albertans on a regular basis. Alberta desparately needs to re-invest in itself.

As you can see from the posts, there was a lot of heat generated. The debate boiled down to whether the greedy "Eastern Bastards" were trying to take the money from the greedy "Redneck Albertans".

A letter from Paul Noel of Ottawa in the Globe and Mail sums up the true feelings of most Ontarians on this issue:

"Why are The Globe and CTV trying to create jealousy and conflict in Canada where none exists? Nobody that I've seen or heard is going around bad-mouthing Alberta's good fortune. For over 100 years, Ontario's industrial economy prospered behind a high tariff wall that exploited the economies of the rest of the country, which had to sell natural products of farm, forest and fishery at world prices, but buy technology and equipment at tariff-inflated Ontario prices. Ultimately, Canadians all benefited from a strong, wealthy Ontario, just as we will all benefit from a strong, wealthy Alberta, and if oil continues to be our fuel, a strong and wealthy Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Stop trying to spread national dissension." [empahsis mine] - h/t to Progressive Calgary

This little controversy is merely a symptom of a bigger problem - the equalization scheme in Canada is a mess. Jack Layton pointed this out back on August 28th. He has called for a re-examination of how equalization is done in this country.

Right now we have a hodge-podge, to put it politely. Alberta has a surplus of $7 billion it is desparately trying to maintain its current payment level. Newfoundland has been given the right to keep its oil revenue yet still receive equalization payments from Ottawa. Ontario, still pays out more than it gets (as Alberta does) while still trying to fight a deficit that was hidden until two years ago. Saskatchewan falls somewhere in the middle. Meanwhile, our Federal Government is heading toward another $9.2 billion surplus as well.

There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to it. As a result, regional cleavages are now emerging that show signs of genuinely straining federalism and Confederation itself (not just in Quebec anymore).

So what is needed is a re-negotiation and examination of the fiscal side of federalism, as Jack Layton called for. Hoepfully the spirit of creativity, debate and compromise that we on the left and my friends on the right have shown over at the Blogging Party of Canada policy debates, can be captured to solve this problem.

This should be an opportunity to solve this problem, not a chance to exaccerbate old regional issues for political gain.

This is not about Alberta vs the Rest of Canada, its about getting a Federal-Provincial equalization scheme that is fair to everyone.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

On Gas Prices and Hypocrisy

Yesterday, the Canadian Federation of independent Business (CFIB) wrote an open letter to the Federal and provincial governments asking for help. Most specifically they want:

"that the federal government, along with the provinces, reduce their rate of tax on gas, as it has a particularly large impact on consumers and undermines our overall competitiveness."

That sounds like a good idea. Their recommendations are even more specific:

"With respect to federal taxes, a good first step would the elimination of the 1995 budget measure that increased the gas excise tax by 1.5¢ per liter to help fight the federal deficit. While the deficit was eliminated in 1998, the tax has remained. A second step would be to eliminate the tax-on-tax anomaly that allows the GST to be charged on top of the base price of gas, the federal excise tax and provincial taxes."

Both are excellent ideas and will help a little bit. So if I am agreeing with them where is the hypocrisy?

Its in what they didn't say rather than what they did. In that long letter, there is not one call to the Oil Companies to reduce their prices. As Aaron has pointed out in his excellent "Price of Gas Keeps on Rising: REDUX"

"The point: All the anger at government taxes is totally misguided because it'’s masking the revenues of the producers."

To be fair, the CFIB did call for the Federal Cometition Bureau to take a more active role:

"The first is with regard to the federal government’s role as competition watchdog. The Competition Bureau'’s role is to protect competition in the marketplace so that Canadians can benefit from competitive prices. The Competition Bureau'’s enforcement powers extend to gasoline and other petroleum products markets. Industry reports show that the refining margin is currently at an all-time high (about 30 ¢ per liter as opposed to 5-10 ¢ historically). We recommend that the Competition Bureau monitor closely developments in the industry for any evidence of price fixing or price gouging. "

I find it interesting that organizations like the CFIB are all for the power of the market when it suits them, but when the market itself causes them pain, the immediately stampede to the government, asking for intervention and for the government to reduce their taxes, while at the same time ignoring the much higher profits that the oil companies are making.

Some of my more conservative regulars, if they are true to their colours, should be mumbling right now that "the increased cost of gasoline is a function of supply and demand in the market, and that the additional cost of gasoline is the cost of doing business. Pass the cost on to your customers, find a cheaper supplier or use an alternative to gasoline".

Except there is no alternative to gasoline in our economy at the moment. Gasoline is the feet of clay the entire rest of the economy rests on. And unless there is an economic reason to reduce consumption or find alternatives, nothing will be done. In this I agree with Mark at Section 15.

In the face of a recent 25 cent overnight jump in the price per litre of gas, getting back between 1 and 3 cents is hardly a dent and not addressing the real problem. It is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titantic.

Plus, if I may be cynical, the 1 to 3 cent reduction will be temporary. If the oil companies pass on the tax saving to consumers as fast as they seem to pass on upward fluctuation in the price of a barrel of oil (which I doubt they will anyway), it will only be for a few days, perhaps weeks. The price will creep back up and soon the tax cut will be on the bottom line of the producers - they will make that much more in profits and we will still be paying extremely high prices for gas and oil.

Removing the GST is a good idea, because a tax on a tax is simply an issue of fairness. But instead of turning in anger to the governement and demanding they reduce the taxes on gasoline to help the price, why doesn't the CFIB and others demand accountability from producers? Why don't they seek true alternatives? Why don't they want to wean themselves off of gas?

I like what the CFIB said, but I think laying this soley at the feet of the government is wrong. Lets take advantage of this to break away from oil, or to promote conservation, or to find out what is really behind sudden jumps in price rather than whining for lower prices at any cost and asking the government to take a hit while letting the oil companies take us all for a ride.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Calling all Ottawa area Dippers and lefties

Its another New Democratic Party!

Come to the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre at Britainia BeachOn September 29th 2005 (7:00 to 10:00 PM) for an NDP fundraiser. Special guests include Jack Layton, Ed Broadbent and Alexa McDonough, along with other members of caucus. this is your chance to get to know all of your Ottawa area NDP candidates for the next Federal election.

There will be music by the Herb Girls and a silent auction, all in support of your local NDP.

If this is anything like the last fundraiser put on by the Carleton Mississippi Mills NDP, we will have a blast.

Tickets are $25. Drop me a line for more information, to get tickets or to donate to the auction.

Hope to see you all there.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hope and Tragedy all at once

Hat tip to The Hate Us For Our Freedoms for this remarkable story.

After reading this, I feel the need to hug my kids for a long, long time.

I'll just leave it at that. I have to stop typing now...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sorry, but this IS political now...

I've watched for a week now the unfolding tragedy in New Orleans and the US Gulf Coast. I have read a myriad of blogs, news articles and opinions. One of the more troubling themes emerging in the last few days of last week and over the weekend has been a "Now is not the time for recriminations" or "There will be plenty of time for blame later" or "Lets concentrate on rescuing and helping the victims, using Katrina for political cheap shots is improper" meme.

I would have agreed with this sentiment last Monday. After all, despite the seeming hyperbole coming out, only 55 people had been killed by the storm outright. It seemed at the time to be no worse than either of the other Category 5 hurricanes to make land-fall this summer so far. And nearly 80% of New Orleans had evacuated.

I might even have agreed Tuesday, when the levee broke, flooding the city. There would be plenty of time to question the wisdom of the Bush Administration's decision to cut 80% of the Army Corp of Engineer's budget for maintaining and upgrading these levees. I mean, it has been known for years that they couldn't withstand the force of a category 4 or 5 hurricane. Apparently, even "Mr. Bill" of Saturday Night Live fame, knew. But again, helping the victims was the immediate priority.

By Wednesday, however, I simply could not agree. By then it was abundantly clear that Katrina was a huge natural disaster and that far more than the initial 55 were now dead. Reports of widespread looting, people stranded on roof tops, and the squalid conditions in the Superdome were coming out every hour. And yet, no National Guard or military presence in the city, since most of the Louisiana Guard were deployed in Iraq. Bush was still on vacation. The New Orleans police were being overwhelmed. Prominent journalists, such as CNN's Anderson Cooper, that were on scene were openly wondering, live on air, "Where is the help?"

Ironically, the same Canadian government that was rightly and soundly criticized for being late with assistance during the Asian Tsunami, made an offer of assistance on Wednesday. Our DART team was ready and Lt Gen. Hillier was preparing one of our naval vessels for assistance as well. For once it seems we were ready when needed. The US administration refused our help. The State of Louisiana requested British Columbia's Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) and on Wednesday the left for Lafayette, LA. but were blocked by the US Department of Homeland Security. When they arrived, they could not operate because of the anarchy and lawlessness in the area. As the day closed, more people were dying in the areas of Louisiana and Mississippi left in Katrinas wake.

Where was the help?

By Thursday morning it was becoming abundantly clear something was going terribly wrong with the operations. Some of the few National Guard personnel where were on duty at the Superdome were openly commenting on the chaos and the seeming lack of planning for Katrina. George Bush remained on vacation, despite the growing concern from all quarters that nothing was being done.

Again, where was the help?

By Friday, the situation had degenerated into almost circus-like proportions. Even Fox News, usually Bush cheerleaders, could no longer stomach what was happening. Reports that the Red Cross was not being allowed into the city for fear people wouldn't leave, were coming out at the same time that check-points around the city were turning people back when they tried to evacuate themselves. Around this time we find out that Bush's flight into the area (and the end of his vacation) grounded all of the SAR helicopters of the Coast Guard ("security concerns") and that he engaged in engineered photo ops, removing needed supplies and people from the rescue effort and the the attempts to repair the levee.

At last, the National Guard and other troops finally arrived evacuation about 42 000 people. Of course, there remained at least another 42 000 to be rescued.

Over the weekend, more were rescued and the repairs seemed to get on track. Ray Nagin appeared on CNN indicating that the death toll could be as high as 10 000, perhaps more. Two New Orleans police officers committed suicide because of the stress. Scores of others are turned in their badges. Some victims were more victims than others, jumping the queue for rescue and evacuation. Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard nearly had a nervous breakdown on Meet the Press because of the lack of repsonse and continuing difficultly he and others are facing.

And the attacks and counter-spin have already begun: it was the locals fault, it was the fault of those who did not leave, Aaron Broussard didn't do enough, Louisiana didn't declare and emergency (it did, on August 26 and asked for federal help August 27, days before Katrina hit - FEMA agreed). All of which are absurd or false.

Sorry, but after all that, with the Bush administration and Bush himself trying to make political hay with staged photo-ops, this is nothing but political.

People died and continue to die because of the actions (or lack thereof) of Bush and his administration.

Worse, this has shown that this administration has not done the job of protecting America that they claim. The rescue and emergency effort for Katrina was abysmal, with over 3 days notice of the impending disater, with pre-existing orders of a state of emergency and the acknowledgement of the federal department that is supposed to deal with these eventualities. How will the handle an unexpected disaster, like an earthquake, tsunami or large-scale terror attack? Al-Queda must be delighted - thanks to the actions and policies of the Bush administration.

So, no, I will not "shut the fuck up" about this, nor will I not "politicize" this tragedy. That has already been done. I will not sit by and be nice and polite simply so I don't hurt the feeling of the Bush fans an neo-cons in the crowd. Whether you like it or not, "The Emperor Has No Clothes!".

I feel I would do a great disservice to the thousands of people that died needlessly last week waiting for the rescue that never came, by remaining quiet and polite. They demand justice. We all should.

This is not a "Left vs Right" issue. There are a great many on the right, especially in the US, that are also levelling criticism. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is himself a life-long Republican. As Wes Clark has said, this is an issue of leadership. Right now there is none.

And finding out that Haliburton is getting the contract for the cleanup only makes this situation worse.

Tell me again why I shouldn't politicize this, but Bush and his administration can?


After a few exchanges with Andrew at BBG, I think I need to make myself a bit more clear here:

I don't think that George W. Bush and his administration can take ALL the blame for what happened in the Gulf States, despite the fact that this post admittedly seems to suggest that. There are certainly state and local officials that will need to answer for their actions or inactions. I think everyone that needs "blame" in this should get it, no matter who they are.

I don't think that Bush "caused the disaster" either. That honour belongs to one Mother Nature, in all her awe and fury. That being said, the old saying says that "luck favours the prepared." In this case the lack of preparedness can certainly be traced back to the federal government and the Bush administration.

At the top of that list is FEMA, whose job it was to deal with just this kind of disaster. They failed in a spectacular fashion. The reason they failed may have something to do with bureaucracy, turf wars - federal\state and FEMA\DHS, funding and organizational changes or all of it combined. The head of FEMA was appointed by Bush and reports directly to him. The federal department tasked with keeping America safe and responding in a timely fashion to disasters of all kinds failed. And the reason they failed can be traced to who Bush appointed to head the department, how FEMA was broken apart when DHS was created, budget cuts and funding priorities that are closer to Baghdad than Biloxi.

Bush's lack of action during this past week was the difference between yet another hurricane with a lot of destruction and a relatively few (55) casualties and the major tragedy, with thousands dead, that it became. I'm am less concerned with what Bush did before August 29 than what he did after - which was nothing for 4 days. That inaction needlessly cost lives and Bush and his administration should be held accountable.

I would have been happy to "concetrate on helping the victims" if Bush and FEMA had been willing to do the same.

Instead we got belated, staged photo-ops.

I don't want Bush to get ALL the blame, I just want to ensure his role and the role that his administration and policies played in this disaster doesn't get white-washed away or spun down so that only FEMA or local officials become the patsies. I want Bush to finally take some responsibility for his actions.