Sunday, February 26, 2012

Stephen Harper

I have believed for several years now that there is something wrong with Stephen Harper.  I know that comment can easily be dismissed as partisan rhetoric, but I think it is true.  At every turn, he has done as much as he can get away with, to shape Canada into a form that he can control.  He has taken actions which have often crossed lines of ethics, and are occasionally legally questionable.

Of the most extreme manipulations, he is the first Prime Minister in recent Westminster Parliamentary democracy to prorogue the House of Commons in order to stay in power.  Twice.  He has repeatedly shut down inquiries, forced closure, had his people disrupt committee work, fired regulators who questioned some aspect of His policy/ worldview, and centralized authority in his own office like Chretien and Trudeau could only dream of.

He is the first Prime Minister to have been found in contempt of Parliament.  He dismissed Elections Canada rulings that his party overspent in the last election as a simple disagreement.  His party likely had a connection to an advertising agency (that they have worked with before) that engaged in the most heinous voter suppression ever seen in Canada.  They, posing as Elections Canada officials, called non Conservative supporters to inform them of an incorrect poll location.  Statistics have shown that if a voter turns up to the wrong polling station, they are very unlikely to attempt to vote at the proper location.

There were earlier signs.  Far too many to list right now (but I might start working on a comprehensive list later) but some of them were particularly telling.  One little reported story, which was once mentioned to Deborah Grey in an interview, was that Harper had replaced all the pictures of former Prime Ministers in the Parliamentary Press Gallery with images of himself.  That alone says something about where his mind is.  He is totally focused on retaining power.

I know he doesn't think of himself as a would-be dictator.  I'm sure he does it for what he considers to be the greater good.  He has referred, on a number of occasions, to an entrenched Liberal bias.  He once said that this bias would prevent him, in the case of a majority government, from really being able to implement all of his ideas and indicated that that is a reason why voters shouldn't worry about handing him a majority.  If memory serves correctly, that was early in the 2006 campaign.  I think that he sees his actions as justified in light of his view that Canada has been dominated by a certain kind of central Canadian power structure that has left the west out.

He's probably right on that.  But, the consequences of his methods for achieving his goals are shocking.  When he eventually loses power, it would be very easy for whichever party replaces him to use at least some of his examples for their own goals.

Perhaps that party (Liberal, NDP or perhaps a new party) wouldn't go as far as Harper has routinely gone, but it would be very easy to at least use some of his dirty tricks.  Canadian democracy may now require more written constitutional elements to protect against what Harper has brought upon us.

Everything that is done in the dark will be exposed.  I believe that to be a universal and inescapable truth.  I just hope people will still care.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Moon to Get U.S Statehood before D.C or Puerto Rico?

Okay, so Newt Gingrich wants to build a permanent moon base.  Can anyone else picture Mr. Gingrich in some kind of control tower on this space base broadcasting angry messages to Earth?  

Anyway, that's not the weirdest part.  Gingrich once (in the 1981 National Aeronautics and Space Policy Act) outlined the proposed governing structure of the Moon including an allowance for the colony to obtain statehood.  

I wonder if he would consider such a thing for D.C and Puerto Rico. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Business of the Nation, or Tribal Loyalty?

I've come to realize over the last number of years that I am as guilty as anyone of sometimes misplacing my objectivity and opting for tribal loyalty when it comes to electoral politics.  This is a natural human tendency, but one feature of institutions of government should be to recognize the negative aspects of human tendency and to instead opt for politics which serves a greater purpose.

I want to comment on this due to a few issues happening in Canada right now.  Firstly, the popular doctrine on the Alberta oil sands from those of us on the left tends to be that they are dirty, should be shut down, or at least developed more slowly.  

But, the most recent research by University of Victoria scientists Andrew Weaver and Neil Swart has shown that if all of Canada's oil sands were developed and used (which is not going to happen in the near future, if ever) would only increase the Earth's temperature by .002 to .005 degrees.  Whereas burning the world's coal would increase the worlds temperature by 15%.

Now, to put this into perspective, even small increases can be catastrophic, and this only means (according to Weaver and Swart) that we really need to stop using coal, and that the oil sands should be used toward that goal.  

Will those protesting the oil sands take this into consideration from now on?  I hope so.  To not do so would be to ignore the facts.  Now, just for the record I think that they should be heavily taxed by Ottawa with some of that money redistributed to the other provinces...but, that's a matter for another post.  

Another issue is on Old Age Security.  The government looks set to increase the eligibility age from 65 to 67 after some period of time elapses allowing for those soon to retire to collect at 65. 

Now, consider this.  The number of workers for every retiree in Canada now  stands at 4 to 1.  In two decades it will drop to 2:1.  

As the Globe and Mail observed today, it would be unfair to ask working people in two decades to work harder than what we work today, pay higher taxes and see opportunities for their children dwindle because we don't want to make changes now.  

The Conservatives have been less than honest in asserting the simplistic claim that OAS will not be sustainable...but, think about all of the services which are spent on retirees.  That includes healthcare (by far the largest provincial expense).  So, perhaps we should be having a mature debate about this issue and look for ways to ensure that we are able to provide good services for the foreseeable future.  

Personally, I think Nathan Cullen is right when he calls for a new tax bracket to be introduced for those earning more than 300,000 a year.  He didn't say exactly, but he indicated that it should be somewhere in the low 30 percentile. 

I don't think the Conservatives are handling these issues properly, but I'd also suggest that the other parties could also be a little less 'knee-jerk' in their responses as well.  

It is my personal belief, and I think many others agree that we are a bit tired of theatrics and blind loyalty.   

Monday, February 20, 2012

Academic site finally updated with a few more.

...If a testable model for explaining IR has not been created, this does not mean that it is uncreatable by a truly dispassionate person, but rather that IR has not yet created the correct model and likely never will. It is impossible to truly see outside of the metanarrative to create a truly objective question which is not a part of that metanarrative. There is no person who lives outside of human society, and every person will ask a question with his or her own cultural, historical and social context in mind. State behavior is very complex and does not follow any sort of predetermined rationalist theory, but knowledge can be gained. States may act out of self preservation, altruism or for any other reason that rationalists believe in, but they will do so through their own social construction.

Read the full essay

Sexual Orientation or Political Identity?

So, as a "gay" person there are certain beliefs I am supposed to have.  At least that's what it seems like from the constant spin coming from some gay groups.  Okay, I get the point of what they are trying to do...but, I really don't recall getting the brochure telling me about my interests and opinions the first time I had 'relations' .  Additionally,   I really dislike being told that I am supposed to vaguely associate my ideas with every idea out there which is considered to be "left".

As far as I'm concerned, a lot of gays take on a false identity because they feel that that is part of the "coming out" process.  Changing who you are to fit in, is just that.  Do we suddenly need to change our hairstyle, views on guns, and shopping habits just because we like guys?

I'm with Scott Thompson and Boy George on this issue.  In Now Magazine a few years ago, Boy George was asked about how he deals with the stereotypes of who a gay person is supposed to be.  He said a few things that I can remember:  One, was that he doesn't like the word "gay" because "gay" means happy, and he's not happy.  And, that "behind this limp wrist, there's an iron fist".

Scott Thompson, much more recently said that he thinks a lot of gay teens who are being picked on should learn how to fight.  He also talked about conformity, and the  desire to have sex on one's own terms, rather than becoming the ideal of a responsible, monogamous partner.  He blamed it on the women trying to turn their gay friends into their pets.  I wouldn't go that far, but there is certainly an element to that.

I really dislike how gay people are portrayed on television.  Shallow in knowledge, deep on navel gazing and oh so beautiful can describe almost all of them.

We are humans, and as humans we are social.  All humans conform and adapt, so it's not surprising that gays do as well.  I do with though that a bit broader of a story was shown though.  "Gays" are not a unitary entity.