Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Ennui

Political fatigue has set in during these last few days of the Federal campaign. Questions abound: Is Ralph Klein going to violate the Canada Health Act? Will Martin stop being so equivocal and take a position? In an effort to expand NDP influence in a likely minority government, will Jack Layton shave off that ridiculous moustache? Does Gilles Duceppe own a tie? Will the impassive and telegraphically mechanical Stephen Harper cut a deal to govern? What does Ralph Klein have to do with this line of questioning?

I guess it has much do to with Mr. Klein, the intoxicating Premier of Alberta, proffering his desire to revisit quasi-private funding for health care in his province. Such a proposal, which was to be unveiled two days after the election but was pushed up for today to avoid controversy, would have, in Mr. Klein’s own words, “contravene[d]" the Canada Health Act. Today, however, the language of the proposal was muted and revised, since it made no mention of Alberta’s intention to “contravene" the Canada Health Act. This will probably have no effect on the outcome of the election; but it released Stephen Harper from the scepter of possibly colluding with his Albertan brethren, Mr. Klein, to destroy health care.

What has been of some interest, though, is how effective the Liberal attack ads have been in driving down Mr. Harper’s favorables. The SES/CPAC poll has tracked a precipitous fluctuation in Canadians' choice for Prime Minister.

At the start of the election Mr. Martin enjoyed a 14 point lead, as 31% of Canadians (from the poll sampling) thought he’d be the best choice for Prime Minister—of the possible candidates. Yet as the campaign wore on and Ontario was hit with regressive tax hikes, in the form of an Ontario Health Premium—by a provincial government that just happens to be Liberal—Ontario voters weren’t happy. Election are won or lost in Ontario.

Needless to say, Mr. Martin’s favorables started reclining as Mr. Harper’s started picking up. Although, it seems, now, that sometime after the English language debate—or possibly the French Language debate—and after a series of gaffes on child porn, bilingualism, and health care, Harper’s favorables have been in a steady recline; oh, and yes, the negative ads by the Liberals which evoke in the minds of undecided voters the previous fiscal disasters of Conservative governments, helmed by Canadian conservative demigods Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris, also hurt Harper.

Harper’s favorable were up around 27% when Martin’s declined to 26%, but now Harper’s are down to 20% and Martin is right around 29%. Unsure is polling well at 25%--I should have legally changed my name to unsure and ran. So it looks like the bottom has fallen out of the Conservative campaign, which until last week was running virtually flawless.

Political junkies, like me, still persist in analyzing all the ephemera flying out of the campaign war rooms. Sane, reasonable people, instead, have already decided--that is, decided to stop watching the frivolous minutiae of the last days of this campaign.

As a phalanx of the punditry, the politicos, and the media breathlessly anticipate what will most certainly be an anti-climatic election finish, the electorate is dutifully ignoring the news and busy preparing for the Canada day long weekend. There is an old Chinese proverb that invokes today’s state of affairs: The dog barks but the caravan goes on. Or this one I especially like: The moon would not shine if it paid attention to all the dogs that barked at it—people will pay attention when it matters: on June 28th.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Reconstruct This

All too often people aren’t able to hear the good news coming out of Iraq. Sensationalism first, substance later is the operating mantra of News organization anxious to scoop the hottest story. From suicide bombings, attacks on coalition forces, and the continual sectarian, political posturing between the Coalitional Provisional Authority (CPA); the soon to be dissolved Iraqi Governing Council (IGC); and the just newly appointed Iraq Interim Government (IIG), the reconstruction of Iraq has hardly received the substantive coverage it's due. Nearly $20 billion in American taxpayer dollars are being spent on the reconstruction and the public accounting of these monies isn’t being thoroughly investigated. We know enough about the security situation in Iraq—which appears to be destabilizing, somewhat, before the June 30th handover, after weeks of relative stasis due in most part to the cease-fire reached with Moqtada sadr.

But do we know enough about the concrete differences the reconstruction has brought to the Iraqi people?

The sheer breadth of the details of reconstruction makes the topic less amendable to distilled news segment form. Even so, only in print, and rarely, will one find the type of coverage that accounts of the reconstruction. This has much to do with the investigative encumbrances of researching in Iraq with its poor security. Therefore, as the security goes in Iraq, so does the reconstruction.

Two lengthy articles, one in The Washington Post, the other in The Chicago Tribune, speak to the efforts being made during the tumultuous reconstruction of Iraq. Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post interviewed various senior members of the CPA, the civilian authority tasked by the White house to administer the transition process. Of major concern is the ability of the CPA to disburse the funds necessary to reconstruct crucial infrastructure. This is being impeded by the continuous security threats:

About 15,000 Iraqis have been hired to work on projects funded by $18.6 billion in U.S. aid, despite promises to use the money to employ at least 250,000 Iraqis by this month. At of the beginning of June, 80 percent of the aid package, approved by Congress last fall, remained unspent.
[....]
Although the $18.6 billion reconstruction aid package was approved by Congress in November, the Pentagon office charged with spending it has moved slowly. About $3.7 billion of this package had been spent by June 1, according to the CPA. Many projects that have received funding have slowed or stopped entirely because Western firms have withdrawn employees from Iraq in response to attacks on civilian contractors.

CPA officials contend the money should have been earmarked and spent far sooner. Had that happened, they argue, the CPA could have retained much of the goodwill that existed among Iraqis after the U.S. invasion and possibly weakened the insurgency.
[....]
By starting late, the adviser said, the CPA got "caught in a security trap." More than $2 billion of the aid package will be spent hiring private guards for contractors, buying them armored vehicles and building secure housing compounds, CPA officials estimate. "If we had spent this money sooner, before things got bad, we could have spent more of it on actually helping the Iraqi people," the adviser said.

Because many of the 2,300 projects to be funded by the $18.6 billion are large construction endeavors that will involve foreign laborers instead of Iraqis, they will result in far less of a local economic boost than the CPA had promised, another senior official involved in the reconstruction said. The projects were chosen largely without input from Iraqis.

"This was supposed to be our big effort to help them -- 18 billion of our tax dollars to fix their country," the senior reconstruction official said. "But the sad reality is that this program won't have a lot of impact in it for the Iraqis. The primary beneficiaries will be American companies."



Clearly the security concerns have affected reconstruction efforts, though to the extent illustrated in the article, I was unaware. It’s is difficult to fault the CPA for having failed because to fail a substantial effort must have been undertaken. The CPA can’t even leave the Green Zone:

Life inside the high-security Green Zone -- what some CPA staffers jokingly call the Emerald City -- bears little resemblance to that in the rest of Baghdad. The power is always on. Shiny shuttle buses zip passengers around. Outdoor cafes stay open late into the night.

There is little effort to comply with Islamic traditions. Beer flows freely at restaurants. Women walk around in shorts. Bacon cheeseburgers are on the CPA's lunch menu.

"It's like a different planet," said an Iraqi American who has a senior position in the CPA and lives in the Green Zone but regularly ventures out to see relatives. "It's cut off from the real Iraq."

Because the earth-toned GMC Suburbans used by CPA personnel and foreign contractors have become a favored target of insurgents, traveling outside the Green Zone -- into the Red Zone that defines the rest of Iraq -- requires armored vehicles and armed escorts, which are limited to senior officials. Lower-ranking employees must either remain within the compound or sneak out without a security detail.
[...]
Limited contact with Iraqis outside the Green Zone has made CPA officials reliant on the views of those chosen by Bremer to serve on the Governing Council. When Brahimi, the U.N. envoy, asked the CPA for details about several Iraqis he was considering for positions in the interim government, he told associates he was "shocked to find how little information they really had," according to an official who was present.
The CPA official who got around the most was Bremer, who travels with an entourage of private guards, most of them former Navy SEALs, equipped with helicopters and a fleet of armored vehicles.


However, significant missteps by Bremer have led to poor training for the Iraq police and armed forces further exacerbating the security situation.

But if the CPA hasn’t been able to freely execute its duties, then quite certainly they are prepping for the transition to Embassy? The CPA will be wound down and re-branded as the American Embassy in Iraq, the world’s largest of its kind employing more than 3000 people. Thus the quality and the credentials of the employees at the soon to be new Embassy should reflect the diplomatic needs of the region, and hence the reconstruction. The project of rebuilding and reestablishing Iraqi infrastructure and democracy should be of integral priority and not be skewed by politics.

Andrew Zajac from the Chicago Tribune disabuses us of that notion. Appointments to the CPA have been highly political and little reported.

Although many CPA posts have been held by career government civil servants, numerous crucial slots have been filled by officials with strong GOP or conservative pedigrees. Passed over, in some cases, were diplomats and foreign policy specialists with backgrounds in Middle East issues or nation-building.

In less than two weeks, the CPA is scheduled to hand over power to an interim Iraqi government. The jobs of most of the authority's 1,200 employees will be eliminated or folded into a giant U.S. Embassy under construction in Baghdad. A few positions, like Bowen's fiscal oversight of the reconstruction effort, will be preserved.

It might be years before a final verdict is in on the CPA's stewardship of Iraq, and on whether the composition of the authority played a part in the outcome, for better or worse.

This really gives credence to the conspiratorial argument that war-profiteering may have been a driving aspect behind the Iraq war.

But already even some supporters of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq say the occupation's troubled course and the country's uncertain prospects for stable self-rule can be traced at least in part to a leadership team that valued political credentials over foreign policy expertise.

Occupation planners often selected "ideologues without international experience who see the world through blinders," said Peter Galbraith, a senior career diplomat and an adviser to the Iraqi Kurdish leadership.

"I don't think the Iraq venture was doomed to fail," Galbraith said. "If we had had qualified people with time to plan and a coherent strategy, the situation . . . would certainly be better."


In the most ironic passage of the piece, Michael Fleisher, brother to former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, explains why crony patronage is bad:

Fleischer said he wanted to serve in Iraq because he believes Bush had embarked on "a noble path" in freeing and democratizing the country and he believed he had skills that would be helpful.

He said that from his Foreign Service stint, he was already acquainted with Paul Bremer, the presidential envoy who heads the CPA.

With an assist from his brother, Ari, who "got my resume to Bremer," Fleischer landed interviews that led to his appointment.

Among Fleischer's key tasks was training more Iraqi businessmen in the ways of U.S.-style procurement so they can land part of the $18.4 billion in reconstruction aid the U.S. has earmarked for Iraq.

Competitive bidding "is a new world for the Iraqis," Fleischer said. Under Saddam Hussein, "it was all done by cronies. The only paradigm they know is cronyism. We are teaching them that there is an alternative system with built-in checks and built-in review."


So the appointment of crucial members of the CPA is largely political. Not surprising. And the security situation in Iraq is still bad. Not surprising. That the reconstruction of Iraq isn’t going well is, I guess, not surprising. The White house, the NSC, and the Pentagon have disregarded the recommendations of the State Department to their own detriment. Troop level assessments; post war planning; managing expectations, ect, are among the areas the Bush administration failed to anticipate in the run up to war. Just imagine how much worse it could be if there wasn’t any criticism.

What America doesn't need is those who don’t think through the contingencies, don’t take into account alternative scenarios, and don’t manage properly the good will and financial aid of American citizens. The war in Iraq had, is having, and will have its benefits. But if the administration wants to start blaming someone for it’s failures in Iraq, it should take a look in the mirror.

Friday, June 18, 2004

More Questions Than Answers

More Questions Than Answers

With the Bush administration groping in the dark for ex post justifications for the Iraq war, a stunning revelation—or at least what would appear to be one—was brought to light. Speaking in Kazakhstan today, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russian intelligence had information of Saddam Hussein and Iraq’s intention to attack the US. Putin added:

After the events of September 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq, Russian special services several times received information that the official services of the Saddam regime were preparing 'terrorist acts' on the United States and beyond its borders
[. . .]
This information was passed on to our American colleagues


Saddam=Bin Laden=9/11

Cleary this should be the type of revelation that buttresses the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq was a gathering threat which needed to be pre-emptively stopped. Just days after the 9/11 commission concluded that al Qaeda had no collaborative links with Saddam Hussein and Iraq—though there were contacts between them which the commission notes—Putin’s claims serendipitously breath life back into the Administration's moribund pre-text for war. The Bush administration has for a long time attempted to insinuate—yet not literally; however the intention is the same—Saddam Hussein and Iraq to the tragic events of 9/11. There is no better example of this ‘guilty by insinuation’ than in the American public’s overwhelming belief that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, close to 70% percent of Americans have believed this at one time or another. This is where the 9/11 commission stands on this faulty today:

Our position has not changed. We indeed passed this information on to our American partners but we consider that there are rules, defined by international law, for using force in international affairs and these procedures were not observed.

“The international community will not hold a veto over the United States National security.” “The United States will act within in it own interest to protect it national sovereignty.” These are but a few of the proclamations the US made when they explained why they were acting pre-emptively against Iraq. If Russia had Intel that the US was going to be attacked and they indeed did pass it on to the US, then wouldn’t it only seem reasonable that the US should act to protect its national security, despite international protest? Russia could surely understand that the procedures of International Law not be observed because, again, and the “Intel” can’t stress this enough, Iraq was planning attacks on the US. How can someone make sense of these inconsistencies in Russia's position? They can’t because it doesn’t make sense.

But the Bush administration has some explaining to do, also.

If the US did, in fact, have this Russian Intelligence, then why didn’t they convey it to the American people and the world community? Undeniably, people would have been sympathetic and wholly accepting of the US’s right to defend itself. There would have been no anti-war movement—or rather, it would have been much smaller. It couldn’t have been a matter of revealing the source and, therefore, compromising Russian intelligence in Iraq, since if America attacked, Iraq would be no longer, thus there would be no need to cultivate intelligence sources with the Ba’athist under Saddam gone. But if it was a matter of protecting Russia as the source, then why not convey the intelligence in a manner that would have given anonymity to the Russians? Moreover, why would the national security interests of the US be compromised by withholding vital and credible intelligence?

Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc

In the run up to War no mention of this intelligence was cited. Could this be because this intelligence wasn’t actually passed on to the US? As I see it, this seems likely to be the case. So if the US was denied this crucial information—and the Bush Administration, as of this writing, has not commented on the revelation yet—it would put the Russia’s in a bad light. They had intelligence of impending attacks on the US by Iraq, yet withheld it from the US, all the while opposing the War, for more than unsavory reasons. That is completely despicable—not unexpected, but despicable. So maybe the intelligence is incredibly false. Iraq wasn’t ever going to attack the United States, and Russia was wrong.

But wait, it’s all in how you interpret the intelligence—if there is any. Was Iraq planning to attack the US before September 11, 2001 or after? Putin characterized the Intel as being acquired “After the events of September 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq”, which was around the time Iraq was placed on the Axis of Evil. It wasn’t until August of 2002 that the Administration stated, publicly, its intentions to topple Saddam Hussein—privately the machinations for toppling Saddam had begun in the summer of 2000, and picked up steam after 9/11.

Therefore for an entire year, as nearly 200,000 American and British troops began assuming military formations on the Saudi/ Iraqi border, Iraq knew that it was going to be attacked. Is it a stretch to surmise that Iraq, also, was drawing up a war strategy? It’s not. And it’s not moral equivalency to assert that Iraq was likely to draw up a war strategy, given that it was unlikely that Saddam would surrender. Could this dubious intelligence the Russians were so surreptitiously acquiring have been the Iraqi war strategy against a likely US attack? Yes. And wouldn’t US intelligence also be capable of ascertaining such information—if not predicting it in their battle plan? Consequently, if the US did indeed have this intelligence, then it certainly wasn’t that compelling to them at the time.

That is why I’m doubtful it should be so compelling to us now—post hoc.

Because it’s evident, from my assessment, that Iraq’s intention to attack the US was a consequence of the US’s intention to attack Iraq. Surely Iraq had always had the intention to be at war again with the US, as the US, illustrated by Clinton’s 1998 Los Angeles Times has a piece that questions the veracity of Putin’s intelligence claims. What’s interesting is the administration’s inability, thus far, to definitively say whether or not they actually received this specific intelligence:

Traveling with Bush aboard Air Force One on Friday, a White House spokeswoman said the U.S. had "ongoing cooperation with the Russians on a variety of matters, including intelligence matters," but she refused to discuss specifics.

. . .

State Department officials said they could not specify what the Russian intelligence indicated, but Adam Ereli, a deputy department spokesman, said the two countries "have a very good and close record of cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism."

However, most say, as I’ve already suggested, that Putin’s revelation is pure politics. But what escapes scrutiny is the substance of the claims Putin avers. The White House has yet to acknowledge what would be a significant boost to their rationale for war. That is why I assert, again, that the intelligence Putin speaks of is complete and utter garbage.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Deontology or Utilitarian: Same Difference?

Over at Foreign Dispatches the philosophical implications of gun-owner ship are considered. Apparently, an economic or utilitarian argument can be made for more gun-ownership, since it would reduce the frequency of “deadly, criminal incidences”; though, it hasn’t been determined whether the severity of these “deadly, criminal incidences” would increase, thus nullifying for now—and until substantial empirical evidence is shown—the utility of comprehensive public gun-ownership. A deontological argument concerning the social obligations we have to the public safety of society can, likewise, be made with the same force.

Public safety is the concern.

Surely I'm not the first to posit this-- actually I think I've read this argument somewhere else-- but either method, Utilitarian or Deontological, is, by whatever means, arriving at the same ends. Whether it be breaking a few eggs to make an omelet, restricting and closely controlling gun-ownership-- the deontological argument-- or stepping on fewer toes, though with quite possibly a greater level of damage, permissive gun ownership-- the Utilitarian argument—the structure is akin, and the economic and social analysis that is brought to bear in justify and implementing such methods is catholic.

Certainly the sensibilities of such positions differ, though the aim is chiefly identical: the greatest good. One speaks of the same thing when a deontological appraisal couches itself in the dry language of economic Utilitarianism. Utilitarian logic isn’t of a different kind than Deontological logic or even, as I would say, a different degree—rather it is of a different intonation.(maybe I’m babbling) Utilitarian arguments speak of the “fairness” of the collective good, just as Deontological arguments speak of the moral obligations of the “good”, or fairness.

The confusion arises when the action that should be taken conflicts with the proposed methods—the ends are the same: Public Safety. Moreover, empirical evidence to prove either positively or negatively the efficacy of a proposal remains elusive; at least from a generational perspective.
Crossfire

What happens when collegial political disagreement turns into vitriolic animus? Well, if you’ve ever wanted an illustrative answer to this question, you should simply tune into the CNN political free-for-all called Crossfire. In its new incarnation, Crossfire has rapidly devolved into a screaming match, pining dueling, crazed hot-heads against each other in what seems to be a battle to the death. Hardly shrinking violets, Tucker Carlson and James Carville have done great work in turning the once staid, cerebral political program into a third rate clown show.(Bob Novack and Paul Begala, the other hosts, are less brusque)

I would be speaking in tautologies if I said America has been polarized since the 2000 presidential election; but one must preface any explanations of excessive partisanship in the US with that irrefutable premise. America is greatly divided. This should explain the earnest tone being imbued into Crossfire.

Tucker Carlson, the erstwhile big-L libertarian, known for taking both Republicans and Democrats to task, has become a willing apparatchik of the GOP. This has placed him in some unsavory political alliances, for which his own political affiliation to Libertarianism is compromised—although, he’s been vocal in his criticisms of the Republican Medicare Bill and, also, the administration's strategy for Iraq, or lack thereof. But on virtually any other opportunity to raise a legitimate concern about Bush policy—be it the refusal to revisit, or expand, stem-cell research, or the ballooning budget deficit, or corporate welfare—Tucker speaks in sotto voce. His natural inclination to be a contrarian has been restrained, in his criticism of Bush Administration policy, and displaced, into his almost blind rage toward the Democratic Party.

Not to be out done, James Carville, famed political King-Maker and former Clintion campaign aide, has become as shrill as, if not more than, Tucker Carlson. You’ll often find Carville defending the indefensible and tirelessly skewering Bush as if it were a sport—but as of late, it has become the sport. Whether it’s filling in the holes of a Kerry foreign policy, or, with a straight face and in that signature southern drawl, asserting that the reformation and democratization of the Middle East has nothing to do with Iraq and, by extension, the War on Terror, Carville has turned the art of casuistry on its head.

Which brings to mind a new political aphorism in parlance: Just because President Bush believes it, doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Yet my grousing about what Crossfire has become isn’t at all fair. I enjoying watching the clown show for the sheer idiocy of seeing grown, intelligent men throw tantrums, among other things.(On today’s episode, Tucker threw, what appears to have been, a pencil at James, prompting James to throw it back. Unfortunately, the camera pulled away from the shot: what a shame.)

But I guess reasoned and substantive political debate on policy conveyed in a prosaic manner isn’t good TV. Crossfire, on the other hand, is good TV. The spectacle they have contrived over at CNN has created a new audience of rabid loonies looking for political analysis that’s delivered with a primal howl. I should know. I am one of those loons.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Think The Unthunkable!

What in the past few months would have been unthinkable has now, paraphrasing the poignant words of Ezra Levant, publisher of the Western Standard, “been thunk [sic].”Though I’m sure think no longer or never had that tense, many can no longer deny the now natural thought, once inconceivable, of Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. CPAC (Canadian Political Affaires Channel) has had a rolling poll (daily) through out the campaign in which 600 hundred respondents are asked who their party of choice for government would be in the upcoming election. Some concerns about the poll’s methodology can be made, however, the general trend that is being found in more rigorous polls—i.e. Ipsos, Leger, Globe and Mail, and National Post—also appears in the CPAC polls: The Conservative's momentum is increasing. Only three weeks prior, The Liberals were polling nationally at around 38%, the Conservatives at 30% and the NDP at 16% or 17%. But now, the Conservatives are polling at 37% nationally and, also, in the province of Ontario, a traditionally Liberal stronghold. The Liberals are now polling around 32% to 33% in Ontario and nationally, appearing to be continual losing ground against the Conservatives. This is due in no small part to the recent Ontario budget tabled by the provincial Liberals, which has caused a furor against Liberal MP’s alike. That a Liberal loss on June 28th will weigh on the conscience of Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, is an ineluctable truth.

This was not always the case. Only a few weeks back many political commentators believed that, despite the Liberals deflating poll numbers, the Conservatives would hit the ceiling at 30% nationally. As the second week wore on, the Liberal campaign began to tear at the seams. The Liberal war-room made some egregious miscalculations, the first one being an invitation offer to Stephen Harper to attend the 60th anniversary D-Day ceremonies in France, Courseulles Sur-Mer. Harper, on principle, declined the offer, acknowledging that both the Prime Minister and the Governor General, as a matter of form, should represent Canada. This wasn’t at all unreasonable. Why would the leader of the opposition be invited to an event like this, or, for that matter, if the leader of the opposition was invited, why shouldn’t all the leaders of political parties in parliament be invited?

The Liberal war-room strategists were attempting to bear hug Harper in order to bring him into their political constellation. This, they assumed, would reflect well on Martin, and if Harper declined, stain the Conservatives. However, what it did, besides looking utterly pathetic, gave Stephen Harper all the power; moreover, his reason not to attend was, even for a political Liberal like myself, sound.

Another contemptible misstep by the Liberal war-room strategists was the organized ambush of Stephen Harper as he and his campaign team were mainstreeting (walking up and down streets shaking potential voters' hands). What made it inexcusable, and utterly pathetic, once again, was the fact that two cabinet ministers were sent to do the foot work. Judy Srgo, Minister of Immigration, and John Mcullam, Minister of Veterans Affairs—though I’m sure not for long—were tasked to do the thankless job of heckling Stephen Harper. John Mcullam, ever the social butterfly, came within inches of Harper’s face, attempting to hand him a letter, which Mr. Harper, rightly, didn't take.

At the end of the second week, the state of the Liberal campaign would have been rightly diagnosed terminal.

Therefore, the only recourse available to the Liberals, since there message hasn’t, as Liberal war-room chief strategist David Herle says, broken the “wall of cynicism”, is to go negative. Last night Liberal attacks ads appeared during the supper hour, with the sole purpose of souring the Canadian electorate’s taste for Stephen Harper. The ads target Harper’s agenda, which they believe is hidden, on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, official bilingualism, and hate crime legislation—the prevailing thought is that Harper, and thus a Conservative government, would be against these issues, respectively. The rasion d’etre for the Liberals, now, is to define Harper as an intolerant, social conservative who will destroy the long, cherished principles of Canada: equality, inclusion, and multiculturalism.

Now to the pertinent electoral math: Today’s Ottawa Citizen has an article that predicts the seat count in the Conservative’s favor at 117. The Liberals have dropped to 112 since earlier counts had them between 118-125 seats. Since there are 308 seats in the House of Commons, and 155 is a majority government, it looks like neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals could form a majority government, today—though either of their fortunes could change after the candidates debate scheduled for next week. The Conservatives have broached the topic of forming a coalitional government with the BQ, who are projected to get 54 seats in the latest poll analysis. This is highly unlikely considering the diametrically opposed politics of both parties. The Liberals have also not ruled out forming a coalition with the NDP, who are projected to grab 24 seats; although this largely depends on whether or not the Liberals amass at least 130 seats.

It is convention for the Governor General to,failing that a majority of seats aren’t won by any party, ask the party with the most seats to form a coalition government. If the Conservatives won more seats than the Liberals yet still didn’t have enough for a majority, the Governor General would ask the Prime Minister, Paul Martin, to get a vote of confidence from parliament, which he clearly wouldn’t win, or resign as Prime Minister and allow the party with the most seats, the Conservatives, to form a coalitional government.

But now, if it seems like the Conservatives keep riding this implacable momentum with no clear policy objectives or platform, then it is, because they are—check their web site, it’s scant on policy; though the small fact of not having a policy convention is a contributing factor. The election is theirs to lose. However, once you do have momentum, it’s far too easy to lose it—just ask Paul Martin.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Exit Paul Martin Stage Left.

Dateline-5:45 pm- Wednesday, June 9, 2004.

As I write, the political machinations of the worst political defeat for a sitting government are underway—maybe not as bad as the Progressive Conservatives in 93’; but bad nonetheless. Frantically hammering away at my battery operated laptop—it shouldn’t be battery operated; I’m inside next to a power outlet—I’m attempting to figure out what this power-outage is going to do the Federal Liberals. Yes, I said power outage! What’s that you say, “In Ontario, again?” Damn Skippy! So what now? Admittedly, one must verify whether or not this outage is simply a brown-out, affecting only local areas, or a full scale black out, similar to l’affaire Northeastern American Black Out, of last summer.

Correct that: Only local areas, mine, are being affected by this small scale, if entirely insignificant, power-outage. On a micro level, David McGuinty, younger brother of reviled Premier Dalton, is the Liberal candidate for MP in this ridding and faces an uphill battle with voters angry over the new Ontario Health premiums brought in by his older brother.

I have two different takes on this: a)either voters in this constituency look at this power outage, and this is all contingent on its duration, as part in parcel of the broken promise Liberals: recall the prior summer when Liberals blamed the PC’s for degrading Ontario Hydro and promising to mange it better. Or, b) realizing how poorly stewarded public utilities were managed under the PC’s, voters sympathize with the type of job the Liberals have on their hands. I’m of the opinion that the Liberals, both provincial and federal, are screwed either way. The writing is on the wall; though I wish it weren’t. More on this later

Monday, June 07, 2004

Reagan Dies

After hearing the news of Ronald Reagan’s death, I was stirred with conflicting emotions. First, I reflected on what a tragic end it might have been for Nancy to watch Ronald deteriorate into an abyss of nothingness, debilitated by Alzheimer's . Second, I recalled what had been those nascent moments of my youth when, being all too na├»ve, I held a partial affinity for President Regan. And now, it is being revealed that Mr. Regan was, in fact, a man of letters, and a closet intellectual, to boot. Indeed, at the time of his Presidency I was much too young to appreciate his biting witticism and his charming manner;but, still, there was an endearing quality about him that transcended age. Reagan was also a cut-up and had incredible comic timing, honing his skills during his time as an actor in Hollywood.

Nevertheless, when I came of age and became more familiar with the politics, history, and economics of the 20th century, I was nettled by the social and economic realities of Reagan’s domestic policies. Despite his assiduous and vital efforts to bring about the end of Soviet Communism and the Cold War, I can’t help but to cringe when I asses his domestic policy: Reagenomics—or more loosely, supply side economics—which championed massive tax cuts and increased military spending nearly sunk the federal treasury. Regan was steadfast in his vision of smaller government, attempting, many thought, to efface the role of government created by FDR’s New Deal, Truman’s Fair Deal, and LBJ’s Great Society.

Far from lifting America up, Reagenomics shifted the tax burden more onerously on the middle class; deregulated natural public trusts that where now free, as private entities, to flout public health and employment standards; created the largest deficit in US history; and brought levels of unemployment unseen since the great depression—this isn’t even to speak of the staggeringly high rates of inflation, which had serious implications both domestically and internationally.

Yet, knowing all this, it’s difficult not to admire the man. Holding so strongly to his personal convictions, Regan literally willed himself to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. If nothing else, as I see it, Ronald Reagan is a testament to the historical fact that individuals do matter. Never can it be said that the historical progression of events and circumstances are beyond the grasp and will of individuals: Individuals matter. And Ronald Reagan was a historical personality that, regardless of your political affiliation, mattered—but, as an aside, this isn’t such a bold statement because he was, after all, the President of the United States

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Tectonic Optimism

Andrew Coyne has this hyper-ventilating analysis on the recent IPSOS/Globe/CTV poll that has the Conservatives up in Ontario:

This is a historic development, years in the making but perhaps now coming to fruition: Ontario is joining the West. The line dividing West and East in Canada is no longer at the lakehead. It's at the Rideau

Easy! The language is far too convulsing and onanistic. Bliss’s thesis has been resoundingly dissembled as regard a “New Canada”. Further, Coyne would be remiss to not mention a puny, little variable that is engendering all this reversal of fortunes: The pristine Liberal brand name is in denouement. The vicissitudes of prolonged electoral dominance, in the end, will determine whether the Liberals will lose. It is said that governments essentially defeat themselves, and this seems clearly the case for the Liberals. That a political transmogrification is, or will, occur is a gleefully, irrational exuberance of Panglossian proportions. The people have no choice!
Pain As A Metaphor

Last night I happened upon an interesting show on CBC radio, as I lay down to rest after reading. The CBC show Ideas, hosted by Phillip Coulter, was having a three part series on the Culture of Pain, which I thought, at the time, to be an intriguing ‘idea’. Having already missed the first part, I had to fill in the conceptual gap as I listened to part two: an interview with cultural philosopher, David Morris. The interview went from the absurd to the asinine to the completely incomprehensible, with in minutes. The physical and biomedical explanations of pain could be dissolved away, Morris alleged, as ideological artifacts of culture. If one could control the construction of the physical explanation of pain, one could control and offer an alternative account of that pain: I must objectify my pain. I must attribute a narrative to this ineffable feeling of pain; this way, I’ll be able to live with and appreciate the pain.

David Morris, author of The Culture of Pain, contends that far too often in our post-modern world—though he sees this as a lingering dogma of modernism, circa. 1860-1950—we medicalize pain. More clearly, we determine, through forms of medical classification, the types of pain that inhere in the biomedical constitution of humanity. If I were to experience a pain in my hand as result of injury, then quiet possibly, aside from it having a physical explanation, it may exist as a phenomenon without biomedical explanation—or as Morris states, “an alternative narrative.” Morris then goes on to opine that narrative forms of therapy need be explored, since they may offer alternative methods of alleviating pain.

Biblical examples are cited of the narrative catharsis of articulating pain allegorically; most chiefly, the Book of Job. Job, a good man, endures harrowing pain through out his life, and is led to question the meaning of life. A part of the Old Testament, the Book of Job illustrates the significance of suffering in Christianity, and the providence of God to give meaning to suffering and, finally, in eschatology, give salvation for suffering. Morris appears to imply that the re-mythologizing of pain may offer a qualitatively different approach to how we both explain and treat pain. Such a postulate, if I’m reading it correctly, veers dangerously close to the moralizing superstition of religious explanation of pain: sin. No longer have I simply torn my ACL, but now I’m meant to suffer a metaphorical pain because I live in sin. Further, my physical pain is a symptom of an ethereal flaw of my conscience life.

Of the physical manifestations of pain, Morris concedes that our scientific medicalizations of explanations of pain are, and have been, systematic and fruitful, though, at the same time, sees the need for an expansive awareness of the non-physical explanations that include cultural variables. Using lung cancer as an example, Morris claims that postmodernist language explains pain more comprehensively than the stock medicalization. He posits that the “archeology of biomedical explanations” don’t take into account other salient variables such as advertising, corporatist manipulation, culture and whatnot when explaining lung cancer.

Huh? Whaaa?

Yes, this is a postmodernist expounding on the issue of pain, and somehow lung cancer can have a hermeneutic variance with Scientism rigidity. It must be noted that Morris is only speaking of alternative narratives, however. He does not think, thankfully, that modern medical classification of pain should be abandoned. Moreover, he takes comfort in the marvels of modern medical science to alleviate pain—whether it be of the narrative variety, or, quiet simply, the physical form.