Tuesday, November 28, 2006

History for the Greens

In brighter news, the Green Party of Canada has made history yesterday, coming in second in a federal by-election in London North-Centre.

I am very excited by the news, as I have been attracted to the Green philosophy for years. While I do think it is very important to ensure that Harper's Conservatives aren't re-elected in the next election, I think that the Liberals and New Democrats have largely made themselves irrelevant to me and other voters who are looking for a new set of priorities for the creation of a more humane society. I also like the Green's approach to practicing politics, which is generally much more conciliatory and cooperative.

Anyway, I'm quite pleased. For more on their platform,, go here.

Quebec as a "nation"

Canadian history was made on two counts yesterday.

First, the House of Commons, in contrast to the wishes of the vast majority of Canadians, passed a motion to declare the Quebecois a nation within Canada. Most members of all major parties in the Commons supported the motion.

There are many problems I have with this, not the least of which, there was no consultation at all. It was said by proponents that the motion was in effect meaningless, that it was simply meant to defuse a Bloc Quebecois motion to declare Quebec a nation outside of Canada.

The question I have is, if it was meaningless, why have the motion in the first place; why not simply defeat the Bloc motion. If it was not meaningless, and we should be concerned, why was there no consultation? I would submit that there is great concern.

I could very easily see the Bloc presenting a motion to the House asking that the Quebecois status as a nation be constitutionally recognized. How could the other parties say no? If informally, then why not constitutionally?

I think that we could be opening a pandora's box that we could very much regret opening.

Ken Dryden's speech in the House sums of my feelings precisely:

This is pure politics. All this started with the ludicrous concept of having a debate fundamental to the country based on different understandings of the word "nation." In the last few days, it has deteriorated into the ludicrous reality of such a debate in practice.

To those who want to engage the debate honestly, seeking definitional clarity - forget it. Other parties to the debate want none of it. They want to say "nation" means whatever they want it to mean, now and to change definition whenever they decide they want it to mean something different. So they can go to the public and argue and spin, and try to achieve by misunderstanding what they can't by understanding.

When I first arrived in Montreal, it was the pride of Quebecers that struck me. The whole world's being taken over by the English language, American culture; Quebecers had no chance. But they said no, not me, not here. I know what I am. And that's who I'm going to be. Forever.

And Quebecers know who they are. They've had to. They couldn't have made it if they didn't. They don't need any official definers to tell them. And some day we, all Canadians, will get down on paper what Canada really is, what Quebec really is, what together we have made ourselves to be. But it won't happen this way. It can't happen this way.

Does the Bloc really want to engage Canadians outside Quebec so they will agree that "Quebec is a nation"? Not at all. They want the process to be so inappropriate that all such Canadians will reject the question. To grease that slippery slope, so that Canadians inside Quebec will reject those outside Quebec, and the Bloc's cause of independence will be advanced.

The pawn in this game is the public. As Canadians, we feel deeply about our country. Politicians and political advocates for decades have been playing games with our emotions, manipulating them for their/our own purposes. They/we have completely poisoned the well of discussion and debate on this question. No side trusts any other, no citizen trusts any politician.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It's snowing!

(Well OK, this pic was taken the day after it started).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


It's something that we take for granted. It's probably our second most important natural resource, next to air. I never thought I'd realize how much it is taken for granted, and how lucky we are to live in a part of the world where access to clean water isn't normally a problem. I still don't think I really know how much, but I do believe I have a vague idea.

Here in Vancouver, we've been under a boiled water advisory for almost a week now. Don't know when it's going to be lifted, but hopefully soon.

It has been a very humbling experience, and I think there are two lessons to draw. One, we have to be humbled by the wealth of our society that allows us access to commercial "substitutes" such as bottled water that ensure we don't go thirsty. We don't realize how many people die in various parts of the world for want of food. Two, we have to realize what in important and precious part of our ecosystem water is. It is a finite resource, we can run out, and we must start making a real effort to conserve.

Something else I've been thinking about is climate change as it relates to impacts on the weather generally, and more specifically the wind-and rain-storm that let to the soiling of the reservoirs. Of course I don't know for sure if it is climate-change related, and if so, how much, but it does make me think about the lack of respect we show for our environment, whether in the form of carbon emissions or water waste, and how it all could come back on us in the long run.

The next time I do the dishes, I think I'm gonna use less water.

Sy Hersh on a secret CIA report.

According to Pullitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, a secret CIA report has found no evidence of a nuclear weapons-building program in Iraq:

The Administration’s planning for a military attack on Iran was made far more complicated earlier this fall by a highly classified draft assessment by the C.I.A. challenging the White House’s assumptions about how close Iran might be to building a nuclear bomb. The C.I.A. found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency. (The C.I.A. declined to comment on this story.)

The C.I.A.’s analysis, which has been circulated to other agencies for comment, was based on technical intelligence collected by overhead satellites, and on other empirical evidence, such as measurements of the radioactivity of water samples and smoke plumes from factories and power plants. Additional data have been gathered, intelligence sources told me, by high-tech (and highly classified) radioactivity-detection devices that clandestine American and Israeli agents placed near suspected nuclear-weapons facilities inside Iran in the past year or so. No significant amounts of radioactivity were found.

A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the C.I.A. analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it. The White House’s dismissal of the C.I.A. findings on Iran is widely known in the intelligence community. Cheney and his aides discounted the assessment, the former senior intelligence official said. “They’re not looking for a smoking gun,” the official added, referring to specific intelligence about Iranian nuclear planning. “They’re looking for the degree of comfort level they think they need to accomplish the mission.” The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency also challenged the C.I.A.’s analysis. “The D.I.A. is fighting the agency’s conclusions, and disputing its approach,” the former senior intelligence official said. Bush and Cheney, he added, can try to prevent the C.I.A. assessment from being incorporated into a forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian nuclear capabilities, “but they can’t stop the agency from putting it out for comment inside the intelligence community.” The C.I.A. assessment warned the White House that it would be a mistake to conclude that the failure to find a secret nuclear-weapons program in Iran merely meant that the Iranians had done a good job of hiding it. The former senior intelligence official noted that at the height of the Cold War the Soviets were equally skilled at deception and misdirection, yet the American intelligence community was readily able to unravel the details of their long-range-missile and nuclear-weapons programs. But some in the White House, including in Cheney’s office, had made just such an assumption—that “the lack of evidence means they must have it,” the former official said.

Appearing on Democracy Now! today, Hersh indicated he didn't know if the Bush Administration would attack Iran. Some of his contacts say that Bush will not be prevented from bombing Iran before leaving office. Others say that the foreign policy realists in the administration may well prevail.

This is basically what we're down to: hoping that the far right wing foreign policy realists in the US will prevail over the even farther right wing neocons. I think the stakes are too high to allow the Bushies to go into Iran.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Grameen Bank

Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the revolutionary Grameen Bank that has freed gosh knows how many Bangladeshis from extreme poverty, has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Essentially, the Grameen Bank provides microcredit loans, small loans to the extremely poor, without collateral or interest. I have a bit of a bakcground in community economic development, so such concepts are not new to me. The result is that poverty levels are reduced, and the wealth created by the loan stays in the community. Go here for more basic info on microcredit.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ray McGovern: Cheney-Gates Cabal

From Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst:

The “Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal ” may now be down to one. But there is every sign that Cheney will continue to be the dominant force in the White House, and he recently asserted:

You cannot make national security policy on the basis of [elections]. It may not be popular with the public. It doesn’t matter, in the sense that we have to continue the mission [in Iraq].

Granted, Cheney made those comments before the election. But it is virtually certain that Bush vetted with Cheney the nomination of Robert Gates to succeed Rumsfeld and, if past experience is precedent, it is a virtual certainty that Gates will continue to earn an A+ for “loyalty.” Look for a “Cheney-Gates cabal.”

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dems take Congress; Rumsfeld resigns

Great news. The Democrats have captured, easily, the House of Representatives and narrowly captured the Senate. It is not likely that a whole lot will change as a result with respect to foreign policy, but it is a sweeping repudiation of the US policy vis a vis Iraq. The Democrats didn't even have a position, didn't even say anything meaningful, and they still won. That's gotta hurt if you're a Repuglican.

An offshoot of this that is another important development is the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. Bush has chosen former CIA analyst Bob Gates to replace him.

There is certainly no guarantee that Gates will be anything more than marginally better. He may well not be. However, given that Rumsfeld resigned immediately after his party's ouster in the congressional elections, I can arrive at no other conclusion that he has resigned in disgrace. That is entirely appropriate, and that is an important statement on the policies he has supported.

That he has resigned is a good start but not nearly enough though. He should be tried for war crimes.

Constitutionally, all decision-making power with respect to foreign policy rests in the executive branch. However, this also gives the Democrats some leverage on two counts, hypothetically speaking. Whomever Bush chooses must be confirmed by the Senate. If they don't like him, the can defeat the nomination.

Second, if they choose to, they can impeach the president. They can either choose to do so outright, in which case Dick Cheney would be president (gulp), or they can hang it over his head and blakcmail him with it in order to encourage more sensible policies from Bush. I highly doubt it will happen, but it could.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Amnesty Award for Mandela

Nelson Mandela has been awarded Amnesty International's highest honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award. I'm pleased that one of my heroes is being honoured in such a way. How his activism has continued through his life span, from anti-apartheid activist to political prisoner to resurrected movement leader to president of South Africa to elder statesmen for the world, is truly inspiring. The presenting of this award to him is a vindication not only of his life's work, but also the need to continue to stand up for human rights in the world, as Mr. Mandela does.