Monday, December 31, 2007

10 Lessons from 2007 pt. 2

Am I the only one fed up with the national junior team? As far as I can tell there are about three guys (Tavares, Matthias, Schenn) actually playing over the last four periods. Pathetic. The so-called big line has been particularly disappointing. Brad Marchand's only contribution was giving up the puck and the game against Sweden. Brandon Sutter is clearly hurt and should not be playing. I think Craig Hartsburg should be replaced for next year. Anyway, on we go with the lessons from 2007.

5. The Environment is Actually Politically Important

The lesson we began to learn with Dion's Green victory in December of 2006 continued to be learned in 2007. Be it the rise of the Green Party of Canada in national polls or the increasing success of the Ontario Green Party in the provincial election (particularly Shane Jolley in Owen Sound), the environment is resonating with Canadians. As Mr. Jolley's result indicates its more than urban hippies who care about this issue these days. Harper's dance on the issue would be funny if the consequences of his inaction were not so dire.

4. Immigration is the Defining Issue for the West

This is more relevant for other countries with more serious immigration problems (rioting in France; panic and legal chaos in the United States) but Canada must do better by its new immigrants. We are too often failing to ensure that the newest Canadians can integrate successfully into Canadian society. Our past successes are wonderful and we should celebrate them. We need to work hard to ensure that immigrants arriving today have the same success. Canada is a leader on this issue. We must continue to lead. The West is aging and our economies are teetering. Immigration is the best path to economic and social progress, countries that fail to grasp this will be left behind.

3. The American Primary System is Beyond Broken

The state of Michigan has been disenfranchised by the Democratic party and nobody seems to have noticed. Michigan is not exactly a small insignificant state. However, they angered the DNC gods by moving their primary up so that candidates actually bother to visit their little state. As a result, the Michigan primary is little more than a straw poll. This disturbing incident combined with the insanity that is the Iowa Caucuses, leads to one conclusion. The Americans need to change their system and now. All the states should vote the second Tuesday after New Year's day. Iowans are upset at how early they have to vote this year. The second Tuesday would ensure that the holidays are not overwhelmed by elections. By having all states vote early, they would finally have equity in the primary process.

2. Pakistan is in Deep Trouble

Martial law. The assassination of an opposition leader. The opposition being taken over by a 19 year old. This country is in trouble. The tension between secular democrats, the military and militant Islamic extremists is tearing the country apart. This is scary stuff. Even if you don't care about Pakistan and its people (and as human beings we should), you must remember this country is a nuclear power. The future of Pakistan could shape all of our futures. I don't know what the outside world can do to help the Pakistani people. I do know that we are all going to be holding our breaths until this mess is sorted out one way or another.

1. The Internet is Killing Traditional Entertainment

Don't think this is as relevant as some of the other stuff? You could make the argument. I've posted on the writer's strike before, but it is worth some repetition. What this strike is about (internet revenues) is about how to slice up an increasingly small and insignificant pie. Consider this, what is the top rated live-action TV sitcom still on the air? I have no clue. Do you? The most popular comedies are probably cartoons: The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park etc. This lack of quality television combined with the download disease which has spread with technology from music to television and movies is killing Hollywood and its related affiliates north of the border. The strike by the writers may prove to be one more nail in the coffin. The collapse of an industry that has sustained North America for generations is not in any way insignificant. It has been confirmed in 2007. Enjoy your reality TV folks, its all that's profitable these days.

On that note, Happy New Year. May 2008 find you well.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Movie Thoughts

I've seen two movies in theatres in the last couple of weeks. I don't usually see two movies in theatre in a year so this is something to write home about or at least post. Since I believe both to be somewhat political, my thoughts.

The Golden Compass:

I wrote about this when the preview came out. I loved the books. Huge fan. I was somewhat disappointed in the movie. All the nuance is gone. So is most of the character. Lee Scoresby comes off as a pervert. The bears have lost all their nature. Is the film anit-Catholic? No. It's anti-Calvinist. Read the books. In all seriousness, it's anti-repression of nature and independent thought especially when done so by religion. If Catholics feel that this criticism is leveled most heavily against them it reflects their own self-image and not reality or Pullman. The movie wears kid gloves compared to the novel. Serafina Pekkala's anti-religious rant has become muted. The true horror of the intercision process is lost (the victim appears to have survived). If religious critics want to be offended, they should read the books, particularly the last one. As for the movie... I hate how they mangled the order of the plot. I hate ending the film early. The Subtle Knife has a different feel and to start the next movie (assuming they make it) with the arctic sacrifice would be improper. The Golden Compass (first titled The Northern Lights) is heavily concerned with snow and ice. Neither The Subtle Knife nor The Amber Spyglass share this fascination. The former focuses on trees and desert and the latter on rock and earth. This thematic division is part of the elegance of the trilogy. To change it loses more nuance. Also, separating Lyra's loss of her best friend from the meeting of her future lover is nice. A little more loyalty to the book may have helped here. On the bright side, the CG is great particularly the polar bears.

I am Legend:

I got asked to see this one today. Not my type of movie frankly. Although, I have trouble finding a genre for this. It isn't really horror or sci-fi although it borrows heavily from both. However, my distaste has nothing to do with what type of movie it is. You may be wondering why this movie is political. Well, I need to be a spoiler to explain. So if you want to wait to see the movie stop reading now. The movie has heavy religious overtones in its ending. Robert Neville (Will Smith) is saved from hell (well mutated humanoid vampires) by the shining lights of a religious prophet and her mute son. He then redeems humanity by having a religious epiphany. The movie's premise is that a scientifically engineered virus has wiped out/mutated most of humanity. Neville and his saviour have a fierce theological debate. Posters in the destroyed New York proclaim God's love. The prophet has spent most of the plague on a boat. His daughter (not saved from damnation) complains that the destruction of mankind will prevent her from getting her Christmas presents and never shuts up (compare with the saved and mute/obedient son of the prophet). The building most prominent in the last bastion of humanity is a church. All in all the movie has a distinctive Noah's Ark (God has killed the wicked and saved the righteous) overtone that I find creepy as all get out (way creepier than the CG vampires). The lesson seems to be that science and perhaps commercialism have distracted humanity from God (the prophet hears God's voice because the world is quiet post-plague). The path to salvation is to bring God back into the centre of our lives and let Him guide our actions. If the Golden Compass is the anti-religion movie for the holidays, this is the pro-religion movie. I have nothing against religion. In fact I am proud of my Jewish faith. However, I don't think it should dictate all of our actions. I don't care if Mike Huckabee wants to wish people a merry Christmas. I just don't want the fact that a kid was born in Nazareth a couple thousand of years ago to dictate policy. You can apply this to any religion, I am just using Christianity as an example. I don't care if you wear a headscarf. I care when a woman is sentenced to be beaten for being raped because that is the interpretation of God's will. I have no objection to a faith based reality as long as the sense and reason based reality comes first.

Hmm... two movies that I saw in theatres... didn't really like either one. Maybe I should stick to not paying an arm and a leg for bad entertainment. If you want an interesting religiously themed movie this holiday season try to dig up a copy of the Hungarian movie Kontroll. That one I liked.

10 Lessons From 2007 pt. 1

Christmas is upon us. A merry Christmas to those who celebrate. Not being Christian, I take no particular note of the day. I do note that in a week's time it will no longer be 2007 and instead be 2008. So, before time passes this year into dust, a quick review of what we've learned over the past year.

10. There is no such thing as an inevitability in politics

Inevitable has been tossed around a lot this year. A spring election was inevitable. Jean Charest's defeat was inevitable. A fall election was inevitable. Hillary Clinton's nomination was inevitable. None of these things have come to pass. The lesson: don't believe the hype. The media (both mainstream and otherwise) make money (okay mostly the mainstream here... yay adsense!) on helping their audience understand the news and come to some sort of conclusions. These conclusions are often incorrect. Not to say that I will stop making predictions on this blog (half the fun in blogging after all). I'm just saying nothing is inevitable. Things may be more likely than not, but sometimes things change. In fact, things change most of the time.

9. A week is a lifetime in politics

So, we should have known this a long time ago. This year made the point standout. John Tory was seen as being tough competition for Dalton McGuinty, that is until the religious school flap blew up in his face. Mulroney was Harper's mentor until Karlheinz Schreiber reared his head. Things change quickly in politics. This is related to the point above. We should be weary of making predictions because we never know what the future may hold.

8. Records are meant to be broken (or at least asterisked)

Readers of this blog (all three of you) will know that I occasionally dip into the sports world for my posts. So here's the sports entry for the list. This year saw the breaking of the all-time home run record in baseball (Bonds), the youngest winner of the Hart in a generation (Crosby), and is on the verge of producing a perfect football team (the Pats). In the case of both baseball and football those records come amidst scandal. The Patriots were caught taping the signals of the New York Jets on opening day resulting in massive fines and the loss of a draft pick. Barry Bonds chase of the home run record was dogged by allegations of steroid use. Since then, Mr. Bonds has been indicted by a grand jury for perjury and has been named in the increasingly infamous Mitchell Report. In both cases, some have wondered whether or not the records should stand. I have no qualms with the Pats records. I don't think Spygate helped them in the least. Was it foolish and illegal? Yes. Does it change one of the best offenses ever fielded? No. That's what matters. That's why I feel very differently about Barry Bonds. Steroid use did help him hit all those home runs. While not banned by baseball, they were banned substances. He cheated and that directly impacted his performance. I don't accept that he is the greatest home run hitter in history. I can't.

7. Quebec is undergoing another political revolution

The continued strength of Stephen Harper's Tories combined with the rise of the ADQ in the spring election tells me that something big is going down in Quebec. Add to that the hearings on immigration and what you come up with is this: rural, conservative Quebeckers are tired of voting for socialists just because they agree with their position on independence. I think we are slowly seeing the evolution of a more accurately represented Quebec.

6. Nation building cannot work if the nation does not want to be built

2007 should prove once and for all that these misguided occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq are doomed to fail. Is the consequence of leaving potentially disastrous? Yes. That's why this debate isn't easy. What should be easy is the answer next time someone asks us to help occupy a resistant country. NO! We have not learned from history (Vietnam, Somalia etc.) and now we are repeating it. It is a great tragedy that so many people died this year for nothing. At the end of the day, the result of the mission will be the same: failure.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Harper's Running Scared

After nearly six months, Stephen Harper has decided to call the rest of the by-elections. He could have called them at the same time as the Quebec by-elections but that didn't suit his narrative. See, he wanted to show that the Liberal party was weak, conflicted and poorly organized. So he called the by-elections in Quebec first where the LPC(Q) is probably best described as weak conflicted and poorly organized. The rest of the Liberal party on the other hand is doing fine. Add to that, Harper's majority train hasn't run through Toronto or Vancouver yet. Saskatchewan (which features the only by-election likely to be close) is more of a mystery. However, I think it confirms what I have believed for months, Saskatchewan is politically restless. They just threw out a government in the middle of an economic boom. That, political scientists will tell you, is not an everyday phenomenon. Did they go to the political right? Sure. However, federally the Tories have raised a lot of anger over their meddling in the Canadian Wheat Board (I don't understand this issue, so I won't get into details. I just know people are upset). If Harper thought there was a political gain to be made in Saskatchewan he would have called that by-election a long time ago. The reality is that Harper does not want the headline "Liberals Sweep By-Elections" to appear before an election. That would mean Stephane Dion might not be a bumbling incompetent as the Tories have sought to portray him. That would mean that maybe the Liberals are a viable alternative. And that thought, has Stephen Harper running scared.

Now that I've ended it so nicely, one more thing. I think it behooves us to change the rules regarding by-elections. They should be set 60 days after the retirement of the MP or MPP. Giving the government this kind of manipulative power is ridiculous. There we go folks another bit of electoral reform I support. More democracy, more representation. What's not to like?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday Snapshots

Some quick thoughts for the new week:
  • Bali ended in a compromise even more useless than the one agreed to in Kyoto ten years ago. The agreement by the current responsible signatories of Kyoto means less than nothing. The world will get warmer and not one world leader has a plan to stop it.
  • This weekend did not look much like global warming in Southern Ontario. I ache from the shoveling. If Canadians are a little thinner than their American neighbours, I think shoveling has to contribute to our national fitness.
  • The NDP's dumping of a transgendered candidate in Quebec City looks bad. There's a he said she said thing at play here. The candidate claims her sexuality is at root here. The NDP claims she wasn't a team player. The truth is impossible to discern from my perspective. I will say that maybe a candidate that was acceptable to the NDP in Quebec before their win in Outremont may be less desirable now that they think they can actually win seats. Why this particular candidate was not desirable I cannot say. However, irregardless of the reasoning, the NDP dropped a transgendered candidate. That looks bad to the LGBT community which has often supported the NDP.
  • Electoral systems do not predict environmental policies or any other policy. I could easily argue that systems which guarantee coalition governments limit the possibility of dramatic action so necessary to solve the climate change crisis. The responsiveness of the EU to the issue has nothing to do with electoral systems and everything to do with bureaucratic pressures from Brussels elites.
  • My Bills playoff dreams ended on Sunday. Tear.
  • The Celtics are ridiculously good.
  • So are the Pats. Oh and didn't the Red Sox just win the world series? Oh to be a sports fan in Boston...
  • The polling scandal is more funny than scandalous. It certainly exposes Harper's obsession with monitoring public opinion particular in Qu├ębec.
  • The new military strategy in Afghanistan is now apparently to occupy with force as much land as physically possible. So, now when we whack the Taleban/mole we keep our forces/mallet in the same area/hole and switch to a new unit/mallet. Mr. Ignatieff probably thinks this is a good idea. I think it is moronic. If we can't secure peace without pointing a gun to people's heads we are in serious trouble. We need to rethink and refocus this mission and we need to do so now.
  • Schreiber... zzzzzzzzzzz.... Mulroney...zzzzzzzzzzzz... Have we solved the myriad of problem the country faces TODAY? No? Then why is the media wallowing in the past? Can we talk about the future at some point? Please!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

News of the Day

One exam done, time for a quick post:
  • Pickton got convicted. Won't be eligible for parole for 25 years. I'm surprised they couldn't get a first degree murder conviction but they have twenty other chances to get him for murder one if they want.
  • M. Dion is blogging from Bali. Interesting. I don't know how I feel about leader blogging. I am not crazy about politicians blogging in general. They have the bully pulpit of the house of commons or legislature or council to make their views known. I suppose it shows the Liberals finding new technology when its almost at its best before date. Of course, Dion's blogging sounds like a mixture between a travel log and a stump speech. It's all irrelevant because nobody outside of the politicos will read it.
  • Flaherty's going after the NDP. Did Harper approve of this message? I thought Tories could only attack Liberals. Hmmm...
  • The Wizard of Croz justifiably won the Lou Marsh award today. By the way I hate the Sid the Kid moniker. It needs to go before he's 40 and we don't know what to call one of the best players of all time. The Wizard of Croz is a name that I heard the Pittsburgh play-by-play guy call him and I like it.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Bali Boogie

As the discussion turns to who should be responsible for stopping global warming (the correct answer, boys and girls, is everyone) it's time to look at exactly who we can consider the "developed world." There is a tendency by some (let's call them the Bureaupean Bunion) to limit responsibility to Western nations. This is of course absurd. So, ladies and gentlemen a quick look at which countries are "responsible" and which are not with the corresponding GDP per capita (purchasing power) (all stats from the CIA World Fact Book).


Ukraine $7,800 (the same as China by the way)
Croatia $13,400
Bulgaria $10,700
Romania $9,100

Not Responsible:

Singapore: $31,400 (that's higher than France or Italy by the way)
South Korea $24,500
Kuwait $23,100
Bahrain $25,600

I don't want the historical guilt argument. I don't buy historical guilt in any context. I certainly don't buy it in this one. The countries most capable of changing their economies are those with the most money. If we must have two standards, can we at least divide the camps in a rational manner?

Once again, Harper has the right plan but no desire to make it work. Intensity based emissions allow for economic growth (starving people are a bad thing regardless of the climate). If they are tough enough they can also prevent climate change. Dion has the wrong plan with all the desire to make it work. Can we please have a meeting of the minds on this one? Harper's plan with Dion's desire. That's how we solve this.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Race For the Exits 2008: Month to Primary Edition

I figure now is as good a time as any to update my report on the Presidential election down south. I'm going to avoid the tedium of going through all the candidates and stick to the ones who have a chance in Hades of winning. With my luck, I'll leave out the winner. Here we go:


In order of current position:

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Okay, I know you've heard it all before when it comes to Hillary. I don't think I can say anything new. Here's the snapshot. She's the frontrunner except that she beginning to look like the New York Mets when they collapsed. In other words, she has a huge lead but she's hemorrhaging and fast. The question is whether or not she can hang on long enough to win Iowa and New Hampshire. Her positives include a great organization, name recognition and a strong appeal to women. Her negatives include her name recognition and the presence of a whole bunch of Americans that will never vote for Hillary.

Barack Obama: One of the most devoted Christians in the Democratic field has had some odd things thrown at him. To attempt to slur someone by calling them something that is a) false and b) only an insult if you are a racist is a) evil, b) moronic or c) both. Having said that, Obama is the candidate that appears to be gaining fast on the Clinton machine. He's not half as divisive as she is. He also hasn't articulated his vision as clearly although that is starting to come out. Outsiders usually do well in Presidential elections. However, it is difficult to call a US Senator an outsider. Obama may in the end just be too young and inexperienced.

John Edwards: If Clinton falls like Perdita Felicien and Barack trips like Barbaro out of the gate, look out for John Edwards. He did this four years ago and has a strong local organization all over the place. He's charming and enthusiastic. His rhetoric has always struck me as anachronistically socialist.


A much more open field. This order is going to be alphabetical.

Rudy Giuliani: I have never understood why the socially liberal mayor from New York thinks he can win the Republican nomination. However, if terror is the issue, Giuliani wins. I can't see it. I just can't. Not even with the support of the 700 Club.

Mike Huckabee: If I were to bet on someone at this point in the race, it would be this guy. Why? Because he is the only one who legitimately speaks to the base and actually wants the job (more on that later). The former Arkansas Governor is catching up fast to the early race frontrunners. The only question is does he have enough time and local organization in early states to close the gap.

John McCain: It is odd that John McCain, the great rabble rouser from 2000, has become the safe choice in this race. However, McCain is the known quantity here. If the Republicans get scared (of the other candidates, not terror), they might go McCain. He also has a good organization in New Hampshire where he won eight years ago.

Mitt Romney: I believe the national polls place the former Governor in the lead in this race. I don't see it. A Mormon is not good enough social conservative credentials for many in the base of the Republican party. It may be as baseless in reason as saying that Obama being a Muslim would disqualify him. The fact that Romney is actually a Mormon is a key difference. Romney also has Giuliani's problem of having some questionable (in the eyes of social conservatives) views on certain key subjects. The combination I think will leave him dead in the water in South Carolina and other Southern and Western states.

Fred Thompson: We will never know if Fred Thompson had a chance at this. He doesn't seem to like campaigning. The retail politics inherent in the primary process seems beyond him. On the other hand, with the whole host of question marks that plague the front runners. The faux reincarnation of Reagan could be a choice, who knows?

Do you support a candidate that a) wants to eliminate most of the US government or b) believes in UFO's? Sorry, it ain't happening. Although I have a certain respect for Ron Paul and his campaign.
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