Blog of Mass Distraction

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Electoral Progress

Chile has made history by electing their first female leader Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet, a doctor and single mother, has promised to bring more social justice and better represent women and indigenous people. Moreover President-elect Bachelet has promised to give half her cabinet posts to women including finance and defense posts. This bold move is something only achieved by two other countries in the world.

Liberia too elected its first female leader and the first generally elected female leader for Africa, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. The former finance minister won against opponent and football star George Weah.

Finnish President Tarja Halonen has also secured a second term in office defeating her conservative opponent Sauli Niinisto. She is the first female president of Finland.

I also heard recently on CBC of a group in Nepal that's conducting raids on brothels in India. The raids on bordering areas in India are to free Nepalese sex slaves. Brought over as captives by traffickers and sold into slavery, the groups also try to get information on the traffickers so they can be brought to justice.

Oh, a few of the high profile front-runners for the Liberal leadership have refused to make a run for it, including Frank McKenna and John Manley.

We have done almost everything in pairs since Noah, except govern. And the world has suffered for it. -- Bella Abzug,1518,395516,00.html

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Defenestrative Politics

In the recent elections many people said they voted for the traditional opposition not because they necessarily wanted to support them but because they wanted to punish the existing government. They were fed up with the continued corruption and ineffectiveness of the party and even the former opposition was surprised at some of the gains they made. Surprised though excited that some of their platform changes (which included dropping some of their more controversial or extreme policies) worked in appealing to a wider audience. They also learned a thing or two in public relations from like-minded, savy groups from across the border.
I am talking about the recent Palestinian elections which saw the Hamas party take a surprisingly commanding lead over the ruling Fatah party. Official election results are not out yet, but Hamas has said they want to form a coalition rather than just governing by themselves. As some have said, Hamas functions much better as an opposition party than a governing party.

Of course the Conservative party has also won the election here in Canada. They took 124 seats to form a minority government. The Liberals won 103 seats, the Bloq 51 and the NDP 29 with 1 independent in Quebec. In his victory speech Stephen Harper apparently made some obvious offerings to the French Canadians which helped him get elected since Quebec gave 10 seats to the Conservatives. The Conservatives can form government with the Bloq holding the balance of power. The only question now is how long they can maintain their government. This is easier said than done since most other parties are diametrically opposed to Conservative policies. So while the Bloq may support the Conservatives in votes that they feel are in Quebec's best interest, they still would not support strong Conservative platform promises like missile defense, opposing gay marriage, repealing Kyoto, or participating in wars. The Bloq (and apparently the NDP too) would however support initiatives they think are in line with their policies (good for Quebec for the Bloq, or good for social programs for the NDP).

In the meantime, Liberals are posturing and jockeying for position to replace Martin. The supposed frontrunner is Frank McKenna, now former Canadian ambassador to the US. He resigned his post in preparation for the leadership bid. Other potential candidates might include Michael Ignatieff, John Manley and Belinda Stronach among others. BS seems an unlikely choice though because she ran and came in second in the Conservative leadership race. While she is socially progressive, I don't think she'd be the right leader for the Liberals. But then I'm not so sure about McKenna or Ignatieff either, but what the heck do I know? I think that as long as Martin and his rascals are out the Liberals will be better off. Who becomes leader will also likely determine how long the Conservatives will be in power and how long it will be before they're thrown out.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Minor Problem

Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party are poised to form the next government of Canada. The Conservatives, like the Liberals and NDP, released their full platform last week. Harper has even been musing a majority government which might be possible if the Conservative popularity continues to rise (read:Martin/Liberal support continues to errode). Though there will probably be a number of strategic voters that shift from NDP to Liberal in an effort to avoid such a situation.
But for now it seems like Stephen Harper may be heading a Conservative minority government after January 23rd. With his anti-Liberal support solidified Harper has even made some rather bold plans in the Conservative platform publicly available. For example, the Conservatives plan to support the US Ballistic Missile Defense program (which I've discussed previously). While the Martin Liberals tacitly supported it, at least they weren't going to waste money on it. Now Canada may have a seat at the decision table and have to pay part of the bill (which runs in the billions).
Conservatives have also said they'll create a new type of savings plan called an RLSP (Registered Lifetime Savings Plan). It's purported to be for low and middle income families to help them save and works almost opposite to an RRSP. Tax is paid on money that goes in to an RLSP but not when it's taken out, and there can be up to $5000 contributed each year. What I want to know is where the hell would a low income family get $5000 after taxes to pay into this thing? It seems it would benefit the wealthy far more since they can easily invest that into a high return fund and not have to pay any taxes on it when they take it out.

On the plus side, if the Conservatives win a minority hopefully it won't last too long. The Conservative policies are pretty far removed from those of the other parties. This is especially true of this Conservative party (as opposed to hisorical PC platforms) because it's largely made up of Reform/Alliance party members. They are almost diametrically opposed to NDP policies and most policies of the Bloq as well. They may actually get some support from a few Liberal MPs since the Liberals more than other parties have the broadest spectrum of members (from all economic, social and political backgrounds and beliefs).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

What's that? It's Pat

Arial Sharon has suffered a major stroke and severe bleeding in his brain. He's been under heavy sedation for a couple of days in an effort to control the pressure and swelling of his brain. It now appears that Sharon will not recover fully and will not be able to lead Israel any longer. This has been a hard hit for the Kadima party which Sharon newly established after leaving the hard right Likud. However, Kadima is still showing strongly in polls and has said it is willing to give more land back to the Palestinians, stopping short of what's needed however by refusing any claim over Jerusalem and maintaining large settlements in the West Bank.
Because of his proposed move to a centrist platform and withdrawal from Gaza, some have called Sharon a peacemaker, while others have criticized his concessions. In reality, there are still far more zettlers in the West Bank which will not be removed and the Palestinians do not have control of the Gaza borders. Moreover construction of the illegal wall continues and more land is annexed to Israel. Even without his past crimes (which should not be forgotten) Sharon is hardly a peacemaker.

Still that didn't stop Pat Robertson from shooting his mouth off again. He said that this ill health was punishment from God for 'dividing Israel' which Robertson believes to be God's land. The Israeli government was surprised by the harsh remark from Robertson, though I don't know why. The man is either psychotic, delusional or both.
There's really no love lost between Sharon and the Palestinians (many of whom consider him a war criminal). But Abu Mazen sent condolences for Sharon's poor health.

At home, Stephen Harper has been musing about a majority government with his latest slight increase in the polls. With the large number of anti-Liberal protest votes going to the Conservatives, they may yet overcome the fear inspired by Harper's hard right persona. Though to be honest, the people who keep saying that the Liberals have destroyed Canada's faith in their party seem to have a short memory. Brian Mulroney and his conservatives... now *they* destroyed Canada's faith in their party. After two consecutive majorities, the Conservatives were decimated and never recovered as a party. And, incidentally, the Bloq became the official opposition.
It's sad to see the state of Canadian politics. I totally understand people's distrust of the incumbent Liberal regime, but still fear more the hard-right masquerading as centrist-right Conservatives like Stephen Harper. As much as I hate to say it, I'd rather throw away a vote than have it contribute towards the adoption of US-style conservative economic and political policies, to the detriment of all Canadians.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Ahh the new year. When we meet each other, stay up far too late, eat and drink too much and make a bunch of promises to ourselves that we won't keep. Isn't it wonderful?
Well I've made one resolution that I definitely intend to keep and that is to make more time for myself. I've been so busy with activities for this group or the other that I've barely had a moments rest to catch up on things I want to do. Included among them is reading and I've got a whole stack of books I've been wanting to get to. My shortlist for the coming months includes books by Zinn, Roy, Chomsky and Fisk. I've also got "The End of Poverty" to read (finally finished with the other books I was reading before it) as well as "King Leopold's Ghost" about Belgian Prince Leopold who colonized and summarily committed genocide in what is now Congo (DRC).
I've got some others as well and I try to intersperse the heavier material with lighter stuff. I read a couple of the Dan Brown novels for example, but other than the Davinci Code, they aren't very good. Hopefully the last Harry Potter book will come out this year and I can burn a weekend with that.
Happy New Year!