Saturday, April 30, 2005

Thinking a couple of moves ahead?

Babble on.

This may come as a shock, but I've been thinking.

From my previous post:

If you want to blame anyone for bringing the government down, blame Martin. He's made a deal with a party that can't keep him in power. What a dope.

Much as Martin's leadership style seems to come from the frames of a Dilbert comic, I'm sure he can count. If he can't, someone on his staff surely can. And if I'm giving the PMO too much credit, then forget governing the country, the Liberals need to be sent back to third grade en masse.

But if I'm right, and the Martinis can count noses, they know this Dipper budget-deal won't save their government. So why did they do it?

Bueller? Anyone?

The only explanation I can come up with that makes any sense is pre-election positioning. The Grits know they're going down in the House sometime soon. So they make a deal with Jack, which pours oil on the waters to Martin's left. At the same time, they float the idea of reintroducing the corporate tax provisions in a separate bill, shoring up their economic-stewardship credentials with the right-of-centre crowd. And all the while, they show that they are the one party in the House of Commons who can make a minority government work. They're the reasonable ones in all this chaos and rhetoric.

If that's their plan - and remember, I'm just speculating here - then it's a damned poor one. If the Liberals show they can work with the NDP, then there's no real reason for Dipper-supporters to run lemming-like over to the Lib's when the inevitable last-minute "Liberals are the only ones who can stop the baby-eating Conservative hordes" scarefest campaign kicks in. Besides, reintroducting the corporate tax provisions through the backdoor kills any remaining credibility Martin has with left-of-centre voters. Voters to the right don't see compromise, they see a man who is scrambling around in a panic, trying to save his government job by any means possible.

Voters on both sides of the divide, and those squarely in the centre, see a Liberal party and a Prime Minister with no real ideas or convictions.

Instead of setting an agenda and framing the debate, Martin's Liberals have been on the defensive from the minute he took office. This latest strategic lead balloon out of the PMO - assuming anyone there is thinking beyond tomorrow - won't change that posture one bit.

Babble off.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Buffet on a Friday

Babble on.

Here's some more BBG-style linkety-goodness for you on a sunny Friday morning:

  • This could well be the most ignorant post I've ever seen linked by InstaPundit. You want to criticize our government? Fine. But at least get your flippin' facts right. Austin Bay needs to give his head a shake.

  • Congrats to Alan, but the guys at IMAO should try browsing through his archives sometime. This isn't a one-off. Then go visit Paul Jané. Then PolSpy. We have a lot of funny folks shivering in igloos up here.

  • Greg's right: Layton is lying...oops, "campaigning." Nice catch Greg.

  • Ben is on a roll. Of course, his worst days kick my best. Except the silly "What 17th Century French Beauty Mark Are You?" web-pseudo-survey-game days. Those generally bite.

  • When Paul Wells starts talking about post-secondary education or research and development from a public policy standpoint, you should really listen up.

  • Oh, and since we're talking Inkless, I don't think I'm one of the folks who needs to sit down with a fork and knife in front of a platter full of crow to satisfy Paul. I'm of the opinion Harper should pull the arm on the electoral slot machine because Martin is the antithesis of a leader, and shouldn't be left holding the reins of power any longer than absolutely necessary. But I hold no illusions about the likelihood success if an election is called now. Two-three odds, and pick-em, depending on which poll you read last.

  • It's not linkety-goodness, but I'd like to include this thought here anyhow: folks have been bashing Layton for 'doing a deal with the devil', and bashing Harper for bashing the Layton-Martin deal and not letting 'parliament work'. What a load of bunk. Both Layton and Harper are doing what they were voted in to do: push the government's agenda as much as possible. Jack's doing it by making deals. There's a political upside and a political downside to that, as I'm sure he realizes. Harper is doing it by forcing an election as government policy moves left to accomodate Layton. He wasn't elected to play patty-cake while the NDP messes around with corporate taxes and the Liberals create a national daycare fiasco-in-the-making. If you want to blame anyone for bringing the government down, blame Martin. He's made a deal with a party that can't keep him in power. What a dope.

Now, time to get outside and bask in the sunshine. We cold-blooded Conservatives need to do that every once in a while, you know.

Babble off.

Update: Just because I think Harper should be bringing the government down, doesn't mean I like the approach he's taking in front of the cameras. James Bow makes a typically clear-minded suggestion as to how my party and its leader should have handled the Layton-Martin pact. His script for Mr. Harper:

"It is profoundly sad to see the once great Liberal party reduced to begging for support from the NDP. Paul Martin is grasping at straws to keep his tired, worn out government alive a few weeks longer hoping for...what? Canadians have had enough of him.

"That said, I congratulate Mr. Layton for his skill in extracting concessions from the Martin government. I don’t agree with the changes to the budget, but at least somebody on the other side of the house is trying to get things done.

"When we sit on the other side of the house, we look forward to working positively with all the other parties to bring integrity back to the Canadian parliament. A Conservative government will..." (talk up policy points)

Unlike James, I believe we need an election sooner rather than later. This approach would still have allowed it, however. It wouldn't have precluded the Tories from voting against the revised budget on policy grounds, or if that didn't bring the government down, from introducing a non-confidence motion on the Opposition Day they secured a couple of weeks ago.

Instead, the CPC has blown yet another opportunity to look like a government in waiting. How many new votes do the folks at the OLO think this temper tantrum won them?

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Babble on.

It's always encouraging to receive solid confirmation that one's opinion is the correct one. Reading Lloyd Axworthy's review of the new International Policy Statement reinforces my conviction that it's a good first step towards restoring Canadian influence outside our own borders.

This isn't to say Lloyd endorses the IPS - he pans it quite thoroughly. But I would have questioned my position if Canadian flaccid-power's chief advocate had echoed my thoughts.

So how is Lloyd Unworthy wrong? Let me count the ways...

...I have serious reservations about restricting our assistance to 24 chosen countries which show a capacity to meet international standards of good behaviour. That is a lazy, bureaucratic way of making decisions on allocation of funds, replacing a more intensive, flexible and comprehensive strategy that would target very specific situations and tailor the appropriate form of aid. In my work as a special envoy in the horn of Africa, I have seen close up the desperate need to apply foreign aid in a creative way to solve a long-standing border conflict that impacts directly on the poverty levels of the respective countries and have been frustrated by the inability to design our aid programs to help resolve the dispute.

I like the way Axworthy - the guy who ran DFAIT from 1995-2000, in case you had forgotten - admits we need a more focused effort, but decries the way Fort Pearson has chosen to focus that effort. His alternative? "...a more intensive, flexible and comprehensive strategy that would target very specific situations and tailor the appropriate form of aid." There's Axworthy focus at its very best. If you have no idea what that would mean, don't worry, he doesn't either. If he did, he might have implemented it when he had the chance as Minister of Freakin' Foreign Affairs.

From the IPS: "In addressing these dilemmas, we will focuse on matching our expertise with what the world needs most from us." This too: "We will tailor our distinctive contribution by targeting five areas: governance, private sector development, health, basic education and environmental sustainability."

You tell me which sounds like a more solid plan.

Moving along:

The review ignores the very vital role played by the Canadian non-governmental organization community in overseas work, and the importance of fostering the network of Canadians who, in a variety of individual initiatives concocted from their own imagination and enthusiasm, have over the years become perhaps the best representatives of Canadian values abroad. The review extols the virtues of the Canada Corps as a way of engaging Canadians in international aid. Nothing wrong in having such an option, but it can't replace the enormous contribution of the many international non-profit, religious, human rights, academic and peace organizations who are finding their efforts being snuffed out by lack of support from Ottawa.

Translation? The man didn't actually read the document. Either that, or a guy who has a Ph.D. from Princeton (Ben cringes) is incapable of understanding what he reads.

The truth is that the strategy outlined above was arrived at through consultation with civil society groups. The truth is that this policy statement explicitly recognizes that NGO's, along with sovereign states, private companies, and individuals, are key components of today's international relations. The truth is that the IPS commits to respond to international crises by using "existing source experts and individuals or groups whose capacities are required." According to Axworthy, this constitutes ignoring the non-governmental community. I want to hand this man a mirror and ask him who exactly is ignoring what here.

In fact, one of the most intriguing ideas presented in the review -- promoting the interest of gender equality and enhancing the role of women as prime movers in peace-building activities -- can best be attained by enlisting the energies of women in Canada, linking them into a global network of support and aid. There could be a tremendous sharing of resources and the creation of a worldwide lobby to promote equality issues. But there will have to be investment by the federal government to initiate and maintain such a network.

The digital revolution of the last 20 years has greatly enhanced the effectiveness of civil society. We are at the dawn of the day where individual groups and NGOs will organize themselves to wield ever-increasing influence on legal and political policy. The informational innovations that have come into being over the last 15 years or so have greatly empowered the citizens of the world to share information and to mobilize action on an international level. By not responding to this emerging reality we will miss an opportunity to greatly enhance the role Canadians can play as global citizens. (juxtaposing emphasis by Babbler)

Let's assume the IPS didn't contain a call to mobilize civil society, from the biggest NGO's to Canada's diaspora - which it does. From his first paragraph to his second, Axworthy goes from saying that government needs to initiate and maintain global networks of support and aid, to recognizing the ability of individual groups and NGO's to organize themselves online to mobilize where they're needed. Either government support is crucial, or it's not. The man is positively self-fisking.

But finally, at the end of the piece, Axworthy puts aside all these relatively minor quibbles, and reveals the crux of his disgust with Canada's new plan: it doesn't throw national interest out the window in favour of supra-national governance. I kid you not:

This is what really perplexes me about this review -- the lack of an overriding purpose to tackle the fundamentals of a global system. It is a system that is becoming dysfunctional and desperately needs a shift in the basic paradigm of global governance -- from a preoccupation with national interest to a sense of global citizenship. As a foreign minister, I was basically a plumber, fixing leaks. But I recognized that the leaks were more frequent because the architecture was faulty. The need for reconstruction still doesn't receive the attention it deserves.
Canadians have no pretensions about wielding a big military stick, nor do we have any whiff of manifest destiny. But we can offer ideas, skills, resources, a political commitment to working with others to find practical, peaceful solutions, and an imagination that can help design a global political system that meets contemporary challenges.

Again, I can only assume Dr. Asshat didn't actually read the document, an entire section of which is devoted to "The New Multilateralism." The IPS sells the idea of multilateralism as a foreign policy tool in a largely unipolar world order by stressing the benefits of a rules-based system, by pointing out how both great and small powers benefit from sharing burdens and risks, and by reminding us that some issues can only be addressed through collective action. It stresses UN reform, the revitalization of NATO and the OAS, the creation of an L20 group, as well as pointing out the almost endless opportunities for bilateral, trilateral, and multilateral-but-not-universal cooperation on every issue under the sun.

Axworthy's real problem with the approach laid out in the policy statement is that it eschews process for results, offending the bureaucrat in him, and it admits practical small-scale arrangements that cater to national interests are preferrable to quixotic large-scale plans that please no one, offending the socialist ideologue in him.

As Kathy Shaidle would say, the IPS "annoys all the right people." Works for me.

Babble off.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

How to educate your kids

Babble on.

Every once in a while, I wander off the beaten political path, and roam around in the rest of the blogosphere. The vast majority of it is junk - maybe that's unfair: most of it is uninteresting to me, and poorly written as well. Beth at Grand Mental Station is the standout exception to that rule.

Her political ideas, on the odd occasion she writes about them, aren't my cup of tea, but she's still in her twenties, and I fall back on Churchill's dictum that "Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains." Winnie didn't say it out loud, but I'm sure he felt this was equally true for women. Possibly even more true for women writers.

Back to the point of this post: this past weekend, Beth had an interesting e-mail discussion with Chris at O'Donnell Web about homeschooling. It involved some good, respectful questions, and some equally good, very personal answers. Here's a how the discussion got kicked off:

[Beth:] Your arguments for homeschooling and against public or "traditional" education are often at least reasonable if not persuasive. But they lose something because of the sequoia-sized chip on your shoulder.

Do you at least respect other people's choices not to homeschool as you expect them to respect yours?

[Chris] responded:

I really don't care if anybody respects my decision to homeschool. I do care if they respect my freedom to homeschool though. Way too many people in this country think they know better than us what is best for our kids. Unfortunately, some of those people are in positions of power to dramatically affect my freedom. I don't spend anytime worrying about what everybody thinks of me, and I really doubt there are public school parents out there worrying about what I think.

But if they are...I respect any parent who is doing what they truly believe to be in their children's best interest. Even if they turn out to be wrong. Intent matters a lot. However, for those parents that know their kids are getting beat up every day, or aren't academically challenged, or are labeled ADD and drugged without sufficient medical evidence, yet continue to drop the kids off at the local PS every day without doing anything to help their kid...

Those people I have no respect for.

I've been thinking about these issues a fair bit in recent months. My boy Boo is signed up for junior kindergarten at the local Catholic school (Litlbit is Catholic, I'm not) for autumn classes this year, and I've got a lump in the pit of my stomach about it.

I've had a love/hate relationship with school for as long as I can remember. I was very good at the academic stuff from Day One. I learned how to read at an early age, almost by accident: my mom was quite young when she had me, and when I started asking questions about letters and words, she naively answered them instead of deferring my curiosity with 'you'll learn all about that when you get to school'. So I had a good head start on most of my classmates right from the get-go. I enjoyed learning, and getting good grades was a big part of my self-esteem.

But with the exception of grades five and six, when I was in a full-stream enrichment program in Ottawa with kids who were a lot like me, the overall school experience - the social stuff especially - was awful. I moved around a lot - eight different schools from kindergarten to high school graduation. I was a sensitive kid, and my family situation was kind of messed up, so I was generally a little too eager to seek approval from my classmates. When it came to making friends, I was like the guy who runs into the middle of a flock of pigeons screaming "BIRDSEED!" I got teased - hell, bullied - a lot as a result.

As I got older, I also noticed how much academic success was tied to playing political games like appearing interested in class, even if you weren't, or tapping into a teacher's obvious biases, even if you didn't adhere to his views. At first, I revelled in this knowledge - I had discovered the secret back door to good marks, and I exploited every advantage I could. But after a while, I came to realize what an indictment of our school systems - and I've attended public, Catholic, and private - this susceptibility to manipulation truly was. Although I've never tired of learning, I got tired of playing the academic game, and once that joy was gone, school didn't hold much attraction for me. That's one of the reasons I didn't hang on for the one more year I needed at RMC to get my B.A.: I had stopped caring about school years earlier, and this atrophy finally caught up with me in my third year of post-secondary study.

I had hoped that this disillusionment with school would fade with time and emotional distance. This past fall, I signed up for the first of three courses offered through the University of Toronto required for a particular professional accreditation I'd like to have on my resume. But while I managed to eke out a bare-bones A grade, it took all the self-discipline I could muster to see the semester-long course to its conclusion. There was some really good information conveyed, but it was buried in layers of useless, mind-numbing padding designed to transform what should have been a three-day seminar into a term-length university-credit class. What a waste of my time and attention. It seems my distaste for formal education might well be a permanent condition.

How does this relate to the question of homeschooling? Simply put, I don't want my son - or my daughter who will follow him all too shortly - to tread in my academic footsteps. I don't want to see them teased or bullied. I don't want to see their spirits crushed - even temporarily - by a bitter, mean-spirited teacher who takes a dislike to them. I don't want to see them disciplined for acting bored in class because the curriculum moves at the pace of the weakest student. I don't want them to lose so much as an iota of enthusiasm for learning because they identify that with a troubled, troubling production-line education system.

Having said all that, I have profound concerns about homeschooling for my youngsters. While my wife and I are undoubtedly raising smart, well-adjusted kids, I don't know how well we would perform as teachers. Much as formal classroom education has its drawbacks, I'd have to be confident homeschooling would offer significant social and intellectual advantages to my kids in order to take that option, because homeschooling still carries such a stigma in our society. Besides, is sheltering my children from trials and obstacles that will be common to all their peers really doing them any favours?

My wife, bless her heart, doesn't share my fears. At least, she doesn't fully agree with the depth of my worries. She grew up with the same group of kids, progressing through the same couple of schools until she graduated from high school. Her mom still teaches in that system, and when we go back to visit, Litlbit always bumps into an old teacher or classmate in the shopping mall. Pleasant reminiscing invariably ensues. My wife experienced no significant teasing or bullying, no creeping ennui or frustration, and she went on to complete the degree I was unable to. When I express my concerns from time to time, she reminds me that she is living, breathing, credible evidence that Boo and Mini-Boo need not travel the path I did, just because they attend school.

My head knows she's right. It doesn't seem to help with the lead weight in my gut, though.

Babble off.

Update: From my Irish Embassy Correspondent:
...that quote is often incorrectly attributed to Churchill. The website you linked is wrong - trust me. I made this mistake for years, but if you do some web research you will see it pre-dates Churchill in various forms, including Disraeli. I liked the quote so much that I asked Sir Martin Gilbert to confirm that this was not a Churchill quote over a beer after he spoke at a Churchill Society dinner a few years ago. He had never come across it as being Churchillian - people just think it sounds like something he would have come up with. In fact, he said that several expressions are often attributed to Churchill, since he was known for such witty comment.

I lounge corrected. But the fact that it's not a Churchillism doesn't make it any less true.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A good start that comes too late

Babble on.

Under the heading of 'better late than never', I've finally been able to finish reading the overview of Canada's brand spanking new International Policy Statement (IPS) released last week. I haven't even touched the four component reviews yet - Diplomacy, Defence, Development, and Commerce - although I will be digging into at least the Defence element this week.

So what's my verdict so far? While I have a few nits to pick, I think this document charts a prudent course for Canada in the international arena. I'm quite impressed, in fact.

As Paul Wells stated recently:

Besides, what's so striking about the international policy how relatively clear-eyed it is about the formidable gap between Canada's self-image and its recent performance in the world. It contains what is so rare in Paul Martin's Ottawa: a determination to favour modest progress over self-congratulation.

"I was surprised, actually, by the reality check in it," one European diplomat told me. "There was no -- how shall I put it? -- smugness in it."

Well, there was a tiny little bit of smugness. But not nearly the 'look at us, we're the model for the world' sort of smugness we've come to expect from Liberal Canada in recent years.

From Paul Martin's preamble:

For decades, there was a slow erosion in Canada’s commitment to its military, to international assistance and to our diplomatic presence around the world. Then, during the nineties, there were more cutbacks as our government made tough decisions to save the country from financial calamity. As a result, our international presence has suffered. But thanks to the sacrifice and resolve of Canadians, we have restored our fiscal sovereignty and have spent the past year renewing our investments in domestic priorities, such as health care. Now is the time to rebuild for Canada an independent voice of pride and influence in the world. It won’t be easy. We will have to earn our way in defence and security. We will have to earn our way in international assistance and global commerce. And we will have to understand that we can’t simply recreate what we once had. Instead, we must build today for the world of tomorrow. That is what we are dedicated to doing.

Humility, an understanding of actions and consequences, and an admission of at least partial responsibility for a failure: coming from a Liberal, this represents progress.

Putting aside my genuine surprise, here are the highlights of the IPS, as I see them:

  • There seems to be an understanding thoughout this document that policy should derive from both 'interests' and 'values' - neither in isolation. This is a far cry from the wishy-washy "The world needs more Canada" sort of directionless bumf we've been hearing for years.
  • Here's a refreshing statement from a Liberal government: "...there can be no greater role, no more important obligation for a government, than the protection and safety of its citizens." It's nice to see that in print. It would be nicer to see some deeds *cough KAZEMI cough* to back up those fine words, but a Policy Statement isn't about deeds.

  • Someone in government has finally come to understand that multilateralism isn't a foreign policy, it's one of a number of means to pursue a foreign policy: "...while we value multilateralism and know the great good that international cooperation can achieve, we must ultimately be committed to playing a lead role in specific initiatives and, on occasion, to resolving to go it alone." (Babbler's scrape-the-jaw-off-the-desk emphasis) This is a huge admission from a government that has regularly abdicated its foreign policy to international bodies in the past, and castigated other countries (notably the U.S.) for 'going it alone', using multilateralism as an excuse.

  • Our government has also openly admitted that if we "put outcomes ahead of process" as the IPS states, existing multilateral arrangements aren't up to the task in the 21st century. UN reform, an increased use of bilateral arrangements with key regional players, an understanding of the role of civil society in international affairs, a new L20 concept based on the G20, an acknowledgement that "our most influential membership" is in the G8 (not the UN) - these concepts, proposed to strengthen a 'rules-based' international system and Canada's role within it, are a good starting point to pursue our goals through multilateralist means.

  • The IPS renews Canada's commitment to continental security and prosperity, citing terrorism and sovereignty threats in the Arctic as key issues. It sensibly recognizes the enormous impact of U.S. policies on our own. It proposes a stronger consular presence in both the U.S. and Mexico. But interestingly, it raises the possibility of negotiations on security outside of NORAD and on trade outside of NAFTA "since not all problems are equally important to all three countries." That's outside-the-box thinking, folks, and it has been formally endorsed by DFAIT and the Liberal party.

  • Regarding foreign intervention, Canada will be employing a 3D approach: Defence, Diplomacy, and Development. It remains to be seen whether the appropriate level of coordination and cooperation across government departments will materialize, but the integrated approach is a sound one.

  • Arguably the most exciting changes to foreign policy outlined in the IPS concern Canada's Foreign Aid:
    • focus our aid on 25 development partners

    • concentrate our spending on the key sectors that drive development—health, education, governance, indigenous private sector development and the environment

    • bring new and effective delivery mechanisms to bear, such as Canada Corps

    • continue to increase official development assistance and other forms of foreign aid by 8 percent each year, resulting in a doubling of assistance between 2001 and 2010

    • maintain increases beyond 2010, and accelerate the projected rate of growth in international assistance as our fiscal position continues to improve

    Focus and generosity, two qualities lacking for so long, have been reintroduced into Canada's aid policy, and it's a very pleasant surprise indeed.

Now, before one of my fellow Blogging Tories hacks my site and paints it Liberal red, I do have some reservations about the IPS.

First things first: the gap - the chasm - between Liberal words and Liberal actions is both infamous and notorious. Luckily for us, it doesn't look like they'll be in office long enough to screw up a fairly decent policy statement in the application.

Secondly, enshrining Martin's Five Responsibilities (to Protect, to Deny, to Respect, to Build, and to the Future) before meaningful structural changes have occurred at the United Nations is either a licence for chaos, or a rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic - in no case will it be a catalyst for positive change.

Thirdly, the document veers into self-contradictory or self-congratulatory territory a number of times:

  • Canada will "go it alone" if necessary, and we believe strongly in the "Responsibility to Protect", but "in no circumstances is violence an acceptable means for seeking to effect political change, either from within or without." Hence, a diplomatic and ethical position on Darfur that most closely resembles a ball of yarn after the kittens have gotten at it.

  • We mention BMD, but give no reasons for our rejection of that policy. If our foreign policy is governed by values and interests, and not by poll-driven anti-Americanism, wouldn't the IPS have given Canada an opportunity to explain how BMD wasn't in line with either?

  • We boast of our expertise in cultural and political compromise, and offer to export it: "Our system of governance represents a laboratory full of intriguing experiments that can assist others engaged in the complex task of institution building. This understanding of the 'DNA' of governance is an important resource Canada can use to make a difference." So the ongoing triple-threat of Quebec separatism, Western alienation, and Maritime dependency, combined with a severe fiscal imbalance between all three levels of government in our country is a system we want to spread around the world? I'll admit it's better than civil war, but a little more humility might be in order.

My final comment is this: the devil is in the details. The IPS can be a launching pad for a reinvigorated Canadian presence on the international scene, or it can be a dusty sheaf of paper sitting on a shelf, bearing no resemblance to reality. It all depends on how the policy is implemented.

And in case you hadn't figured it out yet, that's another good reason to vote Conservative when the time comes.

Babble off.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Bi-Weekly Standard

Babble on.

Bob and Dana at canadiancomment have posted the latest edition of The Red Ensign Standard.

canadiancomment joined the Red Ensign blogroll for the simple reason that we found the group to be genuinely interested in improving our country. Naturally we have differences of opinion amongst ourselves about how to do this but the tone is, for the most part, positive and respectful. Those qualities can be very difficult to find in the blogosphere and they are why we're proud to be members of the Brigade.

Well done, gents.

Babble off.

When will they listen?

Babble on.

You spot shadows in the woods and yell 'wolf'. Everyone ignores you.

...government spending on the military has dropped from almost six per cent of the GDP in 1956 to just over one per cent in 2003.

This, according to the author of a Queen's University study, has led to the very real possibility that Canada's military could face extinction within the next 15 years if it doesn't get a serious government commitment. Douglas Bland says there simply aren't enough personnel in the Canadian Forces and insufficient resources to train more.

He also says Canada's equipment is aging into obsolescence, with insufficient plans to replace it. Jack Granatstein, a Canadian military historian, says the study "is depressingly correct." In an interview with CBC News Online in December 2003, he said the military has been ailing for decades. "For the last 35 to 40 years, successive governments have paid no attention to defence spending," he said.

Low, feral canine forms stalk out into the open. You bellow out 'wolf' clear and loud. Still, nobody pays any attention.

Over their ten-year reign Chretien and his colleagues have reduced the Canadian Forces to an effective strength of less than 60,000 personnel, equivalent to a loss of nearly 30,000 men and women since the end of the 1980’s. Even so, the government continued to accept all kinds of overseas commitments with seemingly boundless enthusiasm, thereby placing extraordinary stress on the Forces’ already overworked sailors, soldiers and airmen and airwomen.

When it came to spending on desperately needed new equipment, however, the Liberals proceeded with a far more noticeable degree of caution. Granatstein notes that, in point of fact, capital spending within DND has dried up to practically nothing, and that today expenditures on personnel, operations, and maintenance consume almost 90% of the Department’s budget. With all manner of military gear now reaching the end of its useful life and no money in store for replacements, it’s clear that the Forces are headed for a real crisis within the next decade if action is not taken quickly.

The snarling, snapping pack starts taking down your fellow villagers one by one. At this point, you're screaming 'WOLF, WOLF, WOOOOOLF!', and still your friends and neighbours continue about their ordinary business like sedated automatons.

The current state of Canadian Forces (CF) is the result of political, not military, decisions undertaken over the past couple of decades. The decline in capability can be measured in terms of a decline in funding, of delayed replacement of obsolete and obsolescent equipment, of a high operational tempo, of declining numbers of personnel, of consequent low retention rates, and of many other indices. Moreover, this decline in capability has taken place in a context of a rapid advance in military technology and war-fighting doctrine, the so-called revolution in military affairs (RMA). All of the nine civilian reports analyzed in this paper agree that the Canadian Forces have not adapted to the new strategic context in which they are required to operate, that the doctrines and commitments according to which the Canadian Forces are supposed to operate, which stem from the last White Paper on Defence written over a decade ago, are accordingly remote from the realities of contemporary war-fighting. Worse, the reports discussed in this Critical Issues Bulletin note that neither the civilian leadership nor the high military leadership of the CF have dealt with the disconnect between commitment and capability, of which increasing numbers of Canadian citizens as well as specialists are increasingly aware.

After awhile, it becomes tempting to stop sounding the alarm. It never seems to do any good, so why scream yourself hoarse?

Because duty is not dependent upon results - that's why. And so folks like Stephen Thorne continue their Sisyphean task of dragging public consciousness away from the latest episode of Desperate Housewives for a fleeting moment, and educating Canadians on matters of true import.

Economic impact assessments filed by all three services paint a picture of a decaying military that is, as the navy commander put it, fast approaching the point of "critical mass in its ability to execute its mission."
Both navy and air force say they cannot meet all assigned tasks in 2005-06, with "deficiencies and shortfalls in all areas."

"The result is a decaying infrastructure, a depreciating asset base, increasing personnel issues, and a fleet that faces considerable sustainment issues," writes the head of the navy, Vice-Adm. Bruce MacLean.

"I will not be able to deliver the full mandated level of maritime defence readiness and capability delineated in the Defence Plan."

The air force alone has accumulated a $1-billion infrastructure deficit, its long-term capital shortfall is even greater, and it was going into the current fiscal year $608 million underfunded.

"The air force we have today is not sustainable tomorrow," writes the air force chief, Lt.-Gen. Ken Pennie.

MacLean cites $419 million in navy funding shortfalls this year. The army is $177 million short. The combined projected shortfall for the three services exceeds $1.1 billion this year.
"The cumulative costs of not funding (programs) are not only significant and growing, but oftentimes are hidden insofar as they contribute to skill fade, career stagnation, and asset deterioration beyond economical repair," wrote Hillier, who went from army boss to military chief in February.

"The sustainment base has not been provided the necessary resources." (Bold by Babbler)

How dire must the situation become before Canadians act?


Babble off.

An embarrassing attempt to avoid embarrassment

Babble on.

Don't ever take a job that gives you responsibility that outpaces your authority. I learned that axiom a long time ago, and it has served me well.

It seems others live by it too:

Barbara Finlay, who was appointed acting ombudsman by [Defence Minister] Graham when Andre Marin resigned April 1, stepped down last week.

Spokeswoman Barbara Theobalds said Finlay quit after she received a letter from Graham April 14 confirming her appointment and asking that she forward sensitive complaints to the minister's office.
Theobalds noted that Marin was not subject to the constraint, adding the rule means if the ombudsman's office receives more than one complaint on a sensitive topic, Graham has to vet it before an investigation is launched.

"What she wants is the full authority of an ombudsman," Theobalds said.

Unfortunately for ordinary soldiers, sailors, and airmen, what the MND wants is the ability to smother any further hint of embarrassment for his department and his party before the public catches wind of it.

Too late Billy. Wipe the egg off your face, and try again.

Babble off.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Why sooner rather than later

Babble on.

While I was fumbling to get a firm grasp on why Canada needs an election sooner rather than later, Mike Brock was grabbing the ball with both hands and running it into the end-zone:

He is asking you to forgive him, for being incompetent in his capacity as finance minister, for the transgressions of his party, and to be permitted through continued governance, to make up for those mistakes.
I’m sorry Mr. Martin; we don’t make drunk drivers pay for their mistakes by forcing them to drive little old ladies around. You do not get to pay for your mistake from inside the gates of 24 Sussex Drive.

To continue Mike's analogy, this request is especially ridiculous considering Martin's entire job description is to steer the vehicle of state where it needs to go. Fool me know the rest.

Babble off.

Don's good idea

Babble on.

The not-quite-so-retired-from-blogging Don at All things Canadian... has come up with a good idea: the Blogging Tory challenge.

I propose we try to raise a minimum of $10,000 for the Conservative Party by the end of month. There are about 80 members of the Blogging Tories so if each of us can raise on average $125 we reach the goal.

Ask readers to go to the Conservative Party donation page and contribute. Tell the readers to, after they donated, comment the amount they donated so the Blogging Tory member can keep track of their total.
The Conservative Party saw the Liberals run brutal misleading TV, radio, and print ads infront of the Canadian public last year. Let's help give the party the resources it needs to tell Canadians what the Conservative Party really stands for so they can make an informed choice.

I'm late posting this, but better late than never...every little bit helps...loose lips sink ships...wait a minute!

Babble off.


Babble on.

How embarrassing:

Two men arrested near the Prime Minister’s country residence were found to be SAS soldiers...on an “officially sanctioned” exercise.

Caught by police while on exercise? These two will never, ever live this down in the Regiment.

Babble off.

While Andrew is busy...

Babble on.

Since Andrew doesn't seem to have a problem with folks lifting his Quick Hits trademark feature:

  • Tart Cider. What, you need more than that? Go read it, and then tell me what exactly I should have excerpted, wiseguy.

  • Finally, a Liberal does something worthwhile in Washington. Now for Mad Cow and Softwood Lumber, Frank. Giddeup. (ht:Rayzilla)

  • "Let me be clear, sweetheart, she means nothing to me, now that you know about her."

  • I'm not in favour of capital punishment in many situations: no justice system is infallible, and once you're a resident at the Six Feet Under Hotel, a pardon doesn't really do you much good. But this particular individual needs to stop breathing now. I'm not too picky, any kind of dead will do.

  • "[Paul Martin] credits his office to entitlement, and he traces his qualifications to his pedigree. Daddy isn't here to save you, Paul. He isn't here to show you what to do. I'll give you a hint, though. Resign. It would be your first and only worthwhile act as Prime Minister."

I hope I've Hit these Quickly enough.

Babble off.

Harper's best line

Babble on.

Stephen Harper is undoubtedly a bright man. I believe him to be an honest and caring man as well, but that's just my impression, and it's certainly not a consensus opinion. I had the opportunity to see him speak live at a campaign stop last summer, and can testify that he's a much better public speaker than he's given credit for. And he is surely the best of all our choices for Canada's next Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, the man consistently manages to come across as a smug robot on TV. Tonight was no exception.

He had one fantastic moment, however:

We want Quebecers to choose Canada, and given an honest choice, Quebecers will always choose Canada.

But we must realize that what Quebecers will not do is choose corruption. They will not choose the Liberal Party.

The challenge for people outside Quebec is to show that we are equally prepared to demand accountability; to hold Mr. Martin and his party responsible and to build a united Canada where Liberal corruption has no place whatsoever. (Babbler's italics)

In three sentences, the man praises the integrity of Quebec voters (nurturing nascent CPC support), and challenges the Rest of Canada (read: Vote-Rich Ontario&trade) to demonstrate the same degree of principle. From where I sit, the subtle jab at Ontarian pride is brilliant - especially given the implication that Quebec is setting the standard. If they were listening - a big if, I know - Canadians in the Centre of the Universe won't sit still for that.

I just hope the best line of the night didn't get buried by Harper's delivery.

Babble off.

Why would we mark time?

Babble on.

Did anyone else feel physically uncomfortable watching Paul Martin grovel in front of a camera tonight?

I mean, finally admitting some personal and collective Liberal responsibility for Adscam in plain and unambiguous language was laudable, although way overdue. But it's hard to give him credit for the admission when it had to be coerced from him at poll-point.

Although, I have to say his plea that Canadians wait for Gomery's full report before going to the polls - with his personal guarantee that he'll call an election within thirty days of said report - struck a chord with me. All other things being equal, I'd prefer to know all the details of this mess before going to the polls.

But all other things aren't equal: waiting until November for the official verdict on Adscam means the nation's government pretty much marks time for half a year longer than it already has. Even if the Liberals suddenly discover an ambitious legislative agenda in the meantime, their minority government was won under wildly different circumstances. Those who voted Liberal in the last election might want an opportunity to change their decision.

Not to mention that two thirds of the electorate voted for something other than Liberal policies. As Stephen Harper mentioned, why would those folks want the opposition to cooperate with Liberal plans they didn't like in the first place. Just to play nice?

When I weigh these factors against the desire to know the whole Adscam story before voting, I can't justify the wait.

Besides, while Martin mouthed all the right words tonight, there was something in his demeanour that screamed desperation. This man is not a leader. Hence my discomfort watching him: he is embarrassing to himself and to the country in an internal crisis like this, but his indecisiveness and finger-to-the-wind management style could well be dangerous in a true crisis.

In the end, that justifies an election all by itself. Even if Adscam had never happened, Paul Martin is an abysmal leader, and one we should be rid of of as quickly as possible.

Babble off.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Sauce for the goose? Are you kidding?

Babble on.

Below is a press release from the National Citizens Coalition. I am publishing it in its entirety simply because I agree with it in its entirety.

NCC Says Corbeil Allegations Point to Liberal Hypocrisy on Gag law

(Toronto, April 21, 2005) The National Citizens Coalition says recent allegations suggest the federal Liberals are supreme hypocrites when it comes to election gag laws.

"The Liberal government enacted an election gag law supposedly to ensure a fair vote" says NCC vice president Gerry Nicholls. "Yet according to allegations from Benoit Corbeil, the former director of the Quebec wing of the Liberal party, the same Liberal government secretly violated Quebec’s gag law during the 1995 referendum."

Corbeil told Radio-Canada yesterday that "secret" Liberal funds were spent to aid the federalist forces in the referendum and that such spending clearly violated, if not smashed, Quebec electoral laws.

"Apparently, the Liberals think its OK for them to spend money to influence voters, even if it means breaking the law, but independent groups and private citizens must keep quiet during federal elections or go to jail," says Nicholls. "The Liberal mindset on this is not only hypocritical, it’s scary."

Nicholls points out that the Liberal government dragged the NCC into court, accusing it of breaking the gag law during the 2000 federal election.

"It seems the same Liberals who allegedly broke the Quebec gag law, were persecuting us for supposedly breaking the federal gag law,” says Nicholls. "It shows that the Liberal justification for this law – the need to create a level playing field – was a sham. They don’t care about level playing fields, they only care about stifling dissent."

The federal Liberal gag law imposes severe restrictions on what private citizens or groups can spend to express opinions during federal elections.

The NCC battled this law in the courts arguing it infringed on freedom of expression but last year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled it was constitutional.

This is an unjust law imposed by an unjust regime. On its own merits, the gag law should be repealed; but especially so now that it has proven so susceptible to exploitation and abuse. If the object of the law, however misguided, was to level the playing field during an election campaign, it has proven woefully inadequate to the task.

Babble off.

Defence review, first blush

Babble on.

As I feared, I haven't yet had an opportunity to review the government's Foreign Policy and Defence statements. Fortunately, the reliably straight-talking Lewis MacKenzie has:

Regrettably, the review's implementation faces major hurdles. Under current procurement procedures, it will take more than a decade to bring new major equipment on line, even if the cash is available. In the interest of national security, we must change procurement procedures. I'm also concerned that the esprit de corps that exists in formed regiments will be difficult to foster if the new special forces are based largely on temporary organizational structures. U.S. experience in Iraq confirms that homogeneous formed units with regimental spirit and élan are superior to those created for the event.

These are shrewd concerns. MacKenzie echoes both the Conference of Defence Associations and the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs in his worries about the procurement process. I would hazard an educated guess that the government is getting good advice on this front, if they're willing to take it.

His second point regarding unit cohesion and its importance to overall effectiveness is not up for debate: it has long been established that in the heat of battle, soldiers don't fight for God, Crown, or Country, they fight for their buddies next to them. The problem to which our retired general alludes is that cohesion is only one factor contributing to a fighting force's ability to accomplish its mission. An infantry company that lives, trains, and deploys together may well have wonderful esprit de corps, but it is wholly unsuited to the task of facilitating a naval blockade with air support, for example. The flexibility required by today's volatile international environment means that each package of deployed troops will have a different set of capabilities, and that often means mixing and matching troops.

Where to strike the balance between unit cohesion and customized capabilities on any given deployment is a tough call, and there's no textbook answer. That's why young officers are taught that military leadership is an art, not a science.

Here's hoping enough true leaders still wander the halls of NDHQ to make these difficult decisions well.

Babble off.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Chrétien's legacy: beyond Adscam

Babble on.

When Lt(N) Chris Saunders was killed by a fire at sea last October, I admonished Liberals - and one in particular - to stow their very public grief. I felt then that the Chrétien government bore a great and tragic responsibility for the decline of Canadian military capabilities, including the decisions surrounding the Upholder purchase, that contributed to this sailor's premature death. I found it grotesquely hypocritical for those who actively worked within the Chrétien government to stand front and centre with the mourners. I feel that way still.

The Commons Defence Committee has just released its report on the submarine purchase:

Armed with the information gathered during the January 1995 visit of the Upholders, the Minister of National Defence of the day, David Collenette, was presumably convinced that the condition of the British vessels was good enough to meet Canada’s requirement and that the price asked by the British was within the limitations identified by the 1994 Defence White Paper. Thus, he argued the case for proceeding with the acquisition at a meeting of the Cabinet in April 1995. As Mr. Collenette told the Committee, the Cabinet more or less gave its approval to the project, but Prime Minister Jean Chrétien had second thoughts. Many sectors of Canadian society including social and health programs as well as defence were starting to feel the effects of the cuts in federal government spending which the Liberal Cabinet believed necessary in order to reduce the national deficit. The Prime Minister was apparently concerned about the way the Canadian public would perceive the purchase of submarines at a time when many social and health programs were being cancelled or reduced. Further action on the acquisition project was delayed pending a better political climate for the announcement of yet another military equipment project on top of the purchase of new armoured personnel carriers and the replacement of search and rescue helicopters announced in the White Paper. Mr. Collenette’s testimony confirmed the speculation among journalists and academics that Prime Minister Chrétien had been directly involved in the decision to delay the acquisition.
However, the fact remains that by April 1995, most of the Upholders had been tied to a wharf for many months and, except for the electrical power fed from shore to demonstrate the electronic systems to prospective customers, the vessels were just soaking up the sun and the salt water. Both the Prime Minister and the Navy should have been concerned at this time about the effects of long periods of inactivity on the machinery aboard complex vessels like submarines. (Babbler's bold)

Decisions such as the one highlighted above do not exist solely in a world of political gamesmanship where polls and spin are all that matter; they have real-world consequences. And while the Committee's report has correctly pointed a finger at NDHQ both for underestimating the difficulties entailed in bringing the new subs up to operational standard, and for failing to cooperate completely with the Committee, let us not forget that neither task would have been nearly as onerous without Chrétien's decision to put selfish political image concerns before the national defence needs of his country, and before the safety of those serving in uniform.

Even the Globe and Mail cannot gloss over the Committee's unanimous conclusions (ht:Tarantino):

The Commons defence committee yesterday laid years of serious problems in Canada's submarine program squarely at Jean Chrétien's doorstep, saying the former prime minister's decision to postpone the purchase of four British subs in the 1990s effectively rendered them unseaworthy.

For. Shame.

Babble off.

Kinsella Audit

Babble on.

At the risk of feeding an ego that has already grown so large as to alter the tides, I am going to answer Angry's call for a Kinsella Audit:

  1. Feminists: Sorry - although some might say this counts, or this. Nah, that's just too much of a stretch.

  2. Gay Marriage: If you really need to see a pro or con label, you won't like my position. But hey - my knuckle-dragging tendencies show here and here, don't they?

  3. United Nations: Guilty as charged, I suppose. Although since I'm with Howard Dean on that last one, I dare the lefties to throw stones.

  4. Bilingualism: Nothing.

  5. Immigration: Does quoting someone else's post count?

  6. Anti-Tobacco Laws: Geez...empty again. I'm not doing too well here, am I?

  7. Liberals: Conceded. And I'm not going to give a link - pick a post and start reading.

  8. Fluoridation of Water: Y'know, I'd meant to get around to connecting ritual human sacrifice to the Chretien Liberals through the insidious use of flouride in tapwater, but never did. Damn.

  9. Metric: I can't believe I haven't written a post bashing a sensible base-ten measurement system that I've grown up using. Another missed opportunity.

  10. The Satanic subliminal pro-Stalinist messages used on episodes of The West Wing: Oh, come on. That's just silly.

Wow, I've been outed: five out of ten if you really, really stretch the strike zone. Two for ten is a more honest accounting.

I may well be forced to lift my knuckles from the sidewalk when I take my evening stroll, and start inhaling through my nose. The CPC Thought Police are probably coming to confiscate my Hidden Agenda decoder-ring as I type this.

Either that, or Dalton's McMinion is becoming even more shrill and hysterical than usual.

Babble off.

Monday, April 18, 2005

"Cher Claude..."

Babble on.

Paul Martin's semantic contortions when speaking about Claude Boulay were quite obviously crafted to give the impression that Martin's experience with the ad exec was remote. Of course, some folks know weasel words when they read them, and weren't fooled.

And while it looks like Martin may not have lied, his meticulously crafted, three-days-in-the-making sound bite didn't quite tell the whole story.

Some "wire brush" he's turning out to be.

Babble off.

Dear Reuters...

Babble on.

Gunner Wylie at Target Centermass not only provides us with some insight into the situation in Afghanistan, he ghost-writes for what remains of the Taliban:

Dear Reuters,

That great spring offensive we’ve been threatening? Forget about it.

We took a headcount recently and decided it was time to think outside the box. Outside the killzone, actually. First, we repeatedly got our asses handed to us on the battlefield by forces that were generally only assisted and supported by the Americans. After that series of failures swept us from our cruel, despotic rule, we bravely switched to guerrilla tactics. Okay, so our record was dismal in that, as well, and we were unable to dent the growing legitimacy of the new government or severely harm the Americans. Oh yeah, we were also getting shredded. That tends to harm morale, we admit.

Now, we have bravely decided to become the thugs and terrorists the world already knew us to be. In this, we may be able to kill more innocents while bravely saving some of our own asses.

the Taliban


Babble off.

Big week

Babble on.

It's going to be a big week for foreign affairs and defence here in Canada. The Commons Defence Committee is releasing a report today on military procurement. The government is also supposed to release its long-awaited International Policy Statement (IPS) today, and the related Defence Policy Statement (DPS) tomorrow.

I don't know if I'll have the opportunity to review any of these documents in the detail they deserve. In the meantime, I'll direct your attention to an article by Stephen Thorne that covers the Conference of Defence Associations' presentation to the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs (NDDN) - not that you would know a thing about it by visiting the NDDN website (ht:Debbye):

"At present, the department has inadequate numbers and expertise . . . to execute the existing capital acquisition plan," the association said in a report to the Commons defence committee.

"Existing approaches to military acquisitions and a dearth of project expertise lead to the troubling conclusion that transformation of the Canadian Forces . . . would not be possible before the year 2020."

The conclusions come as the all-party committee prepares to release a report on military procurement Monday. The panel is expected to say defence purchasing is weighed down in politics and inefficiency. [Babbler: politics? ya think?]
"In the last six months, those responsible for advancing capital acquisition projects have missed 90 per cent of their milestones," says the report.

"When that staff was twice its current size, it took 15 years to process major acquisitions."

The Commons panel is expected to conclude that four years of political delays imposed by ex-prime minister Jean Chretien contributed to deterioration of the used submarine fleet Canada acquired from Britain in the 1990s. [Babbler: I almost got sued for suggesting much less than this - simply that it was unseemly for Liberals connected with the Chretien government to grieve publicly over Lt (N) Chris Saunders' death]
During the tender process for the 1980s purchase of CF-18 fighter jets, only 25 per cent of the specifications focused on the military's technical and operational requirements for the aircraft.

Three-quarters of the data the government released to bidders related to industrial benefits, offsets, job creation and technology transfer.

The conference warns that if existing public administration practices at DND don't change, "a long period of dormancy awaits many military capabilities.

"As a consequence, some of these capabilities may be lost."

In a recent speech, Defence Minister Bill Graham agreed on the need to streamline military purchasing, saying it must be made a priority.

As I've mentioned before, if the biggest problem with military procurement is political interference, the Liberals are the last party in the House of Commons - and, yes, I mean I'd put the BQ ahead of them here - I'd trust to fix the process.

Babble off.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Liberal credibility: an oxymoron

Babble on.

Jacques Corriveau is now saying his suspicious invoices for "Olympic Stadium" events in places like Rimouski were simply misprints. He really did do the work he billed for, he claims.

Oh, and on the subject of billing:

Corriveau said Lemay decided the amounts of money he received for services he provided.

"I insist on saying I wasn't the one doing the asking," Corriveau said. "I was billing. There's a nuance between billing and asking. The amounts were dictated by Mr. Lemay."

Ah, 'nuance' raises it's ugly, misshapen head once again. Don't get me started on 'nuance'.

Apart from the nitty-gritty details of who did what for whom in this scandal, this information speaks to a bigger political issue for the federal Grits. Boiled down to the bones, here's the problem with this guy's testimony: nobody believes him. Absent any other information, the average voter doesn't trust anyone who conveniently misprints invoices and with a straight face states he doesn't determine his own rates. It just doesn't pass the smell test.

And while the generalization is undoubtedly unfair, the fact that he's a Quebec Liberal makes anything coming out of his mouth doubly suspect at this point.

Now the final record, when it's formally compiled months or years from now, may well exonerate this fellow. I have no crystal ball. But in the meantime, Paul Martin and his band of loyalists, wearing faces flushed Liberal red these days, are going to have to face the Canadian electorate.

If the gut reaction of Canadians to Liberal pronouncements has shifted from 'the benefit of the doubt' to simply 'doubt', they're in deep trouble.

Babble off.

Look what the cat dragged in

Babble on.

The JTF2 explosives expert who went AWOL and disappeared into the far east a couple of years back has turned up in Bangkok:

Two years ago, Special Forces Sgt. Montgomery Paisley cleaned out his bank account, sorted out his affairs, and vanished after taking a commercial flight to Thailand.

A 16-year veteran of the military, the explosives expert had an exemplary record and no signs of personal problems when he disappeared after landing in the southeast Asian country on Aug. 1, 2003.

During an extensive probe, Canadian and Thai investigators found no trace of Paisley. Last week, he turned up at the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok after 21 months.

Where he'd been in the interim remained a mystery Thursday.

It will be interesting to find out what motivated him to abandon his life here. Here's my guess: nothing. I'll bet he did this because he could. He had the training and the ability to disappear, so when something in his life threw him the sort of curveball the rest of us simply deal with and move on, he used it as an excuse to live out a Jason Bourne fantasy.

Let me reiterate that this is just a guess. I don't know this fellow from Adam - he might well have had a serious life-crisis event that none of us knew about, or a clinical psychological problem that went undiagnosed. If that's the case, you'll see me eat these words.

But my money says, while some feeble excuse will be put out there for public consumption after the shrinks interview him to death ("He reacted adversely to stress in both his personal and professional life"), we'll never get a truly credible and understandable rationale for his decision to pick up and leave.

Babble off.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

When no one wins

Babble on.

Chris Selley at Tart Cider takes on the issue of lesbian nuptials and an auxilliary Catholic organization (also addressed, pro and con, here and here) and comes up with a very balanced post.

My take on this story has always been this: if Ms Smith and Ms Chymyshyn were screwed out of some money, or if they wanted to seek damages for breach of contract, then let them take it to small claims court or whatever other court was appropriate.

Indeed. But that most reasonable avenue wouldn't have satisfied the flagrant activist bent of this particular couple. This stunt is quite obviously intended to stir a pot that requires no stirring.

In fact, it's worth spelling out just how much Stephen Harper and his scaaaary Conservatives are going to roll back gay rights in Canada:

A Conservative government, led by Stephen Harper, would propose legislation similar to the proposals outlined below:

1) Maintain the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

2) Provide the same rights, benefits and obligations to all couples.

3) Provide substantive protections for religious institutions.
We will recognize the rights of other couples, while maintaining the traditional definition of marriage. Same-sex couples who have already been married have been granted certain rights, which we would respect. (Emphasis by Babbler)

But enough of that - back to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal:

Paragraph 42 of the Knights' defence reads as follows ([TC's] emphasis):

The Respondents denied the Complainants the Hall because they do not rent the Hall for uses that are contrary to core Catholic beliefs. With respect to same-sex unions, the Knights' standard of conformity with and support of Catholic belief precludes the Hall where it is to be used to promote, solemnize or celebrate same-sex unions. The standard would not, for instance, apply to deny the Hall to a person simply because he or she is homosexual.

Maybe Port Coquitlam's gay square-dancing club will test that theory in the future, but for now I'm inclined to take the Knights at their word.

This is not, as Jonathan Dursi tries to spin it, a case of the KofC using religion as an excuse to treat someone shoddily. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the true shoddiness is the way the honest folks at this KofC hall have been treated by the couple in question. I know if I was volunteering my time to a church auxilliary organization, I would certainly not appreciate being used purely as an adversary of convenience by someone pushing their own agenda as these two women have.

The state can legislate tolerance, but it cannot - and should not even attempt to - legislate acceptance. This case has already hurt the gay-rights cause more than it has helped. Moderate Canadians may be sympathetic to the plight of homosexual couples, but they will not appreciate this obvious attempt to pick a fight with an organization that seeks only to provide service to the community. Moreover, this case will not force the Knights, or any other church-affiliated organization to accept gay marriage - I'd bet good money the group would nail its hall doors shut before it allowed that.

If Ms Smith and Ms Chymyshyn win this battle in court, the victory will be a pyrrhic one.

Babble off.

So what's your point?

Babble on.

Kate at small dead animals links to the following survey which indicates 8.3% of Saskatchewan residents make sure their campfire is out by checking "coals for heat with bare hands."

To which I have to say: "Yeah, what's your point?"

In the summer of 1992, I completed a military aircrew land survival course - how to survive in the woods if you have to bail out of your aircraft. It was taught by some pretty serious outdoorsmen, including a number of SAR (Search And Rescue) Techs. If you've never met a SAR Tech...well, since their job often involves parachuting into forests in bad conditions to try to save plane wreck survivors, and roughing it at the crash site for days until ground teams can reach them, SAR Techs tend to have pretty solid practical knowledge of how things should work in the bush.

I vividly recall being taught by these folks how to extinguish a campfire that has been burning continuously for a number of days.

"Being caught in a forest fire that turns you into Kentucky Fried Officer Cadet can ruin your whole day. So you need to make sure your campfire is completely extinguished before leaving your site. To do this, pour water into your fire pit until the coals and ashes turn into a loose mud. Then pour some more water on.

When you feel you've doused it thoroughly, stick your bare hand into the mud right down to the bottom of your fire pit, and stir it around. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, you haven't used enough water."

After we were done spending a few days alone in the woods up near Jarvis Lake, AB and the course instructors came by our individual campsites to collect us for the trip back to CFB Edmonton, they actually watched us follow that procedure.

Sticking your bare arm into a fire pit is serious stuff. So is a forest fire. Works for me.

Babble off.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

While I'm at it...

Babble on.

As a blogger, some days you have to dig to find the posts; other days the posts seem to dig to find you.

Since today seems to be gay-day at Babbling Brooks (it's unsettling that I'm always the last one to know about these periodic fate-mandated takeovers of my agenda), I will direct your attention to this Washington Post editorial about gays in the U.S. military:

Army Sgt. Robert Stout received a Purple Heart after an exploding grenade in Iraq last May left shrapnel in his face, arm and legs. He would like to remain in the military, and he said in an interview that he would reenlist were it not for the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. But Sgt. Stout is through denying that he is gay, so he recently declared his sexual orientation to the Associated Press. Now he'll be lucky if he's allowed to serve out his tour, which ends in May, without being kicked out of the service. For under U.S. policy, even the most decorated and patriotic gay soldier is just a homosexual to be rooted out at the military's earliest convenience.
There's no evidence that gay soldiers undermine military discipline or perform badly. American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan fight alongside allied forces that don't discriminate.

Yet as Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) put it to the Miami Herald in explaining her decision to back the bill: "We investigate people. Bring them up on charges. Basically wreck their lives." These are "people who've signed up to serve our country. We ought to be thanking them." She's right. Who dares tell Sgt. Stout that he is unfit for service? (Babbler's bold)

Ms. Ros-Lehtinen hits the nail squarely on the head. And I have to say, it's refreshing to hear a Republican speak out on the right side of this particular issue.

Babble off.

Get. Away. From. Me.

Babble on.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a socially-conservative advocacy group tersely requesting I post their press release on my site. The text of the release was boilerplate anti-SSM stuff.

Here was my response:

You've mistaken me for someone who cares about your narrow agenda.

Damian Brooks

Anyone who has bothered to look up my opinion on the matter of same-sex marriage knows my position doesn't line up with any official party position - even the CPC policy. It certainly doesn't line up with the so-con our-way-or-the-highway view.

I care about Canada's flagging economic competitiveness in an increasingly competitive world; I care about the devaluation of our system of criminal law and enforcement; I care about our incoherent foreign and defence policies, and how they are diminishing Canadian impact on the world stage; I care about keeping governmental influence out of my family's child-rearing choices as much as possible.

This is but a small sampling of the lengthy list of things I care about way, WAY more than I care about legal recognition of two men or two women who want to commit to their relationship and call it a marriage. Because I'm sensitive to the overpowering religious connotations of that word, I've advocated using a different term, but I've advocated using that term (civil union) for all - heterosexuals included.

Honest to Pete, have we not got bigger fish to fry than this?

You want to fight for marriage? Go after no-fault divorce laws. Go after serial polygamists. Go after adulterers. The problem with marriage today isn't gays, for crying out loud, people - it's a lack of commitment! Get your head screwed on straight.

And in the meantime, don't blithely assume I give more than a rat's hindquarters about your narrow view of relationships and the government's place in them.

Babble off.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The perfect purchase?

Babble on.

While I continue to believe Jean Chretien's cancellation of the Sea King replacement contract a dozen years ago was disgraceful, this article shows that the EH-101/Cormorant airframe isn't without its problems.

Maj. Alain Robichaud, service manager for the Cormorant fleet, said the [tail rotor] hubs have been replaced 87 times on the 15 new Cormorant helicopters since the military first began flying them in October 2001.

"We don't really understand at the moment," Robichaud said. "There's a lot of effort being put into finding out."

Much as we clamour for efficiency in government contracting - and rightly so - perfect procurements, especially for high-tech, high-priced items like military aircraft, are about as common as confirmed unicorn sightings.

Babble off.

Update: Nicholas says all this much more eloquently than I do. One of these days, I really should learn how to write.

Monday, April 11, 2005

In yet another sign of the coming apocalypse...

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This just in: Toronto Star columnist supports prominent U.S. neo-con appointment on United Nations reform. In other news, 747 pilot reports a flock of pigs in V-formation at 30,000 feet. More at eleven.

Of course, Carol Goar's praise has nothing to do with the appointee's work ethic, intelligence, or any other attribute over which said appointee exerts control. Her praise has everything to do with said appointee's gender.


Babble off.

Standard fare

Babble on.

Sue at Turning 30 And A Half has raised the latest edition of the Red Ensign Standard:

Almost a year ago, I was fortunate to meet someone who made me stand up and become more vocal about my beloved Canada. Ironically, it was a member of the US Navy, who is currently deployed in the Iraq. During our many conversations, he has become a lightening rod for my patriotism. I have become alarmingly aware of our lack of international stature, our flagging military and the political problems that often find our country the punchline of some joke. It made me realize more than ever how far we have fallen from what we stand for, but how much promise we hold. Finding the like-minded souls who fly the Red Ensign flag in the blogosphere reminds me that we do have a chance and there are many people who have not lost hope.

Congrats to the newbie on a job well done.

Babble off.

Wired for stupidity

Babble on.

It's contest time at Babbling Brooks!

Scott Reid's he-did-NOT-just-say-that, jaw-droppingly laughable assertion that "Paul Martin is the wire brush that will scrub clean this stain on Canadian politics" absolutely begs to be mocked. And since I'm not nearly the most sharp-tongued individual screaming into the blogospheric void, I'm opening things up to any and all.

Occam's Carbuncle is an early favourite: "According to Martin's mouthpiece, Scott Reid, Martin is the "wire brush" that will scrub Canadian politics clean. As analogies go, I don't think it's the best. Let me offer one of my own - Paul Martin is the wet sponge that will water down and spread thin the stain on Canadian politics without actually cleaning anything. The optics will be a bit more appealing, but the filth will remain."

The Monger: "That's some wire brush, Mr. Reid. Reminds me of that old children's rhyme, 'wire, wire, pants on fire.'"

Professor Cosh: "Honestly, now, if you moved this metaphor any closer to the bathroom, there'd be no room for anybody to sit down. What have we come to when the communications director for the prime minister of Canada comes within an ace of referring to his own party as a filthy toilet in need of some elbow grease?"

Rob Cottingham: "'Paul Martin is the wire brush that will scrub clean this stain on Canadian politics,' Mr. Reid said. And he bristled at any suggestion otherwise."

Dana is typically blunt: "See, he did it again! Paul Martin is a wire brush? What the f@#k does that mean!"

Canada Free Press Blog: "No seriously, Scott, I think the more apt comparison is not a wire brush, but a colonic irrigation tube, about to be shoved up Jean Chretien’s...oh never mind..."

POGGE: "If you were eating or drinking and ended up spewing on your keyboard when you read that, I apologize. I should have issued an upchuck alert."

My favourite so far, though, comes from RightThinkingPeople: "Reid went on to argue that Brush-Man stands always on guard, keeping watch on our behalf, ready to leap into action should the forces of evil ever threaten our fair city, or at least drip evil stains on our carpets and upholstery. Reid added that Brush-Man can’t wait to get scouring, and attack the foul and disgusting blotches glopped on Canada's political fabric by his vile predecessor, which have been uncovered by Brush-Man's trusty henchman, the ever-vigilant Gominator™. Reid further noted that all those who stand in opposition must fear Brush-Man and beware his sanitary might – because Brush-Man is always ready to scrub!" It's worth reading the whole darned thing, just not while eating or drinking - safety first, kids.

Feel free to nominate others in the comments section, or to compose your own special tribute to Reid's shameless lie.

Paul Martin's a wire brush? Stephen Harper's a sandblaster, you pin-dicked word-weasel, and a truckload of Javex to boot. I'd suggest you pull your head out of Paul Martin's poop chute before you even mention the word "clean" again.

Babble off.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Thanks, but no thanks

Babble on.

For all those vexed by Blogger's ill-timed meltdowns recently, Wicked Thoughts offers this explanation:

About 48 hours ago they introduced this new "improvement" (called "Recover Post") WITHOUT first checking how well it worked. And the cookies the new software saved to your hard disk turned out to be highly poisonous. The cookie told your browser not to recognize the Blogger site at all! If an evil hacker had set out to bring down Blogger, he could not have done a better job! So Blogger software became permanently inaccessible to all Blogger users with the poisonous cookie on their disks.

Ready, fire, aim. It'll get you every time. Especially when the firearm is pointed at your own foot.

Babble off.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Worth reading

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As far as the implications of Brault's testimony are concerned, a number of familiar bloggers have great commentary posted. Following is just a sampling - you want the complete and unabridged list, Dust My Broom will hook you up.

Alan at Occam's Carbuncle rarely requires more than fifty words to say what I can't express in five-hundred. This post is no exception:

According to Martin's mouthpiece, Scott Reid, Martin is the "wire brush" that will scrub Canadian politics clean. As analogies go, I don't think it's the best. Let me offer one of my own - Paul Martin is the wet sponge that will water down and spread thin the stain on Canadian politics without actually cleaning anything.

Disagreement over the publication ban aside, Kate McMillan has two posts up today that are must-reads. If a picture paints a thousand words, why do three pictures leave me speechless? And just in case you didn't think Adscam could get much worse, Kate gives us a sneak peek at the rest of the iceberg.

Angry takes a walk through the Valley of Death and discovers a shameful silence:

Bottom line, the braintrust that constitutes the left wing of Canadian politics has nothing of substance to say with regards to allegations of institutionalized corruption at the highest levels of the governing Liberal Party. But they've got opinions about labour pension fund activism at Bombadier, dated yesterday.

What does this mean? I suspect they are studiously ignoring the issue, simply because they can't construct a coherent defence for what has been alleged, at least not quickly. And they are unwilling, at least right now, to criticize the Liberals and demand an election, because they fear that the Conservatives will come to power.

They'd rather keep the crooked Liberals. They just can't say that, so they're saying nothing.

Personally, I think they need a good dose of NDP MP Bill Blaikie:

Mr. Speaker, all this House and all the Canadian people ask of this Liberal government is one ounce of humility, one ounce of collective responsibility, one ounce of realizing that what is at stake here is not just the Liberal Party but the face of federalism in Quebec and across the country.

For the sake of Canada, for the sake of federalism and for the sake of integrity in Canadian politics, will someone get up and accept the collective responsibility for what has gone on and promise to repay the money, put it aside and put it somewhere where we can get access to it when we know what finally happened?

This is going to be one hell of an interesting ride. Hold on tight.

Babble off.

Update: POGGE proves once again why he is the class of the Canadian left (in comments to this post - be sure to read them all):

How often do we (meaning those coming at this from the left) complain about greed and corruption in the private sector? We maintain that some things should be run by the government because we can't trust those evil capitalists to do it properly. So here we have evidence of the Liberal party living up to our stereotype of the evil capitalists and we're supposed to say "Ah well, we knew they were corrupt but it's only a small part of the budget. Better the devil we know."

If that's the attitude we take, how do we look our opponents in the eye?

Integrity. There is no substitute.

Looks good on him

Babble on.

With a bow to Colbert's Comments, I direct you to this story with no further commentary.

Well, maybe with one teensy-weensy bit of commentary: for a political strategist specializing in spin, this is amateurish optics, dontcha think?

Babble off.

OK, my last, LAST thoughts...for now

Babble on.

While Blogspot was busy enacting its own publication ban yesterday and today, it seems some commenters were unable to reply to my post here. At least one of them e-mailed me instead:

Your premise is incorrect.

I never accepted that linking to legally obtained information on a US site constituted publication - Irwin Cotler's office doesn't make law.

What they did was _threaten_ to lay contempt charges. Threat is the operative word. There's no need to write law or prove your case if you can simply intimidate people into backing down, is there? I chose not to back down.

That said, I had a heads up on the content that would be published.

It was pretty clear it had very little to do with Brault and a whole lot to do with very powerful people who would do whatever it took to have it never see the light of day if they were able. Remember that the original plan was to keep the ban in place until the jury was sequestered.

The Liberal machine used the time the ban afforded them to try to innoculate the public, to spin, to confuse and maneuver (eg. Liberal Party asks RCMP to investigate fraud against it). And that was just on the surface. There will be an army of lawyers plotting strategy around the clock.

The flood of readers and media frenzy over Captains Quarters undoubtedly helped speed the lifting of the ban. Without the public and media outcry over the details that were leaked (leak is a bad word, as the hearings were always public anyway) the ban might have remained in place much longer.

Her first point is well-taken, and supported by others with some legal training: Quebec Liberal MP Irwin Cotler's office doesn't have the final word on what constitutes a breach of the publication ban. And it's certainly not unheard-of for a Liberal lawyer to threaten frivolous court action in order to stifle critics.

I have a hard time swallowing Kate's second point, where she seems to imply that Gomery is complicit in the Liberals' attempts to bury damaging information indefinitely. Justice Gomery is no friend to the Liberals - efforts to discredit him such as 'Gomery Pyle' commentary and the accelerating push to unseat him sway me here. Besides, as I've stated previously - ad nauseum, all over the blogosphere in fact - if he'd really, really wanted to sweep this testimony under a heavy rug, he would have heard it in camera. Ask Maher Arar just how effective that tactic can be.

Kate's third point, crediting Captain's Quarters for the speedy release of Brault's testimony is open to perpetual debate. If the trial date hadn't been postponed, we might still be under the ban; if Captain Ed hadn't publicized the testimony, Gomery might still have removed the ban once the testimony was complete; if Brault’s testimony had proven relevant to his trial, it might have remained under wraps.

If, if, if. I tend to take Gomery at his word here: he needed to hear all the testimony before he could determine what would be prejudicial, and what wouldn't. He imposed a temporary ban in order to consider that question, and lifted as much of it as possible, as quickly as possible.

Here's my question for Kate, Angry in the Great White North, and those who actively undermined Gomery's original injunction, but support the continuation of the partial ban even now: how exactly do you reconcile these positions?

Even more importantly, if Paul Coffin’s testimony, to pick an example, is put under a temporary publication ban as Brault’s was, but this time much of it turns out to be pertinent to his upcoming criminal trial, will you promote circumventing the ban once again? I’m certain some enterprising foreign blogger will publish a bootleg summary, so it’s entirely possible you’ll be forced to deal with this situation in the near future.

Alternatively, if Gomery decides not to engage in an unedifying game of electronic hide-and-seek with bloggers, and holds future testimony in camera instead, will your effort to promote ‘free speech’ in Canada not have proven counterproductive?

I think Alan’s position from my comments, while naïve (each party has its own sources within the inquiry, and will inevitably know more than you do, more quickly than you do – in camera, publication ban, or nothing at all), is at least consistent: all testimony or none, for everyone.

One thing is certain: the debate over freedom of information in this country is far from over.

Babble off.