January 2011 Archives
The dictatorship in Egypt is despicable. But the "democracy" protest there is fake.
Unconfirmed press reports put the number of protesters in Cairo's Liberation Square at 50,000. Greater Cairo has a population of 19 million people.
But the press loved it. Google News lists 20,000 news stories about the protests. And those are just the ones written in English.
Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite TV channel known for its sympathy for Islamic terrorism, had non-stop coverage of the rally. That's a clue.
One protester is Mohamed ElBaradei. On Sunday he told CNN "I have been authorized, mandated, by the people who organized these demonstrations and many other parties to agree on a national unity government —I should be in touch soon with the army."
Not a word about democracy. Talking with "organizers" is enough for ElBaradei to demand power. Not from the people, mind you, but from the army.
This is the man the CBC calls "Egypt's pro-democracy leader." But ElBaradei has never run for office or led a political party. Since 1964, he has lived outside Egypt, returning only in the past few months. He wasn't even in the country when the protests started. But he quickly flew back to take credit for them. After being on Egyptian soil for three days, he declared himself president-in-waiting, and the media ate it up.
What was ElBaradei doing outside of the country? Working for the United Nations, mostly. He ran the International Atomic Energy Agency, the weapons inspectors.
The IAEA takes instructions from the UN. But ElBaradei flipped that around, arguing against liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein — an unprecedented politicization of the IAEA civil service.
That was just a dress rehearsal for ElBaradei's biggest achievement: Stalling the nuclear inspection of Iran. He doesn't hide his contempt for the West. Though his assignment was Iran, ElBaradei says Israel is "the number one threat to the Middle East," and attacks America and Israel for the "civilian carnage" they cause.
That's what ElBaradei said when he lived in Europe. Imagine what he'll be like if he becomes the boss of Egypt.
ElBaradei has no democratic legitimacy. He has no grassroots support — unless you count journalists. He's depending on the muscle of the Muslim Brotherhood, the fundamentalist group responsible for the assassination of two Egyptian leaders.
ElBaradei isn't shy about his Muslim Brotherhood links; he appears at press conferences with them. ElBaradei's job is to charm western reporters while his allies plan an Islamic state. ElBaradei told CNN his patrons "are no way extremists. They are no way using violence."
He compared them to Orthodox Jews — classy, given that the Jew-killing terrorist group, Hamas, is a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate.
Last week, another Iran-backed terrorist group, Hezbollah, installed its man, Najib Mikati, as prime minister of Lebanon. And Rachid Gannouchi, a Muslim fundamentalist leader, flew home to Tunisia after 22 years in exile.
The Muslim Brotherhood says it will have a million protesters on the street Tuesday. Even if it's 100,000, Al Jazeera will call it a million. Is that enough to justify transforming Egypt from a military dictatorship to an Islamic dictatorship?
Jimmy Carter lost Iran to the ayatollahs, and the world is still paying the price.
Barack Obama just lost Lebanon. Tunisia and Egypt weren't heaven. But they are slipping in to hell, while Obama stares blinking into his teleprompter.
That's the question I ask in my new Sun column:
Last week Jean Chretien, the former prime minister, weighed in on the spat between Canada and the United Arab Emirates.
He took the side of the foreign dictatorship, saying under Stephen Harper, “this problem has not been well managed.”
How fitting that Chretien came to the defence of one Arab dictatorship, the UAE, while doing business in another Arab dictatorship, Saudi Arabia.
Chretien has a soft spot for dictators.
Last year, again on foreign soil, he condemned the Canadian government’s relations with China, saying “we’ve lost a lot of ground in China and I think it is not good.”
Some might think Chretien’s embrace of foreign dictators is a product of his business interests. Mere weeks after stepping down as prime minister, Chretien went to work lobbying foreign governments. It’s hard to believe that wasn’t on his mind when he was still setting Canada’s foreign policy.
He is active in dictatorships like China and Vietnam. And Chretien’s son-in-law, Andre Desmarais, is the president of Power Corp., a company with many projects in China including the China-Tibet railway.
But give Chretien the benefit of the doubt. After all, he has appeased dictatorships where he had no personal interest. Take Chretien’s civil liberties implosion, the 1997 APEC summit in Vancouver. Chretien’s office micromanaged security, telling police that protesters, who opposed the inclusion of Indonesian dictator Suharto, should be moved. The RCMP pepper-sprayed protesters en masse. Chretien had a good laugh, saying he preferred pepper on his plate. Charming.
There is nothing illegal about Chretien lobbying dictatorships on behalf of well-heeled companies. Ten years of political appeasement surely built up a lot of goodwill in China and the Arab world. But it becomes unseemly when Chretien starts badgering Canada on behalf of those foreign countries.
Chretien is echoing the UAE’s spin: That Canada’s decision to deny additional landing slots to their state-run Emirates Airline is a policy gaffe committed by stubborn old Harper. In fact, it’s the same position taken by France, Germany and South Korea.
At least Chretien didn’t repeat the latest UAE spin: That they are our ally in the war on terror. According to NATO, the UAE has — wait for it — 15 troops in Afghanistan, far away from the dangers in Kandahar. Sooud al Qassemi, a member of the UAE’s ruling family, tried out the ally spin in the Globe and Mail this month, claiming “hundreds of injured Canadian troops were given free medical care in the UAE before being airlifted home.”
In fact, not a single Canadian war casualty is treated in the UAE.
Theoretically, a dictatorship can be an ally. But by throwing a tantrum and evicting Canada from the air base near Dubai, the UAE shows they’re not only immature and petulant, they also are willing to endanger the lives of our soldiers and foist huge costs on our military.
You’d think billionaire shiekhs would want a friend like Canada and would be thrilled to have us nearby, given how close they are to Iran — a Shiite dictatorship that would love to swallow up the UAE and its oil.
But the UAE wants it both ways. The absolute ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, told western diplomats he wants NATO to protect them from Iran. But he’s against sanctions on Iran.
According to a 2007 U.S. diplomatic cable, Rashid is “concerned regarding the prospect of more comprehensive UN economic sanctions, given that Iran is Dubai’s largest trading partner.”
Some ally. They kick us out, putting our military at risk. They send a token force of 15 men to Afghanistan, and claim that’s their share. They demand NATO protect them from Iran.
Yet they’re against sanctions because they want to make money with Iran.
The UAE and its state-run airline isn’t our ally. The question is, at what point do we start calling them an enemy?
I've written before about Piers Morgan, CNN's new star TV host. It's important that viewers, especially Americans, know Morgan's discreditable history of smearing British troops in Afghanistan.
Morgan is trying to reinvent himself on this side of the Atlantic, and CNN certainly has invested enough in promoting him. How's that working out?
Well, put it this way: their new superstar has fewer viewers than the tired old warhorse Larry King did, who was given the boot. Even bringing on the Kardashian sisters didn't help.
I'd call it sad, but I'm not actually sad about it.
Today the Calgary Sun published this letter to the editor, defending the United Arab Emirates and their state-owned airline, Emirates Airlines. As per Sun style, the one-line rejoinder underneath it was written by a Sun editor:
Re: “Keep UAE flying low,” (Ezra Levant, Jan. 25) The UAE has a “forever” leader, yes, because he is the best. Slave labour exists (according to Levant) but illiterate third-world labour forces are there by choice and not by force. As per the Israelis not allowed in UAE policy, one in a million (if any) Emirati is ever allowed in Israel. Dubai’s economy runs on trade, commerce and tourism. Oil is just a side income. By the way a Canadian recently was jailed for 15 days for slapping his wife in the city of Dubai. What does that tell you? Please stop being a typical stereotype jealous cat. Emirates airline is doing excellent in the world because of its service. Canada is afraid of a little competition. 9/11 and UAE? What is Levant so concerned about? The U.S. allows Emirates airline in five of its cities seven days a week.
(Kicking Canada’s Camp Mirage out of the UAE was beyond the pale.)
You've got to admit that's a pretty awesome example of persuasive communications.
Can Emirates Airlines even really be called a company, if it's 100% owned by a foreign dictatorship, doesn't pay taxes, gets a free, state of the art airport built by near-slave labour, etc., etc.? And today the great moral exemplar, Jean Chretien, took its side against Canada. From pepper-spraying Canadians protesting against Suharto at the APEC conference, to shilling for China, to this, is there a world dictator Chretien won't support?
I'm all for competition amongst companies. But I think there's a difference when a foreign dictatorship dresses up as a company, and pretends to compete as a company, but is actually a tool of foreign policy. Maybe someone ought to write a book called "Ethical Airlines".
Here's a documentary about the treatment of workers in Dubai.
I know it's not as much fun to talk about as all that great shopping. You'd think the parties of the left would give a damn about the treatment of workers. But there's all that great shopping! And the stewardesses on Emirates are so pretty.
Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator during the Second World War, is called a fascist but an equally accurate label is “corporatist.”
Private corporations were allowed to operate, but Mussolini had control over them. It was a partnership between the government and everyone else, and Mussolini was the senior partner.
For a while, Mussolini’s corporatist dictatorship dazzled the world with its achievements. When North America languished in the Depression, Italy built the world’s fastest cruise ship and fastest sea plane and massive public works projects. Admirers said he “made the trains run on time.”
So, pretty much like today’s United Arab Emirates.
The UAE is a dictatorship. But it allows companies to operate, often with a member of the royal family involved.
Unlike Mussolini, the UAE has two huge sources of wealth. It’s an OPEC nation with enormous oil reserves. And though it only has a million citizens, four million temporary foreign labourers do all the work, with low pay and few civil rights.
It’s easy to forget the brutal reality of the UAE when looking at gleaming skyscrapers in its famous cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It’s easy to see how people were dazzled by fascists in the 1930s.
The world’s largest skyscraper is in Dubai. It’s called the Burj Khalifa. Burj means tower. Khalifa is the name of the UAE’s president-for-life. When you know that, it makes it a little creepy. And if you know it was built by slave-wage migrants from the third world, it becomes even less glamourous.
Being gay in the UAE is a crime punishable with prison terms and forced hormone “treatments.” Being a woman means your husband has the legal right to beat you. Having an Israeli passport means you’re not allowed in at all.
So we’ve got ourselves a Jew-free zone where gays are in jail, minorities work as slaves, wife-beating is lawful and camel racing is the national sport. So it won’t surprise you to learn the UAE had diplomatic ties to the Taliban on 9/11.
Khalifa named the world’s biggest phallic symbol after himself. But that’s not all. How did a country with just a million citizens build one of the world’s largest airlines, called Emirates?
That’s easy. Their CEO is another sheikh, Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, whose nephew just happens to be the absolute monarch of Dubai. Emirates Airlines doesn’t pay any taxes. Its state-of-the-art airport was built for free (thanks, nephew!) And labour unions are illegal. No wonder they make a profit. Mussolini would be proud.
Emirates isn’t just a company. It’s a foreign policy tool of a family of dictators, who use it as a battering ram against competitors.
Think of Emirates as a foreign air force fighting an economic and political battle. It’s a fair description, since its first planes were a gift from UAE’s air force.
Canada denied Emirates extra landing slots. The Liberals sided with the sheikhs. But they’re wrong.
Democracies around the world are joining Canada. Last week, Germany refused Emirates landing rights at its new Berlin airport. France and South Korea did the same. It’s one thing to have a private competitor, like British Airways, bash Air Canada around.
May the best company win all the passengers.
But what country would allow a corporatist dictatorship to deliberately destroy its airline industry?
And, come to think of it, a few hundred Communist Chinese diplomats, too? (CSIS estimates there are 1,000 Chinese spies in Canada, who steal $1 billion a month in industrial secrets. That happens to be a dollar value greater than the amount of goods and services China imports from Canada.)
The Iranian Embassy sent a formal request to Canada’s national Library and Archives last week demanding they cancel the screening of a movie that criticizes Iran’s nuclear program.
And the Library agreed.
It’s a Canadian government institution, owned by the federal government and funded by taxpayers.
And they actually took instructions from a foreign tyrant.
Canada imposes trade sanctions against Iran. We are among the most vocal critics of that country’s dictatorship. A Canadian delegation, led by Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, even walked out of the United Nations last year rather than listen to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speak.
It’s not only a principled stand. It’s personal, too. Remember that Iranian police raped and murdered a Canadian citizen, Zahra Kazemi, as political punishment.
But a letter from their embassy was enough for Canada’s Library to collapse.
The Library had a contract with Ottawa’s Free Thinking Film Society to screen a movie called Iranium, about Iran’s nuclear threat.
No wonder Iran wanted to censor it.
That’s not the surprising part. The surprising part is the Library complied.
Maybe they were inspired by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, which just recently banned the classic rock song Money for Nothing.
If it’s OK for the CBSC to ban a song because a single person was offended, why couldn’t the Library ban a movie?
The film organizers managed to get the Library to rethink their contract-violating ban. For a while. Because then the Library claimed they received security threats and cancelled the film again.
Why expect less?
They probably did get threats. If the Iranian government had no compunction attacking democracy activists in Iran itself, why would it hesitate to attack Canadian critics?
Cabinet ministers Jason Kenney and James Moore immediately condemned the Library’s collapse. Moore, the heritage minister, ordered them to reschedule the film. And no doubt Ottawa Police will be there to keep the peace.
This is a troubling shakedown in our nation’s capital, orchestrated by foreign interests. But it’s not unique.
Just a few weeks ago, Ottawa Police suggested that Coptic Christians restrict their celebrations of Christmas, out of fear of attacks like those in Egypt.
It’s the job of police to protect people at a church, not to tell them to stay away from their church.
But perhaps the most brazen foreign censor in Canada is Communist China. China has a pathological hatred of a peaceful spiritual sect called the Falun Gong. In China itself, Falun Gong adherents are routinely arrested and tortured. Roughly half of the people in China’s forced labour camps are Falun Gong. As documented by former Canadian MP David Kilgour, the most grotesque punishment meted out by the Chinese government is forced organ harvesting, where Falun Gong adherents literally have their bodies cut open and their organs seized by the government and sold for cash.
It’s a tactic Nazi “doctor” Josef Mengele would have approved of.
China’s hatred for the Falun Gong colours much of their diplomatic activity in Canada. Nothing is too petty for the Chinese Embassy to do.
In 2008, they pressured the Ottawa Tulip Festival into kicking out a Falun Gong band from playing in the festival as planned. In 2002, the same festival banned a Falun Gong float from the parade. In 2007, the Chinese Embassy tried to organize a letter-writing campaign to the CRTC to stop a TV channel critical of the Chinese regime from getting a licence. They even pressured a seniors’ association into revoking the membership of a 73-year-old woman who was Falun Gong. It’s endless.
Here’s a better idea. Let’s treat these extraterritorial acts of censorship the same way we treat espionage.
When we catch a foreign spy, we deport him. So let’s do the same thing with foreign embassies corroding our freedom.
Next time a Canadian Falun Gong is bullied, we kick out a Chinese diplomat.
Let’s start with a flourish by kicking out two Iranian diplomats.
I've been so busy having fun with Ethical Oil and other trouble-making, that the launch of Sun TV News has almost sneaked up on me! It's just two months away.
As you may know, I will have a daily, one-hour show on the channel. That will be part of the "straight talk" side of the hard news/straight talk formula.
Sun TV News is hiring staff directly for many positions. But one of the things I want to do is something we did at the Western Standard magazine: having bright young interns who wanted to be involved in journalism, but didn't yet have the experience to be full-fledged reporters.
So I'm signing up interns for my show, starting right now.
What are the qualifications? Experience is less important than smarts. A philosophical commitment to liberty is essential. Given that we're a daily show, speed is important.
Maybe the most important quality is a rejection of the consensus media groupthink that dominates Canadian journalism today.
I'm looking for help in different areas. Research is the most important. Web/Facebook/YouTube skills are another area. Being in Toronto would be a definite plus of course, but it's not essential.
As with most TV internships, there is no salary -- the payment is national-class work experience and, where applicable, credit for school programs. But I know from my Western Standard days that bright interns often become full-time paid staffers -- their work is just so good, and valuable.
Are you interested? Are you a young Canadian who wants to be a part of the most exciting media adventure in a decade? Do you want to help shape the national discussion, from the inside? If so, then send me your resume and a one-page cover letter telling me what you want to do, and why. E-mail it to me at email@example.com, and put INTERNSHIP as the subject line.
I remember what it feels like to be part of something new and exciting and meaningful: when I was in my twenties, I joined the National Post just a few months after it was launched by Conrad Black. Those early days had a goldrush feeling to them. I get the sense that Sun TV News will feel that way, too.
Send your resume in now. We launch in mid-March, so there's plenty to do!
I guess Mario Dumont has been talking to his Quebec audience about Ethical Oil for a few weeks now. Here are his comments about them on January 7th (fast forward to 4 minutes in).
For weeks, CNN has been hyping Piers Morgan, a British reality TV celebrity, as their replacement for Larry King, who retired. More accurately, Morgan has been hyping himself on CNN. That's always been his style.
A lot of people tuned in to Morgan's first night. But almost half of them -- 800,000 -- didn't bother watching him the next night. He plummeted down to just 1.2 million viewers, just a shade more than the unwatchable Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity nearly doubled Morgan, with 2.2 million viewers.
Morgan is best known to Americans as the winner of Donald Trump's TV show, "Celebrity Apprentice", a few seasons ago where he came across as energetic and clever, and a bit of an operator. And that's true, but that's not really the whole story about who Morgan really is.
Morgan is the former editor of the British tabloid, the Daily Mirror. And when he was editor, he ran a front-page story, with a shocker photo, of British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners, Abu Ghraib-style. Here's the screaming cover:
Mario Dumont is a former political leader in Quebec who is now the host of a popular news program there. This week he interviewed Prime Minister Stephen Harper about a range of subjects. And his last topic was the oilsands -- sables bitumineux, as they're called en francais.
Here's the clip. It's in French, but so what. Watch it anyways to get a feel for the conversation.
Fast-forward to 11:20. Dumont raises the issue of the oilsands. Harper isn't defensive -- the opposite, he starts making the case confidently. He points to the jobs created in Quebec by the oilsands -- and the riches earned for Quebec's state-run pension fund, the Caisse de depot, an investor in them.
At exactly 12 minutes into the clip, Dumont uses the phrase ethical oil -- petrole ethique, in French -- that the new environment minister (Peter Kent) has used. Dumont asks Harper if that's his position too. "Absolutement que oui" is Harper's reply -- "absolutely yes".
Harper calls it a "very important" resource for Canada, and a "stable, secure and ethical" source of oil for the United States.
What's amazing here? So much.
First is that the phrase has currency in Quebec political circles, despite the language barrier and the different political culture. For a leading TV anchor to use the phrase "petrole ethique" is a breakthrough in a province that has traditionally been hostile to the oilsands.
Second, the Prime Minister's "absolute" support for that phrase, and his new, confident tone when discussing the oilsands is something that was not evident before, in my observation. Before, talking about the oilsands for the Conservative government was a defensive action, something to be avoided or even dreaded -- Jim Prentice's approach was emblematic of this. Who would want to be tasked with defending oilsands oil, versus environmental perfection? But the more serious, real-world ethical comparison -- oilsands vs. OPEC oil -- is something that any Canadian politician can go on the offensive with.
The Prime Minister focused on economic benefits, and U.S. benefits (security of supply). But there are even more powerful ethical oil arguments. The four elements of the phrase "ethical oil" are:
1. Environmental responsibility;
3. Treament of workers; and
4. Human rights.
Each of these are actually liberal values. They're persuasive because go straight to the values that cause people to be concerned about the oilsands in the first place. And they take away the sole weapon oilsands critics have: their well-practised tone of moral superiority.
Who would have imagined, just a few months ago, that the Prime Minister would be having such a friendly chat, in Montreal, on French-language TV, about how ethical the oilsands are. Amazing.
Here's my Sun column about the possibility of a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition being sprung on us after the next election. Make that a Liberal-NDP-Bloc-Green coalition, actually:
The Conservatives released election-style TV ads Monday, including one warning of an opposition coalition.
The Conservatives say the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois would band together after the vote is over and ask the Governor General to appoint Michael Ignatieff as prime minister, even if Stephen Harper and the Tories win the election.
That accusation would be shocking were it not for the fact that’s what the three opposition parties did just weeks after the election in 2008.
Every Liberal MP, including Ignatieff, signed a written contract with the NDP and Bloc, outlining the terms of their agreement. The three parties had a joint news conference, and they submitted their proposal to the governor general at the time, Michaelle Jean.
It had to include the Bloc, because the Liberals and NDP together did not have enough seats to exceed the Conservatives.
A coalition government that leaves out the party that won the most seats and votes is not against the law in a Parliamentary democracy like Canada. Nor is it necessarily unethical. Our rules say the prime minister is the person who can cobble together the most MPs.
What was so shocking and undemocratic was the deal in 2008 was not mentioned by the opposition during the election campaign. It was kept secret until the vote was over, because it knew Canadians would never consent to a deal that put the Bloc Quebecois in government.
Putting the NDP in a government, with the taxes and spending that would entail (not to mention appeasement of the Taliban) would be bad enough. But imagine Bloc MPs in charge of national defence or interprovincial relations.
Jean wisely suspended Parliament for a month to let everyone cool off and the coalition fell apart before she had to make such a momentous decision.
But does anyone think the opposition won’t ask again if Harper wins another minority, which seems likely?
Two weeks ago I mentioned the Green Party and its leader, Elizabeth May. Not only would the Bloc Quebecois get seats in the Senate, but there was “a rumoured seat for Elizabeth May,” I wrote.
In reply, May wrote a letter to the editor, claiming I lost “any grip on reality” and “nothing of the kind was being considered, least of all by me.” Really?
On Dec. 2, 2008, May was asked by reporters about a possible Senate appointment. Here’s the transcript, provided to me by the Green Party.
Reporter: “Would you say no to a Senate appointment?”
May: “Of course not.”
She wouldn’t turn it down. But would it be offered?
Reporter: “(If) Mr. Dion becomes prime minister, you might be in the Senate?”
May: “You’re not putting words in my mouth, that’s a hypothetical possibility.”
But how did she know it was a possibility? Did she talk to the Liberals about it? I asked her office, but they never got back to me.
Of course, Dion never snatched the prime ministership so he didn’t have a chance to offer the seat to May.
Her hypersensitivity to my column shows how defensive the opposition is about the coalition.
They lost their nerve last time. And they’ve hated every minute in opposition since.
Do you really think they won’t try it again? May and the opposition don’t like to talk about it. Which is precisely why they should be asked about it.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s unofficial motto was coined by his first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Emanuel was talking about the banking crisis that Obama used to nationalize General Motors and health insurance.
And so last weekend when a lone gunman in Arizona killed six people and wounded 13 more, including a congresswoman, the Democrats saw their chance.
Clarence Dupnik, the Democrat who is the sheriff for the crime scene, knew what to do. The investigation was just beginning, but Dupnik declared the killer was motivated by conservative political rhetoric, and blamed talk show host Rush Limbaugh in particular.
Next came the media: The New York Times said toxic Republican rhetoric created a “climate of hate” that caused the murder. The Daily News said “blood is on Sarah Palin’s hands.” A veteran Democratic operative outlined the strategy: The White House needs “to deftly pin this on the tea partiers, just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people.”
Except there was one problem: It wasn’t true. The accused murderer, Jared Loughner, isn’t a Republican and according to friends, he never listens to talk radio or follows the news. They say he was a liberal whose chief political activity was smoking pot.
Loughner’s profile isn’t political, it’s psychiatric. He is given to paranoia and rants about mind control. He had a shrine of skulls at his home. He had been reported to police — that would be Dupnik — before, but was not prosecuted, nor committed to a psychiatric institution. He was stopped by police the very day of the shooting, and let go.
No wonder Dupnik wants a scapegoat.
Demonizing Republicans is only half the fun. The other half is exploiting the panic to pass new laws. Within days, Democratic politicians were talking about censoring talk radio under the Orwellian name of the “fairness doctrine.”
Support for Obama is low in the polls. The number of Americans who define themselves as “liberals” is, too. U.S. unemployment remains near 10% and debt is out of control. The 2012 presidential election is looming, and it’s shaping up to be a wipe-out.
That’s what this week’s blamestorming was about — trying to criminalize conservative opinions, by framing them as murderers.
Canadian liberals jumped on the bandwagon, too. Even the drab Edmonton Journal.
Columnist Graham Thomson singled me out as a Canadian journalist who is a “fringe element” who is “hijacking” Canada’s national debate. I guess Thomson didn’t notice that he was using extremist and violent metaphors himself.
Thomson’s sole example was I once called a Greenpeace activist “disgusting” during a debate, after he compared Canada’s morality to Saudi Arabia’s morality.
That was apparently too much for Thomson. Which is odd, given that on the day of the murders, his own column graphically described a political personnel change in Edmonton as “a Mafia hit,” carried out by an “assassin.”
That shows Thomson’s bad taste and bad writing.
But the answer to poor journalism is to ignore Thomson, as so many people do — not to blame him for real Mafia murders.
Obama himself says things like, “we’re going to punish our enemies” when talking about Republicans. He talks about “hand-to-hand combat” and finding “an ass to kick.” “Get in their face.”
That skinny loser can’t even throw a baseball. He has never done anything close to hand-to-hand combat.
I don’t think Obama should be banned from using braggadocio like a second-rate rapper. Because I believe in freedom of speech.
Too bad the Democrats don’t — and neither do their media friends, including in the smug opinion pages of the Edmonton Journal.
P.S. Here's the lame column by Thomson lumping me in with a mass murderer, because I called someone "disgusting".
P.P.S. Here's Thomson's own column, literally on the day of the murders, wherein he describes a routine political firing as a Mafia assassination. And then his next column is to complain about violent metaphors. Is he really that dense?
P.P.P.S. Here's the letter to the editor that the Journal ran from me in reply. It is edited down to less than half its original length. Of course it was -- the Journal would be too embarrassed to run the whole thing. So here's the full text of my letter, as I sent it in:
Re: Vitriol in U.S. politics influences Canada, by Graham Thomson, Jan. 11
In his column accusing me of bringing vitriolic langauge into Canadian political discourse, Graham Thomson calls me a "fringe element" who is "hijacking" the debate. Did no-one at the Journal notice that Thomson himself is using violent and extremist metaphors to condemn me?
Thomson is correct that I called a Greenpeace activist "disgusting" during a debate last year after he compared Alberta's morality with Saudi Arabia's morality. Because that is disgusting. Based solely on that comment, Thomson thought it was appropriate to include me in a column about a psychotic mass murderer. And the Journal published even more extreme smears on its website, including one calling me a "walking grenade with the pin out". I'm sure this has nothing to do with the fact that I write for a rival newspaper in town.
Of all the people at the Journal who might have condemned violent imagery in politics, I wouldn't have thought it would be Thomson. On Jan. 8, the very day of the Arizona murders, Thomson's political column opened with these sentences: "In the best tradition of a Mafia hit, they sent a friend of the victim to do the dirty work. The assassin arrived at Neil Mackie's doorstep on Wednesday with a smile and a handshake. Mackie, we are told, never saw the end coming." I'm sure Mackie's family appreciated the Journal describing their father being fired as an execution-style murder.
I'm not interested in taking lessons about overheated rhetoric from Thomson. Like Greenpeace comparing Alberta to Saudi Arabia, Thomson's column was disgusting.
I just finished John Gormley's new book, Left Out: Saskatchewan's NDP and the Relentless Pursuit of Mediocrity. It is a great read, and I'm an Alberta boy. If I were from Saskatchewan, I think it would probably be called essential political reading -- and just plain fun, too.
I'm partial to John, as we've become friends through his popular radio talk show, based in Saskatoon. So I knew he was a good storyteller. But the book is more than just well-written: the stories it tells about Saskatchewan politics are so funny, or awful, or startling, or just plain weird, they carry well even across provincial borders, to people who maybe haven't heard of things like, say, Spudco before. Every new character he writes about is so colourful, and John so often has a personal anecdote to go with it, that it was like meeting his old friends (and enemies) from the neighbourhood. I loved it -- but, as the title of the book suggests, I'm pretty glad I didn't have to grow up under Saskatchewan's NDP government.
Not everyone who is a good talker is a good writer, but John is. I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise -- John's a journalist and a lawyer too, and he knows how to bring out the point of a story, even a complicated one, as so many political stories are.
The book is peppered with fun fact boxes about Saskatchewan, from statistics to quotes, it makes it a really breezy read. I still don't know how to categorize it: it's one part John's autobiography, one part insider's political gossip, and one part political how-to manual. But if I had to choose, I'd call it the definitive dissident history of the province's NDP legacy. And that's important, when so much of the establishment, including the media, in that province has been partisan apologists for the NDP.
Left Out is a cautionary tale about socialists in general and the NDP in particular. But it's also a hopeful book, charting Saskatchewan's emergence from the perpetual have-not status under a series of socialist governments, to a new, confident "have" province led by Canada's most charismatic premier, Brad Wall. I travel to Saskatchewan a couple of times a year, and these days it feels like you're being let in on a secret -- the little province is growing up quickly, like a little brother who surprises you one day by beating you at an arm-wrestle.
John points out that nearly a million people fled Saskatchewan's NDP governments over the years. This book explains that exodus, but calls them back home, too.
The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and the Regina Leader-Post have an ethical scandal on their hands.
Last week their reporter, Jeanette Stewart, wrote a false news story that grossly misstated a public opinion survey about oilsands development in Saskatchewan.
The poll was crystal clear: Saskatchewan people support development of oilsands in that province. Here's the whole poll; the question about the oilsands is on page 86.
23.2% of people oppose or strongly oppose it.
46.1% of people support or strongly support it (broken down between 21.2% supporting it and 24.9% strongly supporting it).
In other words, Saskatchewan people with an opinion support oilsands development by a margin of two to one.
But here's what Stewart wrote in those newspapers last week: "results of a recent survey indicate one quarter of the province's residents support oilsands development".
That's just not true.
Stewart then went on to report that 23% were opposed or strongly opposed.
That makes it sound like the same number are for it and against it.
Because Stewart completely left out the 21.2% who plain old support oilsands.
The story was on page A3 of the Star-Phoenix, with the headline "Oilsands split Sask". But that's not true. Two to one in support of something in politics is about as unified as a province can get.
And the Leader-Post put it right on the front page, with the headline "Oilsands support mixed". Again, that's not true. It's 2:1 in support.
The bulk of the story, of course, isn't even about the poll. It's Stewart's partisan attempt to whip up antipathy to the oilsands. She doesn't quote anyone in favour of it. But she quotes a radical environmental activist, and mentions an NDP politician's opposition.
That's not reporting.
That's not even an editorial masquerading as a news report.
It's a factual falsehood -- the headlines and the substance.
Who edited this -- or didn't?
Jeanette Stewart has besmirched the reputation of Saskatchewan's two newspapers of record. She has misled their readers.
The Star-Phoenix and the Leader-Post owe their readers apologies and corrections on pages A3 and A1.
And it's not just Saskatchewan. The story was picked up on the websites of the Vancouver Sun and the Calgary Herald, too. How do those newspapers' editors feel about republishing Stewart's errors? They rely on their colleagues to do honest reporting.
Stewart didn't just let down a million people in Saskatchewan. She let down a newspaper chain.
She's an unethical reporter smearing ethical oil.
Shame on her.
How her editors deal with her scandal will determine if they should share her shame -- or if they will do their best to fix it.
That's pretty much the only question that we need to have our politicians answer. Because those are the two choices.
Not just for Americans. For people in Eastern Canada, too -- including Montreal.
Last week Peter Kent, the new Environment Minister, said Canada's oilsands are the world's "ethical oil."
The next day the prime minister agreed.
It's an argument I've proposed in the Sun and in my book, Ethical Oil. Canadian oil isn't perfect, but we're better than the world's other sources of oil, OPEC countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela and other awful places.
We're not just better than they are environmentally. We're also more peaceful, we treat workers better and we respect human rights. In other words, we produce oil in a Canadian way, not a Saudi way. The oilsands are like the fair trade coffee of the word's oil industry.
And now, finally, the Conservative government is saying so. Which is great.
But I wish the Liberals had seized the idea first.
Michael Ignatieff made friendly noises about the oilsands in the past, saying he is "proud of this industry" and it's "an integral part of the future of Canada." Like any Liberal, his mouth had trouble praising a great industrial project. Which is why the ethical oil approach would have been a perfect fit for his party: it's a left-wing defence of the industry, focusing on environmental practices, peace, workers and women and minorities.
But now that the Conservatives have adopted the ethical oil argument, there's a partisan temptation for the Liberals to reflexively oppose it, just for the sake of opposition.
The signs aren't hopeful. Just Monday, Joyce Murray, a Liberal MP from British Columbia, wrote a lengthy condemnation in the Hill Times of a proposed oilsands pipeline to the West Coast. And Ignatieff has called for a ban on oilsands tankers off the B.C. coast too.
Didn’t Ignatieff loudly call for more trade with China -- the likely destination for that pipeline's oil? And shouldn't a human rights professor like him support a Canadian alternative to oil from countries such as Sudan, which uses oil profits to prosecute its genocide in Darfur?
For opposition sake
Is hobbling the oilsands really Liberal philosophy -- or is it just about making headaches for Stephen Harper?
Last month I testified before a House of Commons committee about the oilsands. I mentioned in passing that Montreal and eastern Canada actually import their oil from overseas -- including from OPEC countries such as Saudi Arabia, Libya and Algeria. After my remarks I spoke very briefly with Denis Coderre, the Liberal natural resources critic, while I was signing a copy of my book for him. Coderre gently corrected me, saying Montreal gets its oil from a pipeline from the state of Maine.
In fact, half of Quebec's oil is brought in by tankers of the sort Ignatieff would ban in B.C. But Coderre is partly right: A massive pipeline flows into Montreal from the state of Maine.
Except it's not filled with U.S. oil. It's filled with oil shipped to Maine by tankers from places such as Algeria and Venezuela. The way Coderre said it -- we get our oil from Maine -- it sounded like he didn't know it was dictatorship oil, or he preferred not to ask too many questions. It was foreign conflict oil, laundered through an Maine pipeline.
Let's shine a light on the OPEC oil flowing into Coderre's home town. Let's get every MP on record. Where do they want their oil from -- Fort McMurray or Riyadh? And sorry, Denis: "Maine" is not a choice.
This morning, Paul Arcand, Marie-France Bazzo and Mario Dumont talked about the idea. In French, oilsands are called sables bitumineux, or bituminous sands, which is more accurate than the Greenpeace propaganda phrase, "tar sands" (There is no tar in the oilsands -- just oil, sand, water and clay. Tar is a chemical derivative of pine trees; and there is coal tar that comes from coal. Neither tar nor coal tar are found in the oilsands, but tar sounds dirtier, so they say it.)
Mario Dumont was kind enough to refer to my book, and call it influential.
Anyways, if you know French, take a listen here.
There's growing interest in Quebec; I'll be appearing on Dominic Maurais' show today (he'll ask me questions in English, and translate my answers into French, which hopefully isn't as halting as it sounds!)
Fewer than one in 100 Canadians donate to a federal political party.
It’s not surprising, considering the low esteem in which most Canadians hold politicians. And a political party is not a charity, even though a political donation receives a more generous tax treatment than a charitable one does.
But no matter. In 2004, the Liberal Party amended the Elections Act to force all Canadians to donate to political parties through their taxes.
Now, political parties get just over $2 from the public treasury for every vote they received in the previous election. That means taxpayers have given the federal parties $27 million a year since the Oct. 2008 election.
Including a whopping $2.8 million a year to the Bloc Quebecois.
That party wants Quebec to leave Canada. But it’s not above wringing millions of dollars from Canadian taxpayers to fund that separatist project before they go.
But our scorn should not be heaped on them alone. Surely the NDP must be ashamed to have taken their $5 million annual allowance from the public purse, rather than have that amount spent on beloved social programs for the jobless during a recession.
And how do Liberals and Conservatives, both of which will tell us in the next campaign they are fiscally responsible and concerned about the deficit, justify this corporate welfare: $7.3 million a year to the Liberals and $10.4 million to the Tories?
But no one makes out better than the Green Party. Not a single seat in Parliament, not one, often a fourth or fifth place showing. For staggering last across the finish line, Elizabeth May’s one-woman show has received cheques from the government totalling $1.9 million a year since Oct. 2008.
Sure beats having to go door-to-door earning support one cheque at a time.
But now that we have pointed out that all parties are on the take, let’s be fair. Just weeks after the 2008 election, as the country slid into a recession, the Conservative minority government proposed doing away with this luxuriant spending — including the Conservative lion’s share — to make parties raise money from Canadians who would voluntarily support them.
It was that suggestion — the thought of losing their own feathered nests — that panicked the three opposition parties, and caused them to form a formal coalition replete with a signed contract and joint press conference amongst their leaders.
The opposition parties say they despise the Conservatives on so many issues, from taxes to spending to justice to foreign affairs to global warming. But none of those disagreements were strong enough to ever cause the opposition parties to ask the governor general to depose the Conservatives.
But the fear of losing their own free money was.
And that is why the actual cost of these subsidies is so much higher.
To stave off the opposition’s request, and a possible snap election forced just short weeks after the 2008 one, the Conservative government panicked in its own way. They retooled their 2009 budget, greatly increasing spending — and thus the deficit.
And until the threat of a coalition appeared, Stephen Harper had refused to appoint senators to the upper house, sticking to his clever strategy of reforming it by emptying it. Only when it became known that the opposition coalition was haggling over the spoils of those unfilled Senate seats did Harper fill them, lest they be divvied up as coalition booty, including for the first time to Bloc senators, and a rumoured seat for Elizabeth May, too.
It’s been two years since the formal opposition coalition, the coalition whose only core value, whose only cause for existence, was free money for its politicians. The coalition was enormously unpopular in polls, with the Conservatives reaching the high 40% range in opinion polls as a reaction.
The Conservatives lost control of the issue last time. They should take control this time and make abolishing the handout a central plank of their looming 2011 election platform.
Of course it is, when compared to OPEC oil.
We actually have stricter environmental policies in Canada, especially in our oilsands, than they do in the U.S. But when compared to OPEC producers, American oil producers are still much more ethical. And remember the four yardsticks for ethical oil:
1. Environmental responsibility;
3. Treatment of workers; and
4. Human rights.
You can pretty much count the world's ethical oil producers on one hand's worth of fingers. Trouble is, producers like the UK and Norway have small reserves and are running out, and America can only produce a fraction of its own needs.
Which is why Canada is so important -- we have more oil than any other country except the terrorist state Saudi Arabia.
So the arguments in my book, Ethical Oil, work for the U.S. vs. OPEC comparison, just as they do for the Canada vs. OPEC comparison.
I mention this because President Barack Obama is refusing to issue any new permits for offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, despite a court order overturning his ban.
Forget about the economic losses and job losses here (unless you're an American, wondering why the hell the president is doing his best to keep unemployment near 10%). The paradoxical point is environmental: by banning U.S. companies from drilling for oil offshore, in the name of environmentalism, Obama is shifting business to Mexican companies that drill in the Gulf of Mexico, too.
Does anyone really believe that Mexico has higher environmental standards than the U.S. does?
Pemex, the massive Mexican oil company, is owned by the Mexican government. So Pemex oil spills aren't met with lawsuits and penalties like, say, the Exxon Valdez or the BP rig. They're handled quietly and without a fuss. Check this out if you doubt me.
Here's what I had to say about the subject on John Stossel's show, on Fox Business News this weekend. (Scroll ahead ten minutes.)
Here's a Reuters story about Prime Minister Stephen Harper following up on Peter Kent's adoption of the term "ethical oil" to describe the oilsands. I'm pleased that the Reuters report -- which has huge distribution -- mentions my book!
Jan 7 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday the creation of 22,000 jobs in the country in December was "encouraging", but added that the recovery remained under threat and that the unemployment rate was too high.
In a televised news conference, Harper also called Canada an "ethical" supplier of oil to the United States, defending the Alberta oil sands projects that environmentalists criticize as a huge source of greenhouse gases and toxic waste.
...Harper was asked to react to comments by newly appointed Environment Minister Peter Kent, who characterized development of the oil sands as "ethical" in recent media interviews. The oil sands are the largest source of crude outside Saudi Arabia and industry players are pouring billions of dollars into their development.
Harper replied that not only are the oil sands a source of economic and job growth for Canadians, but that the United States should value Canada's oil supply over other sources because of the country's democratic track record.
"It is critical to develop that resource in a way that's responsible and environmental and the reality for the United States, which is the largest buyer of our oil ... is that Canada is a very ethical society and very secure source of energy for the U.S. compared to other energy sources," he said.
Harper and at least some of his top ministers have embraced an argument put forward by right-wing commentator Ezra Levant, whose recent book "Ethical Oil" contends that production from the oil sands is morally superior to crude produced in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Nigeria...
I'm thrilled to read how Peter Kent, the new federal Environment Minister, has adopted the Ethical Oil framework. In a nutshell, it's this: the production of Canadian oilsands oil is:
1. More environmentally responsible;
2. More peaceful;
3. More fair to workers; and
4. More respectful of human rights.
than oil from OPEC countries.
And that's the choice, really. Because crude oil doesn't come from nice countries like Switzerland or Monaco. It comes from the world's bastards. So if you're not in favour of oilsands oil, by default you're in favour of OPEC oil.
And, sorry, Norway isn't an alternative. They're not even in the top ten list of countries ranked by oil reserves. They're running out -- their production is falling by 10% a year. That's why their company, Statoil, has invested billions in Canada's oilsands.
So it's us vs. the Saudis. And Iranians. And Venezuelans. And Nigerians. And Sudanese.
It's not surprising that Canada's environment minister believe in ethical oil over OPEC oil. The only surprise is that people are surprised.
They apparently prefer OPEC oil over there. Which is good -- because Eastern Canada actually does import its oil from OPEC. Shame on them.
P.S. Tomorrow night my talk with John Stossel airs on Fox Business News. It's not about the oilsands, but about the Gulf of Mexico. The arguments, though, are the same.
I'm not even kidding.
So she wants to make it a crime to spank your kids. That's right: get a criminal record for it. And mandatory, government parenting classes.
Read her nutty speech here. My favourite part is when she cites an animal biologist to say no animals are naturally violent -- it's taught.
As if carnivores in nature would naturally negotiate with their dinner-to-be, as opposed to hunting them.
As if Paul Bernardo was a peacenik saint who was tipped over by a spanking when he was five.
It's cultish stuff, seriously.
A Liberal senator proposes to criminalize spanking in Canada.
Celine Hervieux-Payette has introduced bill S-204 that, if passed into law, would expose parents to assault charges for spanking a child, QMI Agency’s Brian Lilley reports.
She would repeal Criminal Code section 43, which protects parents and teachers “using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child,” as long as that force is “reasonable under the circumstances.”
Anti-spanking radicals challenged that law all the way to the Supreme Court. But in 2004 that court upheld its constitutionality. Child abuse remains criminal, of course, but spanking is fine as long as it is a “genuine effort to educate the child, poses no reasonable risk of harm that is more than transitory and trifling, and is reasonable under the circumstances.”
The Supreme Court of Canada is liberal, especially on social issues. You’ve got to go to the hard left — the anti-parent left, the government-is-your-nanny left — to be further left than they are.
Which Hervieux-Payette certainly is.
She’s the same senator who wants a law forcing Canadian companies to have 50% of their directors be women.
It’s not surprising that someone who thinks the government is a better parent than actual parents are, also thinks the government is better at running businesses than actual businesses are.
So what would Hervieux-Payette’s enlightened Canada look like? Her speech promoting her bill is revealing.
Canadian parents who spank, even in accordance with the Supreme Court’s rule about gentleness, are “violent,” she says.
But she goes much further, and weirder. She claims spanking is “the root cause of the violence in our society.”
Poor Clifford Olson. Poor Paul Bernardo. If only their parents hadn’t spanked them, those two misunderstood boys would have grown up to spend their lives doing yoga and burning incense candles. They’re the true victims, and their parents are the true criminals.
Hervieux-Payette actually cites an animal biologist as an authority that violence is not a natural human tendency — it’s imposed on us by others, like spanking parents. She’s even blames aggressive sports. Oh, how many genocides could have been prevented without spanking or football!
Hervieux-Payette rails against Christianity, specifically denying its doctrine of original sin, and its belief that all boys and girls have some evil tendencies within them that have to be controlled. According to her, “parental authority” is just a Christian superstition. Badly behaved children, especially ages three to six, simply need to be persuaded “through argument in order to bring them under control.”
Are you ready to take mandatory parenting classes from her?
She calls obedience and virtue “old ideals” and points to psychologists who highlight more modern, scientific ideas of child-rearing, like “democratic relations within the family.”
This is tinfoil hat stuff. It’s cult stuff.
Hervieux-Payette says “beliefs are slow to die and churches do not intend to surrender so readily to science.”
But it’s not the church that spanks kids. It’s parents. And it’s not the church that upheld the law in 2004. It’s our liberal Supreme Court.
Who is this woman? Some backbench crank?
Hardly. Until recently she was the Liberal party’s lieutenant for Quebec, and leader in the Senate.
Michael Ignatieff must disown her and this bill.
It would have been an unthinkable question ten or maybe even five years ago. Now I think it's a very real possibility. My new Sun column:
Of course there will be a federal election this year.
The last one was in October of 2008. An election this spring would be about two-and-a-half years since the last one — which, historically, is a long term for a minority government. More recently, it’s the same period that elapsed between the 2006 and 2008 elections, and longer than the term of Paul Martin’s minority from 2004 to 2006.
So there won’t likely be a backlash if Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes the initiative to go to the polls for the bland reason of renewing his mandate, as he did last time. And anyone who says otherwise will surely be reminded of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s renewed sabre-rattling about forcing an election himself.
Opinion polls have been steady for months — the Conservatives have held a lead that fluctuates from three to 10 points.
But that national number hides more meaningful local developments. The breakthrough byelection win of the Conservatives in the Toronto suburb of Vaughan shows that some seats formerly regarded as strongholds for the Liberals are now at risk.
The winner of that byelection, former police chief Julian Fantino, not only bolsters the Conservatives’ reputation as the tough-on-crime party, but it also represents the party’s inroads to ethnic communities who once defaulted to the Liberals.
If having Fantino, a national Italian-Canadian role model, as a Toronto-area lieutenant for the party causes 10% of Italian Canadians to consider voting Conservative, that could be enough to tip a few close ridings into the Tory column.
Conservative ethnic outreach continues at full speed, especially in ridings like Brampton West, also in the Toronto area, where a large Sikh community will be presented with credible, well-organized Conservative candidates who are Sikh. If both Liberal and Conservative candidates are Sikh, which party would win a largely Sikh riding?
Vancouver’s Chinese community has already given us such a test. The riding of Richmond, B.C., is majority Chinese-Canadian, and both the Liberals and Conservatives fielded Chinese-Canadian candidates in 2008. In that contest, Tory Alice Wong beat former Liberal cabinet minister Raymond Chan by nearly 20 points.
A glance at Harper’s Senate appointments shows how this approach to building Conservative minority role models has been fortified, with Indo-Canadian appointees like Vim Kochhar and Salma Ataullahjan, Jamaican-Canadian Don Meredith, Korean-Canadian Yonah Martin, Jews like Linda Frum, Irving Gerstein and Judith Seidman, etc.
Of course, those senators are more than just ethnic symbols. But their symbolism is not lost on communities who once never considered voting for anyone but the Liberals.
Canada’s political press is based in Ottawa and naturally focuses on Parliament and polls, and big national news stories. But many election battles are fought at a neighbourhood level and, if just a half-dozen ridings flip from Liberal to Conservative, Harper will win his elusive majority government. Don’t count it out.
But if Harper slouches back to power with just another minority, isn’t a win still a win? Part of governing requires Parliament’s co-operation. But much doesn’t — from appointing judges to deciding foreign policy. And from a strategic point of view, how many elections in a row can the Liberal Party continue to lose?
If the Conservatives do get a majority, look for them to reintroduce Bill C-12. That bill would grant 30 new seats to the regions of Canada that have had the most population growth in the past decade — 18 to Ontario, seven to B.C. and five to Alberta. The opposition parties have opposed it, for fear of offending Quebec, whose population is stagnant.
But note the regions that are affected: Precisely those neighbourhoods in Canada teeming with new immigrants.
It’s obvious why the Bloc Quebecois opposes Bill C-12 — they want maximum control over Canada’s Parliament.
But it’s increasingly obvious why the Liberals oppose C-12, too. Do they really want seven more Alice Wongs or 18 more Julian Fantinos in Parliament?