The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Rosemary Brown, the first black woman elected to a provincial legislature, has died of an apparent heart attack. She was a big hitter in the New Democratic Party from its founding through to the '80's and beyond. First elected to the B.C. legislature in 1972 in the old 2-member riding of Vancouver-Burrard, she represented my old neighbourhood of Burnaby-Edmonds from 1979 to 1986 after the Burrard riding was eliminated. Brown was 72.
Martin Blitzes Media. Blogger Yawns.

Anyone surfing up and down the Canadian cable-TV dial today can't get away from He Who Would Be Prime Minister. So far today, Paul Martin's appeared on the directionless CBC News: Sunday, CTV political gabfest Question Period, some phoney "town hall" in Montreal on CPAC, and CBC Radio One's Cross Country Checkup.

I actually tried to pay attention to the town hall, and to one of the interviews, but I must admit that I found it exceptionally hard to pay enough attention to decide if Martin actually said anything worth commenting on. My sympathies to the hacks who actually have to cover the guy; they're doing the thankless job of covering the guy who's got the Prime Ministership sewn up. Then again, others say the same thing about sitting through meetings at Vancouver City Hall trying to figure out if anything significant happened.

Oh, wait. Martin said that Canada should get in on the Son of Star Wars a/k/a the Bushies' National Missile Defence thingy. That'll make him real popular with the left-leaning part of the Liberals. Also said that it made no sense to saddle people with a criminal record for posessing pot, which might earn him the ire of the law 'n order set. He might have said something else, but I nodded off on this lazy Sunday and can't be bothered to go over the tapes right now.

Besides all that, it's Game Two of Vancouver versus Minnesota, and right now, playoffs trump politics...

Wait a second! That's the man's strategy -- reveal his platform when Canadians are distracted by playoffs! Brilliant!

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Okay, let me get this straight. Liberal leadership front-runner Paul Martin, the guy who's been gunning for the job for the last fifteen years and who has played it safe since he consolidated a huge lead in the leadership race, is going to put himself before a crowd of 100 and answer questions straight-up, then repeat the process several times over? Yeah, right. I'll believe it when I see it. Being a cynical type, I have no doubt that the crowd Martin will face will be prescreened and instructed not to ask any loaded questions under pain of not getting a cushy appointment when PM takes over next year.

Of course, Mr. Kraft Dinner could surprise me and take questions from ordinary Joes and Janes (who aren't committed Martinis) randomly dragged off the street. But I wouldn't bet on it.

And what the hell is up with Martin's blog? With apologies to Mike Wilson (who I'm ripping off here), Salam Pax, author of the "Where Is Raed?" blog in Baghdad, has an excuse for not updating: he's in a city that's recently been bombed and occupied, and where most of the city's infrastructure is in less-than-functioning condition. Salam last updated on March 24th. Martin last updated on March 21st. Could've used the Easter break to write, focus-test, and translate another entry there, Paul.

My offer to Martin's leadership campaign still stands: I'll ghost-blog for you real cheap, real frequent, and real off-the-cuff. My e-mail addy's on the left-hand sidebar. Discretion assured, payments of large amounts of non-sequential small bills preferred.
More notes on the war and the coverage

Two slightly old items, but worth checking out:

In my column in this week's Terminal City (sorry, no web version available), I included this quote from CNN correspondent Walter Rodgers on what his viewers wanted to see fron Gulf War II:

“Television viewers love to see war, they love the bang-bang. But show them what it really is about, and the switchboard lights up.”

Rodgers, who won much praise for his reports on the charge to Baghdad, was talking about viewers' reactions to footage of war's toll on ordinary civilians. Seems that CNN viewers wanted to see a nice sanitized “TV war”, one without the suffering or chaos that results from armed conflict. The network's executives responded to the pressure, and to Rodgers, the network's zeal for hiding the ugly side of war was greater than the military's. Creepy.

This quote is part of a Newsday profile on Rodgers and his reporting. Read the full story here.

If you can read French reasonably well, check out the letter from Washington from Radio-Canada (the French-language wing of the CBC) correspondent Christine St-Pierre. France-bashing, which is all the rage in some American circles, doesn't discriminate between French nationals and French-Canadians...
Je suis devant les Nations unies. L’heure est grave, la déchirure annoncée au Conseil de sécurité va bientôt se concrétiser. Les techniciens s’affairent, préparent les interventions en direct des journalistes. À nos côtés, le camion satellite d’ABC, l’une des plus grandes chaînes de télévision aux États-Unis. Un homme qui a l’air du producer (réalisateur) nous regarde travailler, mais surtout, il m’écoute préparer mon direct. Soudainement, il s’exclame : « You fucking French! » Mon réalisateur, Bruno Bonamigo, se retourne.

- We’re TV crew from Montreal and you?
- Fucking Montreal!

L’anecdote paraît amusante, mais ces jours-ci, vivre aux États-Unis et parler français n’est pas de tout repos.
Rough translation: I'm in front of the UN. We're runnig up against the deadline given the UN Security Council and it's crunch time. The techs are scurrying about, setting up so that we can go live. Bedie us is a satellite truck from ABC, one of the big American TV networks. A man who looks like a producer is watching us work; he sees me rehearsing my live report. Suddenly, he shouts “You fucking French!” My producer shoots back “We're TV crew from Montreal and you! ” “Fucking Montreal!”

The story seems funny, but these days, speaking French in the United States can lead to grief.

St-Pierre has assembled some good tales about being a foreign reporter in the American capital; do check it out if you can.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

The Alberta Advantage: $3/hr employees?

I swear that I am not making this up. From the CBC:
CALGARY - A Chapters store in Calgary has rehired a man with Down syndrome after the company had said his $36-a-week salary was adversely affecting their bottom line.
And they've given him a raise.
Yes, the Canada's biggest bookseller was paying a Calgary man $36 for 12 hours of work a week. They then fored him, citing budget constraints. Jeez.

That wage is so low, it's even illegal in Alberta, where the minimum wage is $5.90/hr. You'd have to go back to the late seventies to find a minimum wage that low in Alberta, B.C., or Ontario.

Well, firing an employee who was earning barely half the legal minimum foesn't look good for the ol' corporate image (even in a province where niggardly employers are at least tolerated if not celebrated.) Chapters has since re-hired the guy, and they'll actually pay him the Alberta minimum. How very generous. No comment yet from Chapters Overlord and Micromanger Heather Reisman, otherwise known as She Who Controls Far Too Much of the Canadian Book Retail Market.
Hmm. Apparently Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is in American custody.

Wonder if he tried to disguise himself by wearing smaller glasses?
Rumours of its demise greatly exaggerated, etc.

This might be the headline: The National Post is not dead. Yet.

That's the word from Lenny Asper, CEO of CanWest Global Communications, owners of the other Canadian national daily paper. Asper dismissed speculation about a possible gutting or shutdown of the Post, which has never turned a profit since former owner Conrad Black launched the paper in 1998. While admitting that efforts to turn around the paper's financial performance have not yet succeeded -- it still loses $1-million per month -- Asper said that he expects the Post to continue to progress towards breaking even.

When Conrad Black sold his remaining stake in the Post to the Aspers in 2001, it was losing a million dollars a week.

The rumour mill had been buzzing with talk that the Post might be turned into a weekly national supplement to the Financial Post, or that the new coverage might be axed in favour of a return to the old Financial Post, which was the core around which the National Post was built. Lenny Asper dismissed that talk as the fantasy of the Post's critics and competitors, and said that his company was committed ot making the paper work.

More on this later.

And for those of you keeping track: CanWest's debt was $3.578-billion (CDN) as of February 28 of this year. Revenue for the last quarter was $603-million for the most recent quarter, with a profit of $10-million. CanWest's debt peaked at over $4.5-billion after a late-'90's buying spree where the company bought the former WIB television stations and most of the Hollinger Canadian newspapers. Of course, Lenny Asper is on the conference call spinning the company as best he can to those mysterious financial analysts...

Related: Paper sale lifts CanWest to profit (

Monday, April 21, 2003

Interesting tidbit about the world's hottest deck of cards: the damn things, featuring the top 55 officials from the former Iraqi government, haven't actually been distributed to the troops that are suppposed to be using them to fing the officials. How about that? According to this Stars and Stripes story, only 200 decks have been printed, and they haven't been sent to the front lines. Most of their use has been for PR at CENTCOM briefings -- and by newscasters as a way to refer to Saddam apparatchiks by their playing card instead of having to learn to pronounce those weird foreign names. (Yes, blonde bimbo anchors, I'm talkin' 'bout you.)

Well, it's sure turned me off of plunking down US$18.95, plus shipping and handling, to some guy hawking the cards on eBay. I think that I'll wait for a knockoff set to show up at my neighbourhood dollar store... which should happen around the same time that peoples' attention turns from Iraq back to the latest offshoot of The Bachelor. Give it about three weeks, I figure, which means that I'll have those cards before the people opening their wallets on some eBay auction. Ha Ha! Take that, imperialist lackey running dogs! I shall have my Iraqi playing cards before all the Yankee infidel! (with apologies to every one who's done a bad take-off on Baghdad Bob)
Morgue File Sneak Peek!

CNN got a little egg on its face last week when people discovered that the network's web site housed under-construction online obits of the famous and infamous.

News organizations prepare ready-made obituaries of prominent figures. The obits-to-be are also known as the morgue file, a project usually assigned to some cub reporters copy editors and researchers. What's different today is that the olde morgue files stayed somewhere in the news organization's storge, ready to be used -- not on a publicly accessible web server, where files are usually available to anyone who knows how to work a search engine like Google or AllTheWeb.

CNN has since pulled the "Dick Cheney, 1941-2001" pages (and other like it) from their web servers, but not before the good people at The Smoking Gun saved some screen shots for your enjoyment.

Don't you just love the Web? However did you entertain yourself before you installed Mosaic after manually configuring that TCP/IP stack on your three-generationsd removed machine in 1993 or so?

Screenshots from The Smoking Gun. (link should now be permanent)

New York Times article on the minor morgue file gaffe.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Former National Post columnist Patricia Pearson explains why she's a former Post columnist.

Friday, April 18, 2003

My Internet connection's been on the fritz for several days now, which explains the lack of postings. Back soon after I dig through all the penis-enlargement ads in my Inbox. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Just seen on CBC's The National...

Some of the opening footage of Paul Workman’s report from Nasiriyah, Iraq shows a little girl smiling... and holding up an upside-down American flag. I'm really not sure what to make of that.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Republican Fiscal MisManagement Illustrated

Notice a trend among U.S. federal government deficits over the last quarter-century? I do. The Democrats are accused of being tax-and-spenders, but then what the hell do you call the GOP? Borrow-and-spend?

More bad news for those in the U.S. who are comewhat concerned about their government’s fiscal position: The latest monthly budget review from the Congressional Budget Office shows that in the first six months of the current fiscal year, the U.S. deficit totalled $248-billion, and that’s in greenbacks, not loonies. In the same October-March period last year, the deficit was $132-billion. Ominously, the CBO also notes in this month’s report: “However, the supplemental appropriation bill currently under consideration would add more than $40 billion to 2003 outlays and the deficit.”

Now, the Bush-boosters will try to claim that the US federal government’s sorry fiscal picture is because of the war. However, the actual figures don’t bear this out. Defence and military spending was only $22-billion higher than the previous year, which accounts for less than one-fifth of the increase in the deficit. The nearly $60-billion fall in government revenue (thanks to Bush’s irresponsible tax-cutting) is a much larger factor. Of course, it seems that the GOP has little problem with spending -- as long as the money that they spend now is collected from future taxpayers.

(Thanks to Mike Bultrowicz, who first found this chart on
If the photo in this Information Clearing House story showing that the crowd surrounding the toppling of the big Saddam statue wasn’t nearly as large as the media made it out to be is genuine, then it’s another testament to how photography can show the same event in many different ways. The difference between the fairly tight ground-level shot and the high shot of a crowd of a few hundred is pretty dramatic... nonetheless, it’s rather nice to see the Saddam government put out of commission, regardless of how many of Baghdad’s 5 million citizens showed up to party. Now the really hard work begins -- the work of rebuilding the Iraqi state, an exercise whose outcome is not nearly as easy to predict as the outcome of the military action.
Things that make ya go “Hmmm...”

Tune in to CPAC’s Talk Politics sometime this weekend. You’ll be glad that you did. On this week’s show, host Ken Rockburn does what too few broadcasters do: challenge a Canadian Taxpayers Federation mouthpiece on his assertions. The CTF’s Ontario talking head, John Williamson, was doing the standard right-wing whine about Canada’s principled stand to not participate in the war against Iraq. Williamson first swore that this war was about “liberating the Iraqi people.” Your normal radio or TV talker would leave that unchallenged, but Rockburn fired back that this war was previously supposed to be about imposing regime change, but before that, it was because of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction -- weapons that STILL haven’t been found. Would Williamson’s opinion change if WMD are never found? Well, he might be less trusting of U.S. intelligence reports, but no he wouldn’t change his mind, says the now-scurrying Williamson, because he believes that Saddam was in cahoots with international terrorist organizations. Again, says Rockburn, that hasn’t been proven by anyone. That threw Williamson off his guard, leaving with him little more than the old stand-by-your-friends argument to advance his (and his political allies in the Canadian Alliance’s) criticism of the government.

Very refreshing to see, I must say. Normally, the CTF’s claims are unchallenged on air (especially right-wing radio) and in the op-ed pages of most Canadian papers, but once in a while, the unthinkable happens. (And what the hell is some supposedly non-partisan organization concerned mainly with fiscal matters doing commenting about foreign affairs? It couldn’t possibly be because they’re actually virulently partisan Liberal-haters? Naaaaaah, of course not.)

I’m beginning to susect that the help-wanted ad for a CTF “director” reads:“The successful candidate is politically ultra-conservative, but willing to give up existing party memberships in order to allow us to have a facade of independence. Must have the fashion sense of a Mormon missionary. Ability to lie with a straght face is essential. Posession of any sense of shame or dignity are grounds for disqualification.”

You can catch repeats of Talk Politics tonight on CPAC at (all times Pacific Daylight Time; if you’re unable to convert, then you don’t deserve to watch the show) 10 PM; tomorrow at 4 AM and 12 PM; and Sunday at 5 AM and 6 PM. I’ll make a point of taping and transcribing the relevant sections, then posting the dialogue on this little blog for you because I’m such a nice guy.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Joel Connelly nominates some barking advocates, both pro- and anti-war, to go have a look at what’s happening on the ground in Iraq. One of the nominees is my own MP, Libby Davies. Unfortunately, I suspect that Davies would still find some way to blame the United States for more than it deserves.
“They Told You So!”

So screamed the banner atop the front page of today’s National Post. Exulting in the coalition victory, the pro-war daily decided that it was time for a little finger-wagging, and tiome to remind all the sissy liberals that the Post’s army of ink-stained warriors was right all along.

But what were they right about? The outcome of the war? See a couple postings down. Very few of the voices opposed to the war, and certainly none of the credible ones, had much doubt about who would win here. However, in the minds of most of those who never met a war that they didn’t like, victory is its own justification. It still doesn’t answer any of the broader questions.

And what about those weapons of mass destruction, one of the ostensible justifications for this war?
Welcome to British Columbia

An elderly man with a 15-year-plus record of animal abuse is the target of more cruelty-to-animals allegations? Disturbing, but hardly surprising. The man is arrested after allegedly assulting a staffer at a local SPCA shelter? That's getting to be quite odd. .The man in question is the father of a provincial cabinet minister? Only in British Columbia.

One must ask what the elderly animal abuser, one Q.C. van Dongen, taught his son, B.C. agriculture minister John van Dongen...

In a related item, Province political writer Mike Smyth chides the younger van Dongen about his legal bill following the criminal investigation that forced van Dongen to step down from Cabinet for 3 months. Van Dongen, readers may recall, leaked information about an environment ministry investigation into major-league fish farm operator (and B.C. Liberal party donor) Stolt Sea Farm to Stolt, which led not only to the RCMP probe but to the Stolt investigation being “significantly compromised” and eventually dropped. Smyth argues that the Liberals should order the release of the special prosecutor’s report into van Dongen's conduct. I agree.
Required Reading

Michael Kinsley argues in Slate that victory by the U.S. and its allies in the war is not the same as victory in the argument about the war. After all, not many serious opponents of the war (especially the reluctant opponents such as your scribe) ever doubted which side would prevail. That was never the issue -- it was over the rationale for the war.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Repeat ad Nauseam:

[pun only semi-intentional]

Another so-called “smoking gun” about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has turned out to be less-than smoking. Yesterday, a Knight-Ridder wire story claimed that U.S. forces found evidence of sarin [or possibly another G-class nerve agent such as Tabun or cyclohexylsarin] at a facility near Baghdad. The report quoted a Sgt. Todd Ruggles claiming “I was right” about the presence of chemical weapons in Iraq.

Not so fast, Sergeant. AFP reports that further tests have shown the compounds to be organophosphate pesticides, which, although chemically related to common nerve agents, are not terribly effective at killing people; they're much better at taking out arthropods.
A military intelligence officer for the US 101st Airborne Division's aviation brigade, Captain Adam Mastrianni, told AFP that comprehensive tests determined the presence of the pesticide compounds...

Mastrianni said: “They thought it was a nerve agent. That's what it tested. But it is pesticide.”
That helps to explain why the soldiers showed symptoms of pesticide exposure, I suppose...

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Whaddaya know? Warren Kinsella has helpfully supplied a copy of the Tory daily bulletin where Ontario premier Ernie Eves describes those opposed to the war as cowards. You know, that Eves communique that was all erroneous and never passed muster with Oilcan? Never existed my ass. One more example of how so many pro-war types in Canada are unwilling to back their bluster up...
Now there’s a blog to be proud of: Slurrey.Com, celebrating all things great about Vancouver’s most-maligned suburb! Well, I think it’s a celebration... at least it’s honest about the city's sleaze, which is more’n I can say for the perpetually-in-denial official city mouthpieces.
Frequently Written Headline:

U.S. Finds No Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq

Yet again, this time from Reuters.

Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail notes in its war update that tests on the thousands of boxes of white powder found in a cache near Baghdad have turned up negative for chemical weapons, although the nerve-agent antidote atropine was on hand. A more detailed report that suggests that the white powder is most likely an explosive is available from The Independent.

The Conrad Black-owned Daily Telegraph is reporting that Iraqi troops have dumped hydrogen cyanide and mustard gas in the Euphrates River. So far, this story has not yet made its way onto other websites such as the BBC or Guardian Unlimited or to air so it must, for now, be regarded as unverified. Another repeat of that “huge chemical weapons plant” that wasn’t? Stay tuned.

If you need reminding, though Saddamn Hussein and his ilk are murderous bastards (weapons of mass destruction or not), there’s this piece in The Observer about “something terrible... something muderous, something evil” that British forces have found near Basra.
Another Vancouver voice worth reading: Russil Wvong, the keeper of the FAQ, has assembled this thoughtful and concise analysis of the Iraq situation.

Lest I be accused of linking to an anti-war pinko commie welfare bum, I assure you that Russil is a reluctant supporter of the war, while I’m a reluctant opponent. When you get right down to it, there is a pretty good case for the forcible removal of Saddam—but I really am uncomfortable with the way the decision to go to war has come about, with very little in the way of rules for regime change, and an uneasy feeling that those rules if they exist will not be evenly applied elsewhere by the United States and its floating coalitions.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Not a bad April Fool's prank. Wish I'd known about it last week.
The ol’ server log shows a handful of visitors coming in from that online den of ultra-conservatism, For those of you who aren’t familiar with the world of online extremism, Free Dominion is the Canadian analogue to, the hang-out for mast every right-wing whack-job in America, and home of the notorious “Freepers.” How interesting, I thought. The ultra-right linking to me, a humble ol’ leftish liberal? I was intrigued. Turns out that they were looking for information on why there’s no Fox News Channel on Canadian cable or satellite. Seems that a Freeper stumbled upon an article I wrote last week (since published in Terminal City Weekly after a little editing) explaining that the market, not the CRTC, had decided that for now, Canadians would not be getting their O’Reilly Fix. Let’s see their reaction, shall we?

The usual denial and lies:
I have an source inside the cable industry that says yes the only reason that we do not have FOX new is because the CRTC does not feel that Canada has or will ever have such a need after all we CBC and CTV nes chanels and they would never steer us wrong. Apparently they always give us the truth with no bias, their words not mine.
Nice try, honeybucket, but an absolute, flat-out lie. Read CRTC Decision 2000-565 which awarded a licence for a Fox News Canada and get back to me, willya?

Seems some posters are barfing up the usual irrelevant crap and the rightist grievances, of course:
Wile, as a fellow Western conservative, I believe we all need to concentrate harder on running the lefties out of Western Canada too. I’m thinking of people like Hedy Fry, Svend Robinson, Anne McClellan, Ken Nichol, Lorne Calvert, David Orchard, Nettie Weibe, Gary Doer and Lorne Axworthy!
I do love those freedom-loving Freepers. Apparently, you’re quite free to live west of the Lakehead if you pass the ideological purity test. By the way, who the hell is Lorne Axworthy? I’m familiar with that Lloyd fellow (he lives out on the Wet Coast these days), and his brother Tom (mister muscular multilateralism), but is there a missing Axworthy?

Something, finally, that’s close to the truth here:
Right now they are predicting that we will have to wait over a year for FOX News because it takes awhile to develop more crappy Canadian content to meet their quota and I think they need to invest in another satelite to allow MORE ROOM for FOX News.
Well, that’s not quite so; all Global would have to do is replay some of their extant programming like Ottawa Inside/Out or Global Sunday. Rogers fulfilled the CanCon rules for MSNBC Canada by picking up some of CBC Newsworld’s programs like Health Matters and Hot Type and running the Canadian shows on weekends when most sane people have no good reason to sit around watching 24-hour cable news. Existing communications satellites also have the capacity to carry more channels, so there’s no real problem there; same goes with digital cable systems which are using a fraction of their potential capacity.

But the old rule still applies: You can lead a Freeper to knowledge but you can’t make him think.
Did Eves call Chrétien a coward?

Ontario Premier Ernie Eves didn’t use those words at a pro-war rally in Toronto yesterday, but a press release issued by his office made just that accusation. The release, which criticized the federal government’s decision not to support the war, said, “I want history to remember Canada for its courage and loyalty, not its cowardice.”

Since then, Oilcan Ernie denies knowing anything about the press release, and his communications stooges swear that it was an “erroneous” release—but where, then, was the new release without the offending accusation? How about that ‘quote of the day’ going around in Ontario Tory circles, then? Smells fishy, but that’s nothing new.

My bias is going to show here, but I believe that the pro-war faction in Canada has not been honest with Canadians about their aims or goals. Their demonstrations are sold to the public not as rallies in support of the war, but to support the Americans, or the “coalition of the willing”, or even of “freedom.” Ray Heard, a former Global TV executive who was one of the forces behind Friday’s rally in Toronto, swore that his event was to show friendship with the USA, but not support for the war against Iraq. Yeah, right. How does that jive with Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper’s statement earlier that day on CFRB that being pro-American and pro-war are tied together? In his world, there seems to be no room for admiring the United States, its relative freedom and accomplishments, while still believing that this war is unjustified. I would suggest that that’s the point of view of most of the more vocal war supporters, even if they’re not ready to be as blunt as Harper about it.

Anti-war demonstrations are quite honest about the fact that they are not in support of this war. They don’t gussy up their rallies as being “in support of the Canadian position”, although they will talk of the dangers of “unilateral aggression” or “respect for international law.” While some of the anti-war crowd in Canada are reflexively anti-American, this surely is not a term appropriate for every opponent of this war. Even less appropriate is the assertion that every anti-war voice is one in support of Saddam Hussein. Perhaps to fans of George W. Bush’s Manichaean declaration that “either you with us or you are against us,” this is the case, but anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty understands that this statement was supposed to apply to governments that support international terrorism, not individuals’ positions on this war in Iraq.

What also bothers me is the pro-war side’s depth of reasoning. For most pro-war politicians in Canada, the extent of their arguments for supporting the ouster of Hussein is that Canada should stand with its traditional allies, right or wrong. That’s a weak argument—it reminds me of the old question “If your best friend was going to jump off {fill in appropriate tall landmark of your choice}, would you jump with him?” Perhaps it might be better to ask those who say we should participate in the war whether they’d back up their best friend going down to an unfriendly bar to pick a brawl with an old foe. I recall learning from some counsellor-type many moons ago that a best friends will tell each other when they’re wrong, but that’s lost on the pro-war crowd, likely because they thin that the war is right, even in they don’t articulate their position well.

Not every pro-war voice is that simplistic or blinkered. A small number of Canadians who back military action in Iraq have come out with well-presented arguments on why this war is just and why Canada should support this war. They point to UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which foretold “serious consequences” if Iraq failed to comply with weapons inspectors, or how the first Gulf War was a ceasefire contingent on Saddam giving up weapons of mass destruction. While I’d argue that those sorts of resolutions and agreements have been routinely, shall we say, fudged without a war ensuing, at least the idea that there is some sort of legal justification for taking out Hussein does have a bit more rigor than simply going along with one’s traditional allies. It’s too bad that those voices are few, and often when those arguments are articulated, that they seem more motivated by a desire to suck up to W and the boys at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than anything else.

The human-rights case for getting rid of Saddam is strongest of all in my opinion. Nobody for a moment doubts that Hussein abuses the people he rules, that he condones torture, or that the Iraqi people would be better without him. What has me vexed is that many politicos who normally dismiss he work of organizations like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International are now citing their findings. Can I now assume that conservative politicians and pundits will perhaps give a little more consideration to Amnesty’s other reports and complaints? I don’t think so. Had the war been argued from the beginning as a fight based on the desire to remove a murderous dictator and not muddled with arguments about weapons of mass destruction that haven’t yet been found or proven to still exist, or of a tangential connection to Al-Qa’ida, and the case for removing Saddam been made by the Tony Blairs of the world, I can’t help but wonder what kind of coalition to oust Saddam night have been assembled. I’ll leave it to the historical what-if crowd to play with that scenario.

Friday, April 04, 2003

In light of Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper calling Defence Minister John McCallum an “idiot” in the House earlier this week, PC Party leadership blogger and onetime Hill staffer Micheal Wilson offers up a list of insults deemed ‘unparliamentary’ over the years on his blog (permalinks not working; scroll down to April 3, 2003). I must conclude that either

  1. successive Speakers have become less picky or

  2. parliamentarians have become traded rapiers for bludgeons

Some of those insults are pretty good. I’d think that someone like Sheila Tequila would find “parliamentary pugilist” to be a compliment. I know that if, God forbid, I were ever in the House, I’d take it as such. “Political sewer pipe from Carleton County”, on the other hand, is a bit confusing—is that the Carleton County in Ontario or New Brunswick? Hmm.
Two voices looking for a happy medium between knee-jerk anti-Americanism and unquestioning devotion to the Elephant

Maclean’s editor Anthony Wilson-Smith is one of the few remaining Canadian commentators who doesn’t gravitate to either extreme; he shows it in his current editor’s letter and...

Globe And Mail national-affairs writer Jeffrey Simpson bemoans the degeneration of public debate over the war and the Canada-U.S. relationship into what he calls “the puerile (anti-American) versus the servile (pro-American).” Simpson nails both sides for suspending any pretense of critical judgment, ignorance of the bigger picture, double standards, and fearmongering. He’s also got a special barb for the pro-American right:
That relations are now deemed to be “poor” is Jean Chrétien’s doing, a rather odd assertion given that the only political change since the excellent years of Canada-U.S. relations during the Clinton administration has been exclusively on the U.S. side.
Yeah, baby, that’s right: it was the Americans that (probably) elected an administration that sees international community as a pain in the ass that needs a good dose of American values. Canada’s kept the same crew that had no real problems with the American government from 1993-2001. That Dubya fellow came in and mucked things up. Apparently the Right thinks that the onus is on Canada to kowtow to whoever’s in power in Washington, and that the Canadian government may only make decsions in Canada’s best interest if a foreign power allows us to do so.

Now, if only the Chrétien government could articulate what is probably the Canadian position on this was as well as Simpson can:
Many Canadians have resisted puerility and servility, and concluded that this war is part of a much wider agenda for U.S. behaviour and for remaking the Middle East that could not be made compatible with how Canada sees the world.

It was an optional war, easily won as these things go, that will lead to the likelihood of more terror, greater instability, fractured alliances and abiding anti-Americanism that will plague the world’s hyperpower, and its friends such as Canada, long after it has “solved” the Iraq problem by ill-chosen means.

That judgment, it must be admitted, could be wrong. Events might unfold as predicted by those who wanted this war. But at least the judgment springs neither from puerility nor servility.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Now that Al-Jazeera has had its journos banned from Iraq—for arbitrary reasons—will its critics in the western world quit deriding the station as a tool of the “Islamofascists?”
Another warmonger v. peacenik argument.

(via Textism)
Peaceniks Around? Call in the Cavalry!

Ultraconservative talk station KVI-570 Seattle has been calling out its dittoheaded listeners—the so-called “570th Cavalry”—to crash anti-war demonstrations in the Seattle area. Jeez, if the pro-war rally in Vancouver last weekend had gotten the same treatment, it’d have been swamped. So far, the Vangroovy peaceniks haven’t stooped to those tactics.
Oregon Law Would Jail War Protesters as Terrorists

Easily the most craven and stupid attempt yet in America to stifle dissent. I have no doubt that AM talk radio host Michael Savage is praising Oregon state senator John Minnis (Republican, of course) for his proposal to make protestors blocking the street punishable by 25-to-life. If you ever needed proof that Republicans are evil, stupid, and that they don’t give two shits about freedom, there you go. Bush, Rummy, Wolfowitz, and their Canadian Alliance allies on this side of the border constantly talk of their love of ‘freedom’—and they’re in bed with that kind of thinking? Hypocrites!

Here’s what’s scary: CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin opined on-air that this bill is probably not unconstitutional. Whatever happened to “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted?” Shows you how far the Eighth amendment has been weakened.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

What the hell is it with the business lobby these days? I'm starting to think that they've become Canada's biggest war cheerleaders. Yesterday, the Ontario finance minister railed against the Canadian position in Iraq at one of those chamber of commerce luncheons, and it earned her a standing ovation. Is every business type in this country a super-hawk? No, not likely; I think that they've bought into the idea that unless Canada goes along with the United States in Iraq, trade with the 'States will fall to hell. "Security trumps the economy" and all that chatter...

Rubbish. Let's pick apart the common ‘economic’ arguments for obeying America’s every beck and call. It'll be fun, really!

Favourite Theory Number One is that trade between Canada and the U.S. will be slowed by heightened security on the American side. Sounds reasonable, but even if Canada went along with the United States and supported the war, the border would still tighten up once the shooting started. Wait a second, though. During the first Gulf War, when Canada was part of that coalition against Saddam, cross-border commerce got snagged due to tightened security. There's no evidence out there that the Americans would be any less vigilant about Canadian border security this time out – or that they're more vigilant than they were 12 years ago.

The economic fear monger’s other pet argument is that the United States will slap penalties on Canadian goods to retaliate against our international impudence. They point to the continued softwood lumber dispute, recent duties on Canadian wheat, and the decision to slap tariffs on European and Asian steel imports, and swear up and down that Canadians will face more of this unless we yell "Ready, aye, ready!" and join in the war effort.

I hate to be the one to burst their balloons, but none of those trade disputes has word one to do with Canada's or Europe's geopolitical stances. The softwood (oh, to use the French term bois d'oeuvre instead!) dispute has been years in the making. Any time that Canadian wood takes more than around 30% of the American market, American producers get their K Street crew to convince lawmakers to slap on a duty because Canadian lumber is supposedly subsidized -- despite three past GATT and WTO rulings to the contrary. Canada’s participation in the campaign in Afghanistan won it no favours on softwood. Why should support for the war in Iraq improve our position?

The same goes for steel and wheat. In every case, the American government’s decision to levy countervailing duties was to protect American businesses from foreign imports. It doesn’t jibe with the free-trade rhetoric of man a politician, but protectionism can win you votes in ways that open competition doesn’t. Your average voter in the Rust Belt, agriculture, or the timber industry cares about his job, not free-market ideals.

American businesses don’t trade with Canadians out of charity; they do it because there are deals to be had, whether it’s a market to sell to or producers to buy from. A handful of companies have refused to do sell to Canadians, the French, Germans, and Mexicans as a PR stunt and political statement. Those businesses do most of their trade at home, and they’ve gambled that the extra business that they get by appealing to a certain sort of patriotism makes up for any lost sales abroad. Companies that do a lot of trade with Canada will continue to do so, and any boycotts that make no economic sense won’t last long.

“But wait!” holler the business hawks. “Canada won’t get a fair hearing in Washington after how we’ve abandoned out allies!” To them I ask: Did Canada get shuffled to the back of the line over its decision to stay out of ‘Nam? No. Neither did they lose out when Canada opened relationships with China before the Americans. Only minor repercussions stemmed from Canada’s decision to trade with Cuba, and they’ve been tiny compared to the billion dollars a day in trade between Canada and the U.S.

The Canada-U.S. trade relationship is what it is because of geography and economics – and not for any other reason. Surely the war supporters on this side of the border understand this, even if they would like the masses to believe otherwise.

(Then again, if the American government agreed to take on about half of Canada's national debt, I'd probably change my tune on Canada's role in the war. That kind of relief would free up $19.6-billion in the federal budget, some of which could be spent on defence to shut Paul Cellucci up. What can I say? Everyone has his price.)

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Jane Finch of the Daily Rant takes a swipe at the notorious Paul Martin Blog while grumbling about a similar effort by Gary Hart. Jane (after BruceR over at Flit) calls He Who Would Be Prime Minister's entry into the blogosphere "The Worst Blog In the World." Delightful! If Martin gets more of that sort of criticism, he'll have to hire himself a ghost-blogger. Yo Paul, I'm available, I'm a lot cheaper than anyone down at Earnscliffe, and my writing is nicely unrefined. Let's make a deal!
Blogger continues to give me untold grief.

If you're reading this, the damn thing has published for the first time in 14 hours. Something to do with the template server, which explains why mine ended up in /dev/null.

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