Wednesday, 9 November 2016

What to do, as a non-american, post-election

Ok. Non-Americans. Let's talk about the election.

Despite the polls showing Hillary Clinton in a clear lead, Trump is now President, and thinking of appointing conservatives like Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani to key positions of his cabinet. This is reason, as a liberal, to feel like retreating from the world for a bit.

But maybe you don't want to do this. Although you can't vote, and don't live in the country, you still feel the urge to help. Well, sit up: I've got a list of organizations in America that you can donate to.

1. The Southern Poverty Law Center. 

This is an organization that monitors hate groups throughout the US, and expose their activities to the public, the media and law enforcement agencies. They focus on a variety of issues including LGBT rights, immigrant justice, hate and extremism.

Why should you donate? Because in the wake of Brexit, the incidence of racially based hate crimes in the UK went up, emboldened perhaps by the racist rhetoric of some of the leave campaign. This may be something to expect in America (I am crossing my fingers that I am wrong, ) and we need someone to monitor this.
Donate here

2. The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU

This organization doesn't just monitor the state of civil liberties in America, but take action too. If you go to their website right now, you'll see that they intend to sue President Trump if he tries to enact any of his racist policies. If you're looking to prevent the erosion of individual rights, especially for minorities, women, people living with disabilities, this may be the place to donate.

3. Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood has been in conservative crosshairs for a while, and there's no reason to suspect that the next four years will be any different. To copypasta from the website: "Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide." This includes information on where to get safe abortions, which is something the social conservatives have been trying to discourage. Donate here.

4. Lambda Legal

This is a non-profit that works for the advancement of the civil rights of LGBT people and those living with HIV. They've been active since the 70s, protecting the rights of gay and lesbian couples, transgender rights, through a mix of lawsuits, education and advocacy. The Republicans are terrible on LGBT issues, and now they control the presidency and house, and about to get a conservative majority on the supreme court. I think this is one organization that will become more and more important in the next 4 years. Donate!


The President Elect has said some awful things on the subject of race: his presidential run started with a speech where he called all Mexicans rapists. Things did not improve after that, where he said terribly problematic things about Muslims and was endorsed by the KKK (although to be fair he rejected that endorsement.) I'm going to understate this: this presidency might not be an enlightened one as far as race is concerned. So donate to the NAACP. Their mission is to eliminate race prejudice, fight against discriminatory laws, remove barriers to racial equality and educate the public. These four years could not be a better time to donate!

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Please do your own research and donate to causes you find worthy. And please let me know if you find any organizations that I've missed that absolutely should go on this post.

And to my American friends: go take care of yourselves! Binge watch cartoons. Marathon trashy TV. Start assembling a model. Write your book for NaNoWriMo. And please mourn this. But we need you to get back to fighting on Monday.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Rob Ford, Belgium

A lot has happened in the last three years with me, but suffice to say that I now live in Japan. And it is wonderful, but this time difference kills me in terms of staying in the loop. I go to sleep and when I wake up I find out that A. there’s a huge terrorist attack in Belgium, and B. Former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford died. 

30 dead people in an airport is too terrible for words, so I'm not going to try. It's an awful coincidence that after arresting one of the ringleaders of the November attacks in Paris, Belgium has an attack of its own. And the reaction back in North America is pretty terrible, with Cruz calling for patrols of Muslim neighbourhoods to prevent radicalization, and Trump being well, Trump.

A similar attack happened three days ago in Turkey in Istanbul and and Ankara, of course getting much less coverage. What's interesting--maybe this is a poor choice of words--is that the Brussels attacks were carried out by ISIS, and the Turkish attacks were allegedly carried out by Kurdish groups, who are fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. 

It’s really sad about Rob Ford dying, especially since he was such a loud, train-wreck of a man. Some voices have wondered if he was treated unfairly while in office, especially over the crack scandal. Others are much less sympathetic. I think people are afraid of speaking ill of the dead, which I think is a nice thought, but surely you can respect someone's death without completely fictionalizing their life. I hold to this principle: if you do horrible things in public view, people get to judge you for it. And if you run for public office, and fail to show up for work on time, embarrass yourself while exercising the functions of that office, and purposefully antagonize the local media, well, then people have a lot of material to judge you on.

Short version: his death was sad, but he was still a terrible, terrible public figure. 

Friday, 8 March 2013

Why Stephen Harper Might Not Step Down This Fall

I saw an interesting post on the Canada Subreddit saying "Why Stephen Harper May Step Down This Fall." This jist of the article, from Steve Paikin's blog, is that Stephen Harper may decide to step down in the Fall while he's at the height of his power, and so control his legacy and succession. like other politicians like Jean Chretien and Dalton McGuinty have in the past.

The problem is that this question is dangerously close to a hypothetical question. These questions can be dismissed by a simple 'so what?' If it hasn't actually happened, it's irrelevant. Jean Chretien is supposed to have said, in response to hypothetical questions, "Well, if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a bus." It's similar with "may." He might step down. He certainly could step down if he decided to.  But will he, given how things are going right now for him and his party?  I don't think it's likely.

Why should Stephen Harper, who has lead and guided the Conservative Party from its days as unsteady coalition of the Reform and Progressive Conservative Parties to the majority government status want to step down now? He's certainly at the height of his power as a Prime Minister, and stepping down two years before an election would mean less time to put through his plans. There's also a good political reason against him stepping down: he's proven an effective leader to the conservatives, one who can keep control of the party, and get votes from the public. Why would he jeopardize this? There is no clear successor if he steps down now, and there certainly is no clear public favourite from among his cabinet.

I am putting that last point mildly.  

The Paiken article says that every good leader has their eye on the clock. Well, that's true. But why now? Paiken does say that this is meant as a theoretical case, and so doesn't really give any evidence why this will happen. It does sort of raise the question: What is the Tories plan for when Stephen Harper actually steps down? Do they have a plan? Who's set to take over?

With two years left on a majority government, I'm going to guess that it's not a pressing question for them.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Who needs parliament when you have Davos?

Mr. Harper no longer needs parliament to make grand-standing, vaguely unsettling political statements anymore. At a speech in Davos, Switzerland, he outlined his grand plan to transform Canada. Points on this plan are to aggressively pursue oil and gas exports to Asia, and to overhaul the pension system.

Mind you, it's early, and I haven't read through all of the talking points yet. And it's possible that anything this man could do would unsettle me. The press could announce that, say,  Stephen Harper has nipped out for a loaf of bread and some windex, and I'd find that A Reason To Be Worried.

Having admitted my prejudice here, I still find it oddly inappropriate the location he's chosen to announce it. You mean you couldn't unveil this before parliament, the institution that's supposed to represent us? Instead you're announcing it to a roomful of world leaders and powerful people, who probably don't give a toss, since it's Canada.
"I think he's saying something about Maple Syrup, maybe."
These are some sweeping changes he's mentioning, especially to those on the brink of retirement.  You think that the Canadian people should be addressed first.  I heard on the CBC this morning a reporter saying that the opposition was displeased by the venue he announced this at. One MP - can't remember the name, sorry - said that the proposed pension reform amounted to elder abuse. Since he's got this parliament in the bag, it's stopped being important to him at all - he has enough of a majority to rubber-stamp anything.

Don't despair, though. The conservatives still seem vulnerable to public pressure, if the Gay Marriage fiasco of two weeks ago proves anything. The problem is they now have parliament, and we can expect them to actually put these plans into practise. Which I think is a good Reason To Be Worried.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Can someone explain the government's response to Attawapiskat?

 Stephen Harper has just announced that Attawapiskat, the isolated first nations community whose housing crisis has put it into a state of emergency, will be placed under third party control.

I think I'm missing something here. This doesn't seem a good response to the crisis at all. Let me list the things that I don't understand here:
1. Why is the government putting a the reserve under third party control when First Nations affairs is the responsibility of the federal government? Specifically, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. It seems to me, in my ignorant and opinionated way, that if there is a housing crisis, the responsibility lies with the government to fix that.
2. Who is this third party they are appointing? A "third party" could be any person or any corporation other than the government and the reserve willing to step in the breach here, as far as I can tell. Are these going to be people appropriate to solving the housing problem? And is the federal government going to be absorbing the cost?
3. Why did it take them a month to respond to the state of emergency?
4. Why isn't the Prime Minister up there talking to the people of Attawapiskat himself? The leader of the opposition, Nycole Turmel just went up there. I remember Harper going up that town in Alberta devastated by wild fires in the spring, Slave Lake. Why is this community different?

Nycole Turmel, showing more leadership than a certain national leader. 
If someone can explain these things to me, I'd be grateful.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Sunrise, sunset (clause)

Hey blog. It's been ages. What's new? I feel we haven't talked since June. I started a new job over the summer, one that is awesome and so much fun, but required a bit of an adjustment period. I think I've found my sea legs now, and I may even have enough time to blog. 

A couple of interesting things that have happened in the last couple of weeks.
I hear that we're coming up on the bicentenary of the War of 1812 and the Historic Harper Government is going to make something of a big deal of this. Harper himself is a huge War of 1812 buff, which is a side of him I never thought we'd see. 

This is actually something I'd like to see the government do. I like a good historical recreation, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to bring out the costumes. It will also be interesting to see our government try and commemorate a war we had with our current largest trading partner, closest ally, and symbiotic host country without offending them. I bet no-one will bring up the burning down of the White House
It was actually the British who did it, but Canadians have been trying to steal the credit ever since.
Second thing I found interesting was the conservatives bringing back two clauses in the anti-terrorist act that seem frightening from a human rights perspective. The first would allow the police to hold anyone suspected of terrorist activity for three days without a police warrant. The second would allow judges to question suspects in private, with the threat of imprisonment if the suspect refuses.

It seems that the scope for abuse there could be pretty large, but I'm just speculating. As a wooly liberal/sheepish social democrat, this sort of news tends to push my buttons. Would I rather the government allow terrorism to thrive on Canadian soil? No, but I'm not keen on them selling out our human rights or due process either. 

It's not clear what burden of proof would be needed to label someone as a potential terrorist. Hopefully, it would be more than just racial profiling or people denouncing people they don't like.

I have misgivings more about the fact that these clauses are going to be in effect semi-permanently. When they were first passed in 2001, they were sunsetted. The means they would expire after a period of time, in this case five years. I don't know if that period of time is typical for all 'sunsetted' clauses. The happy Harper government has said that it won't sunset these clauses when they bring them back into effect. Which means they will be in effect for the foreseeable future.

I needed a picture. This really doesn't belong here.

Friday, 3 June 2011

New Speaker of the House

The house has just replaced Peter Milliken as speaker of the house with a 32 year old MP from Regina. Andrew Sheer, Tory MP originally elected to the house in 2006, says he's going to bring a more "friendly manner" to the house of commons.

New Speaker, saying hi.

I for one found it kind of interesting to see the race turn out. There's several reasons behind that. Firstly, the speaker of the house is kind of important. The last one found the Harper Government in contempt several times. The last occasion was the pretext for the watershed May election.

Secondly, and this builds off of the first point, it was interesting to see the people who would be filling the last speaker's shoes. Peter Milliken served for ten years as the Speaker, which is the longest anyone has cared to do this. By and large, the candidates were Tories, and fairly green. There was Denise Savoie, the only woman and the only NDP candidate to run, and apparently she came quite close after Sheer.

Personal note - she is the MP for my old riding of Victoria. I was totally rooting for her.

Thirdly, the race is pretty much a huge popularity contest. Anyone can nominate themselves to run, but it's a vote in the house that determines it. A free vote, not determined by party discipline. So the results can be interesting. Usually it's the most respected MP who gets chosen. In other words, it's the most popular girl in school who becomes Student Body President.

As speaker of the house, I'll return civility to the house of commons! :)

And like the student body president election campaigns you probably only remember dimly, the candidates all said nearly the same thing: "I will try and return civility and decorum to the House of Commons."

According to the candidates, the workings of the house has become something of a bear-pit, except less polite. Everyone has been bemoaning the lack of civility in the political process. I don't know how much of this is true. If you go by old politicians' anecdotes, the Parliament of old was a chummy place, with respectful debate, followed by beer and golfing. Back slaps all round!

The one we've ended up with, Sheer, is no different. He says going to restore a degree of friendliness to the House of Commons. That would be quite the accomplishment.

Plus he can write about it in his yearbook! :)

I'd like to see if a rookie MP with only a couple of years experience to his name will be able to pull this off. He has been in parliament since 2006, and he's been involved with the party since the days of the Canadian Alliance.

But Milliken, to draw a parallel, was an MP for 13 years before getting the position. That's a really long time in politics, long enough to build relationships, and learn procedure.

Sheer, as far as I can see is a backbencher with only five years of experience. Are these advantages? He better have a good plan to restore civility to the house, otherwise they'll eat him alive.