Monday, January 29, 2007

Fatal Flaw With Hillary and Barack?

If Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama (or both) are the nominees in the 2008 presidential election, all the Republicans need to do is make the election about Iraq. That won't be hard to do because Bush has created such a godawful mess there. In fact, it might be in the Repub's interest to keep Iraq a mess.

The Achilles heel of both Clinton and Obama is their perceived inability to be Commander in Chief. Obama just doesn't have the experience. Clinton is a woman, which the Repubs will try to twist into unsuitableness for a War President, and she has more experience but not that sort. The Repubs were even able to paint John Kerry as unable to handle a war portfolio, and he's a decorated war hero.

If the Republican candidate is John McCain - war veteran, former PoW, hawk - I don't see how Clinton or Obama can win. Perhaps I'm just feeling pessimistic today.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dion Has Nothing to Apologize For

I heard a Conservative spokesman on CBC radio today saying that as Environment Minister, Stephane Dion presided over a 35% rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

This is a lie.

Stephane Dion was appointed Environment Minister by Paul Martin in 2004, and he presided over an aggressive agenda to improve greenhouse gas emissions. In April 2005, 8 months after becoming Environment Minister, Dion launched Project Green, which was a climate change plan aimed at meeting our Kyoto commitments. His program was trashed by the Conservatives when they took power in early 2006.

The 35% figure refers to Canada's rise in emissions from the time it signed Kyoto in 1993. Prime Minister Chretien promoted the idea of greenhouse gas emissions, but he did not do a great deal to contain them. Why did emissions rise? Over half of the cause was the oil boom in Alberta. Some of the rest was due to the low Canadian dollar causing a boom in manufacturing, mostly in Ontario - over this period, manufacturing processes became much less polluting, but the great rise in volume caused greater emissions. Why wasn't Ottawa able to rein in Alberta? Well, the Alberta-based Conservative party (nee Reform, prev. Alliance) had something to do with that. Also, if you remember, Chretien had to devote most of his resources to fixing the economy in the 90s, and every other brief suffered. I'm not arguing that he made the right choice on that, but we all benefit from it today.

During the Chretien years, Dion was not involved with the environment. He was kept busy as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and he did a very able job at it.

See also
Those Pesky Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Earth Day


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Give Us the Option To Buy Refillable Glass Bottles

Seventy percent of glass bottles that are put in recycling bins are sent to the dump. Part of the reason is preventable (like people trying to recycle bottles that have metal or plastic on them) and part is not (like current recycling technology just not dealing well with glass).

What we need is the option to buy refillable bottles for wine, pop and beer. A wine company might find that it's a competitive advantage to offer the refillable option. Companies like the Pop Shoppe were very successful in selling crates of 750-ml returnable pop bottles from Pop Shoppe bottling centers. We don't have to force every bottler to provide refillable bottles - we just need the option.

In Ontario, grocery stores used to have automated bottle return centers, where you put your bottles on a conveyor belt and the machine gave you a store credit. We had refillable bottles then because there was an Ontario law that forced bottlers to provide a percentage of their product in refillable bottles. All that ended when the government got a pay-off from bottling companies to allow them to sell 100% of their product in disposable (mostly plastic) bottles.

The environment is supposedly the number one political issue for Canadians today. Do we just care about the environment in the political arena, or are we willing to do something about it ourselves? Recycling is great, of course, but in some respects is a false fix. A lot of pollution and energy is used in recycling, and the main benefit (arguably) is reducing municipal waste management costs. In terms of real environmental progress, we need to start creating less waste - less garbage and less recycling.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

We Want Our Two Million Dollars Back

After his term as Prime Minister, the RCMP conducted an investigation of whether Brian Mulroney received kickbacks from a man called Karl Schreiber in a military deal to purchase Airbuses. The RCMP sent a letter to the Swiss government asking for Schreiber's bank records, mentioning Mulroney's name. Mulroney heard about the letter, sued for defamation of character, and got a settlement (out of court) of $2.1 million. Later on, Karl Schreiber admitted that he gave Mulroney $300,000. Mulroney claimed the $300,000 was for his consulting expertise in a pasta business. Schreiber said that was a lie.

The Globe & Mail reported recently that the government looked into trying to get our $2 million dollars back, but dropped the attempt. But there are other ways to bring some closure to this sad tale. Can a case be made that Mulroney perjured himself? Even if the case never got to court, there must have been some claim of innocence in the statement of the case. Can the kickback investigation be reopened now that Schreiber is talking?

There are a lot of people with egg on their face after this fiasco. There are questions about why the government paid the $2 million to Mulroney so quickly, when the usual M.O. is to hold up the funds for years (remember the civil service pay equity lawsuit, anyone?). Why was the RCMP unable to turn up evidence when the media was able to get it? How did journalist Stevie Cameron get so utterly smeared and discredited as she attempted to uncover the truth - were Mulroney supporters behind that?


Sunday, January 21, 2007

My Problem with Jimmy Carter's New Book

Defending his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter said this week that one of the two main premises of the book is "the horrible persecution and oppression of the Palestinian people." What Carter doesn't say in his sound bite is why the situation exists as it does today: that the Palestinians and millions of other Arabs surrounding Israel do not recognize Israel's right to exist and Israel is under constant military threat, forcing it to protect itself. Carter went on to say, "Israel needs peace and the Palestinian people need peace and justice and I hope my limited influence will help to precipitate some steps." He's implying that the Israelis do not need justice - the Israelis who suffer from regular domestic bombings, rocket attacks from across their borders, and rhetoric from Palestinian and other Arab leaders that all Jews should be killed.

I'm certainly not saying that everything Israel has done has been right or fair to the Palestinians, and I believe as much as anyone that what is needed first and foremost is peace. But if you believe that Israel has a right to exist, and if you believe that a people have a right to defend themselves from genocide, then how can you try to force them to stop defending themselves?

I haven't read the book, and don't intend to, for two reasons. The first is that I tried to read another of Jimmy Carter's books and couldn't get through it because it was so boring. (This even though I was a major fan of Carter's presidency and I read a lot of dense non-fiction.) The second is that the title is inflammatory and counter-productive and makes me not want to have anything to do with the content.

Carter should know that there are a lot of people in the west who believe that Israel does not have a right to exist, and the title of his book gives them justification to pursue those views. Anti-semites throw around the term apartheid to describe Israeli-Palestinian relations (as we learned in our recent Liberal leadership race). Whatever the fine points of his argument are (and I'm sure, knowing the man, that he has many good insights), his title is a blunder that will set back the cause of peace, not help it.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Time to Speak Up Against Capital Punishment

Canada hasn't had the death penalty in a long time, and it may have become one of those things that could be rolled back because we've grown complacent about it. As of yesterday, Canada has a new Attorney-General/Minister of Justice, Rob Nicholson, who wants to bring back capital punishment, and his mandate is, apparently, to get things done.

To put this issue in context, it has been a long long time since we've had a government that wanted to reinstate the death penalty. Martin, Chretien, Mulroney and Trudeau were all against the death penalty. In 1987 there was a free vote in the House of Commons on the death penalty, but it was defeated.

Following the effective abolition of the death penalty in 1976 we entered a 20-year period of declining murders in Canada, although the decline was small. The biggest effect of abolition was an immediate large increase in the conviction rate for murders - after abolition, juries were twice as likely to convict a murder suspect.

Nevertheless, public support for the death penalty is currently at about 40%. (It has been as high as 73%, but that was when the survey question asked about "capital punishment"; when asked about "the death penalty", the positive responses are cut nearly in half.) Add to that a Prime Minister and Justice Minister who want to bring back capital punishment, and we are in grave danger of becoming a killing state again.

Some reasons why I am vehemently opposed to the death penalty:

1. Numerous studies, and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, have concluded that the death penalty offers no deterrent effect.

2. The class system is alive and well in the justice system. For identical crimes, a poor or marginalized person is much more likely to face sterner punishment.

3. Since 1976, at least six Canadians convicted of first-degree murder were later found to be innocent.

4. There is no humane way to kill a person. Even lethal injections are currently banned in Florida and California because of recent botched killings that caused prolonged pain and suffering. (link)

5. State executions are about the most barbaric thing that could be done to a person and to a society. No one should have the ability to kill another person except in self-defense or, arguably, war. No one should face death from their government.

You can write our new Attorney-General at
You can find your MP's contact info here.