Thursday, August 24, 2006

Who Shall Follow? or What Say Do I Have?

I heard an unconfirmed piece of data that was intriguing and believable nonetheless. Alberta is the world's third longest currently ruling one-party state. This makes some sense. The PC's have ruled since 1971 and I can only think of the communists in Cuba and China that have been in power longer. Perhaps it is right, perhaps it is wrong. What I do know though, is that long rules by one party are not good for democracy no matter who you are.

So here I sit at a cross roads. For $5 I can have more of a say in who will be our next premier than I have had in the last 14 years, and perhaps than I will for the next fourteen years to come. My professional association has encouraged me to get a memborship, pointing out that Ralph Klein needed around 50,000 votes to win the leadership last time, and our membership has 30,000 people. When presented with these facts and thoughts I sat, listened, and thought very uncomfortably.

I can not bring myself to think that I am supporting this oligarchy in anyway. I do not want to put any more money into the juggernauts pockets. I could not face seeing my name on the blue and orange membership card. I would dread opening my mailbox for the next year to see fundraising pamphlets and political appeals. I could not face myself.

And yet...

Here I stand with the greatest opportunity to influence the future of Alberta that I might get to have in the next decade and a half. I don't even know who I would vote for. Although I know who I definitely would not vote for (Mr. Oberg, I'm looking in your direction). I suppose I could do my research. I suppose I could hold my nose and put a mark by the least objectionable name on the ballot. I suppose I could burn my membership the day after the last vote. I suppose I could allow a little piece of me to die within myself for the sake of a tiny piece of the future.

And yet...

I still don't know what I'll do. I'll keep you up to date.

Goodbye Ralph.

Let the countdown begin!!! At least we would if we had an actual clue as to when King Ralph would let his deathgrip on power loose.

After 14 years under dictatorial rule, it is enevitable that you face moments of confusion as the end draws near (I will spare you from any comparisons to Cuba). There were moments over the past few months when I actually thought I might miss poor Ralph. Moments where I considered that his time in office might not have been as bad as I made it out to be in my own mind. Moments when I thought he had some redeemable qualities.

Any such thoughts quickly dissolved today as i listened to Ralph speak on the opening day of his last session of the legislature (at least I hope so, this time.) There were three moments which were indicative Ralph.

(I type this before the hansard has been posted to the web, so I apologize for not having direct quotes.)

The first moment which raised my eyebrow as I watched question period was in Ralph's response to the first question directed at him. It even seemed that the opposition didn't care to direct questions at King Klein because they knew he was a lame duck, but nonetheless Liberal Opposition leader Kevin Taft could not refuse the opportunity to get in a few last jabs. In response to Taft's question regarding Education spending Klein replied by saying 'The leader of the opposition might be happy to be back here, but I sure am not.' This comment is indicative of the contempt for the legislature which Mr. Klein has had since his entry into the Premier's office. I would think that someone who wants to provide their public service to the province would enjoy their work and enjoy being there. I know I enjoy my job and enjoy being at it. I would never say after a long break away from it that I am certainly not happy to be there. Klein has always resented his legislature roles and responsibilities. He would rather rule by iron fist than have to answer to a body of his peers.

The second moment of contempt and disguist came actually before the first moment. Rose Lundy experienced a miscarriage in the hallways of Peter Lougheed hospital in Calgary in front of over 30 other patients. <> She came to the legislature today to get answers and to ask questions of the government that was ultimately responsible. The Liberal party spoke to her and her husband Rick, even the health minister spoke to the Lundy's. But when they approached his highness, Mr. Klein quickly ducked into the elevator and yelled something to the equivalent of I have no time for you over the backs of the people in the elevator in front of him. Could he not have at least walked over, shook hands, and whispered in Rick's ear that he had no time for them. No, he had to treat thim with a similar lack of dignity that they received in the Peter Lougheed hospital. This once again showed his inability to listen to the concerns of his critics, and of the victims of his policies. He is not alone amongst politicians in this but it is a irreprehensible practice.

Finally Ralph Klein capped the day off by proving his appeal to the lowest common denominator. When confronted about having the lowest welfare rates in the country, he responded by touting the line that the employable have been encouraged to work, and he reminded us that the employable who refused to work were given a bus ticket. Ralph Klein dispises the poor. He did nothing to acknowledge the many who are unemployable and still trying to raise families on $12,000 per year in this wealthy and expensive province. He simply kept on the LCD argument that those bums on welfares should go out and get jobs or leave.

I am so happy to see Ralph Klein go. Happier today than I was on the day I first heard the news (and I remember vividly reading the newspaper on the airplane.) He is full of arrogance and ignorance, combined with contempt and disgust for anyone except his voters and the social elite whom he serves in this province. He has always been controlled by special interests and unexamined ideology.

The only thing that scares me is who shall follow.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Israel, Lebanon, and the Third World War

I have so many thoughts on this topic, I'm not quite sure where to start. I guess I have to start with values.

I value Peace. Wow, way to go out on a limb, 'eh. War is bad. Yay, two for two on the controversy meter. We have an obligation as the rest of the world, to not allow this conflict to continue with the intensity that it is. The only way to stop a cycle of violence is to intervene and slow the cycle. Unfortunately, this conflict will not be solved, or stopped, by the parties involved. Even if Israel achieves its goals of wiping out Hesbellah (not likely) they will only do so through the obliteration of a large portion of Lebanon, or the middle east as a whole. Doing so will only serve to strengthen the conviction of the militants and drive the moderates closer to the extremes. Peace, must be the goal. Lasting peace can only be achieved be beginning with a temporary peace. The Bush/Harper/Israeli view that lasting peace can only be achieved through the obliteration of hesbellah is dangerous in that it only empowers Israel to continue to use force and violence to solve its problems and does nothing to address the root causes of the violence. I won't even begin to acknowledge that I have any idea as to what the root causes of the violence are, and that is part of the problem (I'll explain this in more detail later.) I know that I don't completely understand all of the issues involved, but I am trying.

To help myself try to understand the situation, I came up with a hypothetical parallel situation (which I am sure will get my phone tapped.) Hesbellah is an opposition political party in Lebanon with a military wing. Lebanon as a nation does not directly endorse its actions. This most recent conflict began with Hesbellah directing missile attacks at Israel from cities in Lebanon. To model this conflict I created the following hypothetical and asked myself what reaction I hope would come from it. Let's say that the NDP militarized and created a store of long range missiles in, oh, let's say Winnipeg. They then launched missiles from Winnipeg at the Pentagon. The problem for the United States in this situation is that the country of Canada has not attacked the US, just a group within Canada has. Israel's response would be akin to the US, in my simulation, explaining to the citizens of Winnipeg (some of whom are NDP supporters and some of whom are not) that they must leave their homes within the next few days before the Americans attack the city. This would inevitably be followed by attacks on Winnipeg, followed by attacks on other american targets by NDP forces in other Canadian cities. The cycle of violence propogates itself ad infinitum.

My question now is, how would I want the Americans to react reasonably. It is unreasonable to expect that the Americans not react, and to not use force in their reaction. However, I would hope that the Americans begin by approaching the Canadian government with a direct message. "You must stop these attacks immediately and deal with this rogue group, we will help you in any way that you request, but you must deal with this problem immediately. If you fail to do so in a timely manner, we have no choice but to invade." A message like this forces the Lebanese people to make a clear and conscious choice as a country to either support this group and enter war as a nation with Israel (the terms of combat are much more clearly defined in nation vs. nation conflict) or to reject this group and become an ally with their neighbours (perhaps starting a civil war, but with much more clearer lines). As it stands the conflict is muddy and the Lebanese civilians are caught in a state of disarray with multiple masters. The violence brought on by the Israelis only strengthens the resolve of the militants and drives the moderates closer to their defenders.

Which brings me to the bigger picture here. In Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan there are groups of militant armed extremists that are holding their respective countries hostage by engaging in battles with Judeo-Christian nations and coalitions. They have declared a Jihad, which is mobilizing a great many people to their cause, people who are willing to kill themselves in search of martyrdom. By responding with force we only strengthen their argument that they are engaged in a Jihad which only strengthens their force. The extremists become more motivated and many moderates become more incensed. This is a battle that cannot be won. The key to this conflict is to promote leaders in the moderate muslim community. The people of these countries (and let's include Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia in the argument) need to have their faith strengthened by home grown non-violent muslim leaders. The majority need to be encouraged that strength in their religion will only come by rejecting these extremists instead of supporting them. The citizens in their own countries must turn against groups like Al Queda, Hesbellah, and Hammas, for the good of their countries and for the good of their religion. Islam is not the problem, it is the solution.

I cannot pretend to know enough about the history and religion in this region, but this is my humble opinion based on what I do know now. Let me know what you know and think so that I can adjust my thoughts and/or support my beliefs with more knowledge.

In the future I will discuss the question "Why did muslims fly planes into buildings in New York City?" It is a very important question, that we need to be continually asking ourselves.


Well, I am finally ready to make my first blog post. Hopefully, there will be many more to come. I have thought in the past that I need to get my thoughts and beliefs down; to create a collection of my ideas and ideologies. When I first became aware of blogs, I thought it was the perfect medium to do this. I just can't believe it took me so long to get it going.

I hope you find my points of view unique and interesting. I also hope you find them somewhat controversial. I like to think of myself as open minded above all else. So please respond to what you read so that I may further develop my thoughts and ideas.