Monday, March 27, 2006

Episode 06 - A Commissioner for the Commissioner

Topics Covered:

Throne Speech:
Liberals ready to play chicken, NDP and Bloc likely not to get in on bluff.
Afghanistan: Religion trumps human rights, Grappling with our military's dialectical composition of peacekeepers and warriors.
Integrity Commissioner: Harper set to announce new office to handle whistleblowers, Alan Cutler forerunner for commissioner position, Ethics Commissioner's blunder raises questions of whether new office will be subject to the Privacy Act.
Ongoing Grit Saga: Ignatieff set to throw his hat in the ring and square off against Ashley MacIsaac et al, Liberals reexamine party principals through renewal commission.

Relevant Links:

Convert in Afghanistan faces death penalty
New Office of the Integrity Commissioner
Shapiro's office exempt from Privacy Act
Dr. Ignatieff set to run
Watch-out for longshot candidate in leadership race
Liberals launch renewal commission


At 10:21 PM, March 30, 2006, Blogger Russell McOrmond said...

Liberal senator letter: My point was simply this, "ye who is without sin should cast the first stone" - Christ.

You were commenting that the senator was taking a letter written about the seal hunt, and then went off onto what you saw as a tangent about US policies. In your response to her letter you went off on your own tangent about people who you perceive to be anti-American. I was suggesting, and I stand by it, that you did in your audio BLOG the very thing you were complaining that the Liberal senator had done.

In other words, "pot, kettle, black" :-)

While there are many people who complain about the legitimacy of the 2000 US election, I was talking about the voting irregularities in the 2004 US election. I don't see the comparison to the Belinda situation given she was elected after crossing the floor without any voting irregularities, while in the 2004 USA election the number of votes cast via ballotless (IE: unaccountable, un re-countable) electronic voting machines was much greater than the difference in votes between the two top presidential candidates.

War on terrorism: The theme came up a few times. Soon after September 11'th I was asked if I would be willing to fight in the "war on terrorism". My answer was: No, I could not, as I have relatives that are American Citizens.

If we ignore all the religious and other "us vs. them" rhetoric, we should focus on more unbiased views. This is the logic that I always try to use, even if I am emotionally uncomfortable with the conclusions that I come to out of this analysis.

When researching the International Court of Justice in the past I found that only one state has ever been found guilty of what would amount to "state terrorism" and that was the United States (Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America) (1984-1991)).

(If interested, see what I wrote in March 2003: Talk about the War / My view)

How people feel about our involvement in the world is always going to come back to our trust of our governments position and foreign policy. While Canada is a signatory to both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, and has thus earned the right to be involved in military activities outside of our boarders, I am sceptical of our credibility when we align ourselves with countries who do not have an equivalent respect for International Law.

You mentioned Tom Flanagan. Did you read the interesting article he co-authored recently about copyright and P2P filesharing?

File sharing is an asset, not a problem
, by Tom Flanagan and Gemma Collins.

I like to remind people that copyright is not a left-vs-right issue, but a future-vs-past issue. My hope is that the Conservative government will take his thoughtful advise on copyright related issues, and allow Canada to move forward and protect future creativity and innovation.

At 5:09 PM, April 02, 2006, Blogger Russell McOrmond said...

Sorry to be one of the few people commenting on the BLOG, but I really hope to get some discussions started. I'm excited about the upcoming term, and have my small TV in my office ready to have CPAC on in the background. I was also excited this morning to see that the issue of the Hill Times is that much thicker this week than it has been in the last few weeks.

I know, pretty geeky...

I'm curious if you guys listen to CBC's Cross Country Checkup. The question today is about the Canada-US relationship.

Some interesting thoughts: When people talk about anti-American sentiments we seem to be talking about people who disagree with specific political positions. Why is it if a Canadian disagrees with US policy that they are anti-American, but if an American disagrees they are not?

We also have short memories. When Clinton was the president there was very little talk about Canadian's having an anti-American sentiment. Those Canadians who disagreed with Clinton regime policies were never labelled with an anti-American label.

I'm wondering if this term really is ideological: left-of-centre thinkers are labelled as anti-American while right-of-centre thinkers are not?

I don't consider myself that left-of-centre, but it seems that I get labelled that way when I express views on international policy.

I have disagreed with some specific US policies that have been in place for far longer than the current Bush regime. While I'm not a fan of what happened in Iraq, I am also not a fan of what happened with the 1996 WIPO treaties which was under Clinton.

While the International Court of Justice case I mentioned earlier (See the Wikipedia entry for Nicaragua v. United States of America) happened in 1983-1984, under Ronald Reagan's watch, there have been a few presidents of a variety of political stripes since that time which could have negotiated a possible resolution. With a resolution it would have been reasonable to trust how the United States would deal with military activities outside of their country, but currently we are left with a "faith based" analysis (which I don't buy into) rather than a more robust legal analysis.

I have also disagreed with a variety of Canadian government policies (Federal and otherwise), but this doesn't make me anti-Canadian. While I may disagree with some Canadian policy, sometimes quite strongly, I at least believe that there are reasonable legal and political avenues to take these disagreements. The fact that Canada is a strong supporter of both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court I have a much stronger trust in how the Canadian military will act outside of our boarders given that both the government and the individual military persons will be held accountable for their activities under relevant international law.

You mentioned in person that these courts are obscure to most people. While I agree with you, and realize that most people would not consider these courts in whether they trust different governments activities outside of their own boarders, this makes me uncomfortable. Countries that have decided to opt-out on critical treaties and courts should have any of their international activities, especially military, scrutinized far more closely than countries that are more trustworthy simply by the fact that they have exposed themselves to accountability under international courts.

About us being large trade partners, I have two comments: While the United States is a large percentage of our trade, the reverse is not true as they have a much more diversified set of trade relationships.

And lets be honest: on economic issues we are competitors. The United States and Canada have a similar relationship as Microsoft and Apple (or maybe Microsoft and Xandros Linux, given the relative sizes). There are some policies that are in common, but for many things there is a competitive relationship where what is good for one is bad for the other. On issues such as technology policy, where the 1996 WIPO treaties and software patents are good for the United States for the same reason they are bad for Canada, we are dealing with a situation where the US is trying to protect very specialized business models that are currently dominated by US companies from competition from companies in other countries.

At 3:25 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger The PHB's said...

Hi Russell,

Thanks for the comments. While most of the discussion you refer to was between Alex and yourself (I don't believe I ever called anyone "anti-American"), I will chip in on a few points.

First I did see references to the Flanagan piece on copyright, although I didn't read the original. In either event, I did mean to mention it during the episode but it slipped my mind.

Regarding anti-Americanism, you mentioned that if Americans disagree with policies they are not considered anti-American. I actually spend probably more time talking American politics with Americans, even with this podcast, and so I can testify that this isn't true. "Liberals hate America" rhetoric is all too common from the devotees of the Bush administration--and not just the Rush's and O'Reilly's and Coulter's.

However I think you are generally correct about it being ideologically routed--both within the US and in Canada. In the United States, patriotism is generally valued more strongly on the Right then on the Left. And by that I do not mean that the Right is more patriotic than the Left--I mean that the Right frames their positions by appealing to Patriotism. And so when Democrats criticise President Bush, they hate the country and the Office of the President. (But on the rare occasions when the Right does, Meiers and Dubai ports, its fine) And when the Democrats criticise the war in Iraq or talk about exit strategies, they "hate the troops" or "don't support the troops" or "want America to fail in Iraq."

Of course when Clinton was in office, patriotism to the Office of the President didn't for a second stop Republicans from running Whitewater into a 4 year, $40M investigation (all the charges from which, Clinton was ultimately exonerated). Bush hasn't faced anything even in the same league as the massive cooperative to discredit Clinton.

In Canada, you are correct that anti-Americanism tends to flare up more against Republicans than Democrats. Some of the biggest fireworks was between Trudeau and Nixon. And even when the Prime Minister got along with the President, as with Mulroney and Regean's cozy duet-crooning relationship, Canadians get uneasy that we are becoming too close.

But the Clinton administration did get a few stings of Canadian criticism. It was Clinton after-all who brought in NAFTA officially. And his interventions in Kosovo and Afghanistan weren't without Canadian protest. Especially the latter, where the whole stopping Osama Bin Laden thing was apparently just a Wag-the-Dog distraction from Lewinski. I guess Bin Laden wasn't a serious threat, just a good distraction. Good thing we saw through that one! ;)

Anyways, I digress. The other issue of course is Haiti, which today is still controversial. In fact protests of Canada's continued role in the country are getting stronger, not weaker. And that commitment essentially started with Clinton's restoration of Aristide in 1994.

Now I agree our trade relationship with the US is asymmetrical but its not just about volume of trade, its about Canada having resources that are essential to the United States. For example, we are the biggest exporter of oil to the United States.

And so if you watched this year's State of the Union, the US's oil dependency ("addiction") is being framed by the administration as a pressing problem. You have neo-cons driving around Washington in hybrids not because they care about the environment, but because they don't like the US's dependency on OPEC--the consequences of which we saw under Carter.

And so while the US might not be heavily reliant on Canada for the wide-range of trade items, it is most reliant on Canada for arguably the most important.

I also have my strong reservations about the US's lack of cooperation with various forms of international governance. I was sadden to see Bolton get nominated to the UN. I don't like it. But what can you do? The Bush administration has the mandate of the people (although I understand you dispute this), and so that's the way it is. For now anyways.



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