Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Harper got a new cabinet from Ikea

Where does Stephen Harper get his cabinets? And I'm not talking about the legislative kind composed of MPs. I'm talking about furniture. I think he prefers the pragmatic modular nature of Ikea cabinets? A cabinet that can easily be broken down into it's individual pieces and rebuilt at a moments notice. The Swedish pragmatism devoted to Stephen Harper's cabinet means all the pieces must fit together cohesively; but at the same time each piece becomes incapable and expendable on its own.
Ok, maybe I was talking about government cabinets all along. Tomorrow morning Stephen Harper will announce his cabinet Ministers, uncovering the mystery. No ministers have been confirmed as of yet, but intense speculation has surrounded the decision process. The Cabinet is composed of Ministers, who each handle a specific portfolio (environment, defence, healthcare, etc). It is definitely going to be interesting, seeing which Conservative MP will go where.

Here are some points to consider:

Jason Kenney: This MP is credited with reaching out to "ethnic" communities, and delivering the vote of people in "ethnic costumes". As the Minister of Immigration, Citizen, and Cultural Affairs, Jason Kenney played a key role in delivering Harper's majority. His efforts are worthy of a promotion; but to where? It has been reported he might be moved to take over the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Department's former Minister, Lawrence Cannon, was voted out of his riding in Pontiac, Quebec. If Jason Kenney did his job and won the ethnic vote, then maybe he is too valuable in that position to be moved. Maybe, just maybe, new Canadians fell in love with his boyish grin and dimpled cheeks.

Peter MacKay: He already has one of the most important cabinet positions, so I don't really see where he can go. He has had a strong positive presence along side Harper, and he has upheld Harper's mandates.

Mike Flaherty: Same as Mackay. Flaherty is currently serving as finance Minister, and the only place this guy can go is up. But he is already at the top. The next logical step for Flaherty would be as Leader of the Conservative Party.

John Baird: I don't know what this guy is going to be doing. I read he is rumoured to become to Minister of Justice, but that is, hopefully, unlikely because he doesn't have a law degree. He might replace Stockwell Day as President of the Treasury Board.

It important to look at who the Prime Minister appoints to which cabinet positions. If the PM appoints a clearly incapable MP to a portfolio, it is a good indication that the PM doesn't really consider that issue a high priority. How often did you hear about Bev Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, before it became evident she was incapable of doing her job? Take John Baird as Minster of the Environment from 07-08. epic fail.

Here is a funny video of John Baird commenting on Flash Mobs:

Monday, May 16, 2011

WHA?! I thought Greg Mortenson was one of the good guys?

ugh! This is a huge disappointment. Greg Mortenson, founder of the charitable organization The Central Asia Institute, might be a fraud! This is the guy who rose to international fame after writing the books "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones into Schools"; both chronicle his success bringing education and healthcare to mountainous region in central Asia. His organization has claimed to build hundreds of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and in the process: empower women and fight terrorism! A truly awesome combination.
But unfortunately, a report on 60minutes indicated the whole scheme is a sham! Apparently he just spends his charity's received donations on himself in order to live a lavish lifestyle. Apparently his charity doesn't do anything, and the contents of his books was fabricated! YIKES! Unfortunately, I don't have whatever channel 60minutes is on. So I can't really say what all the accusations are specifically...

Here is the article from Yahoo News: Is Three Cups of Tea Writer Greg Mortenson a Fraud?

But... I have read one of his books. I feel conflicted. I read the first one "Three Cups of Tea" when it came out. Honestly, It was wicked. It was an engrossing adventure story, and the positive actions of Mr. Mortenson made me feel a little better about the world. It really sucks that I won't be able to appreciate that book as much as I did before. I haven't read "Stones Into Schools" yet; and I probably never will. If he can disprove all the evidence against him, maybe I will pick it up. maybe.

Book Review: "The Jew is not my enemy" by Tarek Fatah

Following on the heels of Arab protests across the Middle East, violent clashes have rocked Israel's borders this past weekend. Palestinians, protesting Israel's occupation of the land, rushed Israeli border checkpoints. Sunday, May 15th, marks the 63rd anniversary of the creation of Israel; a day which Palestinians refer to as "Nakba Day" or "Day of Catastrophe". Both Palestinians and Jews staked claim over the holy land, and this has created violent tension ever since. Both Palestinians and Israelites have committed crimes against each other. And in doing so each side has stockpiled contempt for the other.
I am not writing this to lend my support to any side, but rather to introduce a (fairly) recent and topical book. In "The Jew is Not My Enemy", Canadian Pakistani Journalist Tarek Fatah tries to explain the brewing hatred of Jews in Muslim regions like Pakistan, Iran, and Palestine.
Fatah travels back to his native Pakistan after 17 years of living in Canada. He was shocked to be confronted with a casual hatred against Jews that had developed in his home country. As a journalist, Fatah wanted to explore where the hatred of Jews stemmed from.
How does this relate to the current clashes between Israeli and Palestine? Well, it does and it doesn't. Fatah cites the Israel-Palestine conflict as a red herring when considering the Arab's mistrust of Jews. While not being responsible for creating the hatred, both Jewish and Arab communities cite it as support and justification for ill intentions.
Fatah identifies decades of stagnation in the Arab lands, and its many lost battles, as a source of hatred towards Jews. Extremist Muslim politicians and clerics have placed blame on the Jews, and somehow managed to unite entire Muslim communities against the Jew. Over time, the hatred of Jews has become ingrained in certain Muslim cultures and is propagated by authorities as a way of maintaining power.
Fanatical clerics have reworked the interpretations of the Koran, idealizing stories like that of a battle at Medina. One such story in the Koran, has the profit Mohammad and his armies take over the city of Medina, and killing its 900 Jewish inhabitants. Although the Jewish religion of the story's victims did not intend hatred of Jews when the story was originally written, it has become suggested by extremists as a religious justification for smiting Jews. Here is a quote from Tarek Fatah from the TVO podcast The Agenda with Steve Paikin, Nov 1st 2010:

"In an era of Muslimdom, when we have nothing to accomplish, when we cannot win any wars, where fourteen armies get beaten by a tiny force, where Pakistan and India have wars, and Pakistan gets defeated, where Egypt gets defeated, where Jordan gets defeated, Syria gets a bloodied nose. What do we rely on? Past victories."

Of course the manifested hatred of Jews is unfounded and ignorant. Tarek Fatah decries Anti-Semitism in every chapter by dispelling the Muslim myths fuelling their scorn of Jews. Fatah cites many historical instances of great cooperation between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East and South East Asia. He states the current mistrust of Jews is a relatively new phenomena, that has no historical justification. The Middle East is such a common topic nowadays, especially Jew-Muslim relations (take this guy for example), and this book will put a lot of conversations in context. There is tons more in the book, and it's a really easy read. If only actual extremists would read this book, their convictions would be changed. But alas, that will probably not happen.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The curious case of Ruth Ellen Brosseau (and other, perhaps, unqualified MPs)

There was a program on the CBC several months ago, that examined the job expectations that prospective MP candidates had of being an MP. In many instances, MPs reported not knowing anything about the actual demands and roles they would be required to fulfill as MPs, before they were elected. Some MPs rose to the occasion and dutifully fulfilled their roles. Other's bombed and crashed, and it would probably have better if they were never elected in the first place.

This past election, the NDP captured the imagination of Quebec which helped them surpass the Liberals and become the official opposition. Jack Layton probably is a transformer after all (I predicted that). The NDP are sending 57 first-time MPs to the House of Commons from Quebec; that is a lot of fresh faces. Don't get me wrong, I think that's great! It will be wonderful to have a new voice leading the opposition, bringing new policies to the table. Although, the NDP and Liberal platforms were very similar.

The problems is this: some of the elected NDP candidates in Quebec are not qualified to be MPs. I'm sorry, I don't mean to denounce Ruth Brosseau (Berthier-Maskinongé) or Pierre-Luc Dusseault (Sherbrooke), I am sure they are both very capable people and they both have the right to be MPs. But there is a certain wisdom that comes with age and experience, and it is that wisdom which must guide responsible decision making. Again, I'm not saying young people do not have good wisdom, only the probability of them having better wisdom at an older age is greater. Do you follow? No? damn.

Let's start with Ruth Ellen Brosseau. This was the NDP candidate who spent the majority of her campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada. On the other side of the continent. In her defence, "she was unable to reschedule her vacation". She is single mother, works full time, and got a good price for the air plane tickets. I respect her need to take a vacation, but come on... At least wait a month. Seriously. Surely it is hard to run a campaign. And clearly, she didn't need any help to win. But I would have liked to see more gusto. Or at least enough gusto, that her lack of gusto would not be reported in the news... Brosseau is 28, and the manager of a Carleton Pub. She also lives three hours outside of her represented riding, and does not speak French. yikes. I hope she is up to the challenge.

Pierre-Luc Dussault is the youngest person ever to sit as an member of Parliament. He is 19. Below I've posted an interview he did with the Globe and Mail. Let's see how he represents himself. He is an incredibly bright young man and I envy his motivation.

Tell me the story of how you became a candidate.
I’m studying politics right now at the Université de Sherbrooke. I threw myself into the race knowing what I was getting into. My goal was victory. I knew I could win. I entered because I was always hearing people who wanted change, people who wanted to send a young person into politics. That’s what encouraged me to run, to propose something new for the people of Sherbrooke.
Are you from Sherbrooke?
I was born near Granby, but I did my secondary and elementary school at Magog, near Sherbrooke, and now I’m at the Université de Sherbrooke.
So you just finished your first year?
Yes. I just finished my first year in political science.
What do you think will happen given that so many students were elected from Quebec? Do you think there will be time to study part-time?
No. I’m going to put that aside for now to concentrate full-time on my work. The people of Sherbrooke elected me to be their representative and I’ll work full-time to represent them as best I can.
Do you have specific subject areas that you want to focus on?
Since I’m the youngest MP in this Parliament, it’s clear that youth will be important for me, to be, if you like, the representative of all Canadian youth. That will cover education. It will be something that I will work on, like [Churchill NDP MP] Niki Ashton, who has already worked very hard on this. I’ll work with her to try and advance those files.
What do you think is happening in Quebec? Because the relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada is a very important part of the history of this country. What do you think the results for the Bloc Québécois mean?
What I’ve said throughout the campaign is that sovereignty, we know, won’t happen in Ottawa. As long as Quebec hasn’t decided, why not have a [federal] government in Quebec’s image? NDP MPs are MPs that share the values of Quebeckers – social and progressive values. That’s how I campaigned: As long as we’re in Canada, why not have a government in Quebec’s image?
Did you take a position on the future of Quebec?
As the NDP has said since the start of the campaign, we support Quebec and with our Sherbrooke Declaration, which respects Quebec’s jurisdiction, including the right to pull out of programs with compensation. With nearly 60 NDP MPs from Quebec, Quebec will have important weight. We hope we will be able to defend Quebec.
Do you think Quebeckers are less interested in the sovereignty question now?
I couldn’t say exactly, but it’s clear that during the campaign, sovereignty didn’t come up much. The Bloc talked about it; but when we talked with voters, they wanted to talk about health care, education, protecting pensions, families, workers. That’s what was important in this campaign.
What are your predictions for a Parliament with a Conservative majority and an NDP Official Opposition?
It’s not the best way to pursue our issues, with a majority Conservative government. With a left-leaning Opposition, it will lead to more left-right debates in Parliament, which is good for our democracy. We’ll have to work hard to deliver results, but our slogan in Quebec was “working together” – so if that can produce results for people, we’re ready to work with others to get results.
I don’t know if you saw NDP Leader Jack Layton’s press conference, but he was asked several questions about the lack of experience of some of his candidates. How do you respond?
It’s clear that when you look at the Canadian population, it’s made up of young people and older people. The NDP is a good mix that ensures our MPs are really a reflection of the population. We have people with a lot of experience and younger people, which means the population will feel better represented by us. That’s the beauty of our party, the diversity of people.
How did the NDP know you were interested in the party?
Since I became a member of the NDP – almost two years ago – I’ve been involved in the party. I’m president of the riding association and president and co-founder of the NDP student group at the Université de Sherbrooke. So this was not my first experience with the party. I was able to see how it works over several years.
Based on the actions demonstrated by Ruth Ellen Brosseau during her campaign, I don't think she cares enough about the job. Is Dussault's cinderalla story worthy of acclaim? He seems passionate, but is that enough considering he has probably never worked in any capacity similar to an MP? Adjacent to Guelph, there was another young NDP hopeful vying to be an MP. Former Gryphon and CSA Local Affairs Commissioner, Anastasia Zavarella, ran for NDP in the riding of Halton.