Friday, 22 July 2016

Trump is right about NATO - and probably NAFTA too

The reason Trudeau hasn’t contradicted Mr.Trump is because he knows he’s right

The liberal media (namely CBC) has painted Justin Trudeau’s lack of response in regards to presidential hopeful Donald Trump criticisms of NATO and NAFTA as a calculated and deliberate politeness on the part of the PM. The comments are PM is refusing to respond to are Trumps indication that he will “rip up NAFTA” and force countries in NATO to make appropriate contributions.

Being polite over this issue is stupid and the Liberals know it. NATO membership has been a thorn in the Canadian side for years, and NAFTA never really worked for us to begin with. The Trudeau government is being coy on this issue so as to separate themselves ideologically from US Republicans. However, more and more its looking like it will be difficult at best for Hilary Clinton to make it to the Oval Office, which means its time for Canadian politicians to truly act bi-partisan and agree with your ideological opposites by admitting that Canadians don’t want NATO or NAFTA anymore.
Since this article will likely exceed 2000 words if I combine both issues, today I will focus on the ludicrous nature of any Canadian politician supporting NATO. and when I next write, I will address the subject i’m less versed in (I need the chance to talk to an economist first), the economic policies of NAFTA and why they’re terrible for Canada.

All up in a tizzy, Canadian ministers says the dissolution of NATO would be bad for international peace, without much explanation as to why. 

"Sajjan said collective defence is central to the alliance, which itself has been instrumental in helping bring peace and stability to Europe and other parts of the world."

Even Ted Cruz has come out and said abandoning  NATO would be a preemptive surrender of sorts. 

Donald Trump is by no means the first to criticize NATO. Does anyone remember Robert Gates? Gates served as secretary of defence under both Bush 42, and Obama (not many secretaries continue after a president from the opposite party is elected) making he arguably one of the most based, centrist Secretaries of Defence in memory. So i’m sure such a centrist sits somewhere in between the blanket support Canadian politicians seem to have lately, and the polar opposition the Mr. Trump possesses.
"The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the US Congress - and in the American body politic writ large - to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defence … Nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defence budgets.” 
It would seem that Donald Trump's proposal isn’t really new, or particularly controversial, save possibly his delivery of it. Funny he hasn’t got called out an plagiarism for basically repeating Mr. Gates sentiment,  but its likely the liberal media wouldn’t want to associate Trump with a based, centrist former Secretary of Defence.

Up here in Canada the coy nature of responses must because Canadian love the protection we get from NATO right? Well actually, we haven’t really been fans if you look through headlines from the last few years. Here’s a quote from a 2014 article about Canada’s withdrawal from the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, Trump is right about insufficient spending. Not only have Canada’s military contributions been abysmal (compare the number of troops we commit to NATO compared to a nation with similar population such Poland if you want to be shocked) but even after the Afghan mission we didn’t really want to pay up for our share of rebuilding the country we just helped destroy, because it was unpopular with Canadians. Even the Canada-NATO wiki page seems to say we might not be making much in the way of monetary contributions 
“Given the small size of Canada's military, the importance of Canada's contribution to NATO has primarily been political rather than military”

Oh yeah and more and more it looks like the Saudis, who we’re delivering LAVs to were actually more complicit in 9/11 than anyone thought, and Bush 42 should probably have invoked the NATO Collective Defence clause against Saudi Arabia rather than Afghanistan.
How have other NATO missions worked out? Well NATO helped with the UN no-fly zone around Libya during their uprising. Libya has basically been a failed state since 2011 and has become a serious breeding ground for groups like Daesh/ISIL.
So we’ve got massive spending and loss of life (significant enough to warrant its own wiki page) from the one time NATO’s collective defence clause has been used. Not only that but we likely went to war with the wrong state so the spending and loss of life was in vain. After that fact, Canadians didn’t have, or didn’t want to spend the money needed to rebuild the country we and the other NATO allies destroyed. It would seem to me that the result of NATO missions such as Libya and Afghanistan are pretty dubious. Not only are that, but Trump is right, we don’t spend enough on NATO. In 2016 we spent marginally more than (based on % of GDP) than Spain and Italy, who both had failing economies at the time. Canada hasn’t made it to the 2% contribution it promised, we’re at about 1% of half of what we said we’d spend, making Mr. Trump correct about our (lack off) spending.

NATO is bad for Canada, and we can’t afford it. If the Liberals had any balls they would stop subtly throwing shade at Donald Trump and in a wholly bi-partisan move, admit he might be right about the need for NATO in a world with the UN and some many other already costly treaty bodies. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Canada’s return to racist peacekeeping

Sending white people to Africa isn’t a great idea

The Canadian forces made an announcement on behalf of the Trudeau government last week. At face value it seemed to push the Liberal line on defence that Canada is reestablishing itself as an international player in defence (without any over arching strategy or hard assets - but that’s a different story). Here’s a quote from the Canada’s top military official Johnathan Vance 

"Internationally, the army is at the forefront, managing conflicts around the world, contributing to operations in Iraq, building capacity with allies and partners in Poland, Ukraine, and very soon in Africa.”

Lets break this down a little bit before I get to the punchline of this article. 

“contributing to operations in Iraq”

Most Canadians (who pay attention to these things) know that we have special forces training local forces on the ground in a variety of middle eastern countries who are fighting ISIS. These soldiers are not however, directly engaged in combat. They are what’s referred to as military advisors or military trainers, and the theory is if they train local forces to fight, its more effective, genuine and more accepted by local populations especially when contrasted with a force of largely white foreigners. Hence the language “contributing” as opposed to conducting are similar language that implies direct engagement by our forces. I’ll explain further in this article why sending a bunch of white people to a country with no white people to fight a war, defeat one side, and leave isn’t a great idea (though do I need to?) but lets move on.

“building capacity with allies and partners in Poland, Ukraine”

This one is a little more simple, but also not. Supporting Poland is the simple part. Poland has been a NATO ally since 1999. Why we need to help them with troops as Canada contributes a total of 95,000 active and reserve troops to NATO compared to Poland’s 635,000 is beyond me. 

For Canada's support of Ukraine we need to go just a little deeper. Canada was the first state to recognize the Ukrainian government publicly after its separation from the Warsaw pact. Canada was also one of the first states to formally recognize the post-Euromaiden governments. There’s some pragmatic reasons we want to stay chummy with the Baltic sate, such as Ukraine’s nuclear and satellite capacity, both things it was given as a Soviet state but it kept after departing the Warsaw pact. There’s also some reports to indicate the Harper government granted citizenship to former Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk proving they like both sides of the Ukraine-Russian conflict - though no conformation from Ottawa. Though this might be at the ire of the Russians, Canadian soldiers don’t really do a whole when they go to Ukraine, except sit there and act as a deterrent. However, as they are still Canadians and not indigenous to the region there is some controversy as to their presence. They blend in though, so its not such a big deal. 

(an actual picture taken of Canadian military trainers
identifiable by the distinctive "CadPat" camouflage with
Ukrainian separatists who *may* share Nazi sentiments)
Image result for romeo dallaire
(Romeo Dallaire - amazing humanitarian - not very African looking)

These two exercises are in line with modern theories on peacekeeping (though i'm aware they're both NATO missions). In this day and age its not seen as sensitive to a state to send of bunch of military personal there who look nothing like the locals, and aren’t familiar with the customs. People can criticize lack of physical intervention from UN states in african genocides of the 90’s such as Rwanda, but the fact of the matter is filling the country with white people in uniform to stop the violence doesn’t work. 

As we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan filling a war torn country with people seen as infidels has the tendency to drive resistance underground until the white folks go home, at which point even more radicals arise. 

Although it has been criticized by the left sending military trainers or advisors is a decent “boots off the ground” approach, and its progressive as far as peacekeeping goes. It also doesn’t count as deploying military if its just a few guys, so governments like being able to deny culpability of full scale military deployment. Advisors train locals who were already there, and the eventual military action is seen as genuine, coming from the right sources, and doesn’t generate implications neo-colonialism from the left. 

What doesn’t fit with modern peacekeeping is more Canadian peacekeepers.

Most parts of the world where conflict necessitating peacekeeping occurs isn’t filled with a whole lot of white people, the fact that western soldiers cost more to pay, and some other minor reasons, mean there has been a dramatic reduction in western Peacekeepers. 

For instance the US with all their military prowess contributes a whopping total of 73 individuals to UN peacekeeping. 33 of those aren’t even military personal, but rather police. Canada contributes a little more than our southern cousins with 106 personal contributing to UN peacekeeping missions. So who are the top contributors ? Malawi, Zambia, Mongolia, Guinea, France, Malaysia, Cambodia, Congo, Republic of Korea, and Fiji rounding out the top ten contributors of personal. I have a suspicion France and the ROK are on there because of the massive French Foreign Legion (made up of largely non-whites), and North Korea (The UN maintains peace between the DPRK and ROK) respectively. (Source for all these numbers)

The Fact that these troops look like the locals they are protecting, have a better idea of local cultures, and are far more cost effective should be enough reasons for preferring to deploy them as opposed to western counterparts. There’s one pretty crucial other reason however, Malawi, Zambia, Guinea etc. are not rich countries. They can’t very well donate a bunch of funds to the UN, as they are often on the receiving end of UN aid. Because many of these countries are not in the most stable regions, they do posses large militaries relatively speaking. The reason they send troops is because it keeps military members employed and not turning into trained mercenaries, an altogether common practice in developing regions. They send troops because most of the nations mentioned don’t have the capacity for monetary contributions. The send troops because the people they send blend in a whole lot better than a bunch of white guys from Canada. 

By saying Canada is going to send its army to Africa implies we will be sending troops. This is a bad idea, plain and simple. We don’t blend in, we don’t understand the culture, or for that matter then language, and by doing so we presumably reduce the numbers of troops deployed from african nations, contributing to the dangerous set of problems i’ve alluded to. 

The era of white peacekeepers running around the world with little more good than their intentions is over. Sending Canadians to pacify Africa is racist, and the Trudeau government needs to seriously consider how this action will affect the very people they are trying to help. If they really wanted to help they would contribute the one thing improvised, war torn nations don't have - money. However, its harder to film money flying over to Africa in a military transport plane

Monday, 18 July 2016

BLM must condemn acts of violence against police

Or they need to take responsibility 

There is no middle ground. You can be a political group, social movement etc but when members who associate with you group commit acts of terror and violence that cut deeply into the fabric of civli society, you need to either condemn them, or assume some of the responsibility. 

I don’t blame Muslims when an extremist commits an attack like then one in Nice. A religion that has some 1.6 billion members, or about a quarter of the worlds population is bound to have some extremist members. However whenever these attacks of occur, regardless of how connected or not a muslim group may be most groups will express their condemnation of the attack. I’ve seen condemnation from international muslim groups, local mosques in North America, and individuals world over. None of them claim to be associated with extremists, most aren’t even geographically close. Why do they feel the need to do this?

Because regardless of the poor logic behind stereotypes, this action helps show the differences between the vast majority of muslims who would not commit an extremist attack - and the small minority of radicalized individuals who tolerate violence. This is an important move as non muslims often hold stereotypes about the religion and often associate it with extremist violence though there are no ties. 

I have written strongly about my dislike for BLM in the past, however I do it because I do not believe the movement is without merit, I simply disagree with how it conducts itself. I’ve used strong words and comparisons to make a point. Never have I said that Canada should ban BLM, or should condemn them carte blanche. With that being said, after the most recent murders of police in Baton Rouge by an individual who has claimed association with BLM and associated groups I searched out a response from BLM condemning the despicable action. 

I could find no such statement. Not on their official twitter, and not visibly enough I could find it on other platforms.
Image result for blm baton rouge response
(The disturbing top response from google for "BLM baton rouge response"
Image result for blm baton rouge response
(Another top response indicative of an organization
that refuses to separate itself from violent extremists) 

This is troubling because both of the recent police shooters have self associated themselves with the group in some way. This is where my Muslim analogy comes into play. I’m not saying in any way that BLM is behind these murders. What I am saying is those who committed these attacks claim they are in some way connected to BLM, or at the very least BLM’s fight. I firmly resect the right for groups to protest, and whether I agree or not is irrelevant. The caveat to this is as a protest group or movement, you have some social responsibly to control your organizations discourse around an event. When people who have committed atrocities claim they are part of the same movement or social issue your group is, you need to be clear about your separation, or you need to accept that by not condemning truly violent despicable actions, you take some of the responsibility for them. 

So this is a call to Black Lives Matter. Please start condemning the actions of violent criminals who associate themselves with your cause. There’s really no excuse for not doing so, unless you agree with their actions. 

Friday, 15 July 2016

Its time to let Canada Post fail

Either mail carriers are worth more than their peers - Or they make more than their worth.

As long as I can remember, i’ve heard people joke that getting a job as a mail carrier is like winning the lottery. As the stereotype goes people who deliver mail make a great annual salary, don’t work weekends, retire on a goldmine, and the only requirement to get the job is a high school diploma and a drivers license. Considering 80% of Canadians over the age of 15 have a high school diploma or equivalency I guess I understand the lottery comparisons.

Accuracy of the punchline aside, this can’t all be true, can it? Well because the postal workers union is refusing to binding arbitration, the story piqued my interest. After all, what are postal workers so afraid of?

Whether you agree that it might be time to let this bloated giant fail or not, the reason I write today is because after researching for this article i’ve come to the conclusion that Canada Post is afraid we might realize getting job there is exactly like a lottery win, except its one Canadians foot the bill for. We pay out this lottery even though it appears we can pretty much to without them. Postal workers are afraid if they even give an inch in this fight, Canadians will realize its time we let them fail. 

Lets start with the Salary. The median Canadian income is about $27,000. For those who have a trade, or some level of apprenticeship its about $8,000 more or close to $40,000 a year. For those with post secondary, they can earn $20,000 more than the median or very close to $50,000 annually. So what do postal workers earn on average? 

The Canada post website is pretty cagey, offering hourly rates and an apparent base salary of $22,000.


 According to some 300 reports from sites like GlassDoor and PayScale, combined with my basic math, the average income (not starting salary) for someone employed at Canada post is about $68,000. You can take some issues with my math, I don’t claim to be an expert in that regard. However, its pretty clear that regardless of your skew, Canada Post employees make quite a bit more than the average Canadian. This combined with the fact that they don’t have to go through the costly, and time consuming process of achieving a college degree to increase their chances at a good salary, makes getting a job at Canada Post the lottery win i've mentioned. 

I should also mention the pension program at Canada Post. This program characterized as "unaffordable by any employer",  has become a sticking point for workers. There’s a good reason they want to keep it (Full disclosure, I study political science, not finance. So if I make some glaring mistake PLEASE comment or message me on twitter as I really do hate being wrong and would like to asses all new information as a glean it). 

Postal Workers in Canada enjoy a type of pension unheard of in the modern private sector, and even quite rare in the public sector. They have what’s called a defined benefit pension. A conventional plan pays out based on what a person put in to the fund, and how well the fund itself did as an investment. So this way if the market falls, those in the fund do not abscond with all of the money leaving the next generation of employees with empty coffers. To make it fair to the next stakeholders in the pension fund, a percentage based on how much an individual put in, relative value of the fund is paid out to an employee when they retire. Now, it does suck pretty badly if you decided to retire just before a market collapse. Suddenly your pension doesn’t bring in nearly what you thought. However, this is the reality and furthermore the only reason you get a positive rate of return on a pension fund to begin with is because the money you put in is invested along with many other individuals money, and it can generate greater interest, which in turn increases the value of the investment more than would occur with solely your own funds invested in the market. Sure on paper it looks like a nice idea to put have a pension plan that eliminate the risks of bad investments and pays out what people are “owed” in consistent amounts over time. This is a Defined Benefit. Defined benefits pensions seem nice, but if the market does poorly and people still take the same amount out, this leaves the fund empty and screws the next generation. This is why the private sector has all but eliminated defined benefit pensions.

 To put it in simple terms, regardless of how their investments do, postal workers will get the same benefits at the end of their tenure, even if it screws their peers and we the taxpayer have to make up the difference (remember Canada Post is a crown corp). This makes postal workers the 1% of pensioners in Canada, and all us normal joes whose retirements are at the whim of the market the 99%.

One must assume that if we’re treating a sector of employees so much better than the average worker, they must be pretty essential right? 

Well maybe not so much. See, Canada Post threatened to strike as soon as Monday July 11th. Many businesses were worried the shutdown might affect them if they had no mail delivery. What could possibly be done ?

Business switched to using other services. Here’s a quote that sums up the effects of simply  proposing a shutdown of the mail 

In their press release, Canada Post cited three of the negative effects of the current negotiations. First, nearly all of Canada Post’s largest e-commerce clients have moved to other delivery services resulting in a 75% decline in volume fro these costumers. Second, letter mail is down as much as 50% in some facilities and over the weekend commercial customers deposited half the amount of mail usually deposited. Finally, there has been such a large decline in parcels that “there are often not enough parcels to last an entire processing shift.

So, basically we as Canadians collectively called Canada Post’s bluff, and guess what?

It looks like we don’t really need them. 

Postal workers are seriously over paid for the skill set they posses, and I’m not sure how many people really knew the extent, until during this controversy workers were forced to justify their bloated salaries and wacky pension plans.

Its time we let this bloated behemoth die, and see what the free market manages to pull from the blubbery carcass of Canada Post.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Don't let Canadians vote on how to vote - PT II

Unless they're First Nations. 

Its not secret that Canada and ever other western nation, has a pretty shit record when it comes to their first nations peoples. From years of abuse and assimilation, to outright genocide, political leaders have rarely been able to say they represented First Nation’s rights. Unsurprisingly voter turnout from Canadian first nations has been significantly lower than national averages. 

In Canada’s last election there was a massive uptick in First Nations voter turnout. Although some say this was anger at the Harper goverment, PM Trudeau none the less enjoyed the support. In turn, once he took often, Mr. Trudeau made it clear First Nations issues were one of the primary mandates for all of his ministers. He said While this move seems positive at a glance, it comes with a caveat. First Nations issues are not always Canadian issues, and Canadian issues are not always first nations issues. While its noble for Trudeau to mandate all of his Ministers to consider First Nations issues as Canadian issues, in many ways the issues conflict. For instance, pipelines. Without a doubt pipelines are the safest way to transport oil across Canada. By not building them we commit to transporting oil by rail, which as any resident of Lac-M├ęgantic will tell you, has tragic consequences. However because of the potential environmental consequences, and a plethora of other reasons, first nations support for pipelines is rare, and has been criticized for not being genuine even when it does occur. So it would seem theres an ideological divide between what is good for Canadians and what is good for First Nations. 
What happens in cases where the issue at hand is relevant to First Nations is whichever group yells the loudest, has the best lobbyists, or gets their point across to people who matter gets their way, with little thought to compromise. More often than not this is the “white” opinion. Leaving First Nations with little voice, and a serious alienation from our democratic system. 

Leaving measurable percentages of the population alienated and without their own voice isn’t the way modern democracies function. Meaningful representation can reverse this, and it can help get Canada started on electoral reform, without throwing out the baby with the commons bathwater.  

I believe that we can add an element of promotional representation to Canada’s democracy, give First Nations peoples a powerful voice in the commons, and we can do this without modifying existing seats or riding boundaries. We can do this all simply, by adding about 14 seats determined proportionately, that are reserved for First Nations MPs - BUT - only if First Nations peoples (whom I obviously do not claim to speak for) want it.

Canada should allow First Nations people the right of self determination for meaningful and unique representation. First nations people should be able vote in a binding referendum on whether they should have the option to be represented in (by my calculation) some 14 ridings overlapping the current boundaries of current ridings. Trudeau has said he wants to empower First Nations, and also said he will reform the electorate - this is how.

(Folk art of a Maori man riding, a whale which is largely unrelated
to the special electorate districts created over a century ago but none
the less sounds phonetically similar )
The system I envision would work similarly to that of New Zealand who have employed a system of Maori reserved ridings the late 1800’s. In modern times this means that the number of people who register on the “Maori” electorate (people have the choice to register on the “general” roll as well) vote for Candidates in much geographically larger areas. MPs can represent their issues well and have the support of parties formed specifically for the Maori electorate and for Maori issues. New Zealand’s system hasn't been without criticisms, but it has certainly given a voice to that countries indigenous peoples by forcing members of “general” electorate to negotiate with Maori parties and MP’s especially when minority governments are sitting. 

A tweak I would make would be to have the number of seats flexible (similar to Germany’s variable commons seats) based on what percentage of First Nations choose to vote in special ridings versus vote on the general roll.

I may be on the Political right, but I firmly believe everyone deserves representation. The representation First Nations people currently have is at best diluted into the wider community by virtue of riding size. With a couple of minor exceptions, there are not many ridings in Canada with close to 50% First nations people, and with exception to pale mandates like the one PM Trudeau gave, First Nation  issues are rarely completely in sync with Canadian issues. That’s ok though, actually its great because as i’ve said previously, allowing Canadians to vote on electoral reform with likely cause a cluster-fun. However, allowing - as a sort of pilot project - First Nations peoples to gain proportional, and meaningful representation by creating a number of new seats - all without shaking the foundations of are democracy just to see what happens. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Don’t let Canadians vote on how to vote

A referendum is the worst route towards electoral reform 

There’s a very relevant quote from a British political figure with which i’m gong to start this article, 

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” 
 Now before you judge this quote remember it was said by a Nobel literature prize winner, a great military victor, Britain’s most popular PM, and the namesake to a absurdly large cigar size. Who is this i’m referring to ? My personal portly hero, Winston Churchill.

Image result for Winston Churchill
(likely the most popular politician to be openly contemptuous towards his constituents)
Jokes aside, I honestly believe having a referendum over reforming our current First Past the Post (FPP) voting system spells disaster for Canada. There are a couple basic reasons why I believe this. Firstly Canadians, and people in general lack the knowledge and education to understand the foundations of our system. Ask about someones vote and a surprising amount of people will say the leader of their party’s name - showing a fundamental misunderstanding of Canada’s “leadership race” which technically is a closed event limited to the respective party members. Although most Canadians think its “bad”, I wonder how many understand the senate is an unelected body, and that at its creation there was good reason for this (protecting the more affluent against mob mentalities). How many Canadians really understand the first past the post, majoritarian system we employ. The Liberals has insisted they will change the system and ensure the election that gave them the freedom to do so will be Canada’s last FPP election. While I would normally hope even if they didn’t know the issue in depth, Canadians would make an intelligent choice,  it appears that in 2016 rational decision making has been replaced with being contrary. Phenomenons like BREXIT and Donald Trump’s rise to power forming, are examples of anti status quo decisions. Voters across the world are unpredictable, and seemingly the only thing that rings consistent is the rejection of the status quo. Lastly, I believe changing our system so dramatically in one move, may result in very few majority governments in Canada’s future.

The most compelling piece of evidence that Canadians have a flawed understanding of our political system lies in the rationale behind strategic voting. The idea of the movement being: vote for the party most likely to beat the party you don’t like. Not only does this distort the political opinions of various regions, but it takes away the freedom of political choice. If a government is portrayed as so poor that citizens are convinced of a need to give up their individual right to choose. Instead they act for the greater good and defeat the “poor” candidate. The fact that people willingly follow this ideology is absurd in a democracy. I agree our system isn't perfect, but it doesn’t speak to the quality of the system when seemingly organically groups form to strip Canadians of their right to vote, telling them its better for all. This relates to a referendum on a new method because in my mind, if Canadians can be so easily manipulated into thinking strategic voting isn’t anti-democratic, think what they can be convinced of in terms of voting systems. 

The contrary nature of the modern electorate is another good reason Canadians shouldn't hold Canadians future in their hands. Currently their is a serious anti status quo movement erupting around the globe. Leaving confused pollsters, and independent England’s in its wake. It would the landslide defeat of the Conservatives might have been an early indicator. Whatever the symptom the underlying cause is hard to determine. Is it easier to market change versus staying the same? Is it harder to vote for nothing happening (i.e. maintaining the status quo) than it used to be? Are people world over tired of the same old leaders and really just want some fresh faces? Is change become synonymous with progress? I wish i had a good answer, but i don’t. For little to no identifiable reason, large decisions world over seem more and more to be rejecting whatever the status quo may be. What this means for a referendum on voting is that Canadians are likely to choose the option furthest from the current system, with little to no real thought about its merits. 

The last point i’ll make in this plea is to look at our peers. Many countries have shifted from FPP to a variety of more modern systems. Some of these countries like Belgium have similar dichotomous ethnolinguistic makeups. What happens when these countries shift to Proportional Representation? Massive gridlock erupted in 2007 with talk of devolving powers. The country has had a list style PR since the early 1900’s. However its ethnolinguistic issues were largely dormant. Upon becoming salient again, the parliament split, and meaningful government couldn't be formed from 2007-2011. Canada may have enough factions or groups to make this effect less extreme, but that seems less than likely as the french english , and east west divide have been plaguing us for many decades. More than likely any quick change of political system is likely to force people to return to linguistic, ethnic, or regional divides. If there isn’t enough divides, or there become two major unifiers, this usually leads to incapable gridlock.

So in short. Please don’t let Canadians, myself included, have anything to do with choosing the new way in which we vote. We don’t understand it well enough to choose, were likely to just choose the option thats the most different, and even if we have nothing to do with the change, we’ll probably let the old english vs french Canada divide screw everything up anyway. How do I think it should be done ? Stay tuned, that’s a another article, and hint, it involves New Zealand.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Black Lives Matters, are terrorists

Hijacking events, threatening violence, and taking action against non-combatant targets

When Black Lives Matter (BLM) first hit the scene, I was cautiously optimistic. However, this feeling did not last long. After watching members hijack a Sanders rally, reading about how members were insisting on segregated “safe spaces” for black students on college campuses and finally when BLM members stormed a university republican students speech forcing the event to end I became fed up. I already wrote an article that mentioned BLM and this incident, It was in the context of Canadian badass Kevin Vickers’ response to a protestor in Ireland.

Though I have already mentioned the group more than I would care too, I have decided to dedicate an entire piece to my thoughts on BLM. This is because of last week's action by the Toronto chapter of the group, who shut down the Toronto pride parade and forced organizers to sign a list of demands, before allowing the parade to continue.

One of my biggest issues with the group, is how they gain their support. Most of the time pressure groups form in one of two ways. From the top down, or from the grassroots. The AARP used to be an insurance company for seniors before it realized there was more money harassing politicians than selling insurance and became the ubiquitous lobbying group that controls the senior vote. The NRA was founded in the late 1800’s by grassroots gun lovers who wanted to teach safety and become better shots. The group didn’t start lobbying till the 70’s when it realized its members rights were at stake. You may not like their stance on guns, but they formed from the grassroots, gained support, then started lobbying for their members rights. Both of these groups often face criticism for their views (less so the AARP), which is fair as they have inserted themselves into politics. They spent years building up a loyal following, of (literally) card carrying members. This core membership is more concerned with the overall ideology of the group than minor flashes in the pan, and often survives the groups controversy. Regardless of how they got there, and whether or not you agree with them, they sure as hell earned every bit of support they have. 

BLM has come up with another way of doing things. Instead of taking a large organization with many members and converting it to a political vessel, or slowing building up membership from the grassroots and uniting a group of people, instead of the traditional methods of political activism they came up with:

Cause-hijacking. As I mentioned earlier, one of the first times this came to my attention was a Bernie Sanders speech in Seattle. In that instance BLM members simply walked up to the podium and grabbed the mic until they got their demands. In this case a simple moment of silence and acknowledgement from Mr. Sanders. They have now moved up and on and instead of simply asking for a brief bit of respect or consideration, they demand their way, or that the event they decide to hijack must end.

This is without a doubt a new form of terrorism. The reason I have stayed away from that word so far is that it usually involves violence which, to be fair, BLM has toed right on the line. While their actions are very angry, and even aggressive (see my BLM / Kevin Vickers article) they are not by definition violent. The definition of terrorism I learned near a decade ago in High School poli-sci was “violence directed as non-combatant targets designed to create fear, in order to influence political opinion”. There is little doubt that BLM has used intimidation, and fear in their tactics. Organizers from Toronto pride have come out said the reason they signed the demands made by BLM was to continue the parade, and that they will not necessarily honour the demands. They were scared the parade would end, and while under this duress complied with BLM’s demands. While this is not violence per se, it is certainly not a peaceful protest either. 

I think that if a group blockades, or otherwise impedes an event, then essentially demands ransom to allow it to continue, this meets the standards for “political violence”. As the Pride parade had given BLM a float, as well as the fact that until BLM held up the parade Pride Toronto had no idea what BLM was up to, and that pride is nowadays a celebration/parade in support of acceptance (not the anti police event it started as) I believe that participants in the parade, and those watching it, did not intend to start a political debate, therefore they meet the definition of “political non-combatants”. Influencing political opinion barely needs and explanation, but as this is a city wide public event, and the group demanded civil servants be excluded, as well as demanding an increase in their representation it is clear their motives are political, as it is also clear they are forcing, rather than requesting, their objectives in contrast to our entire democratic system. 

For these reasons I believe it is start time people treated BLM as the group they really are. They are not a pressure group, they are not a grassroots movement, they are political terrorists, and they are putting democracy at risk. 

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Liberal Marijuana task force roundup

The good - and the mostly negative 

Ottawa announced yesterday they were announcing the members of their task force to legalize Marijuana. From reading the comments around the internet, it seems as most didn’t find this announcement to be substantial. However, within this announcement there does lie some pretty solid information. This article will break down some of the positive points of the task force, but it will more importantly focus on a few areas the task force seems to have made up their mind on, and taken entirely the wrong side on.

Firstly, lets talk about the good. The people who have been picked for the panel seem to be a pretty balanced, and qualified bunch. Here’s a quick sum up of them from reddit user /u/supervillainO_o

  • Dr. Mark A Ware (Vice Chair).
    • Ware, who grew up in Jamaica and is now a Canadian-based world-renowned expert on cannabis use for pain.
  • Dr. Susan Boyd.
    • Susan Boyd teaches courses on drug law and policy, theory and research methodology. Her research interests include drug law and policy, maternal-state conflicts, film and print media representations, women in conflict with the law and research methodology. She is a community activist who works with harm reduction and anti-drug war groups.
  • George Chow. 
    • Vancouver City Councillor
  • Marlene Jesso -
    • superintendent of the RNC, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary
  • Dr. Perry Kendall. -- 
    • As provincal health officer in BC and oversaw "insite" safe injection sites established (wiki)
  • Rafik Souccar.
    • Mr. Souccar was a Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) from 2008 to 2011, an Assistant Commissioner of Federal and International Operations from 2005 to 2008, and Chief Superintendent and Director General of Drugs & Organized Crime from 2002 to 2005. He has been a Director of Canadian Air Transport Security Authority since June 2015. He is a member of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Law Society of Upper Canada, the International Bar Association and the American Society for Industrial Security
  • Dr. Barbara von Tigerstrom.
    • she worked at the Supreme Court of Canada, the University of Alberta Health Law Institute, and the University of Canterbury School of Law. She holds a PhD in law from the University of Cambridge. Professor von Tigerstrom’s main areas of teaching and research are health law, public health law and policy, food and drug regulation, and tort law.
  • ​Dr. Catherine Zahn.
    • Dr. Zahn was appointed President and CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in 2009

This seems like a pretty solid bunch. Lots of legal minds, people who have been in the law enforcement fields, activists for marijuana, as well as academics well versed in various areas of marijuana research. They also have Dr. Barbara von Tigerstorm who has one of the most bad ass names i think i’ve ever heard. This is all good news, but after reading through the governments extensive document of the commissions mandate there appears to still be remnants of hardliners like Bill Blair. 

Blair, former top cop for Toronto has been strongly against Canadians having the right to grow their own marijuana. Blair has been inundated by his long time friends and lobbyists to restrict growing the only big business, creating a virtual monopoly on the product. This would be similar to the stringent regulations formerly on alcohol production that are only now being challenged as the public demands more local, and craft/small brew beers. To reverse this ideology from the get go and create massive corporate bodies controlling marijuana, is anti free market, and reeks of the patronage previous Liberal governments got in trouble over. The reasoning is also flawed, in the areas where marijuana has already been legalized, there has not been a massive expansion in home growing. Growing marijuana at home is hard, time consuming work, and often nets far less than most imagine. Not only this but running the sort of light that produce decent marijuana is a massive investment initially, and increases power bills massively. This is why people don’t really tend to do it very much, after all tobacco has been legal to grow for personal use in Canada for some time. 

There are websites dedicated to growing your own cheap tobacco, but no one really cares. Home brewing hasn’t started a massive rise in dangerous alcohol on the streets, or kitchen still explosions. Producing beer, liquor, wine, tobacco (up to 15kg of dried tobacco per person) part 3 - number 3 section ii), or marijuana at home are all difficult time consuming hobbies, which nicely keeps them from ever expanding to a point where they pose a public risk. Blair being the top man on pot, while having friends who lobby for the biggest corporate growers in the country, is a pretty gross conflict on interest, especially considering the misinformation regarding the dangers. This is why I am glad to see Mr.Blairs omission from this new panel and consider it good news. That being said there still seems to be some hesitance leftover from his time as pot czar, for home growing, which I hope this more educated panel will move past. 

There is another negative to the information the government has so far put forward. As well as being sceptical of home growing, there is serous language implying a dislike for high THC content products, knows generally as concentrates (shatter, wax, oil, honey etc are grouped under the general term “concentrates), and a hesitancy to allow their sale at all. There are a couple of reasons I feel this is in direct contrast to the aim of the commission, which is harm reduction methods. 

Firstly, there is misinformation surrounding high potency marijuana products is not based in reason. There have never been any example of a THC overdose, and limited study to the half-life of active THC (ie that THC that effects decision making etc) so suggestions that higher potency marijuana being consumed is more dangerous are unlikely to prove true. Furthermore the manner, of consumption dictates that smoking large amounts of marijuana concentrates is difficult, and its dangers physically are non existent as a result. The price to produce concentrates also set their price high, making it unlikely consumers will purchase large amounts when compared to herbal marijuana. 

The most important thing missing from the report is any mention of price setting to combat organized crime profits.

Take Uruguay's model, a country that fully legalized marijuana in 2014, set the state controlled price for pot at $1 a gram to ensure it would not be a profitable crop for those in the illicit market, even if it meant slower profits at first for legal growers. I believe Canada should mimic this model and set the price of marijuana low enough that there is little to no incentive for organized crime to produce marijuana in the large scale. This is crucial to keeping the drug out of the hands of youth, one of the main justifications for the move from the liberals. Illegal retailers do not check ID's, but regulated sellers will - taking away the profit takes away the incentive for anyone to produce and supply the black market. Setting the price at half, or less of the current street price of $10 a gram is imperative for minimizing the harm of use to Canadians, and language suggesting this is the plan is entirely missing from this report. 

So there’s my take. We get some positives with the choice of committee members, Chair Anne Maclellan absent from the above list, but her record is well known. Another positive with the exclusion of Bill Blair, even if we get a negative with the remnants of his un-based opinions surrounding home growing. However, we then get into the real negatives in the form of misinformation around marijuana concentrates, and no information around, price setting. 

So all in all a mixed bag, The Liberals have made their second real move in the road to Legalization and although there are some serious negatives, hope is not lost among a few gleams of positive hope.