Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Should Prorogue Be a Bad Word?

The ability to prorogue parliament has always been a procedural tool that has always been available to the Government. It is an opportunity for the Government to reset their agenda without calling an election. Last year Prime Minister Harper used it to postpone a confidence vote that threatened to topple the Government that had been elected 6 weeks earlier.

Harper has once again used the tool of prorogation to extend the Parliamentary break until March. The thrown speech will be on March 3rd, immediatly followed by the budget on the 4th. The current break had been scheduled to end on January 25th.

Opposition parties and critics are upset that Harper is once again playing the "take the ball and go home" strategy. He is trying to delay the hearings on the Afghan detainee issues to avoid the truth from coming out. This issue isn't hurting the Conservatives in the polls. It would hardly enough of a reason to prorogue Parliament. There are more important motivations in this decision.

The most obvious reason is the Olympics. No party wants Parliament to be sitting during the Olympics. If anything of importance happens it would either be overshadowed by the Olympics or attract negative attention from the entire world. This is why if you wish to draw attention to a particular cause to be addressed by the Government you don't hold a press conference when Parliament is in session. It is too risky that your issue is overshadowed by a big news day in the Legislature. The focus during the Olympics should be about sports and promoting Canada. Politics can take a back seat for two weeks.

From a strategy point of view the most important reason to Prorogue Parliament comes from the Senate. The Prime Minister in a position to appoint 5 new Senators. This will shift the standings in the Senate to Conservatives 51, Liberals 49. Factoring in the two Progressive Conservative Senators they will have a majority in the 105 seat Senate. For the first time Harper will have minimal concern about the Senate blocking legislation. Prorogation or an election are the only ways to adjust the committees to reflect the new majority. Without the changes they would have an easier time stalling or stopping legislation.

Unfortunately politics is often more about strategy than substance. Harper is taking advantage of an opportunity to improve his ability to do what he was elected to do; Govern. He would not be doing his job if he missed out on this oppurtunity. If the Opposition parties don't like it they can take down the Government on the budget. In the mean time Harper is demonstrating he is a master strategist. He may have a minority Government but his hold on his job is as solid as any other majority government.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The American Gilad Shalit

Since 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, new forms of terror have become part of the risks of day to day operations for overseas military personal, reporters and foreign workers. Kidnappings and how to deal with them have become a more normal occurrence. The days of beheading for shock value and political gain have been mostly replaced by demands for money. This has extended to the coast of Somalia where pirating is rampant in search of the ultimate ransom.

On Friday a video was released to show that the Americans have a different problem on their hands. Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan 6 months ago by Taliban forces. US Army officials were upset at the insensitivity of the video being released on Christmas Day and the use of a prisoner for propaganda purposes. The Taliban are interested in a prisoner swap.

How will the United States respond? Will Bergdahl's parents have to travel the world looking for world leaders to take up his plight? Will they have to plead for the Red Cross to demand that his Geneva Convention POW rights of visitations by the Red Cross and contact with his family be granted? Should there be a prisoner swap? What is a fair trade? Is 1000 terrorists for 1 soldier a good deal? What if they have killed American cvilians and/or soldiers? How many need to be released just to confirm he is alive? How about just sending all prisoners from Guantanamo Bay back to their families for a heroes welcome? Will Bergdahl's plight factor in to the Mid-Term Elections? Will Barak Obama hold regular meetings with Bergdahl's parent's to update them on efforts to get their son home? Will the released prisoners kill again? Will there be massive rallies demanding the US Government do more to help gain his release? Are US soldiers leaving graffiti after military operations to let him know that they were there and they were looking for him?

These are ridiculous questions. The story barely made the news. Israel has been dealing with these type questions for 3.5 years over kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. He is being held by Hamas the defacto government in Gaza. He has been denied access by the Red Cross and denied communication with his family. Both are major violations of the Geneva Convention. Shalit's parents have travelled the world trying to build the political resolve to free their son. The price of his freedom still sits at 1000 criminals, including terrorists with blood on their hands. The on and off again negotiations got so serious at one point that Israel released 4 prisoners just for the video tape to prove that he is alive. The entire nation is yearning for his return home. It is the only reason why anyone would even be willing to entertain the prospect of such a ridiculous and potentially dangerous trade.

The United States, European Union and others who enjoy condemning Israel don't understand how important it is for Gilad Shalit to safely return home. If only they put a fraction of an effort into caring about this issue instead of trying to turn up the heat on Israel over petty issues. They would get far more cooperation on issues they see as critical in the region. Those who cannot even relate to this major issue cannot possibly relate to what Israel needs to receive in return to go along with any other peace process. Putting more pressure on Israel does nothing to address these issues. It only strengthens her resolve that Israel needs to protect itself because when push comes to shove nobody else will.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Protesting the Enviornment Protestors

This week 20 people were arrested for climbing to the roof of the Parliament building in Ottawa to bring attention to global warming. The incident was to coincide with the launch of the world wide enviornment conference in Copenhagen. Protestors had to be physically removed from the House of Commons when they decided to shout down governmental proceedings to protest failure to pass enviornmental legislation before the conference. Greenpeace who was behind the latest stunt has declared it a success because everyone is talking about it and the environment.

A handful of people protesting a cause doesn't warrant much attention. The extremism of these last two stunts may get more attention but it does not help the cause. People are more drawn to the lack of respect for the democratic process (and in this case safety concerns) than the message of the protest. The conference in Coppenhagen is huge. If anything the Greenpeace protest was a distraction from the already heavy media coverage of the event. To try to claim that a few people hanging from a roof accomplished anything is giving them way to much credit. They would have accomplished more by being delegates at the conference.

The enviornmental movement is showing their frustration in as they try to avert what they believe to be a worldwide catastrophe. The truth is that while people care about the enviornment it does not necissarily take priority over other important issues. The fact that the best Green Party candidate could only muster 3% of the votes in the most recent round of by elections shows where Canadians priorities are.

The problem with any world wide agreement is that it puts more emphasis on social and political issues rather than the environment. The Canadian tar sands are being singled out as the most dangerous contributer to global warming. On a per capita basis that may or may not be true but in the big picture shutting them down completely would have a negligible effect on the enviornment. On the flip side countries like China and India who are major contributers due to population size are not seen as major threats to the environment.

Most of the negotiations revolves around the issues of have and have nots. Should level of wealth determine how environmentally responsible a country must be? Another report came out today that the cheapest way to reduce global warming is birth control. Obviously the target would be 3rd world countries with high birth rates. Using current environmental logic it should be the have countries that reduce their populations. This would necessitate immigration from 3rd world countries to sustain current economies and stop poverty around the world. Of course this is a nonsensicle stretch of logic (for now).

The bottom line is the world needs to find affordable alternatives to fossil fuels and other enviornmental issues. In the mean time efforts to reduce the amount of energy consumed and waste generated. Major social-economic policy is designed for just that and will do very little to help the environment (unless the goal is to complete economic collapse).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Will Israel Freeze Aliyah?

This morning I tweeted this really well done article about the Israeli Government's announcement that there will be a 10 month freeze on all immigration. The article was meant as a satire to reflect the meaning of the Israeli government's complete freeze on Israeli 'settlements'. As the story was not originally labelled cleary enough as a satire many people believed the story to be true. The sad thing wasn't that people fell for it as we have reached a point where the possibility in not out of the realm of belief.

The Israeli Government is serious about enforcing the 10 month settlement freeze announced last week. The Government is claiming it will give the Palestinians an opportunity to return to the bargaining table. Once and for all it will demonstrate that Israel is serious about lasting peace. There must be some sort of deal behind the scenes for top politicians to buy into that argument again. Just like every other concession the reaction from the Palestinian camp and the world community is the same. It is not enough. Repeated calls for East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian State from the same countries that refuse to place their embassies in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem.

Israel is already facing another huge sacrifice as the government tries to determine which criminals are pardoned in exchange for the safe return of Gilad Shalit. Deal or no deal it is going to be a major scar on the national psyche.

It is time for world leaders to change tact and demand practical concessions from Palestinians and not just Israel. There have always been facts on the ground that contradict Palestinians have choosen to ignore. The current method of choosing which ones are relavant is just as ridiculous as the Aliyah freeze suggested in the article.