Desperate Act of a Desperate Man

Posted August 30, 2008 on 1:30 pm | In the category Election 2008, McCain, Politics, Press | by Jeff

John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for his Vice President candidate appears to be the first paragraph of his concession speech. There is simply no good reason to consider putting someone so shallow, so ignorant of foreign affairs, and so inexperienced in the world a heartbeat away from the presidency. And while the strategy is apparent it is an affront to American women to think they will vote along gynecological lines and not recognize the difference between Hillary Clinton and a self-described “hockey Mom” whose experience reads like that of some former Christian Girl Scout who was active in the PTA and who opposes the most basic of women’s rights. Simply put, it is an insulting- even dangerous – decision that ridicules McCain’s so-called expertise in national security matters.
As for the press and media, by and large they are behaving as expected. Fox news has anointed her as a “rising star” with one of their analysts saying she was very knowledgeable about international relations because she “lives near Russia”. The NY Times headlines read: “Choice of Palin is a Bold Move by McCain, With Risks” and, “Palin, an Outsider Who Charms”. The Washington Post chimed in: “With VP Pick, McCain Reclaims Maverick image”, and “The Battle for Women Begins”. The Boston Globe went with: “McCain Surprises with VP Pick” and, “Selection is a Bold, but Risky, Political Gamble”. The stakes are too high for such weak analysis.

None of this is funny. When Palin is measured against challenges like ending the Iraq War, dealing with Iran, working toward peace in the Middle East, addressing Russian petropolitics in the Caucuses and Central Asia, developing an effective relationship with an emerging government in Pakistan, and repairing America’s reputation in the world, she becomes the punchline in a bad joke. If the quality of a candidate’s judgment is a key factor in considering competence, McCain just gave the game away.

Game over.

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Conventional Journalism 101

Posted August 28, 2008 on 12:36 pm | In the category Election 2008, Politics, Press | by Jeff

Watching TV journalists (sic) troll the Democrat Party’s convention for news is an exercise in amazed exasperation. Even PBS has been able to puff up the smallest non-story into long-winded analyses of either the meaningless or the obvious. Watching the Lehrer Report’s Judy Woodruff search the convention floor for the odd Hillary Clinton supporter unwilling to recognize a defeat that occurred months ago is almost torture as she turns the bitterness of the few into the big melodrama of the convention. It may well be that some Clinton supporters will vote for someone other than Senator Obama – that is their right and so what? People vote according to unseen and frequently unexpressed rationales and thus it has always been and thus it will always be. But to milk the Clinton-Obama relationship for hour after hour on national TV became just another example of the desperation of a press too lazy or too simple-minded to explore real issues in a way that might actually be helpful to potential voters.

As it turns out Senator Clinton made a gracious exit speech and President Clinton gave a gracious speech in support of the Democratic ticket. Anyone who was led by the press to believe they would behave badly allowed themselves to be duped by Journalism for Dummies.

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The chickens come home to roost in Georgia

Posted August 22, 2008 on 1:57 am | In the category International Broadcasting, Russia, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

It did not take long for the chickens of Kosovo to find a splendid first roosting place in Georgia. When the topic of independence for Kosovo came up only a few short months ago, red warning flags were flying in many quarters from those with knowledge and experience of ethnic conflicts in the powder kegs of the Balkans and the Caucasus Mountains. Many countries, like Canada, took a long time before agreeing to recognize an independent Kosovo fostered by the United States, and a fair number still don’t, because they see the danger to their own national boundaries. A periphery province of a legally established national state with internationally recognized borders was declaring its independence from the much larger state to which it legally belonged. What would happen in France, Spain, Italy or the United States if such a situation arose at home? Not to mention China.

The reason was simple; after long standing violent conflicts between the two ethnic groups of that breakaway state, powerful outside nations took the side of the ethnic group that it felt was under almost genocidal attack by the mother state, which they then bombed unmercifully. This was Serbia in the late 1990s as NATO troops punished it for its atrocities against the Albanian ethic group of Kosovo. But it is also way too close for comfort for the situation in Georgia and its illegal breakaway republics with a large Russian majority, the Georgians having decided it was safer to leave. But this time, it was the US-sponsored Georgian army that took on the role of the Serbian aggressor, as it attacked the breakaway provinces. And who should come rushing to the defence of the poor threatened minority ethnic group but Tsar Putin, who must have thought he was dreaming when he saw that his increasingly dopey rivals had presented him with the opportunity to defend Russians (since he had given most of them Russian passports) under attack while at the same time squashing a tiny annoying tick on the skin of the Russian bear. So that of course is what happened. Poor Condoleeza Rice, sent out on a Don Quixote mission to chastise (and absurdly threaten?) the Russians for doing exactly what the US had done in Serbia less than ten years before, must be wishing her next job involves dealing with fractious faculty clubs, because she has served an extraordinarily foolish master for too long to retain her own dignity. Wasn’t she early on in her diplomatic career supposed to be an expert on Russia? How could anyone mess up the Russian desk in only 8 years as much as she has?

The result is a clear demonstration of renewed Russian power (and threat) along all its borders, a completely crushed and bankrupt exotic ally of the US which somehow misinterpreted US bluster for true support, and a really serious impediment to the free flow of essential Asian natural gas and oil to European consumers. Now we can wait to see if all of those countries who pushed for an independent Kosovo are as quick to recognize the new state of South Ossetia. Wanna bet?

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Getting to know you – Dubja style

Posted August 7, 2008 on 2:29 am | In the category Canada, Obama, The Bush Watch, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

Despite vociferous criticism of the press recently that is is longer doing its researched investigative job, occasionally a story comes out that shows that some informative journalism still takes place. The Vancouver Sun, for instance, published in its August 6 edition, startling information about US State Department grasp of foreign affairs, when, after a 3 and a half year wait, it received information it had requested under the freedom of information act, about the protocol guide prepared for President Bush and his staff before Bush’s first visit to Canada in Ottawa and Halifax from Nov. 30-Dec 1, 2004. Documents included by the U.S. Office of the Chief of Protocol prepared the president for the culture shock he would experience when travelling far from home.

Under social customs and courtesies, designed to prevent USERS from accidently offending the natives, were the following:
“On being introduced the customary greetings are firm handshake, customary “Hello” or Bonjour” in Quebec.”
“During conversations remove sunglasses.”
“While indoors remove hats.”
“Canadians, for the most part, place importance on education, skill, modesty and politeness”.

Under advice on deciphering a foreign tongue
‘”eh” is pronounced “ay”, is used mostly in rural areas and roughly translates as: “You know?” or “Isn’t it?”‘

While concluding “that most Canadian gestures are the same as those in the US it notes some exceptions:
“To call someone to you, use the entire hand rather than the index figure.”
“In Quebec, the thumbs down sign is considered offensive.”

In a follow-up analysis of the visit, the document also deals with serious political matters such as expected anti-US demonstrations, noting that protesters ranged from anarchists to raging grannies:

but “The Belly Dancers Against Bush were nowhere to be seen… they do tend to be active in the summer, for obvious reasons.”

No we assure you that these are not the fantasies of Rick Moranis, Joe Flaherty, John Candy, Martin Short, Andrea Martin and my brother and me in one of our finest hours. If you don’t believe me, put in your request for freedom of information documents, and in three and one half years, you will see why my brother and I can no longer do satire like we could in the good old days when we blew up things real good. Now it’s done by bureaucrats who should be stand-up comedians. By the way, your president by then will probably be a chap who recently announced that he would like to talk to the president of Canada. If he ever had made the trip 100 kilometers north of his home base (which he hasn’t), he would find out there was no such thing. Oh no, not another one! I wonder if he knows which country is by far the US’s largest trading partner and which country is by far the leading source of its fuel. There must be some documents on the topic in the secret vaults that he could take a look at before it’s too late.

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International Sports: Canada Rescues Boston

Posted August 3, 2008 on 11:23 am | In the category Baseball, Canada, Sports | by Jeff

The Boston Red Sox were faced with a dilemma: how do you get rid of an ego-twisted hitting machine with a $20M contract? Manny Ramirez had soured on Boston and Boston had pretty much soured on him. While the arguments on whether they should have caved into whatever weird needs Manny had developed but not articulated continue, his behavior had gone around the proverbial corner and the management of the Red Sox could not stand having him around.

The trade that was finally worked out – minutes before the trade deadline – sent Ramirez to the Dodgers (with his remaining salary paid by the Sox!), the Dodgers sent a couple of minor league players to the Pirates and the Red Sox got Jason Bay from the Pirates to take the place of Ramirez, one of the baseball’s best hitters over the last ten years. Turns out that Bay is from Trail, British Columbia and brings a typically Canadian modesty along with a 282 batting average and 22 home runs, similar stats to those of Ramirez this year.

While no one believes Bay will hit like Ramirez, he will bring a couple of new dimensions to the left field position – speed, a decent arm, a willingness to run from home to first and a dedication to the game that goes beyond looking at himself in the mirror. Bay scored both runs in a 2-1 win over Oakland in his first game with the Sox and hit a three run homer in the next game. The Sox’ previous experience with a Canadian player was with Ferguson Jenkins who had a nasty curve ball and a police record of carrying illegal drugs across borders. Jason Bay will likely last a lot longer in Boston.

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