By Andrew Potter - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 38 Comments
Glen McGregor has taken a break from embarrassing the heck out of Sun Media…
Glen McGregor has taken a break from embarrassing the heck out of Sun Media and is trolling through today’s Wikileaks dump of cables from US missions in Canada. He’s crowdsourcing the job and is collecting the best of them. My contribution is this cable from the US embassy in December 2009, reporting on the presentation of the sixth quarterly report to parliament on the mission in Afghanistan. From the cable’s summary (my emphases):
Signature development projects move forward, and border security dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan is expanding, with Canadian facilitation. The media and Parliament, however, remain more obsessed with allegations that the government ignored credible reports of abuse of Afghan detainees transferred by the Canadian Forces in 2006 to Afghan authorities (ref c), and largely ignored the mostly discouraging news in this latest report. End summary.
The concluding remarks are rather astute as well:
While the media covered the December 10 release by Minister Day, virtually all of the questioning related instead to the on-going controversy over the treatment of prisoners handed over to Afghan security forces by Canadian soldiers and what the government knew when…
The three opposition parties are united in seeking to embarrass the government over this issue and have vowed to call into session the Special Committee on Afghanistan even during the holiday recess (which began December 10), but have indicated no interest in debating the actual Canadian mission in Afghanistan and the successes – or failures – of Canada’s role as documented in the quarterly reports.
By Andrew Potter - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 5:39 PM - 82 Comments
Why marketing is the centerpiece of modern political campaigning
A few days ago, I asked my twitter followers if anyone could say what the Liberal party’s campaign slogan is. It drew a handful of jokeysnarky responses, but no one actually managed to produce an answer as to what the slogan actually is.
It was a trick question, anyway, because the Liberal party doesn’t have a campaign slogan. Continue…
By Andrew Potter - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 4:32 PM - 36 Comments
The UK Parliament spent half an hour today debating the prison break from Sarposa…
The UK Parliament spent half an hour today debating the prison break from Sarposa prison in Kandahar. Alistair Burt, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, took fourteen questions from Labour and Conservative MPs on topics including how it happened, to how it might affect the political negotiations with the Taliban, and the impact it will have on morale of UK soldiers in Afghanistan.
Canadians will notice a few curious things about the exchanges. First, the Afghan file is actually one that relates to Burt’s assigned portfolio—something rather unheard of in Ottawa. More oddly still, at no point did Burt accuse the opposition members of disloyalty to the troops or to the UK, nor did he take the occasion to bray like a donkey about how everything his government had done on the file was noble and pure, while everything the previous government had done was villainous and incompetent. Instead, Burt frequently thanked the opposition member for the question, and even—get this—agreed on occasion with the point the opposition member was making. At one point Burt and a Labour MP even shared a joke about which Pitt they were talking about.
But more importantly, Canadians will observe a foreign parliament treating with great seriousness an event that speaks directly to the country’s national security interests. I read on Twitter today that Michael Ignatieff made a few remarks about Sarposa . If Stephen Harper, Bev Oda, Lawrence Cannon, or Peter MacKay have addressed the fiasco, I’d appreciate a pointer to their remarks.
Meanwhile, here’s a transcript of the debate at Westminster.
By Andrew Potter - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 8:28 AM - 73 Comments
Very good column today from William Watson debunking the whole “Seinfeld election” stupidity. This…
Very good column today from William Watson debunking the whole “Seinfeld election” stupidity. This election has been useful and edifying in all sorts of ways. In particular:
A second change is that Canadians are now much more familiar with how their system of government works. We elect members of Parliament at whose sufferance the prime minister serves. Nothing says the prime minister must come from the party with the most members. All that’s required is that his or her government have the confidence of the House. It may not be the best system in the world but it’s our system and now more of us understand it. Who knows? With a week of potential political education left, maybe even Harper will come around to understanding it
By Andrew Potter - Monday, April 25, 2011 at 5:14 PM - 30 Comments
From Susan Delacourt’s piece on voter alienation in today’s Star, Angus Reid’s Jaideep Mukerji…
From Susan Delacourt’s piece on voter alienation in today’s Star, Angus Reid’s Jaideep Mukerji gets it exactly right:
A full 78 per cent of respondents to this newest survey believe politicians are less honest today and 62 per cent said they believed Canadian democracy was in crisis. More than half of the respondents — 52 per cent — said none of the political parties had satisfactory positions on issues important to the voters.
Mukerji says the 52 per cent figure is disturbing.
“You can imagine that in a two-party system, like in the United States, that might make sense. But in Canada, there are four national parties, and there’s an extra one in Quebec. It’s not like there’s a lack of choice,” he said.
By Andrew Potter - Monday, April 25, 2011 at 12:08 PM - 16 Comments
UPDATE…: Lord, it gets worse by the minute. From the Guardian’s narrative of
UPDATE: Lord, it gets worse by the minute. From the Guardian’s narrative of the bust-out, one Taliban escapee had this to say:
Suspicions were immediately roused that the escape plot must have enjoyed support and help from prison guards to suceed, but the Taliban escaper doubted it. “They were just sleeping,” he said amidst extended laughter.
“The guards are always drunk. Either they smoke heroin or marijuana, and then they just fall asleep. During the whole process no one checked, there was no patrols, no shooting or anything.”
As many as five hundred Taliban prisoners were busted out of Kandahar’s Sarpoza prison yesterday. The circumstances are quite remarkable: Insurgents spent 50 months digging a 300-metre tunnel from a safe house northeast of the prison. Prison staff only realized what had happened a half hour after the prisoners had escaped. Continue…
By Andrew Potter - Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 3:24 PM - 10 Comments
Today, the good folks over at Higher Education Strategy Associates released their long-awaited analysis…
Today, the good folks over at Higher Education Strategy Associates released their long-awaited analysis of the party platforms regarding post-secondary education. They were clearly rejigging parts of the analysis right up to the end – the document is larded with pictures of the party leaders taken from VintageVoter.ca.
The analysis looks at federal education policy proposals under main headings: Student Aid, Transfers to Provinces and Institutions, Research, and Apprenticeships. The section on student aid takes up over half the analysis, largely because – as the report points out:
Looking across all party platforms, one is struck by how much the cost of postsecondary education dominates all other issues. Indeed, one might be forgiven for thinking this was the only issue that mattered to federal parties.
Details on education transfers are notable for their absence in the Conservative and Liberal platforms and for their incoherence in the New Democrat one. Apart from a Conservative regurgitation of last month’s budget, policies on scientific research are essentially absent. And everyone apparently thinks Apprenticeships are a Good Thing but not so good as to actually require policy. Apart from these topics, only the New Democrats have shown any ambition at all in the area, with their promises on childcare and Aboriginal Education. Within PSE itself, the lack of vision and ideas is palpable.
The upshot is that federal approaches to higher education amount to this: The Conservatives are offering slight tweaks to the existing student aid system, while the NDP are proposing to just throw more cash at it. The HESA analysis credits the Liberals with having “the most intriguing and certainly the best thought-out” platform regarding student aid; the Learning Passport idea is the only one that hints at re-imagining the way student aid works, and the only one that promises to inject even a modicum of progressivity into the system.
But overall, the analysis is pretty depressing. Jean Chretien was the last prime minister to make a serious effort at providing federal leadership in higher education and to have a vision for the role higher education can play in a modern economy, but that was fifteen years ago. Since then, federal policy has been a wasteland of boutique tax breaks and minor tweaks to student aid. Any grander conviction that a country’s universities are among its most crucial institutions, and that supporting those institutions is in the national interest, is completely absent.
By Andrew Potter - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 10:05 AM - 16 Comments
Matthew Fisher asks a very good question:
At any one time in 2006, when…
Matthew Fisher asks a very good question:
At any one time in 2006, when the Canadian military formally launched its embed program in Kandahar, and throughout 2007 and 2008, between 10 and 15 journalists were always embedded in Kandahar to chronicle Canada’s first major combat mission in half a century.
However, for the first time since the formal embed program was established in Kandahar just over five years ago, only two reporters are embedded with the troops today — yours truly from Postmedia News and a journalist from The Canadian Press.
You would think that this would be the ideal time for journalists to assess Canada’s military and diplomatic triumphs and failures in Kandahar and to provide insights into the Harper government’s controversial new training mission, which is soon to begin in northern Afghanistan.
But Canadian editors obviously have different priorities. For them — although certainly not for the soldiers and their kin or Canadian taxpayers, Afghanistan is yesterday’s war.
By Andrew Potter - Monday, April 11, 2011 at 12:26 PM - 3 Comments
When I first heard about the massacre at the UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif last…
When I first heard about the massacre at the UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif last week, my first thought was that it was a more tragic replay of a scene from Bing West’s new book The Wrong War. In 2009, in the eastern Afghan town of Asadabad, a crowd of people gathered around a broken-down American truck. A grenade went off and a number of Afghans were hurt. A riot started, with the crowd chanting “Kill the Americans!”
Except as West points out, a video of the incident later showed that an Afghan had tossed the grenade. Here’s West (I’m pasting this from Dexter Filkins’ review of West’s book; for what it is worth, I didn’t think West’s book nearly as good as Filkins thinks -– but this passage is pretty startling):
“For three years, the provincial reconstruction team had lived in a compound a few blocks from the scene of the tragedy. The P.R.T. had paid over $10 million to hire locals, who smiled in appreciation. Every time a platoon from 1-32 patrolled through town, they stopped to chat with storekeepers and to buy trinkets and candy to give to the street urchins. Yet the locals had turned on the soldiers in an instant. That the townspeople in A-Bad who profited from American protection and projects would believe the worst of O’Donnell’s soldiers — whom they knew personally — suggested that the Americans were tolerated but not supported, regardless of their good works and money.”
And so I had a similar initial reaction to the killing of the UN workers by rioters upset at the burning of a Koran by an idiot preacher in Florida. That after 10 years in the country, even the more peaceful and anti-Taliban parts like Mazar, it seems that the Americans (and the coalition in general) literally can’t buy a break. But as the story has evolved, it seems that what really happened is more complicated, and considerably murkier, than a spontaneous protest.
The official story is that a handful of insurgents from outside the city used the protest as a cover for attacking the UN compound, while a Wall Street Journal narrative of the massacre published April 4 argues that “ordinary Afghan demonstrators” played a critical role.
This fits with the Taliban’s own story, which is that they had nothing to do with what they describe as a spontaneous protest. In today’s NYTimes, though, Carlotta Gall has a story which claims that the violence was led by Taliban members, or insurgents loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Terry Glavin has different, and in many ways more worrisome theory. As Terry reported last week in Dissent, the massacre was not organized by Taliban or other insurgents, nor was it a spontaneous protest by offended Afghans. Instead:
The protest began with an Iranian propaganda initiative that was set in motion more than a week earlier, on March 24. Hamid Karzai himself played a central role in the affair. The bloody skirmishing that has left at least two dozen people dead across Afghanistan has gone so far as to cast a shadow over the future of the UN’s operations in the country. In other words, it’s working.
The first Afghan protests about the Koran-burning were staged by the Shura-e Olama-e Shiia, the Kabul-based Shiite religious council dominated by Asif Mohseni, the leading Khomeinist Ayatollah in Afghanistan. Mohseni is best known for having persuaded Karzai to sign off on the incendiary Afghan “rape law” in 2009 (which effectively legalized marital rape), an event that prompted protests by Afghan women and howls of international indignation. The Khomeinist-led Koran demonstrations in Kabul were the first that most Afghans had even heard about Jones’ vulgar escapade. (You always know it’s a Khomeinist event by the tell-tale slogan, Marg Bar Yahood—Death to the Jews).
Terry has more here. There are lots of unanswered questions in this story, related to the questions Terry raises about Iranian involvement. For one, why did the protests only happen in Afghanistan? Also, what role, if any, did Atta Mohammed Noor,the provincial governor, play in this? Nothing happens in Mazar without his approval.
By Andrew Potter - Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 290 Comments
I was determined to let this slide but the facts that have emerged are…
I was determined to let this slide but the facts that have emerged are too loathsome to ignore.
The CBC has been taking a lot of criticism for its Vote Compass, an online quiz that asks you questions about where you stand on various questions of public policy, and then tells you which party you should vote for. Lots of people, from the right and the left, have been complaining that the result it gives is biased, or somehow misrepresent their political views. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe these sorts of quizzes are just very poor devices for sorting the population by party. I don’t know, and at this point I don’t care. What I do care about is the way Peter Loewen has been treated by Sun Media. Continue…
By Andrew Potter - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 8:44 PM - 7 Comments
From Nate Fick’s book One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer:
From Nate Fick’s book One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer:
Two guys in a bar bump chests, get up in each other’s faces, and yell. If a fight follows, it’s about honor, about saving face. That’s posturing. Marines on the battlefield must exhibit predatory behavior. In that bar, a predator would smile politely at his opponent, wait for him to turn around, and then cave in the back of his skull with a barstool.
By Andrew Potter - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 11:22 PM - 108 Comments
POTTER: Elizabeth May could make her exclusion
a point of pride
Here we go again. Just like last time, the “consortium” has made a decision not to invite Elizabeth May to the leaders’ debates. And just like last time, after initial protestations that the decision is entirely up to the consortium, the party leaders are caving to some sort of perceived public pressure and suggesting that, oh, well, they would certainly be open to having the leader of the Green Party there after all.
I’m genuinely agnostic on the question of whether May should be there; I think there are defensible arguments to be made for both sides. But the question over whether to include her or not contains a tacit assumption, viz., that the leaders’ debates—as currently run—are themselves worthy democratic exercises. I think they are not. Continue…
By Andrew Potter - Monday, March 28, 2011 at 8:34 PM - 7 Comments
Put that coalition down and chew on Terry Glavin for a bit:
Put that coalition down and chew on Terry Glavin for a bit:
We have to stop wasting time and energy asking ourselves stupid questions about the propriety of regime change, about whether a tyrant’s cruelties meet the threshold for the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, and about whether the fictional “Muslim world” will be upset if “we” intervene in “their” affairs. Whether it is Iran, Libya, Syria, or Yemen, our first questions must be: Who are our comrades? What do they want from us? How can we get it to them? The rest is noise.
By Andrew Potter - Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 10:43 AM - 128 Comments
The great virtue of Canada’s political system is that it is dead simple
Feschuk’s been having great sport with Bev Oda and the ridiculous answers being offered on her behalf to questions put to her in the House of Commons. He’s absolutely right – Baird’s behaviour is pathetic, and for us private citizens, incessant mockery is probably the best response. The bigger problem, though, is that the Opposition doesn’t seem to have any better ideas. Continue…
By Andrew Potter - Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 10:06 AM - 138 Comments
Andrew Potter on how the Liberals should respond to the Bev Oda affair
Seems to me the Liberals will have a very easy time making money off this Oda affair.
1. They declare: Either Oda goes or we go to the polls. If Oda goes, then they get a scalp.
2. If Oda stays, they declare they will vote non-confidence in the government at every opportunity from now on.
This will lead to four possible scenarios:
3. Scenario one: NDP and Bloc support the government — then the government becomes, for the remainder of the term, a “coalition of socialists and separatists” — that’s the end of that Conservative talking point.
4. Scenario two: the NDP supports the government. Then the Libs have a great attack on the NDP in the next election (“they supported contempt for parliament and the defunding of Kairos”)
5. Scenario three: the Bloc supports the government. Then the Liberal attack becomes “this government survives only through the support of separatists”. So much for that Conservative talking point.
6. Scenario four: Election
I can’t see how any one of these scenarios is tactically any worse than where the Liberals are now. Also, it gives them the advantage of being on the right side of truth, accountability, parliament, and democracy. It’s very rare that these line up so nicely with partisan advantage. Be a shame to waste it; it certainly beats riding around in a bus shaking hands.
By Andrew Potter - Monday, January 17, 2011 at 12:57 PM - 23 Comments
The best sentences I read today:
Yet as the earlier Ireland-Nevada comparison shows, the…
The best sentences I read today:
Yet as the earlier Ireland-Nevada comparison shows, the United States works as a currency union in large part precisely because it is also a transfer union, in which states that haven’t gone bust support those that have. And it’s hard to see how the euro can work unless Europe finds a way to accomplish something similar.
That is from Paul Krugman’s essay in this weekend’s NYT magazine, “Can Europe be Saved?”
Krugman’s argument is that while the blame for the economic crisis of the past three years has been largely pinned on Wall Street, the European Union is at least as much at fault. For me, the key parts of his story are the comparisons between Iceland and Brooklyn, or Ireland and Nevada, explaining why the economic crisis has hit these places differently, and how currency zones affect the policies various regions are able to implement in order to cope.
Europe’s problem, crudely put, is that it is half-assed. For half a century, its elites have imagined that it could build a federal state by incremenents, adding one piece of the puzzle every decade or so until everyone would eventually wake up and realize they lived in a country called Europe. But as Krugman points out, a lot of people argued that the currency union, in the absence of proper federal oversight, would lead to precisely the sort of crisis we’re seeing now.
Krugman ends his essay by listing four ways Europe might emerge from the crisis. Two involve muddling on through, one foresees the dissolution of the Eurozone (or at least the exit of some participants). The last possibility would see Europe become properly federalized — hence the passages I quoted above. Krugman seems to think that muddling through won’t work, and that Europe has a choice to make — the backwards step of a failed Euro, or the positive step of deeper political integration. I don’t see anything close to the political will necessary to push Europe toward a proper constitution.
PS Larry Sidentop’s Democracy in Europe remains the best book I’ve read on the subject. IMO it’s a must-read for students of comparative constitutionalism.
By Andrew Potter - Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 3:47 PM - 62 Comments
It’s probably worth getting a discussion started here about the original version of “Money…
It’s probably worth getting a discussion started here about the original version of “Money for Nothing” being banished from Canadian airwaves, because of the following lyric:
See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup
Yeah buddy that’s his own hair
That little faggot got his own jet airplane
That little faggot he’s a millionaire
Alan Cross has a good post on his blog about this, which he’s been updating. But I’m a bit surprised by this part at the end:
I can’t say that I disagree entirely [with the CBSC decision] either. Back in ’85, “faggot” was an epithet thrown around by almost everyone. It wasn’t much of an issue–just like the days when the use of the n-word was frighteningly common. Over the years, I found myself noticing that lyric more often and growing more uncomfortable each time. It somehow just wasnt…right. But that was the extent of my reaction. The song was, at most, a period piece when it came to a certain colloquialism. Today, any use of the word “faggot” is just not acceptable to many people.
But there’s one point about that lyric that I haven’t seen added to the discussion, and it is this: In the song, Knopfler is singing in the voice of an appliance store salesman. He made that clear in dozens of interviews he did when the album was released. The story he told is that he was in a shop looking for a fridge or something, and some rock videos were playing on an in-store television. And the salesman started complaing about rock stars and their cushy lives (i.e. money for nothing and chicks for free). Knopfler said that he pulled out a pen and just started writing down what the guy was saying, and used his comments as lyrics in the song.
The point being, the song does not use “faggot” casually. If anything, it is a song about the casual use of the word by uneducated and embittered bigots.
Surely that makes all difference in the world. How can art make any critical statement on the world, if it is not allowed to quote or mention that which it is criticizing? Are artists not allowed to take on another persona, or to speak in the voice of another in order to sharpen the criticism?
By Andrew Potter - Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 9:48 PM - 1 Comment
You’ll perhaps recall that Baba Brinkman is trying to raise money through Crowdfunder to…
You’ll perhaps recall that Baba Brinkman is trying to raise money through Crowdfunder to make some kickass videos for his “Rap Guide to Evolution”. I posted details earlier.
Well, things are going well but they need a bit of a push to get them over the top. Here’s Baba’s latest letter:
Happy New Year!
It’s the final two weeks of the Rap Guide to Evolution DVD Crowdfunder drive and we’re only at 81%, which is much better than I had feared, but Crowdfunder’s rules are strict. If we don’t meet or exceed the £10,000 target in the 60 day timeframe everyone gets their money back and we’re stuck with our original (highly stretched) budget. We can’t let this happen! There are 13 days left as of today, so this is a call to arms. Please share this link on facebook, twitter, blogs, and emails, and if you’ve been thinking of contributing, now is the time!
And here’s a recent post on BoingBoing.net that has given the pitch a nice boost, literally a 6% increase in the past 48 hours, thanks in part perhaps to the heated debates raging in the comments section, including a spat between myself and a semi-famous transexual blank-slatist over the scientific validity of evolutionary psychology.
Also, I’m accepting bookings through the Crowdfunder drive, and so far two different venues have secured bookings by contributing £1,000. Email me to check about possible dates and availability first, as this is currently the only way I’m booking events for 2011 due to the off-Broadway run that’s scheduled to start in New York in March. So if you’ve been thinking of organizing a performance of the Rap Guide to Evolution or Rap Canterbury Tales this year, let’s do it through Crowdfunder and put the money towards the DVD post-production costs!
Speaking of the upcoming off-Broadway run, Sharon Levy of Dovetail Productions is currently organizing the venue, hiring the team, and raising the crucial funds to make this happen, mostly through private investment. She needs to secure $300K (minimum $5-$10K units), standard for New York off-Broadway theatre, and she is open to investors from my network (that’s y’all). Be warned that there is risk involved, but also possible financial reward (if you think I’m bankable prospect!) Let me know if you’re seriously interested and I’ll connect you with Sharon, but first read her Executive Summary with the pitch.
In other news, we have now finished all of the live filming for the music videos and the footage we have is amazing! We filmed a Galapagos beach party for “Worst Comes to Worst”, a grimy snarling fire-in-a-barrel rudeboy video for “Survival of the Fittest”, and a breakdance battle between Darwin, Sarah Palen, Michel Foucault, and *God* for “Survival of the Fittest”. Check out the photos on the bottom of the Crowdfunder pitch page.
Next, crowdfunder willing, is the editing and post-production phase, and finally the release party, hopefully in early April to coincide with the off-Broadway run. One final push to make it happen!
Thanks for your support and continued efforts,
By Andrew Potter - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 9:49 AM - 95 Comments
To the extent that the state systems resist privatization by becoming more…
To the extent that the state systems resist privatization by becoming more customer-friendly, they undermine their reason for existing, which is to deter alcohol consumption by making it more expensive, less appealing, and less convenient.
By Andrew Potter - Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 3:29 PM - 17 Comments
I’m asking your help for a new project I’m working on. I’m looking for…
I’m asking your help for a new project I’m working on. I’m looking for examples of claims that the problem with an institution is the vertical or hierarchical nature of its organization. Put colloquially, I’m looking for arguments where the thesis is that the obstacle to more innovation, bigger profits, or better results is that there are too many corporate “silos”, and that the solution is to “bust the silos”.
The classic version of this is the mission statement from the company that used to be called Canwest, which read, in part: “Our people bust the silos to leverage the content, best practices and the tremendous brain power that exists throughout our organization.”
Yet it strikes me that this assumption is endemic in the literature on corporate organization and in management theory. I know that an emphasis on “horizontality” is a part of the neverending attempt at re-imagining the public service in Ottawa. It is also the implicit theory behind the push for “interdisciplinarity” or “collaborative research” in the universities. In every case, the argument is the same: Vertical bad, horizontal good. Rules bad, freedom good. etc.
What I’m asking for are specific examples. Management books, mission statements, position papers, office memos, you name it – please send them on. If you can think of examples where an organization – university, newsroom, corporation, etc. – has been turned upside-down in the name of busting silos, please tell me your story in the comments, or email Jandrewpotter at gmail.com
By Andrew Potter - Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 1:15 PM - 14 Comments
For every story of tactical victory, there’s one about about things getting worse
Today’s summary of the president’s report on the war strategy is getting tons of press, and while the picture being shown is positive, the truth is that on virtually every measure, the overall situation is very complicated. For every story you read about things getting better, there is one about how they are getting worse somewhere else.
And so even as the coalition is claiming some sort of tactical victory in the South and talking about it turning into permanent gains, a large group of Afghan analysts and observers are arguing that the security situation is worse than ever, and that it is time to sit down and negotiate with the Taliban leadership. This “open letter to Obama” came out last week, and while it hasn’t received a lot of attention, I think it does a useful job of highlighting just why the situation in Afghanistan is so frustrating. Continue…
By Andrew Potter - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 12:06 PM - 11 Comments
The NYT’s Natalie Angier is one of my favourite popular science writers. Her stuff…
The NYT’s Natalie Angier is one of my favourite popular science writers. Her stuff is always interesting and she has a really fun writing style. Today she profiles the muskox, and its particular genius for survival:
With their stubby legs, musk oxen are not migratory like caribou or great dashers like reindeer. Their basic approach to winter management is: Don’t just do something — stand there. “You’ll see them in a big storm, drifted over, covered with snow,” said Dr. Lawler. “They’re almost part of the scenery.”
Meanwhile, here’s an old HWW profile:
By Andrew Potter - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 10:13 AM - 15 Comments
Tony Clement, to James Cowan, a few months ago:
“I have never, so far,…
Tony Clement, to James Cowan, a few months ago:
“I have never, so far, found a case where I have been in such disagreement with the eventual outcome that I’ve posed the existential question about whether I will continue with the ministry or not.”
After the pounding he took from @acoyne on twitter last night, it is increasingly clear that there is no compromising of his much-flaunted conservative principles that would lead Tony Clement to pose that existential question. Which, of course, raises the deeper question as to the actual existence of those principles.
By Andrew Potter - Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 10:33 AM - 7 Comments
The following article was written by Grant Kippen, past chairman of the Electoral Complaints…
The following article was written by Grant Kippen, past chairman of the Electoral Complaints Commission in Afghanistan. For those unfamiliar with Kippen’s pivotal role in the 2009 presidential election, check out John Geddes’ profile of Kippen from late 2009. He sent me this piece, and I post it with his permission.
Slowly, important changes are happening in Afghanistan.
With all the focus this past week on the WikiLeaks release of US State Department documents it was not hard to overlook a significant milestone that occurred in Afghanistan, as the country continues its journey towards instituting the rule of law and building stronger, more independent democratic institutions and processes. The event occurred on Wednesday, December 1 when the Independent Election Commission (IEC) released the final results for Ghazni province, the last of the 34 provinces to have the results from the September 18 Wolesi Jirga (parliamentary) elections certified.
The announcement brought closure to an election that was widely acknowledged as being exceptionally difficult by any international standards. The degree to which fraud took place was on a par, if not greater, than what occurred in last year’s Presidential and Provincial Council elections, driven in large part by the intense competition amongst the approximately 2,500 candidates for the 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga (Parliament).
While there are inevitably many more losers than winners in any election, the maxim is not entirely applicable in this instance, since the actions of the IEC have clearly signaled a win for the people of Afghanistan. Despite coming under intense pressure from various actors, including the Attorney General’s Office and the Complaints Committee of the Meshrano Jirga - who have no legal authority over electoral matters – the IEC resisted efforts to have them accept a political solution in Ghazni. After careful deliberation and following the results obtained from their own investigations the IEC went ahead with the certification of the final results.
At Wednesday’s press conference the Chairman of the IEC, Professor Fazel Ahmad Manawi eloquently stated, “Our decisions are not driven by issues by tribe, ethnicity or language, but only by law.”
Afghans should take pride in the words of Chairman Manawi and the accomplishments of the IEC this year for their actions signal renewed hope for the long-term prospects of the electoral process and representative democracy in their country. Donors should also pause to reflect on this achievement knowing that against the backdrop of the myriad challenges facing Afghanistan some positive progress is taking place. It is not all doom and gloom in the country.
However, neither Afghans nor the international community should be lulled into a false sense of security thinking that work in this area is anywhere close to being completed. In the short-term vigilance will be required in order to head off any potential retribution directed towards officials of the IEC or spurious attempts to re-write the electoral law, as was the case this past February
Electoral reform is desperately needed in Afghanistan in order to address the significant shortcomings that played out so publicly in the 2009 and 2010 elections. This should be the first priority of the incoming Parliament (Wolesi Jirga) and the international community needs do everything it can to ensure that the mistakes made between the 2005 and 2009 elections are not repeated.
Now is the precisely the time for Canada to renew and redouble our efforts in this area by working with Afghans as they continue to build their nascent democracy. Let’s use the momentum that the IEC has created so that the next elections are less fraudulent, more inclusive, credible and transparent than has been the case to date.
2009 and 2005 Electoral Complaints Commission