Friday, December 30, 2005

Call off the investigation!

King Paul has come forward to defend the honour of Ralph Goodale: "He is a good man and he is an honest man. He is a person of the greatest integrity and he will not be stepping down." Wow Paul, that means so much coming from you. Would that be the 'greatest integrity' within the Liberal party? You see, he opted not to go the route of outright theft.

That's why Martin's Liberals are so much better than Chretien's Liberals. As I'm sure Paul could tell you, Chretien's Finance Minister sat by while the Liberal party used it's power to steal money from the taxpayers. That's not the kind of person you want as Finance Minister. I wonder what happened to him....

Memo to Egypt: It's only okay to kill Sudanese in Sudan

The murder of at least 20 Sudanese refugees in Cairo last night by Egyptian police is a harsh reminder of the situation that many of the world's refugees face. Those that reach Europe or North America are the lucky ones, most are trapped in nations that themselves have poor human rights records and are ill-equipped to deal with them.

However, the reaction of the media is telling. The incident is currently the top world news story on Google News and has made the front page of all the major news sites, as well it should. On the other hand, the Sudanese government has been murdering its citizens for years and that only ever seems to catch the media's attention when foreign dignitaries see fit to visit. Why? Because the world doesn't really care as long as you are killing your own. Just keep it within your own borders and everybody's happy to go on ignoring it.

So yes, the Egyptian government should be brought to task for its treatment of refugees, but the true outrage should be reserved for the government of Sudan who seem to be constantly creating situations from which people need to seek refuge. But instead of being turned into an international pariah, they are set to host African Union and Arab League summits this year, and will likely take presidency of the AU. That'll show 'em! Unlike refugees, summit attendees have to be fed, can you imagine the catering expenses?!!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ralph, as in puke

The RCMP is now conducting a criminal investigation into the income trust scandal. Personally I don't see what all the fuss is about. Sure the Liberals are criminals, but is insider trading worse than outright theft? I could be getting ahead of myself, as nothing has been proven yet. But you know what they say: if it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck... it should probably form the government.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Hug a thug!

In my grade 11 law class, my teacher and I got into an argument after she marked an answer on my test wrong because I listed immorality as one of the root causes of crime instead of the "correct" answer: poverty. Of course, I explained, I could memorize the answers that she had given me, but I really didn't understand how memorizing your teacher's opinions constituted learning.

Today, the Prime Minister wants me to believe that the murder of a 15-year old girl in my neighbourhood yesterday shows us the "consequences of exclusion". I think I'm going to be getting the answer wrong again. I would suggest that the problem is that there is not enough exclusion. I suspect that anyone who fires a gun in a busy street was likely involved in lots of other criminal acts beforehand and should have been excluded from society a long time ago by means of imprisonment.

I'm not exactly sure what the Prime Minister's point is (granted, not a rare state of affairs). What has society supposed to have done to these people that they think it is okay to open fire on a crowded street? What could we have done to prevent them from having such utter disregard for human life? Did they not have state run day care growing up? Were they treated with disrespect when they went to register their handguns? Did people give them funny looks?

Why can't we acknowledge that criminals are responsible for their own actions? 'Society' didn't exclude that little girl from her future, the person who murdered her did.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Birthday Jesus

So for the tenth anniversary of me not celebrating the birth of your Lord (yes, I've been told that it's not just for Christians anymore, but I'm not a pagan either), my mother decided to go completely over the top with the gifts.

So in the spirit of the season. I got:

And Bitter Lime, who never gave in on Christmas and has not yet given in on Canada got:

Oh, and I got the shiny new camera that these pictures were taken with.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fuck the farmers. Yeah, that's right. I said it.

I hope that Stephen Harper's secret agenda is that of a fiscal conservative. Today he announced $500 million in farm subsidies (it's much like corporate welfare, but when they mention the word 'family' everybody's heart melts... along with their common sense). Why? Because we have to keep the tradition of farming alive. Why? Because it's tradition and you don't mess with tradition, even if it makes no financial sense.

As an added bonus, farm subsidies are completely destructive to the economies of developing nations. So not only do I get to see my hard earned money squandered to support an outmoded industry, I screw over a farmer in Malawi in the process. Everybody wins!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Haven't heard enough about you know what yet?

So I just called Liv's office to see if there was time scheduled for an all-Candidates debate. Nothing seems solid at this point. In addition to the riding debates there will be issues debates for Toronto. The nice lady on the phone seemed a little perplexed when she pointed out there will be a childcare debate and my response was "Yeah. Anything else?" (You'll be pleased to know that the answer is yes. Those great federal issues of education and the waterfront). I'll keep you posted....

Almost makes you lose faith in mankind

Saddam thinks that somebody betrayed him, and that is why the American forces were able to capture him. For decades you torture, and you brutalize and you murder and what thanks do you get? At the end of the day, somebody turns you in like a common criminal. There is no justice.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

And I know it's not going to get any better

So the Bloc is disastisfied and wants to return to a more debatey style debate format. Only in Canada! Not only does the party that is only running candidates in one province get to participate, but they are the ones complaining.

I must confess that despite being your hey-wait-a-minute-those-aren't-federal-issues!-free source for news, I have not yet watched a debate during this election season. I watched a few minutes on Thursday but I won't pretend I speak enough French to follow along, and live translations are just painful. And then, continuing on the general theme of 'huh?' that they seem to be going with for this election, they went and scheduled the English debate for Friday night. Because, well, people with children are home anyway and, outside of French-speaking Quebec, nobody else matters in Canadian politics.

Having heard all about it, it doesn't seem like I missed much. From what I understand, much to Paul Martin's chagrin, Stephen Harper is still managing to keep his real agenda hidden (READ THE HANDMAID'S TALE PEOPLE. How many times do you have to be told?!). But it doesn't matter anyway because Canadians are pretty much fine with the government stealing tax money as long as they set up an inquiry to look into it afterwards (nobody's perfect), and picking another party is hard work. And given that not a single issue that I consider to be relevant to federal election campaigns (national defense and foreign affairs) has received any coverage yet, pretending to care is getting to be a real challenge.

Does anybody know who Belinda's boffing these days?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

An election that matters

In the midst of our farce of an election, it is often easy to forget what it is all about. Today's vote in Iraq should remind us how privileged we are to live in a country where we can spend all our time bickering about looking after other people's kids.

In response to all those who think that somehow Arabs are incapable of democracy, I quote Alaa, The Mesopotamian:

Today was a tremendous moment of our history, a turning point and a real milestone. Say what you like; things are not perfect; there are countless problems; the “insurgency” is not going to disappear; the reconstruction effort is in shambles; there is corruption and thieving everywhere; errors and mistakes in everything. Yet despite all that, the political process is proceeding like a dream and the tree of freedom is taking roots, and that tree will continue to grow and grow and grow. The Iraqis are again confounding all the "pundits" and "experts". But some just cannot understand the true soul of a people. That this most profound revolution initiated by an act of liberation, by the daring praxis of the Americans, driven by some mysterious hand of the Providence, has touched the innermost womb of a nation, and that the present agonies of this nation are those of giving birth and new life. Oh no, that they cannot understand. Well then, let them witness surprise after nasty surprise that will confound their logic and demolish their arguments. But the word mongers will always find something to say, as wild dogs are always wont to bark all the more hysterically as they are irked.

Meanwhile, the CBC, who were unable to deny the huge turnout, had this to say:

The strong participation by Sunnis, the backbone of the insurgency, bolstered U.S. hopes that the election could produce a broad-based government capable of ending the daily suicide attacks and other violence that have ravaged the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"U.S. hopes"? Well at least they're being honest. Canada didn't support removing Saddam Hussein from power, so I suppose that there is no point pretending now that they give a damn whether the people of Iraq, who have suffered for so long, should have a peaceful, stable democracy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Missing the Point

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in the news again. This time for denying that the Holocaust occured. Why it is news to anyone that he thinks this is beyond me. And given that a few months ago he suggested that he wanted Israel to be wiped off the map, I'm not sure how this is 'escalating the anti-Israeli rhetoric'.

Let me preface what I am going to say next by pointing out that I basically have an undergraduate degree in the Holocaust. Reading Elie Wiesel's Night at 13-years of age was such a transformative experience for me that for a decade I planned to convert to Judaism. It is fair to say that my knowledge and understanding of this particular genocide has shaped my entire world view. Having said that, people overreact when it comes to the Holocaust.

Please do not misunderstand me here. I am not in any way suggesting that there is any reasonable argument to be made that it didn't occur or that somehow less people died than is claimed or anything of the sort. But for civilized educated people in the West, the Holocaust has become the last sacred thing. People with practically no knowledge of modern European history can tell you that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. We treat the Diary of Anne Frank as a great work of literature. Everyone knows about the gas chambers and the yellow stars. If you make a movie about the Holocaust (even an excrable piece of filth like Life is Beautiful), you're winning an Oscar. But by treating this one part of history with such reverence, we seem to have become completely unable to incorporate it into our understanding of anything else. We should remember the Holocaust. Every school child should be taught what regular human beings are really capable of (which means remembering Adolf Eichmann not Oskar Schindler). But the memory alone doesn't seem to be getting us anywhere. It is worth noting that in March 1994 as Schindler's List was sweeping the Oscars, extremists in Rwanda were preparing for the extermination of their nation's Tutsis. Right at this moment there are women in Darfur being raped by Janjaweed militias. But that doesn't make the headlines because somebody somewhere is denying an event that happened 60 years ago.

Don't get me wrong. I get it. We're not just talking about history, we're talking about how Israel's neighbours perceive the Jewish state today and the threat that they pose. This is evidence of how ignorance of history can be used as such a powerful tool by political leaders (one suspects that -- setting aside anti-semitism for the moment -- the average Iranian isn't as informed about the history of Europe during World War II as the average North American). But in recognizing that, it is still not worse that Ahmadinejad denies a particular historical event than that the Iranian regime denies basic human rights to its own citizens. Anti-semites have been denying abuses against Jews for time immemorial, and nobody does antisemitism like modern Middle Eastern leaders. So this is perhaps just not front page news. Come on people, Mahmoud Abbas' doctoral thesis was on the links between Nazism and Zionism!

I could accept the rage being directed toward Ahmadinejad if we didn't tolerate denials or doubts about other genocides. Turkey gets to go on pretending that what it did to the Armenians doesn't constitute genocide. When Europeans have tried to use the denial as a reason to exclude Turkey from the European Union, it is usually only opportunistic use of the historical event by people who don't want Turkey joining for other, unrelated, reasons. Whenever the Armenian genocide is mentioned in the media, it is completely acceptable to use terms like "Historians say" or "Armenians claim".

Noam Chomsky gets to go around talking about how the Srebrenica massacres were exagerated and dance around the issue of the Cambodian genocide and he's held up as a great public intellectual (while he has certainly been over the top in his defense of the free speech rights of Holocaust deniers -- perhaps the source of greatest controversy in his career, I don't think that it can be reasonably claimed that he himself denies the Holocaust). There were certainly a good many claims of doubt amongst a segment of the anti-war crowd about Saddam's genocide of the Kurds and that didn't make any headlines in the New York Times. Obviously Noam and the assorted anti-war nuts aren't leaders of countries working to obtain nuclear weapons. But the fact remains that people well regarded in intellectual circles are permitted to openly doubt documented historical facts about genocide when they don't fit in with their particular agenda. This is true of pretty much every genocide except the Holocaust.

All I am asking is that the victims of other attrocities be granted the same respect as those murdered by the Nazis. Perhaps we could even find a little bit of time to worry about people being victimized by their state right now. Maybe we could even do something about it?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I look really smart!

I have uploaded a number photos of myself to's facial recognition site that compares your pictures to those of celebrities (George did it with the party leaders on The Hour tonight). The person it claims I most resemble? Chess grandmaster Anatoly Karpov.

Combine that with my Pamela Anderson-like mind and I'm the complete package.

Bush Tries to Mess with our self-definition

In a speech to the Canadian Club, U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, suggested that Paul Martin risks harming our relationship with the U.S. when he uses anti-American rhetoric as a tool in his campaign. Typical American!

As ambassador, he should know enough about Canada to understand that we define ourselves by how much better we are than our American neighbours. How can such important issues be off the table during an election? Only an American would be so ignorant about the nation to which he is ambassador.

I'm so sick to death of American unilateralism. Who are they to single-handedly define the terms of our relationship? If it is to our Prime Minister's benefit to criticize the U.S. government every chance he gets, then that is our business! It should have no impact on diplomatic relations between our countries.

Monday, December 12, 2005

They couldn't find anyone else? There may be hope for this country yet.

It's things like this that might make it possible for me to grit my teeth and vote for Olivia (strategically, of course).

via Small Dead Animals

Last one, I promise!

I figured that Jack would have to weigh in eventually: only the government is fit to raise your children. No more private daycares! Since the public sector has proven time and time again that it is best equipped to provide services, Mr. Chow has announced that he wants to ban private daycare. Instead, Canadians will turn their children over to the state who will raise them with good multi-cultural, feminist, eco-friendly, LBGTQ values. In return for reproducing for the nation , parents will get an extra helping at three communal meals per week. Canadians who choose not to breed will instead be permitted to sponsor a family from an underdeveloped nation.

Oh, and Scott Reid is a dick. But that isn't news.

From this point on, no matter what happens, Bitter Lemon will not comment on the New Great Debate in our nation.

Bitter Lemon: your 'issue that cannot be named'-free source for election coverage. Now without childcare! (from now on, I'm pretty much just gonna talk about who Belinda's screwing).

What's next?

With Stephen'I've sold out any principles I once had to win this fucking election' Harper announcing he's going to give parents a tax break for enrolling children in sports programs (and one imagines a soon to be forthcoming Liberal program, 'MartinJeunesse', modelled on a German system of promoting healthy living and healthy minds to young children), Bitter Lemon can do little but ask, 'what's next'?

Studies have shown that showing children affection is good for them. The government should pay parents to hug their kids. Literacy is also important: send the government a video of you reading to your children and they will send you cash. Computer skills are also good: not only should the government be providing tax credits with which to buy computers, but it should provide free internet access to every family with children.

In order to support these new benefits, Canadians without children (who are clearly valueless in our society) should be asked to pay significantly higher taxes. At first it doesn't sound fair, but when you think about it, they just spend money on hedonistic pursuits anyway and since it is the government's job to shape citizens' behaviour, it is best for everyone.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Taxes are for boys!

Belinda wants everyone to stop asking her where she gets her hair cut (I agree, she needs to get a far better stylist before those sorts of inquires should start coming her way), and thinks that having to face these sorts of questions is what turns women off entering politics. I hear it was what finally drove Deborah Grey from running again for elected office.

Belinda understands what gets women interested in politics:

"she is proud the Liberal party is fielding more female candidates than the Conservatives and believes women are attracted to the government's social policies, such as it's commitment to daycare."

Leave things like defence and the economy to the boys, us girls just want to talk about babies!!!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My First Anniversary

Yes ladies and gentleman, it was one year ago today that Bitter Lemon began. As I recall my motivation, I was working on an assignment and needed a way to procrastinate. Now, one year later, I have just finished working on an assignment and thought I'd take the opportunity to comment on the occasion. See, that's progress!

One year ago, I was criticizing the U.N. and the world's failure to act in Sudan. Clearly no progress there. I also commented upon Canada's failure to live up to its reputation as a peacekeeping nation. Check!

I criticized the Globe and Mail and the National Post for their on-line paid subscription models. I suggested that if the New York Times could offer all of its content for free, so could they. Well, it seems we've regressed there, as anyone whose life has been made as meaningless as mine by the absence of regular doses of Thomas Friedman can attest (I know he's hokey, but I love him!).

On the bright side, despite how it was looking a year ago, they managed to have relatively free and fair elections in the Ukraine. Things are still by no means perfect in the young democracy, but progress is progress.

Since then (in no particular order): the fighting in Iraq continued, but elections were held; the fighting continued in Afghanistan, but elections were held; nobody cared about Darfur; there were modest stirrings of democracy across the Middle East; Hariri was killed; London was bombed; Live 8 failed to change the world; Google just kept getting better; Zimbabwe descended further into chaos; nobody cared about Darfur; King Paul and his courtiers proved unfit to govern time and time again; the Pope died; Africa got its first female elected head of state; the government fell; Michael Ignatieff lost his mind; nobody cared about Darfur. Oh, and there was some weather.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Can somebody fill me in?

The new Liberal ad campaign claims that there are over 30 million reasons to vote Liberal. Funny, I can't think of a single one!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The reason the U.N. will never work

Robert Mugabe has turned down an offer of tents to temporarily house the people that his government made homeless earlier this year by knocking down their homes.

"The president stressed we are not tents people," said Mr Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba, arguing that other countries were getting more help.

Of course, there is nothing that the U.N. can do. Homeless Zimbabweans will continue to go without even basic shelter because their government (who put them in this predicament in the first place) will not allow the world to help them.

This gets to the heart of why the U.N. will never truly succeed. As long as people are being victimized by their governments rather than a foreign power, there is really very little that the U.N. has the power to do. U.N. representatives will continue to talk in polite terms about 'disagreements' with the leaders of undemocratic regimes and people will continue to suffer.

The youth are really going to vote this time!

According to one survey, 88% of 18-24 year olds intend to vote. If the historical trend continues, over 60% of young Canadians will get lost on the way to the voting booth in January, as the number that vote is typically less than 25%. Why do we do this every time there's an election? Some people insisting the youth are really engaged this time, others offering reasons why the mainstream parties turn young voters off. Most young people are self-absorbed and apathetic. But this is nothing new, young people have never voted in numbers comparable to the rest of the population. Once they start paying taxes and becoming responsible members of society, they will start to vote. Or they won't. Either way, it doesn't matter. Do we really want people who don't feel informed enough to vote voting? There is no reason for a 20-year to be any less informed than a 40-year old, except they can't be bothered to inform themselves.

And that old line about how young people aren't engaged because the parties aren't addressing their issues? Bullshit. You either care about the world outside your immediate reality or you don't. What issues is it exactly that will get 18-24 year olds engaged? And will we want to waste our election cycle talking about them if we figure out what they are?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Turns out I'm a Conservative

Who woulda guessed? I just took the Vote By Issue quiz on the CBC website and it seems I agree with Stephen Harper on the most issues (8) and Paul Martin on the least (1). I opted out of the most important issue of the election, because the subject is just too important to be encapsulated in a few lines, and it turns out I don't agree with anyone on childcare funding.

I have to say, reading the issues broken down like that, I'm not inspired by any of the parties.

I very much look forward to paying for your children's daycare

It has come to light that there are still Canadians with young children who don't own an SUV. To correct this tragedy, the party leaders began falling over themselves today to offer money to parents for childcare. Stephen Harper wants to give parents a $1200 annual allowance for children under six, and Paul Martin fought back with his "contrasting values" (collectivism?), offering more money for the provinces to give to their child care bureaucracies. One can only expect that tomorrow Jack Layton will come forward with a proposal that will assign a Canadian family to each childless taxpayer so that they can pay for child care and emergency expenses.

Did I miss this debate? When did we all agree that we wanted to pay for the costs for other people's children? What's next? Does grandma want to retire to Florida? Can I offer some assistance paying for the flight?

Happy Holidays: Now we're related by marriage as well as by blood!

Charles and Camilla are using one of their wedding pics as the family Christmas card this year (cheapskates). Is this not the creepiest looking bunch of inbreds you've ever seen (well, I'm sure it could be bested by putting the Queen and Phil in the picture)? Camilla's son is the only person on Earth who can make Charles look vaguely human by comparisson.

Maybe next year they should just opt for a nice picture of Father Christmas.

I have yet to receive my card from the Royals. I assume it's just lost in the mail.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Support their Troops!

An assessment of the African Union from an aid worker on the ground in Darfur gives very little cause for hope.

There are far too few troops in Darfur and the ones that are there are underequipped. The international community has failed the people of Darfur by allowing the vastly unprepared African Union to attempt to police this crisis alone. By not even helping to provide basic necessities to the peace keepers in the region, the world has made quite clear that it has no interest in helping to resolve the situation in Darfur. Sleepless in Sudan rightly criticizes the cuts that the U.S. Congress has made in pledges to funding the African Union. But where is the rest of the world in this? Canada has pledged over a hundred armoured personnel carriers, of which 3 have arrived so far. If Canada is the great peacekeeping nation that it always claims, why haven't we taken a lead on this? Why haven't we offered the African Union more support? I know that we are facing a never ending health care crisis in this country, but maybe we could take a moment to care about someone else in this world for a change.

I'm bored, let's vote

Okay, it's been a few days now and this campaign is really really dull. Gun crime in Toronto should not be a federal election issue, I don't care about drug crime, I really don't care about softwood lumber, and I've already made clear my thoughts more than clear on the issue that shall not be named. And really, while I can support the idea of reducing the GST, it's not going to sustain me until January 23rd!

If for no other reason, this is why they should let the Greens participate in the debates. People have suggested that we exclude the Bloc to make way for the Greens, since they are not a national party. But that works counter to the goals of an interesting campaign, since at least Gilles Duceppe usually has something interesting to say. However, I'd like to suggest an alternative I haven't heard from anyone else: don't let the Liberals participate. Not only is Paul Martin decidedly uninteresting, we already know what he has to say. He's been whining at us for 12 years as either Prime Minister or Finance Minister, and it's tiresome. It would also probably do a lot for democracy in Canada if the Liberals were excluded from all debates. Canadians might actually be forced to think about what they believe if they didn't have a government-approved opinion to fall back on. See, it's good for everyone! Something to think about?

Go back to Harvard and we'll pretend like this whole thing never happened

It seems that some Liberals in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding that Michael Ignatieff was catapulted into want to reopen the nomination process so that they can actually choose their candidate. I have to say, I don't understand the reaction from these Liberals. They'll tolerate massive corruption at the national level from their party, but damnit, the nomination process in the ridings has to be open and fair.

I think that Michael should take this as an opportunity. Give up the nomination and go back to Harvard. You can go on teaching and writing on human rights issues and we can all pretend that this embarrassing incident never happened. We'll all be happier for it and you won't have to go down in history as the brilliant academic who gave it all up for some pathetic attempt at Canadian political glory.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

My Pledge to You

Why do I bother to get excited about Canadian elections? I get giddy every time and then by day two I tune out. Why? Because I don't care about health care! One tier, two tiers, fifty-eight tiers. It's boring! It's not really a debate Canadians are willing to have anyway, we just like the party leaders to come out every once in a while and confirm their faith in a system of equally bad care for all Canadians.

So my promise to you, my readers, is that no matter what happens in this election -- even if Jack Layton suggests that we close down all the hospitals and resort to faith healing -- I am not going to talk about health care. The pretend health care 'debates' that we have during every federal and provincial election allow the politicians to pretend that they are talking about issues, when really they are just avoiding any serious political discussion. It is pathetic, and I won't be part of it.

Bitter Lemon, your health care free source for election coverage!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Harper's Determined to Stay Boring

In a boring move by a boring magazine, Roger Hodge, currently deputy editor, will be replacing Lewis Lapham as editor of Harper's Magazine in April.

But don't worry, Hodge isn't going to do anything crazy like try to make the magazine interesting or relevant:

"It will be the same magazine," he said...I don't have so much vanity that I think I have to walk in and put my stamp on it."

Ummm, okay, but you do realise that is actually going to be your job now, right?