Archive for April, 2008

Two more now confirmed war crimes to add to Bush’s tally

Despite a complete media blackout on the story in Canada, the U.K. and the United States, the dean of the U.S. White House Press Corps, Hellen Thomas, recently received a great deal of online attention for daring to state the obvious.  By most accounts, the attention began on the popular social networking site reddit.com, which managed to raise several thousand dollars to send Ms. Thomas flowers for what was seen as her daring question for White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

The ‘obvious’ thing that Thomas pointed out is, of course, that revelations of evidence (both photographic and otherwise) of the use of WWII-era torture techniques as well as evidence that U.S. President George W. Bush personally signed off on approving torture, necessarily means that President Bush lied when he said the U.S. does not torture.

However, even this somewhat subdued (yet obviously true) fact, has been met with a virtually complete media blackout.  One could even push the envelope even further in this matter though, and if North America had a critical press, Ms. Thomas’s question would not have been seen as either particularly extreme or controversial.  Rather, on the contrary, if Ms. Thomas wanted to be even more accurate, she could have also pointed out — with equal confidence — that these recent revelations on torture means that George W. Bush is, by definition, a war criminal and that this is but merely one of two items which came to light in the past two weeks which constitute war crimes on the part of the U.S. President.

The other revelation, which was covered somewhat in the mainstream press, was the revelation that U.S. President Bush blessed (and assisted through military aid) the expansion of the illegal Jewish settlements in Palestinian occupied territory.  Of course, acquiring lands through conquest constitutes not only a war crime but constitutes what Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor for the United States at the Nuremberg Trials, claimed was the “supreme” war crime.  This latter fact, yet again, was not mentioned in the mainstream media in North America or the U.K..

So, if you’re keeping track:  that’s two war crimes revealed in as many weeks.  The press has not only glossed over both revelations, but to the extent that Helen Thomas’s rather subdued and tame question about lying (rather than war crimes) has been addressed online or elsewhere, it has been treated as somehow radical.  Don’t get me wrong: Thomas deserves the utmost credit for posing her question in a forceful manner, but let’s not kid ourselves here — the lying is nowhere near as bad as the war crimes.

The myth that minority parliaments are inefficient

In the past week or so, I’ve heard two people who I consider to be generally intelligent make the same argument with regards to minority parliaments.  The first was a person I just overheard while I was at school finishing up the final assignment for my degree, the second person was a commentator on this blog.

Both arguments were of the standard, prevalent format.  They both argued that in minority parliaments, there are too many political games that get in the way of governance and that, because of this, minority parliaments inefficient.

It is time now that we do away the myth that Canadians either want or should want (or even ‘need’) majority parliaments.

Indeed it’s not difficult to understand why some people hold such an opinion.  In fact, in the U.K., minority parliaments are called “hung parliaments” thus further lending creedence to the inefficient minority parliament thesis.  Thus, it is somewhat understandable why some individuals would take this assumption about minority parliaments and wrongly then hope for what Jeffrey Simpson rightly called the “Friendly Dictatorship” of majority parliaments.

The only problem with this argument is that the evidence simply does not support its conclusion.  Paul E.J. Thomas has a piece out in the Canadian Parliamentary Review, wherein he examines precisely the claim that minority parliaments are inefficient.  His piece, entitled, appropriately enough, “Measuring the Effectiveness of a Minority Parliament” employs a thorough quantitative study of Canadian minority and majority Parliaments and utterly blows this myth out of the water.

You can access Thomas’s piece for free online, here.

A brief excerpt from the abstract of Thomas’s article:

“The paper sets out the procedural context of the 38th Parliament and develops six criteria for evaluating its behaviour. It then explores each criteria using a qualitative and quantitative comparison of the actions of the 36th, 37th, and 38th Parliaments. This evaluation shows that the 38th Parliament was no less efficient than its predecessors, featured greater legislative deliberation, and was better able to hold the executive accountable for its actions [emphasis added]. As a result the paper concludes that while minority governments are by no means perfect, the example of 38th Parliament suggests that an electoral system which produced more minority governments could increase the quality of democracy in Canada.”

But, sadly, despite all the empirical evidence to the contrary, we’re already starting to see the capitalist media telling Canadians that they need the anti-democratic security of a majority parliament.  And, moreover, it unfortunately appears as though Canadians are starting to swallow that lie. 

See also:

On changing our electoral system

Paul’s back

Well, after a month-long hiatus because of a confluence of 4 personal crises — breaking up with my live-in girlfriend, finding a new apartment, finishing my masters degree and my car getting ‘totalled’ — I’m pleased to say that I’m back to blogging!

I’ve already started by putting up a massive, and long overdue, update on the Paulitics polling resource which you can can access here.

More to follow in the upcoming days and weeks.  Stay tuned.

It’s good to be back.

Paulitics to return to full blogging status shortly

I am pleased to announce that the convergence of crises that have been my life for the past month and a half are mostly over — or at least the worst part of them are.

To my loyal readers (who, I have been surprised and pleased to learn, in my absence, have still been visiting this space at a rate of over 300 hits per day), expect Paulitics to return to its regularly blogging schedule beginning sometime shortly after mid-month when I will be settled in my new apartment and finished my masters degree.


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