Franzen: "the same problem everywhere"

From Jonathan Franzen Freedom, 2010: Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

Because it's the same problem everywhere. It's like the internet, or cable TV — there's never any center, there's no communal agreement, there's just a trillion little bits of distracting noise. We can never sit down and have any kind of sustained conversation, it's all just cheap trash and shitty development. All the real things, the authentic things, the honest things are dying off.

Aboriginals want gun registry exemption; Charest fires back, and new poet laureate: Friday's A1 headlines and political daybook

Aboriginals want gun registry exemption; Charest fires back, and new poet laureate: Get a four-minute audio summary of what's on Friday's front pages of papers across the country by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at Look in the top right corner of the “Boos” box.

Reaction to Harper's United Nations Speech

Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a speech this afternoon at the UN General Assembly that was a “straight-out pitch” for a seat on the UN Security Council. Some reaction:

Bob Rae, Liberal Foreign Affairs critic:

The key thing is this is a bid for Canada. This is not a bid about one government or another government. I think what I found in Mr. Harper’s speech was that he emphasized Canada’s 65-year commitment to the United Nations and I think that is the point. It is a 65-year commitment, it is not a one or two or three-year commitment. It is not about what a government has done this year or last year, it is about what Canada has done over – over a very long time in our history at the – at the UN and on the world stage.

And that is why – I think all Canadians would be very supportive of a place for Canada on the Security Council, not based on the record of the last year or two or three one way or the other, but based on what we as a country have done over – over 65 years, since the formation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945. I think that is the key point.

I think the case for Canada is very very strong and I think the case was made effectively by the prime minister, but I think frankly it transcends partisanship and it transcends one political party or another, you know, when the prime minister is at the United Nations, speaking on behalf of Canada and talking of 65 years of Canadian experience, that is, I think, a story that everybody needs to hear and he wasn’t just talking about his own government, he was talking about the achievement sand the accomplishments of many different governments and I think that is the way we should approach it. I think we would be much better off in foreign policy if we looked much longer and harder at the things that we are doing together as a country and not see it as some – as some partisan exercise. As far as I’m concerned, it is not a partisan exercise and I think that is the approach that we should be taking.

Jack Layton, NDP Leader:

Well, of course we hope that we are given the opportunity as a country to be on the Security Council. I’m not sure the speech is going to do it because I think there are some obstacles that our own government has put in the way of garnering some support. Our freezing of international aid, even though according to the Prime Minister we’re in a strong position economically, that doesn’t wash very well with those who are in real need. I think also the approach that he’s taking around fundamental issues like human rights, the aid to the Palestinians and the refugees, these are problems that stand in the way. We haven’t even played the kind of honest broker role that Canada has traditionally played when we’ve been given the opportunity to be on the Security Council. So I worry that actions of this government could be jeopardizing our ability to serve.

Paul Dewar, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic

The Prime Minister’s speech at the United Nations was very underwhelming. Canada right now is desperately trying to win a seat in the Security Council and what we know is that there are many question marks whether or not we’ll win it which, if we don’t win a seat on the Security Council would be devastating for Canada. We’ve had a seat on the Security Council six times since 1948 — once every decade. If we fail to win a Security Council seat, it will set our country back for a number of years and obviously will muffle our voice on the world stage.

What we heard from Mr. Harper was very, very underwhelming. He said that Canada is eligible for a seat on the Security Council and that we are ready to serve. He didn’t make the argument as to why we deserve a seat on the Security Council. That’s what’s missing and that’s what makes many of us concerned.

I’ve talked to diplomats and they are saying well, we haven’t decided yet. Normally at this time, we would have known whether or not member states were going to support us and we would have had it locked in and we would have had assurances that we’re going to win the seat on the Security Council.

The nutty bits from Ahmadinejad's UN speech and Canada's reaction

Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got his chance, like the leader of every other UN member country, to address the UN General Assembly today. First time I've been in the same room with him. I wanted to hear him speak and to be able to watch the reactions of others there. The Canadian UN delegation didn't even bother to show (more on that in a bit) but the delegation from the United States, Australia and other Western democracies were in their seats at the start of his speech, presumably to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and to hear if he would change his tedious tune. He did not. Within a few minutes, Ahmadinejad went off the rails and the U.S., Australia and plenty of other countries promptly got up and walked out on him. Here's the bit that prompted the exodus.

One can analyze the current governance of the world by examining three events: First, the event of the II September 2001 which has affected the whole world for almost a decade.

All of a sudden, the news of the attack on the twin towers was broadcast using numerous footages of the incident.

Almost all governments and known figures strongly condemned this incident. But then a propaganda machine came into full force; it was implied that the whole world was exposed to a huge danger, namely terrorism, and that the only way to save the world would be to deploy forces into Afghanistan.

Eventually Afghanistan, and shortly thereafter Iraq were occupied.

Please take note:

It was said that some three thousands people were killed on the II September for which we are all very saddened. Yet, up until now, in Afghanistan and Iraq hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, millions wounded and displaced and the conflict is still going on and expanding.

In identifying those responsible for the attack, there were three viewpoints. 1- That a very powerful and complex terrorist group, able to successfully cross all layers of the American intelligence and security, carried out the attack. This is the main viewpoint advocated by American statesmen.

2- That some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime.

The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view.

3- It was carried out by a terrorist group but the American government supported and took advantage of the situation. Apparently, this viewpoint has fewer proponents. The main evidence linking the incident was a few passports found in the huge volume of rubble and a video of an individual whose place of domicile was unknown but it was announced that he had been involved in oil deals with some American officials. It was also covered up and said that due to the explosion and fire no trace of the suicide attackers was found.

There remain, however, afew questions 10 be answered:

1- Would it not have been sensible that first a thorough investigation should have been conducted by independent groups to conclusively identify the elements involved in the attack and then map out a rational plan to take measures against them? 2- Assuming the viewpoint of the American government, is it rational to launch a classic war through widespread deployment of troops that led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people to counter a terrorist group?

3- Was it not possible to act the way Iran countered the Riggi terrorist group who killed and wounded 400 innocent people in Iran. In the Iranian operation no innocent person was hurt.

It is proposed that the United Nations set up an independent fact-finding group for the event of the II September so that in the future expressing views about it is not forbidden.

. I wish to announce here that next year the Islamic Republic of Iran will host a conference to study terrorism and the means to confront it. I invite officials, scholars, thinkers, researchers and research institutes of all countries to attend this conference.

Ahmadinejad then rambled on for another 20 minutes to a largely empty chamber. (You can read the Iranian government-approved English translation at the UN Web site]
Shortly after he finished, this statement was issued by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon:

“Ahmadinejad's comments on the 9/11 terrorist attacks, on the United States, and the repeated unjust condemnation of Israel are unacceptable. Iran's behaviour is a blatant violation of international standards and of the very spirit of the UN.

“Iran's 20-year history of covering up its nuclear activities requires that the authorities take steps to address a serious confidence deficit. Its non-compliance, coupled with unacceptable statements Iran has made against other nations, is a destabilizing threat to the region, and to the world.

“No steps have been taken by Iran. No progress has been made at all since the June 2010 G-8 in Canada and the May 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review in New York. The military links to Iran’s nuclear program remain completely unresolved, and Iran has made no attempt to live up to the minimum standard of compliance.

“Iran has shown continued deception towards their commitments. The right to peaceful use of nuclear energy comes with the responsibility to comply with international obligations. If Iran is being honest about its intentions, it must engage in a real dialogue on its nuclear activities.

“Canada is deeply concerned about the blatant deterioration of the human rights situation in Iran and urges the Iranian authorities to free all citizens unjustly detained in Iran, including dual nationals.

“Our collective response should illustrate to the Iranian people that we will continue to advocate for their rights and freedoms.

Harper's speech to the United Nations

Here are the remarks Prime Minister Stephen Harper was to make to the United Nations General Assembly this afternoon:

Merci beaucoup.

Messieurs les co-Présidents

Monsieur le Secrétaire général,

Excellences,Mesdames et Messieurs.

For over 65 years the nations of the world, exhausted, some shattered – by years of war, created the United Nations.

Canada was one of them.

One of many, in fact, of whose experience convinced our people of the possibility of a better world, one in which nations peacefully settle their differences.

Canadians today believe in this objective and will continue to strive to live by those principles to make it possible.

Such principles are enshrined in the charter of this organization:

That same UN Charter endorsed with happiness and hope by a former Canadian government, on that auspicious June day in San Francisco in 1945.

These foundational beliefs recognize the sovereign equality of countries.

They remind us of the obligation to settle disputes peacefully.

And, they demand we seek justice, and uphold the human rights of all people.

These are values that Canadians hold dear.

And, as the universal membership of this body implies, so do peoples the world over.

This widespread consensus continues to convince the idealist in all of us that so much more is possible in this world of ours.

At the same time,it makes the gap between aspiration and achievement so disappointing.

It calls us onward to do more,as successive Canadian governments have worked diligently to do for almost a lifetime.

These ideals, as well as an acute awareness of the broad concerns of the international community, especially those of the developing countries continue to animate the Government of Canada, the government that I lead today.

And these ideals have the enthusiastic support of the Canadian population.

And I do not know the day or reasons that would make us stop our efforts in this direction.

As always, the question that arises is how to proceed.

Our preference is for useful action.

An action that produces tangible results.

An action that helps people in their struggle against oppression, disasters and poverty.

Let me just run through some of those actions.

As a founding member of the UN,and the seventh-largest contributor to its finances, Canada has been a consistently reliable and responsible participant in UN initiatives around the world.

This was so in the earliest days of the UN.

It was so during the difficult days of the Cold War,of de-colonizationand of the struggle against apartheid.

It is so today.

Canada continues to pay, for instance, a heavy priceto fulfill our UN obligation to support the lawful government of Afghanistan.

We pay it in both the resources of Canadian taxpayers,but also with profound sorrow,in the priceless lives of our young men and women who serve there in the Canadian Armed Forces,as well as, sadly,civilians who have also given their sweat and their lives in the service of both our country, and of the people of Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan,our military effortshave gone hand-in-hand with our reconstruction and development programs there.

In particular,Canada supports those, such as the Dhala dam, which will have enduring economic benefit.

And we have also invested heavily – and we will continue to do so – in other programs that improve the lives of our most vulnerable citizens of this country.

Our international engagement is not certainly not limited to Afghanistan.

In fact, we put our efforts elsewhere.

We are committed to doubling aid to Africa, so that Canada is a leader in the G8 in terms of fulfilling that commitment.

And we are on track to double our overall development assistanceby March of next year.

Further, we have untied food aid, and all Canadian aid will be untied by 2013.

Such measures significantly extend the purchasing power of Canadian aid funds.

Canada was also among the firstlast year at l’Aquila, to double support for agricultural development.

And during the economic crisis,we have acted,in concert with G-20 partners,to increase the lending capacity of development organizations like the Inter-American Development Bankand the African Development Bank

In particular, we have made a significant contribution to peace and security in Africa,including to peace initiatives, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction in the Sudan,since taking office in January 2006.

Canada has also used his leadership to restore peace in Sierra Leone.

And as you all know, we're very much involved in Haiti, both before and since the terrible earthquake terreq ui hit the country this year.

Canada was among the first nations to provide various forms of practical help.

And he is committed long term to help the people of Haiti to rebuild their country severely damaged.

Most recently, Pakistan has faced devastating floods.

Canada has again responded quickly.

These actions originate Canadian ideals.

Let me say one thing: this assembly should know that Canada is eligible for the Security Council.

If we are elected, we are ready to serve.

And, if called upon to serve on the Security Council we shall be informed by these ideals and strive to further them,just as we have striven to implement Security Council resolutions.

I should also mention Canada’s role this year as chair of the G8 and host of the most recent meetingof the G20.

We have tried to ensure that these gatherings serve the broader interests of the entire global community.

In preparation for the G20 we conducted wide-ranging outreach sessions,including with the Secretaries General of the Commonwealth, the Francophonie and, of course, this organization.

We used our chairmanship of the G8to reach out to leaders from Africa and the Americas and to secure an agreement to enact the Muskoka Initiative, for maternal, newborn and child health.

Such progress has literally essential to achieve the most feasible of the UN Millennium Development Goals: halving the frightful mortality among mothers and children in developing countries.

We strive to mobilize donor nations and private foundations.

Together, we should collect more than 10 billion dollars over five years.

This will contribute significantly to the Secretary General's Global Strategy for the health of mothers and children.

Similarly, we announced here two days ago that taxpayers will carry out a reconstruction reinforced the Global Fund to Fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

We did these things for one simple reason:To alleviate the suffering and indeed, to save the lives of people all over the world, who are among the millions suffering from these grave and debilitating diseases.

Actions such as these are a moral imperative.

It is essential that we strive to make a significant, actual difference in the lives of the world’s most disadvantaged people.

Who, seeing his neighbour distressed, will pass by on the other side of the road?

That is why we have also used our chairmanship of the G8 to further the essential ethicof accountability.

We published the first accountability reportto ensure that as donor countries,we fulfill the pledges that we make.

Our words must be translated into actionand must makea real difference to those who need our help.

And to that end, as many of you also know, Canadian taxpayers have forgiven debts totalling a billion dollars,owed by the world’s poorest countries.

Our Aspirations

However, let us not limit our horizons by looking just at the least we can do.

Much higher goals are within our capacity,if we will but reach for them.

In the short time that I have with you today, there is one thought above all others that I wish to share with you.

It is the urgent need for all states of the twenty-first century world in adopting an enlightened view of sovereignty.

As I said before, respect for sovereignty is a fundamental principle of the United Nations.

However, the global recession of the last two years has taught us – hopefully-a painful lesson. We are brutally reminded that in this shrinking world, we all travel in the same boat and not alone.

And how we travel together is very important.

Because our interests are all linked together: climate change to health threats and pandemics including of course, for the economy.

For example, nations that do not consider the effects of their economic choices on others, may not only hurt their trading partners, but themselves as well.

Those who succumb to the lure of protection is ,soon find that trading partners denied a market also lack the means to be a customer.

To recognize thatis to understand the need for enlightened sovereignty, the idea that what’s good for others may well be the best wayto pursue one’s own interests.

In business,it is called win-win.

And it is good for business.

In international affairs,it is good for development and for justice.

And it is in the spirit of the UN Charter.

It is therefore of the highest importance,in a passionate world of competing interests and principles, where every person left to himself does what is right in his own sight -in such a world the need foran enlightened, expansive view of sovereignty is as great now as it ever was.

At the outset of these remarks, I referred to the origins of the UN.

It was founded at the end of the greatest and most destructive war that had ever disturbed the ocean of humanity.

That war was certainly attributable in part to an extreme and pernicious nationalism.

But, we should never forget that appeasement and expediency also allowed fascism to gather such strength, that it required the whole and undivided effort of the world’s free peoples to subdue it.

The UN’s mission has grown over time, but its core job remains the same –through peace and development,to build a better world.

To prevent war and conflict, yet at the same time,to uphold what is rightand to protect the weak and the poor from those who prey upon them.

The Government of Canada has always been deeply committed to these goals and toward the organization that cultivates.

It still is today.

And as we attend to our own affairs, in, for example, the protection of our Arcticor the promotion of our tradeor the pursuit of our values,we shall be guided by the same advice we prescribe for others.

We will listen to their concerns.

We will speak the truth.

We will act with vigour,

And we will do all these things ever mindful that peace and opportunity for allremain always our ultimate purpose.

Harper is number 13 at the UN today + PM's meeting docket

The plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly opens at 0900 this morning with an address by U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama is expected to take stock of how the U.S. has re-engaged with the world post-George W. Bush. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the 12th speaker on the docket today. That speech is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. although if leaders run on too long, that could get pushed back. Last year, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi really ragged the puck, rambling on for 90 minutes and crowding out the guy who was to follow him, French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

Harper will be preceded by a global heavy-hitter: Wen Jiabao of China. No word yet on what Harper plans to talk about.

Looking at the lineup ahead of Harper, I don't see a lot of attention-seeking despots likely to ramble on like Gaddafi did last year.

  1. 0900 – President Barack Obama, United States
  2. President Doris Leuthard, Switzerland
  3. President Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi
  4. President, Laura Chinchilla Miranda, Costa Rica
  5. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka
  6. President Abdullah Gül, Turkey
  7. Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatar
  8. President Mwai Kibaki, Kenya
  9. President Emomalii Rahmon, Tajikistan
  10. President Alan García Perez, Peru
  11. President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine
  12. Premier Wen Jiabao, China
  13. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada

Before and after that speech, Harper has a dance card full of bilateral meetings including:

  • 1030: Harper meets His Excellency Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority
  • 1435: Harper meets His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
  • 1610: Harper meets the Honourable Edward Nipake Natapei, Prime Minister of Vanuatu
  • 1645: Harper meets His Excellency Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine
  • 1820: Harper meets former U.S. President Bill Clinton
  • 1900: Harper attends reception hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama

Gun registry lives, BC reporter's China threat; Danny Williams and Igor: Thursday's A1 Headlines and Political Daybook

Edmonton Sun front pageGun registry lives, BC reporter's China threat; Danny Williams and Igor; Get a four-minute audio summary of what's on Thursday's front pages of papers across the country by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at Look in the top right corner of the “Boos” box.

The source for Flaherty's charge that Liberal plans would kill 400,000 jobs

In a gob-smackingly partisan speech to the Canadian Club of Ottawa yesterday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had this line:

Experts estimate the Michael Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois tax hikes would kill almost 400,000 jobs.

And then later that day, in Question Period, Flaherty repeated this assertion:

The Liberals are proposing tax hikes that would wreck our economy. It would kill about 400,000 jobs, according to the experts.

I, like you, I'm sure, wondered who these “experts” were.

Flaherty's office was happy to satisfy my curiosity. Your call if the charge, based on this evidence, stands up …:

Job losses caused by GST hike:

January 29, 2010


Liberal MP calls for debate on increasing GSTCarl Sonnen, the president of Infometrica, said his firm's economic modelling shows a two-point cut in the GST translates roughly into about 162,000 new jobs. Conversely, reversing the Conservatives' cut would mean losing those jobs. “You can't argue that raising the GST rate won't hurt jobs. It will,” said Mr. Sonnen, who said the Conservative GST cut likely softened the recession's blow. “In our analysis, we got some positives out of that [cut] for GDP in the second quarter of last year. Otherwise we might have been in recession much earlier.”

Job losses caused by Ignatieff's corporate taxes pledge:

May 27, 2010

Press Release

Is Canada Tax Competitive?

Jack Mintz, director of The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, in a long-awaited 80 country tax competitiveness comparison … was able to determine the attractiveness of each country to investment and job creation – a critical measure in a global economy. The report found that Canada has made significant improvement and is well placed amongst its main competitors … By 2013, Canada will also be more tax competitive against G-7 countries but still less tax competitive against many other OECD or emerging countries … “There is a risk is that politics could get in the way of good policy,” Mintz said. “Some federal political parties are calling for the elimination of the planned reductions in 2013. Going back on the plan for reducing corporate tax rates is very simply, bad policy”. Mintz estimates that the three point reduction in the federal corporate income tax rate would lead to $49 billion in greater capital investment and 233,000 jobs over time.

I think there is certainly some political ammunition here but I think Flaherty will be vulnerable when someone gets around to calculating potential job losses (or job creation foregone, which is what Mintz and Sonnen are both kind of getting at) from the sharp jump in EI premiums that will happen on Jan. 1.

Gun registry showdown, Ottawa's depressing; and those awful Leafs: A1 headlines and political daybooy

Calgary Sun Unload ItGun registry showdown, Ottawa's depressing; and those awful Leafs: Get a four-minute audio summary of what's on Wednesday's front pages of papers across the country by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at Look in the top right corner of the “Boos” box.

Michael Ignatieff on making Question Period work better


In less than an hour, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff will rise in the House of Commons and kick off the fall session of Question Period in the House of Commons. MP Michael Chong and others have been getting an increasing amount of attention for their argument that QP is broke and needs fixing. About an hour ago, Ignatieff, standing in front of of his Liberal Express Bus (left) on Parliament Hill was asked what he thought of Chong's proposals for reforms. Here's what he said:

“We’re going to go back to the House and ask real questions seeking real answers. We’re going back to the House of Commons to try and make our Parliamentary committees work with civility. But it takes two to tango. It’s just that simple. We’ll do what we can to raise the tone. I can’t give any guarantees because it depends on what John Baird and that team decides to do. “