Stephen Harper: Mountie on a Mission
North to Alaska! Okay, not that far north. Let’s stop off in Canada to check out the antics of my favorite canuck chappy Steven Harper. Harper also happens to be the happening Prime Minister of our chilly Canadian cohorts, and he is an interesting cat in his own right. We should include him in our list of folks that shape global events…
Canada trumpets G8 vow to halve emissions by 2050
Cold Rush for Arctic’s energy riches
Lessons we can learn from Canadian experience
Seriously? We have to know the leader of Canada? Absolutely yes my friends! While they are mostly mocked by Americans as a bunch of hockey-playing-maple-syrup-making-free-health-care-having socialist-sissy-marys, the relationship between these two countries is radically important…and thus it behooves you as a smarter, savvier citizen to know Steven.
What is so important about the relationship? The US and Canada are the largest and most lucrative trading partners in the world. That’s for starters. Canada is the 2nd largest country on the planet, and it shares the largest (mostly) unguarded border in the world with the US. That makes us good friends, and vital partners. Canada has also supported the US in every single conflict in the world in which the US has participated. Every single one. Including the ones still going on right now. Canada is founding member of the UN, NATO, and NAFTA. To know who leads this country and how he/she works with or against the US is simply a matter of common courtesy. So let’s talk about Steven.
Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper took over the helm of our northern neighbor in 2006, in what was a major shift from 12 years of liberal rule. Thus, he is comparable to the current Bush administration in the US. However, Harper may have come from more radical-conservative-right roots, but he has mostly played the part of a centrist since he took office, moving Canada firmly to the center-right on the political spectrum…but not to the far right. An economist by training, he is more focused on pushing the conservative agenda for business and military matters as opposed to focusing on social issues (which of course the Americans spend 99% of their time bickering about.) Having said that, Harper is staunchly opposed to gay marriage and a few other staples of the conservative agenda.
But here’s what you really need to know about the guy: he has strengthened the Canada/US relationship, both in trade and in troops. Canada has been by the side of the US in both the Afghan and Iraq campaigns from the start. Harper even became the first Canadian Prime Minister to visit an active war front when he chatted with troops outside Kandahar (he has been to Afghanistan twice so far.) Way to go Steven! He is definitely on the hawkish side, particularly when it comes to supporting the US and NATO in the War on Terrorism, and that is not likely to change.
Back in the chilly Canadian homeland, Harper also asserted state’s rights at the expense of the federal government, tried to un-do or at least re-work some of the socialist aspects of the Canadian system, and even has increased trade with the EU and US. Haper (and Canada in general) often becomes a very audible and visible voice supporting other US foreign policy issues too…even when these policies are very unpopular at home. In particular, Canada has been one of the countries holding up any real movement on reducing greenhouse gases via the Kyoto Protocol, even though it would be easy enough for them to do, and in their own self-interest. So why have they drug their feet? To support their US buddies who want to have nothing to do with Kyoto at all…in other words, to kiss US ass.
But hold the phone! While Harper is center-right, he ain’t no patsy to the Bush administration. As referenced in the story above, Harper is now fully on board with the global warming agenda…as might be expected since even the US is starting to tilt in that direction. And that’s not the only issue. There have been several minor trade disputes and one whopper of a territorial dispute between these two countries, and Harper has made it clear that no one—not even the giant US—is stepping on Canadian sovereignty.
What is the whopper? Shortly after Steven took office, the US made claims that the Northwest Passage (a famous Atlantic-to-Pacific shipping route that runs through northern Canadian waters) was an international waterway, and therefore not subject to Canadian sovereignty. As such, the US claims that part of the Arctic Ocean north of that Passage may be up for grabs—namely, so the US can be the one to grab it! Prime Minister Harper immediately issued a US smack-down, loosely translated as: Bullshit! Harper since has launched counter-claims that a large swath of the Arctic Ocean (and everything that potentially lies underneath) is Canadian territory, and has also laid plans for the establishment of several Canadian military bases in the area to reinforce this claim. Hoo-yah!
So Prime Minister Harper is a staunch US ally, but not one to be taken for granted. Of course Harper will continue to support the US militarily and support increased trade with the US. That makes his position in world affairs kind of powerful as a supporting player to the big power. At home, his conservative party does not hold an outright majority in the government and has been hit with some scandals lately, therefore we will give Mr. Harper a Plaid Potential Power rating of 7.2 at home, and 4.1 abroad in the wider world. Not bad for a Canuck! Go Flames! Go flames! Go flames!
US Prez: 1 in the Hand Worth 2 in the Bush…
Holy shit fire and save the matches! I’m back in action my plaid friends! Sorry for the significant sizzling summer hiatus, but as the new semester approaches it is now time for the Avenger to change out of the speedo and back into the suit…and get back to work assessing the asinine antics of administrations across the globe. In fact, for the rest of this month, I will be doing just that: let’s take a look at world leaders and movers and shakers that have significant impact on global events. These are the people that every citizen should be able to recognize by sight, identify their politics and power positions, and understand their motivations and movements….all in order to more completely comprehend what the hell is happening across the plaid planet. Ready then? On we go…
This will be a background building exercise for our international ‘rogue’s gallery’ of folks that you should know in order to be globally literate, fashionably informed and completely chic. As these pages are posted, they will also be hot-linked to the ‘Global Gallery’ section of this site, so you can check back often for updates and insights.
So if we are going to do a run-down of the world’s most important leaders, with no reservation we have to start here at home with the leader of the free world himself, George W. Bush.
Well what can we say about the ‘compassionate conservative’ Georgie Boy in just a page or two that hasn’t been documented in a trillion other articles and books in the last 8 years? Probably not much. The American Presidency is still the most powerful position on earth, regardless of party, beliefs, or intelligence of the person who holds the post. So let me spend this very first leader run-down introducing you to few terms which will help you understand the rest of the Bush Presidency, and more importantly, the rest of this rogue run-down.
With no reservations I tell you that Bush is the most powerful man on the planet in terms of shaping global policies, global events, and global news. Even on his very last day in office (which is fast approaching), President Bush has more power than any other world leader on their first day in office. As will his predecessor. How is this so? Well, the US is the single largest economy in the world, and money does matter in terms of power. More to the point, being the leader of the sole superpower on the planet, the American President has at his disposal the most advanced and lethal military in the world, the largest stockpile of nuclear weaponry in the world, and a government structure which allows him/her to use these tools with great speed and few hurdles.
Result: Even in the most unpopular, unsupported, unattractive and un-powerful American President has the ability to start a war or totally annihilate the planet in his last five minutes on the job. Damn, that’s power!
Now that’s the power that the position of American President wields. Let’s talk about the man currently in that position. President George Bush is many different things to many different people, and I’m not getting into a glory-fest nor a bash-fest here. However I am going to give him several descriptors that can also be applied to his soon-to-be-elected replacement, as well as other world leaders discussed in this manual. Strangely enough, one of these terms is about being alone, while the other two have to do with birds…and how does the old saying go?…Oh yes, now I remember: One in the hand is worth two in the Bush. Ha! How appropriate! But let’s get to the terms…
George Walker Texas Ranger Bush has led the mighty USA for almost eight years…and his time is almost up! Being a second-term President in the US means you can’t run for office any more, thus the first term I want you to know about George is that he is a lame-duck leader. Well what the hell does that mean? This label is applied to any elected official who has lost political power and/or is no longer responsive to the electorate because they are in their last days in office…in this case because of term limits. Bush can’t run for office again, therefore he doesn’t have to ‘build bridges’ or be nice to his enemies or even appease the American people on any given subject…‘cause it don’t matter if people like him or not now! He’s leaving either way!
The flip side of this equation is that other politicians, and indeed even other world leaders, feel no need to work with him anymore on any new policies or initiatives. What would be the point? He’s leaving soon! Bush’s lame duck status is compounded even further by his low approval ratings at home and abroad. You can see this clearly in the news events of the year leading up to his last day in office: there are no new programs or policies in the works, no senators or lobbyist pushing him to do any real work, and all visits to foreign countries are simply ‘goodwill tours’ where President Bush just hangs out with other heads of state and makes nice speeches about how everyone should continue to push the policies of the past well into the future.
Don’t believe me? The President took an extended European vacation in summer 2008 where he met with a slew of leaders and gave a slew of speeches…every single one of which suggested that the War on Terror must be continued and also that Iran is evil and must be stopped. No exceptions. And no surprises to those of us that understand how the world works. On top of that, the Bush Administration has been desperately trying to arrange a peace process/treaty for the Arab/Israeli dispute in their last year in power. Unfortunately, no one in the Middle East gives a hoot about the Bush initiative, since all parties know that a new President with a new perspective will soon be in office. Why would any of them waste their time taking Cheney and Condi seriously? Answer: they don’t. It’s the lame duck syndrome.
So it is always important to know how much longer any given leader has left in office, because it does truly affect their power and effectiveness. A king or dictator always has all the power…right up to the second someone deposes their dumb asses. A democratically elected leader’s power shifts with current events, personal diplomatic skills, personal popularity, and time left in office. You dig?
But onto another bird which perhaps helps describe why President Bush and his administration have such low approval ratings around the world…and that word is hawkish. Like’em or hate’em, the Bush administration will go down in history being defined as a hawkish bunch. In politics, to be hawkish means that you have an actively aggressive attitude to solving problems and you favor military force/action in order to carry out foreign policy objectives. Some of the keywords in that definition are actively and favor, reinforcing the idea that military force is the most desirable option. Vigorous and immediate action (in a military sense) is the foundation stone of a hawkish leader’s/administration’s foreign policy, as they see the tools of diplomacy as too slow and ineffective. I don’t have to go into detail here: War in Iraq, War in Afghanistan, War on Drugs, War on Terror…I think you get the point.
Of course, the opposite descriptor is to be a dove, or dove-like or dovish: that is, favoring vigorous diplomacy first and foremost, with military action only to be used as an absolute last resort. We will use both these terms throughout the text. But let’s stay on point here: President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and current Secretary of State Rice are all staunchly in the hawkish camp. That alone is only a single descriptor, and quite frankly there no sin in having an aggressive point of view. It’s the next word that lowered the world view of President Bush and his administration…
And that would be unilateral. The main reason that much of the world, and many individual world leaders, currently hold the US at arms length in disdain is because the Bush administration has also been extremely unilateral in many of their actions on the last 8 years…meaning they act alone; a team of one. Early on, the Bush administration consistently asked the world to support their version of foreign policy, and when the world refused to…the Bushies went ahead with their plans anyway. President Bush and his team would argue that they had to do the right thing in their opinion, regardless of the willy-nilly world opinion and slow response of the UN…and that is an easily made argument that roughly half of the US population supports.
This rift is most clearly seen in the current US war in Iraq, which was extremely unpopular within the UN and world opinion as a whole. Ever wonder why the UN or NATO or a whole bunch of other US allies are not helping in Iraq? It’s because the US acted unilaterally, which served to piss off all those other institutions.
So a unilateralist leader is one who often leads his country to act alone; the opposite term would be multilateralism, which suggests an eagerness to act alongside of others. Remember that war hero guy Colin Powell? He was the original Secretary of State under President Bush in the lead-up to the Iraq war. Colin was a devout multilateralist who worked hard to get other countries on board for the war, but he was quickly squeezed out of the unilateral Bush administration because of the conflicts in their beliefs and approaches to conducting war. So now you know how the real shit goes down.
In summary, President George Bush has led a hawkish administration which conducted most of their affairs in a very unilateralist vein, which is one of the reasons they are extremely unpopular in US and world opinion…and thus part of his extreme lame duck status. Given his low approval ratings at home combined with his fleeting time left in office, I have to give President Bush a palsy 1.1 on the Plaid Power Rating at home. These same factors also detract from his power in the global arena as well—however, as President of the US up to his last day in office, he still achieves a whopping Plaid World Power Rating of 8.5. His predecessor will have an even higher rating as soon as the election finishes…and the world is already eagerly awaiting to see who will win that democratic dogfight, so they can see what new world-affecting policies will be enacted.
Got all that? Know those terms in bold, as they are oft used in describing political players the world over, and you will see them again soon in scribblings on this very site. Speaking of which, I need to sharpen my ice skates and secure a case of Moosehead beer in order to be fully prepared to head north to report on the next world leader of note….
China, US happy with their new Ma.
A few Taiwan tidbits to tinker with…
Promoting social harmony a priority for new President
US presidential rivals congratulate Ma
Election moves Taiwan and Beijing closer
When in Doubt, Stamp the Commies Out!
Hello World Watchers! Plaid Avenger here, hanging out in
Bush Urges Support for Democratic Change in Cuba
Bush to Warn Cuba on Plan for Transition
Cuba Defiant in Face of Bush Speech
Castro, Succession, and the Future of Cuba
So Dubya decided to take the afternoon to discuss
So what’s the deal? Why does the
Anyway, so what the hell did
We look fearfully back at this event as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Thankfully this whole ordeal was resolved peacefully. It turns out that the Russians only put missiles in
To be sure…Castro is a freak of nature. The old fart is like a hundred and ninety-five years old, and is still a die hard commie-wanna-be. I suggest ‘wanna-be’, because communism really has never worked out anywhere in the world, and the Cuban experience is no exception. Its not so much a communist country, as just a really shit-poor and backwards, wanna-be communist country. And to be frank, the only one who really ‘wanna-its’ to be commie is Castro himself. He still is living like it’s the 1960’s and that communism is some real institution in the world with a chance of success. Dream on old-timer. Even
What a goober…but he’s not the only one! When it comes to
So what happened after the Cuban Missile Crisis? One important thing is that the
Well, it hasn’t worked for 45 years, and the
Many people object to the embargo saying it only hurts the Cuban people.
Another thing that evolved from the Cuban missile crisis is the Red Phone that sits on the President’s desk in the Oval Office. After the fiasco, US and Russian leaders decided to install a protected line from
And the US should probably keep a close eye on that Red Phone….as comments from Vladimir Putin in today’s news indicate that he may be using that phone soon. In point of fact, he even referenced the 1962 Missile Crisis just today! Dig:
US missile plans echo Cuban crisis, says Putin
Hmmmm…..more missile madness than you can shake a stick at. We better investigate this missile shield shit and way its pissing off
But I have to end this rant for now, because my Red Phone is ringing. And no, it’s not Vlad the
Or as they say here in the islands…Buenos Tacos.
INTERPOL: Justice, Global-Style!!!
Huzzah for the good guys! Huzzah huzzah huzzah!…and help me find my way back to the hotel bar…I’ve been celebrating the recent snatch of a scumbag here in southeast Asia, Thailand to be exact, and I’m afraid I’ve gotten too caught up in the party to be able to navigate the back streets of Bangkok. I’ve got the Murray Head song “One Night in
Interpol launches public manhunt for pedophile
Interpol issues notice seeking arrest of Canadian suspected pedophile
Interpol detains 166 cross-border crime suspects in Tanzania
International Co-operation Leads to Arrest of Rwandan Genocide Suspect
Talk about global justice served! Man, I always get fired up when I see the good guys fighting for the global good getting their man…or in this case a total scumbag of a man. Interpol’s most recent incursion into current events came last week when they helped bag some Canadian child molesting shit-eater. Interpol specialists unscrambled an internet-posted image of this dude in the act. They then identified him, and sent out a worldwide information alert which helped track his sick ass down in less than a week, and he was subsequently arrested in
Oh, and I suppose I should respect the rights of judicial due process, and declare that this guy is innocent until proven guilty. NOT! I’m a vigilante at heart, but all that aside, the freak posted pictures of himself in the act! Hell no to due process! This twisted shit is guilty! The mere fact that a Canadian was caught outside of his country should be setting off alarm bells. But a single white male Canadian caught in Thailand with photos of himself on the web molesting boys?….um….yeah….that’s what we call an open and shut case…And I hope they open and shut the iron door right on his skull a few hundred times after the trial, if you get my drift.
A little Plaid Avenger tip to you world travelers: don’t get arrested in
In a nutshell: INTERPOL is an organization facilitating international police cooperation. And I do mean international! It is the world’s largest international police organization, with 186 member countries…making it the fifth biggest organization on the planet by membership. INTERPOL helps facilitate co-operation on affairs of justice even when diplomatic relations do not exist between particular countries. So even though countries like the US and Iran hate each other and have absolutely no diplomatic ties, both of those states participate in INTERPOL and therefore exchange information at least in the capacity of serving global justice. Everybody does INTERPOL man!
And what exactly does INTERPOL do? They support and assist all organizations, authorities and services whose mission is to prevent or combat international crime. The BIG thing they do is all about the information. Pooling intelligence, as it were. INTERPOL has the single biggest crime database on the planet…created by verifying, posting, sharing, and cross-referencing all the crime data from all its participating countries…which as I have pointed out, is pretty much the whole damn world! From their website: “One of INTERPOL’s most important functions is to help police in member countries share critical crime-related information using the organization’s system of international notices.”
But not all crime! Just the crimes and criminals that have an international dimension. In order to maintain as politically neutral a role as possible, Interpol’s constitution forbids its involvement in crimes that do not overlap several member countries. In other words, INTERPOL would never interfere in any judicial proceedings on a crime which occurred just in a single state—that is left to the locals to deal with. However, when any individual or criminal organization deals across two or more countries, then INTERPOL tracks and posts the data…and sometimes even gets more pro-active by physically going after the bad guys!
So data sharing is their main deal. They track and post lists of wanted fugitives who have fled across international borders. They post lists of stolen passport identities that all countries can access. They advertise photos and known aliases of criminals. All this data—and much more—is available across the entire planet to all police and government agencies who fight crime. Pretty fucking cool man. Unless you are a criminal of course.
And the criminals they focus on? Its work focuses primarily on public safety, terrorism, organized crime, war crimes, illicit drug production, drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, trafficking in human beings, money laundering, child pornography, white-collar crime, computer crime, Intellectual Property crime and corruption. All bad shit to be sure. And all shit that has global dimensions on our world….which is why its so freakin’ awesome to see a truly positive form of globalization for a change!
Which is the real reason for today’s rant. When are all these politicians and ardent nationalists going to wake the hell up to how the world is working right now? We have a global economy, we have global trade, we have global movement of capital, global movement of people, global corporations, and even global warming. As such, we also now have global crime syndicates, global drug trafficking, global human trafficking, global arms trade…HOWEVER we don’t have any real global law, no global judicial system, and no real way to effectively stop global crime. Why not?
Because most of the countries on the planet refuse to cooperate in a single global law system due to conflicting cultural beliefs, personal vendettas against other countries, and mostly due to fear of loss of a smidgen of sovereignty. Oh shit! There is that sovereignty word again! It is always causing trouble! In particular, the most powerful states in the world—like the
We live in a globalized world people! Crime does not stop at state borders anymore! When nothing else on this planet is confined to state boundaries, why do we still insist that justice be so confined? And frankly, a lot of states are just being dumb not to support more global justice mechanisms.
Want an example? Drugs! No, I don’t mean take them, I mean think about them. Drugs are a global commodity, produced and traded and moved all around the planet by criminal organizations from at least a few dozen different countries. Why would a single state want to take on the burden of fighting a ‘war on drugs’ all by themselves? Its not even possible man! A truly global problem like drug trafficking simply demands a global solution…and a global justice system to try the folks you bust, and a global police to go and bust them.
Well, for now we at least have INTERPOL, which is a start. But I must be honest with you here…it’s not really that much. I think INTERPOL kicks total ass, but the reason that they mostly just deal with information availability is that they don’t have much of a budget or much of a staff to do much else. (Last year they received $59 million in contributions from member states; in contrast EUROPOL received $90, and Bill Gates used $120 million in 100-dollar bills just to wipe his ass.) So they don’t have a lot of coin, or a lot of international authority, to do too much.
What does INTERPOL not do? INTERPOL action is taken within the limits of existing laws in different countries and in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. INTERPOL’s constitution prohibits ‘any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.’ And while it makes for great fiction, INTERPOL generally does not have a bunch of detectives out searching for clues at the crime scene, and rarely sends agents to go apprehend a criminal. It works with the national and local police to get those things done.
It is still a cool concept to think about though, and you have probably seen reference to INTERPOL in a film or two as well. Ethan Hawke played an INTERPOL agent tracking down the Nicolas Cage character in Lords of War ;a movie about the illegal global arms trade. Inspector Gadget is supposed to be an INTERPOL agent. In the movie Mission: Impossible III, Ethan Hunt is told he is on INTERPOL’s Most Wanted list. My personal favorite—mostly because she is a hottie—is Agent Isabel Lahiri played by Catherine Zeta-Jones in Oceans Twelve.
Actually, Agent Lahiri was a EUROPOL agent—EUROPOL is exactly like INTERPOL except it is a collaboration just of EU countries under a common crime-fighting umbrella. However, Agent Lahiri is forced near the end of the film to turn over the Oceans Twelve suspects to a group of folks posing as…can you guess?…INTERPOL agents of course! Dude! That movie totally kicks ass! That was easily the best acting job I’ve ever seen Bruce Willis do…oh, wait a minute, he was playing himself. Hmmm, I guess that explains it. But I digress as usual…
So now you know INTERPOL and what it does. You also know its limitations, and limited use in today’s world…a situation which all fighters for global justice must help remedy! As Batman and Robin would say: “Support your local police”….as The Plaid Avenger insists: “Support your global justice system”, and for now, that justice is INTERPOL.
Crime is no longer just local, and so justice should not be either. Rock on, fighters for truth and freedom on the planetary platform!
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