Thursday, October 28, 2010

Marijuana prohibition is comming to an end, but Ignatieff and the Liberals have not noticed

Marijuana prohibition will soon come to an end. Indeed, if Californians vote yes on proposition 19, the end will come next on Tuesday.

Legal production of marijuana in California will make the legislation of marijuana elsewhere in the US all but inevitable and extension in Canada as well. Obama is not going to go to war with California in order to maintain a federal prohibition and his unwillingness to tackle the issue head on will be mean the flow of legal Californian bud into the rest of the US will dwarf the amount of illegal Mexican bud going North now. Prohibition is not a half way proposition.

Speaking of Mexico, illegal producers there will be hit hard. However, low their costs are now in comparison to US producers, Illegal producers in Mexico will not be able to compete with legal producers in the US. Of course, Mexican producers will not be the only ones effected. Proposition 19 will spell the end of billion dollar export industry in Canada over night.

Now, even if proposition 19 fails, there is no putting the medical marijuana genie back in the bottle. You see, unlike in Canada, in California, for example, one does not have to be afflicted with a particular aliment to be eligible for medical marijuana. A doctor can proscribe marijuana for whatever they see fit. Needless to say, such a system is ripe for abuse and the Bush administration was right to see California's medical marijuana program as a potential Trojan horse. But Obama let Odysseus and rest the Greeks out. By failing to crack down on medical marijuana users and dispensaries Obama has allowed the medical marijuana industry in California and elsewhere to grow to the point there is no turning back now. There are more medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver than Starbucks.

The Liberals need to come up with a plan. Canada needs to come up with a plan. The loss of the billion dollar industry, albeit an illegal industry is going to have an impact.

The natural response, indeed, the only response, is to beat the Americans to the punch. Far from being political poison, as I said countless times before, there is a lot of political legalization has a lot of upside for the Liberals. It would drive a wedge between libertarians and Theo cons. It would appeal to people who would otherwise would not vote -- most notably young Canadians. It would be popular in very provinces that the Liberals actually have a chance of making headway, e.g., urban Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. It would garner a lot of positive international exposure. It would leave the Conservatives defending discredited Reefer Madness arguments. Above all else, the lynch pin in the opponents arguments, viz. that the US will not stand for it, is quickly be worn away.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Conservative strong support of Israel is Daft

Conservatives like to speak of Israel as being alone in a hostile tyrannical sea. Nothing could be more misleading. Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey are part of a informal alliance knitted together by American largeness and the 3 latter three are have been key to Israeli security of more than 30 years now. Of course, the populations of the last four are hostile to the very idea of such an alliance and so special care needs to be taken by all involved. The question various Neo Con thinkers raised is whether this alliance is more trouble then it is worth. It does provide a military buffer to Iran and so is key to the continued flow of oil out of the Gulf. However, the governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan lack popular legitimacy --- as does to lesser extent the Turkish military -- and their restive populations resent the US for propping up such regimes. Not that any Neo Con thinker would ever admit it, but this situation is made all the worse by these populations getting daily reports from the Occupied Territories. Such reports remind millions of middle Easterners on daily basis of this informal alliance put together by the US for the purpose of securing the transfer of oil out of the Middle East at a cost many Arab nationalists tell them is less than true market value. Where this all comes back to the West is that various foreign jihidis have decided that it is easier to strike at the "far enemy" than the "near enemy" and more troubling still various 1st and 2nd generation Muslim immigrants to Western countries have decided to take up the cause as well.

All that being said, it should come as no surprise that I regard the the level of support offered Israel by the Conservatives as a form of insanity. In material terms, the aforementioned alliance helps the US manage the flow of oil in an out of the Gulf. However, it does nothing for Canada directly. In diplomatic terms all that aid gives the US a great deal of leverage. In diplomatic terms Conservative cheer leading coupled with Ignatieff's me toos, hurts our relationship with the aforementioned non-Jewish states and leaves us ironically in no position to help Israel out. We are lot more more valuable to Israel as low key member of the security council, for example, than we are as a vocal cheer leader pissing in the wind. Our strong support for Israel has no upside.

The only thing tempering the stupidity of such a approach is that we are not the target the US is. Noisy sidekicks are never the real price. Still, as has become readily apparent over the last 10 years, Canada can no longer consider its foreign policy without also asking questions about how this or that policy might impact upon domestic security. The Toronto 18 is a great case in point. The war in Afghanistan was what motivated the Toronto 18. As for the most recent batch of homegrown terrorists, I do not know specifically what motivated them. However, their choice of targets should have raised more eyebrows then it did. In the years leading up to their arrest, I had mentioned on a number of occasions what would happen if the Montreal subway was attacked. For example I wrote this last December: "Make no mistake if the Montreal subway is bombed and the motivation for the attack was the Afghan mission, there would be huge uptake in support for separatism. The PQ and Bloc will argue that the bombing is proof that Quebec needs its own foreign policy." The government can not afford to flippantly pursue policies that might increase the risk of a terrorist attack homegrown or otherwise. It is one thing to pursue policies that might increase the risk of terrorism, but are nonetheless in the national interest. It is quite another thing to pursue policies for cheap political gain that do nothing to further Canadian interests, increase the risk of terrorist attack and the chance of social strife and that is what Conservatives are doing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Sad State of Canadian Foreign Policy

Canada's ability to effect any kind of change at the diplomatic realm internationally depends on our ability to position ourselves as deal makers and "honest brokers" and until the Conservatives were elected that is exactly the strategy Canada took. The Conservatives approach, by contrast, emphasizes "principled" stances. On the face of it is appears as if the Conservatives have chosen to sacrifice Canada's ability to achieve much of anything in the world of international affairs so as to score points domestically.

However, things are a lot worse than that. The recent UN vote and UAE fiasco are evidence that diplomatically we are flying blind. Our official lines of communication and our back channels are so weak relatively minor disagreements are breaking out into the open and catching us completely unawareness and we do not have a any kind of grasp as how little influence with have in world. Complaints about "secret votes' are just a fig leaf meant to cover up the government's incompetence.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Conservative Foreign policy: Moralistic, Macho, Moronic

I do not know what is worse, the UAE fiasco or the fact that these bombastic simpletons thought they had 150 votes in the bag.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Stupid People's party Strikes Again

The Conservatives blamed Ignatieff for Canada not getting a seat on the security council. Far from turning attention away from the Conservatives this only focused attention on them. Talking points that are this asinine tend to grab headlines -- not just in Canada but abroad as well. The Guardian, for example, would never have bothered reporting the failure of Canada to secure a security council seat. It is just not the kind of thing that Brits care about. However, the utter stupidity of the such a talking point made it newsworthy.

The Conservative's most recent talking point is hardly better. Decrying secret votes and saying that they do care not about popularity contests are about as superficially appealing as Tim Hortons trumpeting of"steeped tea". Leaving aside the issue that secret votes make it less not more likely that such a votes become a popularity contests, a secret vote are the only kind of votes Canadians have. I doubt all those Conservatives worried about the supposed intrusiveness of the long form census would want someone looking over my shoulder to see who they voted for. Conservative Macho talk about laying it out on the table for everyone to see is just a canard. As for the Conservatives not caring about popularity contests, I think they protest too much. One does not make a meal out of something one does not care about. The Conservatives are caught in a performative contradiction.

Now, I do not want to disecte why Canada lost. What I would like to add is this. Harper's world view -- particularly when it comes to foreign affairs-- is not terribly sophisticated. It is high time we stop trying to breath intelligence into such policies by attributing machivillian motives to its authors. What we have is stupid talking points in defense of stupid policies. Full stop.