Hey folks, thanks for checking out my new blog. I have a few drafts on the go, but haven’t had a chance to complete any of them. Stay tuned for at least three posts tomorrow later today (the 18th) {update: it’s now looking like tomorrow the 19th for posts-just way too busy today!!}: One on the criticism of CNN for failure to cover adequately the rising unrest in Iran over the weekend, one on voter apathy and political (in the worst sense of the word) games, and one on my reaction to the “deal” between Ignatieff and Harper to avoid a summer election.
We’ll see…I might even have a couple of other things to talk about.

Oh, on a side note: That Iranian friend that I mentioned the other day? Got word from him. He is in Iran and he’s okay.

I spent a few years loving one of them quite intimately in fact. I’m thinking of him today as I see the reports, videos, pictures of protests. I doubt very much that he’s taking part in any of that mind you; he fought in the Iran-Iraq war, but since then tried to focus on his studies and his business aspirations and avoided politics as much as possible. However, I recall his voice distinctly as he commented on Ahmadinejad during the last presidential campaign. “That guy is crazy. Crazy.” Anyway, I feel very connected to Iran and hope that whatever happens in the coming days, they are somehow able to engender a new wave of reform.

I just finished reading an article in the Toronto Star about the trauma experienced by some soldiers coming back from Afghanistan: a litany of assaults (often against women and children), alcohol abuse, and suicide attempts. A long way from the happy hardship related by Christie Blatchford in Fifteen Days.

Canadians love their boys and girls in uniform, and even those people who oppose specific actions, such as the war in Afghanistan, are rarely, if ever, accused of  a lack of patriotic support. So how does it happen that veterans are left to fend for themselves, left to negotiate the hazards of civilian life? The judge in Keddy’s case (Keddy, a veteran, assaulted his girlfriend) is bewildered at the state of affairs, and the Crown prosecutor responds:

“They are aware he’s got psychological issues. There were programs set up for him that he has not been attending. And their position is … they’re not in the business of 24-hour-a-day babysitting, because they perceive that he is a soldier and has responsibilities himself.”

In other words, the military has programmes to help these soldiers, but they are responsible for availing themselves of the programmes. To me this seems a bit backward.

The vetrans’ ombudsman in Ottawa, retired colonel Pat Strogan says:

“the military must better prepare soldiers for the stress of war, including subjecting them to virtual-reality representations of warlike conditions before they go on tour.

‘I don’t think the military is doing enough. It’s not all about learning how to pull the trigger and strip and assemble your weapon. It’s also about seeing the blood and gore and really being able to relate to somebody who’s badly mutilated and you have to put tourniquets on. We tried to set up a program of stress inoculation. I brought it to the powers that be.’

At the risk of contradicting an expert, that also seems backwards to me. Divorce them even further from the reality of civilian life before they go? Wouldn’t that make it even harder to acclimatize to civilian life later on? Sure, they mightn’t be as traumatized by the experiences in the war, but they’d hardly find it easier to live without it or to connect with loved ones and refrain from violence once back home.

It seems to me that soldiers should have training on the de-escalation side, the same way as the military provides training to ramp up to field duty. A gradual demob programme for veterans (ideally together in a group) to get used to not needing to be hypervigilant, a system for dealing with violent and aggressive compulsion, mandatory mental health care for those who suffer from suicidal thoughts, depression, or guilt. A support system for the families of returning soldiers so that they can report signs of drug use, physical aggression, or trauma. I see this type of programme as one that every veteran would participate in—just like every soldier needs training to go to war, every soldier needs training to integrate back into a non-war state after the fact.

Mulling It Over

June 13, 2009

Like everyone else, I’m thinking about a summer election: Yes or no? A tweet from Denis Coderre about 40 minutes ago asks:

En passant qui veut des elections maintenant?

Well, let’s see.

Con

  1. The opposition parties, especially the Liberals, are tapped out financially and wouldn’t be able to put on as aggressive a campaign as the Conservatives.
  2. Summer elections can be annoying which may cause a lower turnout among moderates.
  3. Voter fatigue and frustration at the prospect of yet another election in such a short span of time may cause backlash against opposition parties, especially the Liberals.

Pro

  1. The Conservatives are currently in a very weak position, showing their true colours with the Raitt/isotope issue, economic mismanagement, dismissive and antagonistic attitude to Quebec & central Ontario.
  2. Polls show the momentum is with the Liberals, especially in central Canada.
  3. One of the major criticisms of Ignatieff (at least as far as the media is concerned) is that we don’t know what alternative he’s offering. Of course, an election platform is the venue to show the alternative, and frankly, practically any alternative is better than what we have now:
    • a government that fights the courts to avoid protecting Canadian citizens abroad
    • a government that is more concerned with staying in power than respecting the constitution
    • a government that ignores, overrules, and ousts impartial arms-length agencies
    • a government that brings out the worst in people, encouraging regionalism, divisiveness, and small-mindedness
    • a government that ignores international obligations and treaties
    • a government that protects the oil industry at the expense of protecting the environment
    • a government that has judged that women no longer need to seek equality
    • a government that wants to squeeze every drop of life out of the CBC, until privatization or even dismantling it entirely seem rational options
    • a government that thinks the arts and culture (despite the high degree of income generation) are a waste of taxpayer money
    • a government that wants to privatize our nuclear industry
    • a government that still wants to fight a (1980s American) “War on Drugs” instead of sane approaches such as decriminalization or legalization of marijuana and preventive mental health care and treatment for addiction to harder drugs
    • a government that cuts (already low) funding to science and research
    • a government that pays lip service by apologizing for the residential schools but turns its back on the Kelowna accord and ignores aboriginal poverty
    • a government that says they’re “tough on crime” but supports illegal gun ownership
  4. There is a whole election campaign to drum up support and tear down the Conservatives’ shaky hold on seats outside of their Reform base
  5. Those people who are most firmly in the “we don’t want an election” camp are not going to go to the polls just so they can vote for someone other than the Libs. They’ll just stay home, as they have for the past 5 or 6 elections.
  6. The NDP will look a bit tired with Jack again at the helm, so the non-Conservative vote might not be split as much as otherwise. Same goes for Duceppe and the Bloc.
  7. Voters who went to the Greens last time because they didn’t like the idea of Dion as PM, but still didn’t want to support Harper, might come back to vote Liberal with Ignatieff as leader.

All in all, I think that despite the cons, now is as good a time as any to go. So I say “moi, Denis”.

Yep, I’ve set up my own blog. I always have lots to say but commenting on other people’s stuff is not very satisfying. So, here’s by contribution to the blogosphere. For more info about the title and the topics, take a look at my “About” page.

I’m not entirely thrilled with this Theme, but I think it’s the best of the available options (and no, I’m not going to pay WordPress to use CSS here; I’d sooner get my own domain), so don’t blame me for the design.

Anyway, now that I have somewhere to do it, the next time I have something I want to say, I’ll be sure not to keep my mouth shut.