Posts Tagged ‘foreign policy’

Blame Canada!

April 20, 2008

Normally, I try not to get too caught up in American politics.  I don’t want to follow every development in Washington.  There are some things you can’t ignore, of course, but I don’t need to know everything that goes on.  I don’t watch American news, particularly the cable news channels.  Even so, we get plenty of American political coverage on Canadian TV – more than is necessary, in my opinion.  Two of the funniest shows on television also happen to poke fun at American politics, providing me with all the knowledge I need.

The current presidential primary campaigns in the U.S. are a perfect example of too much foreign coverage.  Canadian networks have followed every step of the year long run up to the next election.  I try not to pay attention to all of it.  A periodic update on the races, results of major primaries, and reports of major gaffes would probably suffice.  One story has caught my attention, though.

NAFTA has become an issue in the campaign, with both Democratic candidates claiming that it is costing Americans.  Hillary Clinton even mentioned Canada by name, saying she will renegotiate the trade pact because American companies can’t get their products into Canada due to invisible barriers.

She’s right.  I just can’t find an American product anywhere in Canada.  I hunt high and low for American brands, but they’re just not there.  They’ve been squeezed out by Canadian brands like…. uh…. you know…  Well, I can’t think of them at the moment, but they’re pretty ubiquitous and have so much clout that they can actually get the government to prevent American brands from entering Canada.

Really?  You think we put bogus barriers in place?  How about American refusal to accept NAFTA panel rulings on softwood lumber and imposing tariffs?  They use the Canadian stumpage fee system as an excuse but stumpage fees apply to trees cut down, or raw logs.  Yet, there seems to be no limit to the number of raw logs they’ll import from Canada for their mills to process.  They apply the tariff to processed wood, not logs.  Where do stumpage fees figure in that?  Looks like an excuse to protect American mills and reduce the Canadian forestry industry to a primary one.

American farmers are directly subsidized.  Canadian farmers aren’t.

There was also the U.S. cattle and meat packing industries exploiting the Canadian industry during the BSE crisis.  American producers picked up young Canadian cattle for a song from desperate ranchers while the U.S. border remained closed to older Canadian animals for longer than was necessary.  This was despite the fact that there had been cases of victims of mad cow disease in the U.S. (in New Jersey, for example) that were not related to Canadian cattle.

How about security restrictions, even against their friends and allies?  Why did MDA have to try and sell its space division to an American military contractor for a chance to sell some satellites to the U.S. government?  Both Democratic candidates should remember that they have stated the need to mend relationships with friends and allies that have been damaged by the Bush administration.  Sen. Clinton’s comment sounds a bit like more of the same foreign policy derived from ‘South Park: The Movie’.

Are there some protectionist practices on this side of the border, too?  Probably.  The CBC reported that some agricultural shenanigans are used by both sides.  But, if NAFTA is opened up, it works both ways.  Both sides will have things they want to change.   That won’t address the American tendency to flout the rules and ignore rulings they don’t like, though.

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A Blast From the Past, Indeed

January 5, 2008

I was listening to Talking Heads for a blast from the past.  The track ‘Listening Wind’ was playing.  It’s one of those songs that makes my skin tingle because it seems so true – it cuts through all the bullshit and tells you what’s what and tells it like it is.  It’s also very unique and, hence, ‘cool’.

But, it also got to me for another reason.  It got to me because it’s STILL true, about twenty-five years after its release.  It’s just as relevant and, in fact, could have been written yesterday.  Aside from the fact that I used to have hair down to my ass when I listened in the past and, well, now I don’t, nothing has changed.  Not a thing.  A quarter of a century.  More than a generation.  The middle east is still a mess with American foreign policy still fuelling resentment and making things worse rather than better.  And the news stories still invade my home.

 This may seem a bit callous, but I actually feel a certain resentment.  For my entire life, the middle east has dominated the foreign news.  Ever since I was old enough to notice the news the middle east has been the big story, with wars, bombs, civil wars, terrorists, religious nuts, revolutions, hardliners, and the rest getting in my face every day.  I feel imposed upon.   How dare they come into my home and dump their stupid hatred and arguments on me.  And all because they insist on a religious based state of one kind or another.

When will these idiots realise that religion and government are a terrible combination?  Religion is fuel for fires started by heated political debates or situations.  So, two peoples need water in an arid region?  A skirmish over control of the source of the only two rivers in the region grows into an extended, decades long religious conflict encompassing ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ wars.

Do you think people would want or support half the wars if they were presented with the facts – that they are about water, oil, resources, or land and, ultimately, money rather than religion or “To protect/defend our values/way of life”, as they’re told?  I doubt it.  There are lies, damned lies, and then there’s politics or business masquerading as religion.

“The wind in my heart

The dust in my head”