Koizumi Yukon: Canadian General Election 2011

Yesterday was the 41st Canadian General Election to elect members to the House of Commons of Canada in which the conservative government won what I would call a Koizumi-esque victory. The election saw a number of historical firsts, and may mark a turning point in Canadian political history.

The results for each of the main four parties were as follows:

    1. The centre-right Conservative Party won a clear victory, and it moved from its precarious position of a minority party leading the government to a majority government.
    1. The Liberal Party was wiped out and won the fewest seats in their history. Former academic and party leader Michael Ignatieff was defeated in his own electorial district.
    1. The separatist Bloc Québécois, which had always won a majority of seats in Quebec in every election since its founding in 1991, lost nearly all their seats, including the seat of their leader Gilles Duceppe.
    1. The leftist New Democratic Party saw a major surge in the last weeks of the campaign won the largest number of seats in their history, including a large majority of seats in Quebec.
  • Whereas previously elections in Canada were formed around the Conservatives and the Liberals, with Bloc Québécois as an interesting third-party spoiler, we now see a realignment between a genuine centre-right party (the Conservatives were created after the Progressive Conservative Party merged with another centre-right party in 2003) and the New Democrats taking their position as leading opposition party.

    I call the victory of the conservatives “Koizumi-esque” because the election only came about the PM asked the Governor General to dissolve the house after the House of Commons passed a motion of non-confidence against the government, led by the Liberals. This non-confidence motion affirmed the charge of “contempt of parliament” found by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs — the first time in the history of any Commonwealth nation that a government was found in contempt of parliament. Notwithstanding this charge, the popular vote was clear, and the Conservatives now have a solid majority from which to govern.

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    How Osama Bin Laden was found and killed

    It was announced several hours ago that Osama Bin Laden was killed in a raid on his private compound on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan. The raid was almost a year in the making, but the raid itself was over in 40 minutes.


    Map from CBS News.

    The compound was discovered by US Agents in August 2010 through detective work on the compound’s courier. Build in 2006, it was eight times larger than anything else in the area and was built at the end of a road. The building had no phone or Internet, had 18-foot high walls with no exterior windows, and two electrified security gates. On a third-floor balcony there was a 7-foot high privacy wall. The residents–Bin Laden, his youngest wife and their family, plus a courier and his brother, burned their garbage and it was not collected.

    After discovering in August 2010, the CIA spent eight months of detective work until they came to the conclusion that the compound housed Bin Laden. It was built at cost of US$1 million, yet the courier and his brother had no explainable source of income.

    The small team made up entirely of CIA personnel (the US military does not have authority to operate in Pakistan) went in with two Black Hawk helicopters. Pakistan was not informed of the raid beforehand, as the intelligence agency the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate has long been suspected by the US of maintaining links to groups close to al-Qaida.

    A firefight ensued when bin Laden resisted and he, the couriers and several others were killed, possibly including bin Laden’s son. While one helicopter circled, it had mechanical failure before leaving the raid and was brought down. It was destroyed by its occupants before leaving the scene.

    Muslim practice calls for a body to be buried within 24 hours of death, and U.S. officials have said that bin Laden has already been buried at sea in accordance with Islamic practices.

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    The 2011 Geography of the Mexican Drug War

    STRATFOR has a status update on the Mexican drug cartel wars, with an interesting animated map on developments over the past year.

    The full report is only for subscribers, but the most important point in the summary report is: all cartels are suffering except one — the Sinaloa Federation. Although they may soon dominate the drug trade, the situation is likely to become more violent until the Sinaloa hegemony is complete.

    STRATFOR reports that:

    In order to reduce the violence, compromise with the lead cartel — once unspeakable — now looks like a real option for the Mexican government, which is incapable of eliminating cartels completely.

    But that’s very inaccurate. Allegations of collusion between the Mexican government and the Sinaloa are at least two years old. More insidious is the fear that the favoritism towards the Sinaloa is because the Sinaloa have and continue to further their infiltration of the military and the police.

    (See the map as of 2007 at a previous post here.)

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    Another connection between the Royals in Jordan and Britain

    Last year, I wrote about how Jordan’s King has an English mother. Now, we see a somewhat similar reversal — the newest member of the British Royal Family, and the likely future queen, spent two-and-a-half years as a young child in Jordan.

    In May 1984, Mr Middleton was offered a posting to Amman, the capital of Jordan. Kate was two years old and Mrs Middleton was on extended maternity leave with eight-month-old Pippa.

    “They lived in a two-storey rented villa, close to a park and the nursery where Kate went. I remember she was a very beautiful little girl.”

    While Mrs Middleton looked after Pippa at home, Kate was enrolled in Assahera nursery, one of the most expensive nurseries in the area with an annual fee of about US$1,000 at the time.

    From Sunday to Thursday, the nursery day began at 8am and ended at 12.30pm, recalled the founder of the now-closed nursery, Sahera al Nabulsi, 67, in Amman.

    Kate was in a class of 12 children and the nursery as a whole looked after close to 100 children between 3 and 5 years of age. As well as British nationals, Jordanians, Japanese, Indian, Indonesian and American children were enrolled in the nursery. In the morning, the children were brought together and taught in both Arabic and English, before separating into different classes.

    “The morning routine was to have all the children sitting in a circle where they would all sing, Incy Wincy Spider, both in English and Arabic,” Mrs Nabulsi said.

    The singing was then followed with a short verse from the Quran.

    I recently had a discussion with a Coming Anarchy reader as to whether or not America was an “international” country or not. My view has long been that America is international in the origins of its people — but not in its outlook of the world. Certainly President Obama has faced criticism and suspicion for years that he attended a “Muslim Madrasa” in Indonesia and that he is a secret Muslim. I have not yet heard — and do not expect to hear — the same type of ludicrous comments about the soon-to-be Princess Catherine/Kate for spending her early years in a Muslim country, learning Arabic and reciting verses from the Koran.

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    How a lone hen turkey saved our relationship with the Saudis

    This is a story from more than six months ago being noticed in the Middle East — how a lone hen turkey on Bush’s ranch saved our relationship with then Crown Price and Regent of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz — now King of Saudi Arabia.

    During the second intifada in 2002, when relations between the two countries were at a critical low point, George W. Bush tried to charm the Saudis. He first tried to win them over with an earnest conversation about religion — which, for some reason, did not go down well. But on learning that the Crown Prince liked his farm, George Bush decided to invite the regent of the Kingdom to Crawdord to share his farm with Prince Abdullah, which they toured on Bush’s Ford pickup.

    I point out the different kinds of hardwood trees, the native prairie grasses that Laura had planted, and the grazing cattle. The crown prince sat silently. I wasn’t making much headway.

    Then we reached a remote part of the property. A lone hen turkey was standing in the road. I stopped the truck. The bird stayed put.

    “What is that?” the crown prince asked.

    I told him it was a turkey. “Benjamin Franklin loved the turkey so much he wanted it to be America’s national bird,” I said.

    Suddenly I felt the crown prince’s hand grab my arm. “My brother,” he said, “it is a sign from Allah. This is a good omen.”

    I’ve never fully understood the significance of the bird, but I felt the tension begin to melt…The next day, I got a call from Mother and Dad. The crown prince had stopped in Houston to visit them. Mother said he had tears in his eyes as he recounted his time in Crawford and talked about what we could achieve together. For the rest of my presidency, my relationship with the crown prince — soon to be king — was extremely close. I had never seen a hen turkey on that part of the property before, and I haven’t seen one since.

    Benjamin Franklin was right after all!

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    In Defense of Dubai

    Reuters has as one of its “pictures of the day” a photo of Sunil. Sunil is a 14 year-old working at a brick quarry in western India. He is paid two Indian rupees ($0.04) for each brick he carries out of the quarry. Each brick weighs about 40kg. He carries out about 100 bricks per day, making him daily wage of US$4. He has no safety gear, no protective clothing, likely has no health care if he is sick or injured, and probably has to work our and pay for his commute, residence, and food out of his own pocket. This type of labour sounds brutal — but these type of conditions are probably not unlike what many of our ancestors were doing between 100 and 200 years ago.

    Sunit is one of tens of millions — maybe even hundreds of millions — of laborers in the subcontinent who would do significantly better if he came to Dubai (although that option is probably not open to him until he is 18 years old). He would likely be paid a minimum of US$200 a month (around AED600-800), and would probably live in a labour camp, be provided with meals, and be transported to his job, which would likely be in construction, but which could also be in mining, drivers, or other general labour. He would have one month of paid leave every year or two years in which he would fly back to see his family. And he would be provided with a uniform and safety gear — he wouldn’t be scrubbing around a quarry in shorts and sandals.

    About half of the population in the UAE — and more than 70% of the population in Dubai — are from the subcontinent. These Indian, Pakistani, Nepali and Sri Lankan workers work in the Persian Gulf and send money to their families in their home country. You can easily meet South Asians in Dubai who have lived here a year, or two, or five, or even ten or more.

    I see this as an opportunity for these workers. And while there are certainly issues — which are being addressed at various paces — overwhelmingly Dubai (and other states of the Persian Gulf) present an opportunity for these workers. But the situation of laborers in Dubai is generally reported in Western media as a scandal. Certainly there are real problems — delayed wage payments being one that was a real problem during the financial crisis — but Dubai, and the rest of the UAE, should not be judged by the labour standards of developed countries. There are already too many people trying to get into Dubai from South Asia as it is — were conditions much better, illegal immigration would be even worse problem.

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    Kuwait House of National Memorial Museum, Part 1

    Kuwait is not well known for its tourism. Indeed, I have heard it called one of the most boring countries you can visit. (When I visited, I was most excited by the ruined oil fields.)

    Yet one of the country’s hidden gems is the “Kuwait House of National Memorial Museum” — a small house converted into a museum in the western part of Kuwait City regardgin the Gulf War. Open intermitently, you are most likely to get in if you show up in the morning. Admission is KD1 (US$3) and you walk through a brief introduction on Kuwait’s founding and early history, and you are then greated by a narrative of the Gulf War, played out with toy miniatures and full audio-visual affects — although the experience feels very early-1990s.

    Here is the narrative of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait:

    And here is the narrative of Desert Storm:

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    OPEC, Evil Genius Cartel?

    I was somewhat surprised to see this recently appear in a report on the future of energy published by HSBC. In a summary of that report just provided to me:

    OPEC plays a tantalising game of making oil just about affordable and supply just about enough to make other energy sources expensive.

    “Opec tries to manage oil prices to maximise revenue while at the same time keeping prices below the level that might encourage investment in long-term, unconventional supplies of liquid fuels (such as tar sands and biofuels) or promote efficiency improvements,” HSBC notes. “After all, some members have many years of reserves left and need to ensure that oil has a long-term role in the energy equation.”

    Is OPEC that manipulative in deciding how to supply crude oil? I was very surprised to see an institution such as HSBC make this type of statement.

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    Fourteen Centuries of the Arab Homelands

    In my trip to Lebanon last year, I spotted in an Arabic language school this timeline of the Arab world since the growth of Islam. The chart was published in the late 1980s, and the timeline goes up from 530 until 1986.


    Click image to enlarge

    The timeline is a fun way to see the history of the Arab world, and I spent some time looking at the timeline. But without being seen as a critic, I do have an issue with the accuracy of some of the information.

    Granted, the chart is many decades old, and accurate records (and the Internet) may not have been so available to the authors of the chart. But if I were to amend the chart with regard to just the UAE in recent years, I think the image on the right reflects some amendments that correct some of the years, and are the minimum amendments that would have to make. (The lefthand timeline reflects the original map, and the righthand timeline reflects my amendments.)

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    Trip to the Enclave of the Enclave

    I previously posted on the pages of these blog an explanation of the enclave of an enclave (or is that an enclave of an exclave?), by which a small part of the UAE, called Nahwa, is located in a small part of Oman called Madha, which is itself located in the UAE.

    Some European readers of this blog made a visit to the UAE and asked if it would be possible to visit Nahwa — to which I responded, why not? We rocked up into Curzon’s Jeep and made our way east from Dubai, north of the the mountains of Fujairah, then turning south along the coast, looking on our right for the road into Oman.

    The road to Narwah is by no means obvious. Driving down the eastern coast of the UAE, there are no clear signposts for either Madha or or Nahwa, so looking at the map, we guessed which was the proper turn. We knew we were on the right path when suddenly, all the buildings had Omani flags. There were no checkpoints, border crossings, or fences as we drove into Oman.

    It took more time to get to Narwah, as this small town was truly hidden at the end of a maze of roads, and was made up of just a few houses, a palm oasis, a police station, and a large school, on which an enormous UAE flag was draped.

    It was my hope that we could drive through Nahwa and head west back into the UAE, and maps indicated that a small road might exist. But it soon became clear that no such route was possible, as the paved road gave way to gravel, which gave way to makeshift route, which ended at a mountain face. We ultimately turned around and headed back the way we came.

    Why does a small piece of Oman survive in the UAE, and why does a small piece of the UAE (of the Emirate of Sharjah) survive inside that enclave of Oman? It probably originates in the ethno-cartography carried out by the Trucial Omani Scouts in the 1960s that set the borders of the Emirates before the UAE was founded — but I must admit that I’ve found precious few reliable sources on this topic and would always welcome educated readers that have access to better sources (or memories).

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