Friday, March 17, 2006

Lukashenka is a Barbarian

Recently, Radio Free Europe reported on threats made by President Lukashenka. Regarding possible protests during the presidential vote this Sunday March 19, he stated, "God forbid any of those people who were mentioned or not mentioned yesterday should commit any sort of act in our country. We'll twist their heads off as if they were ducklings," Lukashenka said. Reeallly...

The international community have made it clear that they do not believe the elections on Sunday will be free and fair and they anticipate that Lukashenka will come out as the victor. There are, however, rumbling in the background of a possible "Demin Revolution" staged by young Belarus hopefulls. Who knows what will happen in the next couple of days.

Although many countries are predicting a Lukashenka win I am still hopefull that something might happen. I think one way to predict a change in the guard is through the loyality of the commanding forces. If the police, who have been instructed to crush any opposition, trade their loyality to the opposition forces then Lukashenka will leave the stage. This is all being discussed through internal ranks so there is no way of knowing just what will happen on Sunday. As well, if people closest to Lukashenka are contemplating a change there is no way to actually report what they will do. We will see on Sunday what will happen.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Slobodan Milosevic is Found Dead

Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic was found dead today in his prison cell. Reports would not confirm the exact cause of death but past reports have commented on his worsening heart and blood pressure aliments. Reports would not confirm if he committed suicide either. The UN war crimes tribunal believed he died of natural causes.

There are speculations, however, that he may have been poisoned Radio Free Europe reports, "Milosevic's lawyer, Zdenko Tomanovic, said that his client had feared that he might be poisoned, comments that will fuel speculation in Serbia and Montenegro about the death of the country's former president. The deputy head of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, Milorad Vucelic, has already blamed the tribunal for Milosevic's death, saying its decision to reject his request for treatment in Russia had killed him".

To many his death will bring a sigh a relief - the tyrant is dead. But to many more, his victims and the families he brought pain and grief to, his death robs them of any sense of justice and retribution. After three years of trials, evidence and witnesses it will all come to an abrupt end from no ones fault (presently, we don't know if in fact he was poisoned).

Many believe that in order to live in the present people must deal with the ghosts from the past. In this case, Milosevic, was the embodiment of evil for many, the mastermind behind one of the most horrific wars in recent Balkan history, sentencing him to prison for the rest of his life could have brought a sense of closure and justice to those touched by his policies. This, we found out today, will not happen.

People touched by Milosevic's policies must come to turns with the past and clear out the ghosts that continue to haunt them. It's easier said then done and they already have taken steps in this direction. But they must continue building their economy, their political system and learn to integrate different ethnic cleavages in their region's mosaic. The legacies of tyranny, war and ethnic tension will continue to influence the region and dealing with these challenges will become the litmus test for their success.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Dark Side of Politics

At the moment I'm reading "The Dark Side of Politics: The Personal Price of a Political Life" by Steve Paikin. I've only finished the first three chapter but the book is shaping up to be a pretty good read. I bought it at this bookstore in Kitsilano called the Book Warehouse for only $1.99.

So far, the book highlights the trials and tribulations of many political stars during the 1980 and 1990s. The author discusses how backstabbing, blackmail and lies are usual suspects in the lives of politicians (in case nobody actually knew that by now). Friends that a politician makes while in office are never actually "friends" in the true sense of the word and once you realize this life in office actually makes sense. Everyone is out to further their own careers, their own interests and their own ambitions, therefore, depending on people that one may call a "friend" will end up hurting you in the end.

Family life also suffers considerably. Members of parliament must settle for missing their child's birthday, graduation and other special occasions. Moving the family out to Ottawa seems like a good idea at first but they end up suffering from isolation and much disappointment. Marriages suffer or even terminate during the process.

With so many personal consequences that come with being in office, why run for office anyway? Most politicians featured in the book, after having served in office and suffering professional and personal blows during this period, promptly say they would do it all again. Maybe it's the intoxicating feeling of being at a podium and having everyone's attention, the way the audience applauds you, looks up at you and lingers after every word. That kind of life can certainly be seductive and alluring but the personal consequences, for me anyway, are too high.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

My Neighborhood

I recently moved to Kitsilano from Metrotown and I see such a difference in so many ways. The air smells differently, the people are different and it actually feels like a community. While I was moving into my new place at least 3 people stopped and welcomed me to the neighborhood. I received no such welcome when I moved into an apartment in Metrotown.

The people that live around Metrotown are just, to put it simply, weird. I consider myself a friendly person so I don't think it's me. They would look at me in a strange way and most of them, I found out quickly, were not taught manners. For example, when you’re walking towards 2 people, and they occupy the whole sidewalk, do you a) walk on the grass so that they can continue occupying the sideway or b) should they move over to let you get by. If you chose b, congratulations, you’ve been successfully socialized! Most people that I’ve encountered chose option a. Another thing that was quite common was: when walking down the sideway someone would simply stop in the middle of the sidewalk for no reason. I think it had something to do with the water so I started drinking bottled water. Not joking! The dripping tapwater in my bathroom left behind this green stain on the sink. To this day I'm not sure what it was. It’s also very noisy, it is quite common to find people smoking pot in the back alley, homeless people looking through your trash and weird noises at night that sound eerily like gunfire.

Although living in Kitsilano can be a bit expensive it's worth it. The quality of life is better, the people here are amazing and I can actually take a walk after dinner and not feel frightened.

I do not recommend living around Metrotown only if a) you're strapped for cash and b) can't find anywhere else to live. It's not an area that's going to improve your quality of life. Most of the time you're going to forget that you're even living in one of Canada's most beautiful provinces.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Belarus Votes

On March 16th Belarusians will vote on who they want to lead the country for the next 5 years. Although revolutions and change have touched every corner of Eastern Europe I highly doubt that there will be a coloured revolution in Belarus.

Recent reports show a vigilent clampdown on journalists and any other person who may pose a threat to the "expected" election results. The president, Lukashenka, is running again and all sources point to his victory.

After all anything can happen. Who could have predicted the fall of communism in Romania? Who knows what will happen in Belarus. Eastern Europe is always full of surprises.

Ralph Klein is Simply Embarrassing

I recently read that the Premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein, or "King Ralph" as he's known to Albertans, threw a book at a 17 year-old legislative page last week during question period. When asked why he did this he simply responded, "Out of frustration...." The topic of debate was reportedly heated when members of the assembly started talking about the Alberta health care system and future plans for change. Ralph stood up, started speaking, grew frustrated, grabbed the Alberta health care report and threw it at this poor innocent girl. Who knew being an intern for the Alberta Legislature can be hazardous to your health? Eyewitnesses were unable to confirm that the page was actually hit or hurt and no camera footage was available.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. I think it's time for Mr. Klein to step down. Not just because of this incident but other incidents in the recent past that display his lack of self-control, professionalism and integrity. This is what happens when a leader is in power for too long. He grows complacent towards the responsibilities and expectations that come with his seat in office. Citizens of Alberta re-elect Klein over and over again because they're comfortable with familiarity. Albertans are riding the wave of prosperity and wealth and they don't want anything to change. Folks, don't worry! As Jack Layton said during the federal campaign 'the sun will still shine, the water will still flow, there won't be a huge earthquake or a volcano erupting if you vote differently'

Klein stated that he’d step down but only on his terms. Hmmm, reminiscent of Jean Chrétien.... Ralph do us all a favor and do yourself a favor too step down now while you still have popularity because it's never good to overstay your visit. Don't you want to retire somewhere warm and sip on a margarita?

(The picture shows Klein reenacting the motion he used to throw the book at the legislative page)