This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

One of a Kind?

"There was a risk of thermonuclear war. The more I was able to go to a Cuban military camp, prowl around the exterior and look at ... their equipment and describe that and sketch that, the more the American intelligence community realized [Soviet Union leader Nikita] Khrushchev was keeping his word."
John W. Graham, Canadian diplomat to Cuba

"General Carter said that CIA would examine the possibilities of sabotaging airplane parts which are scheduled to be shipped from Canada to Cuba."
"[Carter had also asked National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy] to increase security intelligence on Canada because of its] reporting funding of subversive elements in Ecuador and possibly elsewhere."
Recently declassified memo

"This would have constituted a violation of Canadian sovereignty, but that shouldn't surprise anyone."
"This is an agency [the Central Intelligence Agency] which has undermined numerous countries."
""It was unlikely the CIA would risk an operation on Canadian soil as] it's just so much easier to have a ship blown up at sea."
Arne Kislenko, university professor, history of espionage, Ryerson University

"[Kennedy] hated Canadian nationalism and thought Canada was the boonies."
"He had a tremendous imperial arrogance toward Canada."
John Kirk, professor of Latin American studies, Dalhousie University
A rare photo of John F. Kennedy and John Diefenbaker smiling during the U.S. president’s visit to Ottawa on May 16, 1961. University of Saskatchewan, University Archives & Special Collections, J.G.D. Diefenbaker

President John F. Kennedy was the American shining knight, the hope of the future, a courageous war veteran, a man who struggled through intolerable physical pain to show a brave face; steering the United States of America unerringly toward its rightful place in the world, he was the champion of all champions for human rights, lofty ideas of probity, responsibility, trustworthiness, audaciousness, empathy and pride. The world loved him almost as much as Americans did, the very exemplar of American steadfastness in the face of adversity.

There were those in the press corps in Washington who heard rumours, who conducted discreet interviews, and who knew otherwise than the popular fiction of a celebrated, worshipped public figure who could do no wrong. They also knew how to be discreet, mostly because who would believe what they might write, simply because no one would want to have their icon tumbled from his pedestal. People need their national heroes and he was a hero of unmatched quality and fame, stirring pride in the populace and envy abroad.

Oddly enough, a man  who has garnered a reputation so completely the reverse of JFK's  has given the U.S. National Archives permission to release over 25,000 sealed and secret files matching John F. Kennedy's presidential era. One memo dating from 1962 outlines Kennedy's hate affair with Canada. Which had its nerve to exert an independent nationalist spirit against the United States' decisions that didn't sit well with the Canadian administration of the era, mostly under John Diefenbaker, a Conservative leader; their ideologies and personalities clashed.

When Diefenbaker threatened to release a heavily compromising memorandum to the press that Kennedy had inadvertently left behind, on a visit to Canada, Kennedy was beyond irate, ranting in the White House that he would "cut his balls off", then reverting to naming Diefenbaker a "prick", a "f--ker", and a "son of a bitch". This, the man whom the U.S. press adulated, and wrote nothing but praise for, reporting on his every initiative as though it was an order direct from on high. Unlike the manner in which the press universally writes of the current President of the United States of America.

President Donald Trump is generally acknowledged by the global community as being less than statesmanlike, and Kennedy was eminently statesmanlike, diplomatic, careful to portray himself as he wished to be seen, rumours be damned. Like his father, Kennedy was a social aristocrat, like his father he was an unredeemed womanizer, like his father he was a bully and an imperialist. A foul-mouthed, entitled 'intellectual', a drug-dependent, mob-friendly playboy-president. Unlike his father who only made it to Ambassador to Great Britain during the Second World War, JFK became president.

He had his father's connections and wealth to thank for that, along with the family's dynastic name. The hands-off attitude of the press toward Kennedy has nothing in common with the feeding frenzy of the press reporting on the uncouth, sexist, uninformed boorishness of the current president. Where JFK had all the backing anyone could wish for from the public and the press to accentuate his qualities and quietly acquiesce to ignoring his faults, Donald Trump, with many of the same qualities and rife with similar faults trumpets his own fame.

Where Donald Trump has brought the United States and by extension the world at large close to a nuclear confrontation with the Peoples Republic of North Korea through his bluff handling of the swaggering little Kim playing his nuclear gamesmanship, his predecessor brought the same situation to a close head in a game of chicken with the Soviet Union over its stockpile of missiles in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s.

Two unique individuals with strong personalities and more than their share of emotional and habitual character flaws so closely aligned in nature albeit not in reputation that they could be clones, but for the variance in their facades. Kennedy  tried to influence a Canadian general election, interfering by inviting and hosting the leader of the Canadian opposition to a soiree to which he failed to invite the Prime Minister of Canada. Currently, claims are rife that Russia interfered with the U.S. general election to aid Trump.

The more things change, the more they resemble what went before.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

A Man of Proud Valour Martyred

"He's a hero; he saved many lives. All seven of those policemen are heroes but especially him."
"Just think if that suicide attacker got past the gate, what would have happened -- you cannot even imagine."
Basir Mujahed, Afghan Police spokesman

"My son sacrificed himself to save other people."
"He had two bachelor degrees, one in political science and another one at the police academy. He studied five years in Turkey. He came back from Turkey a year and a half ago. He was 25 years old and he was single. He has three brothers and one sister. He and I are the only police in our family. He was a very sporty guy."
"I lost my bodyguard in this incident as well. He was my bodyguard for the last 15 years, he was like my son. His name was Noor Agha, he left three children behind."
General Sayed Nizam Agha, Afghan Police commander
Police officer died saving countless lives by hugging suicide bomber
Afghan security officials inspect the explosion site after a suicide attack in front of a wedding hall in Kabul, Afghanistan on November 16, 2017 (Picture: Getty)

Afghanistan has been mired in conflict for the last several hundred years. In the 19th Century Russia and Britain contested one another to achieve conquest, trade and access to India through Afghanistan. More recently Russia occupied Afghanistan in an effort to ensure that its own choice of leader sympathetic to Russian interests was ensconced. That was followed by a U.S.-led invasion of the country when the-then ruling Taliban, majority Pashtun fundamentalist Islamist tribesmen, led the country under Sharia law and played host to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in the wake of 9/11.

The UN-NATO-US coalition has long since left Afghanistan. NATO member countries left behind military trainers to aid in ensuring that the Afghan police and military would be coached in the best strategic military and police practices. That both the police and military, like the government and society at large are inherently corrupt and that warlords continue to influence the government is well known. Also well known is that police and military conscripts are notoriously unreliable, going AWOL without a second thought.

And though the foreign troops stationed in the country for years fought against the Taliban, they would re-surge every spring, coming down from the mountains separating Afghanistan and Pakistan to mount fresh attacks. Infamously Pakistan gave the Taliban cover, training and armed them hoping to continue destabilizing Afghanistan ... and then their own Pakistani Taliban arose with the warlords plaguing the government of Pakistan just as they had Afghanistan; the killing of Benazir Bhutto signalling a temporary change.

General Sayed, proud of his son, and heartbroken by his death, along with that of his long-time bodyguard, was no doubt aware that his son, as a police commander, was involved in an anti-corruption campaign. Perhaps he wasn't aware  until the moment he lost his son that Police Lt.Sayed Basam Pacha was also courageous beyond belief. Through religious fervor, a Taliban attacker with a suicide vest was prepared to sacrifice his life to achieve mass murder. Through patriotism and valour, Police Lt.Sayed was prepared to sacrifice his life to save others.

On Thursday in Kabul Afghan Police Lt. Sayed and other officers from the police company he commanded were guarding dignitaries and civilians when a man approached the guarded gate and his demeanor immediately led the police to suspect he was a suicide bomber. Ordered by Sayed Pacha to stop, the man began running and so did the officer who stopped him by throwing his broad, muscled arms around the man in a deep bear hug. But nothing would stop the man from detonating his explosive vest.

In total fourteen people died, among them Police Lt. Sayed, six civilians and seven other police officers. Another 18 were wounded. Also among the dead was his father's trusted, reliable, and highly regarded bodyguard, dispatched by his father to assist his son at an event where high-profile political personnel were in attendance. In a country that remains mired deep in vicious, violent Islamist dysfunction. Where the Taliban, al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fester, threaten, and attack.
Policeman, Lieutenant Sayed Basam Pacha, 25, whose bear hug stopped a suicide bomber from killing more people outside a restaurant in Kabul

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Shy No More

"He came to me [in the presidential typing pool] and started asking about my family. He just started talking to me, asking me about my life. Were you married before, things like that … I didn’t know it was leading somewhere. I was quite a shy person, very shy."
"I felt a bit uncomfortable when he proposed to me since he was still married to Sally (Mugabe's wife, suffering from terminal cancer]."
"I was very young when I started living with President Mugabe. But he was patient with me and took time to groom me into the woman that I am now."
Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe 'first lady'
South African rights campaigners say it would be a disgrace to grant diplomatic immunity to Grace Mugabe.
South African rights campaigners say it would be a disgrace to grant diplomatic immunity to Grace Mugabe. Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Grace Mugabe might have started out shy, but it didn't take too long for her to become assertive and materially entitled. While Zimbabweans suffered a plunging value in currency, rising unemployment, scarcity of food and rampant inflation, she amused herself, travelling to Paris to shop, earning herself the uncomplimentary title of "Gucci Grace". Famously, another beautiful and wilful first lady, Imelda Marcos of the Philippines, was known in a much earlier generation for her profligate spending on shoes, and Grace Mugabe doubtless has come a close second, with her own estimated 3,000 pairs.

During one infamous shopping trip to Paris she is reputed to have spent 75,000 pounds, consolidating her reputation as an avaricious woman plundering her nation's scarce financial resources while her countrymen and women suffered privation in a country once considered the breadbasket of Africa. Her husband's scheme of forcefully reclaiming large tracts of land from white Zimbabwean farmers and doling them out to his political government henchmen, members of his family and his supporters destroyed agriculture in Zimbabwe.

Trips to Paris to spend her nation's financial resources are now out. As is her conniving to become the ruling successor to her 92-year-old husband. At age 52, Grace Mugabe will have to start all over again, somewhere else, with the aid of the funds she has squirrelled away since her parade has been rained upon, her schemes overturned, her husband under house arrest. South Africa has offered her haven, but it is rumoured that she has since departed to preserve her life, to Namibia.
 Grace Mugabe, wife of Robert, was known as Zimbabwe's 'First Shopper'
Grace Mugabe, wife of Robert, was known as Zimbabwe's 'First Shopper'  Reuters

She does have an enemy who is guaranteed to look for revenge. The Vice-President, a long-time supporter and colleague of her husband's whom she persuaded Robert Mugabe to re-think his fitness to replace him, offering herself as a more suitable and appropriate candidate to become president, as a fait accompli by executive order. Mugabe had, indeed, a week ago informed his ZANU-PF party of his intentions and urged them to support Grace Mugabe as vice-president to replace Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom he had dismissed from his post and his successor last week.

"No one will remove the president except God", Grace Mugabe said at a cabinet meeting days ago. She had also said on a previous occasion that when Mugabe died he would be propped up and would remain president of Zimbabwe even dead. But at age 52 she felt herself to have been sufficiently schooled by him and mature enough in her political wisdom to take his place. The place that Mnangagwa was assumed to have been groomed for. A man whose sobriquet is "the Crocodile". Evidently, the man earned that name and the reputation accompanying it.

He is said to be more ruthless than Mugabe, and more cruel. During Mugabe's 37 years of dictatorship, Mnangagwa served as his spy chief, his chief of defence, and situation enforcer in the early years. Doubtless during the land-seizure campaign beginning in 2000 when white Zimbabwean farmers, skilled in ensuring that the land they farmed was productive, and employing black Zimbabweans who are now though knowledgeable, unemployed, his heavy hand was involved.

But a feud had developed between Grace Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa, and during a ZANU-PF rally she urged her husband to agree that "the snake must be hit on the head". When he was fired, Mnangagwa seeing the writing on the wall as his chief lieutenants were also removed, fled the country, leaving Grace Mugabe to celebrate her victory, and since her husband is old, ill and feeble, her near-ascension to power.

It is assumed that the military chiefs became alarmed at the purge of Mnangagwa's faction, that it would spread to affect their high command. With Mnangagwa orchestrating things from exile in South Africa, a coup was concocted, skilfully and thoroughly, and to great effect, with no blood spilled, the people assured that their president and his family would be safe, that only the corrupt would be arrested.

A military convoy began the proceedings at midnight on Tuesday, launching a surprise assault on the barracks of the presidential guard while other units moved securing vital installations in government districts, to surround parliament, government offices and the studios of state television. Cabinet allies of the president's wife were swiftly hunted down and apprehended, spoken of by General Constantino Chiwenga, as criminals, threats to Zimbabwe.

Finally, liberated from the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe and his ambitious wife, Zimbabweans can breathe a sigh of relief. At least for a brief moment or two. But another, sinister threat of a totalitarian-thug-in-waiting preparing to ascend to the height of power in the country is close on the horizon.
 The couple were married in 1996
The couple was married in 1996  Getty Images

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Engaged With Justin Trudeau - Smile!

"I also mentioned human rights, the rule of law and specifically extrajudicial killings as being an issue that Canada is concerned with."
"I impressed on him the need for respect for the rule of law, and as always offered Canada's support and help as a friend to move forward on what is a real challenge."
"The president was receptive to my comments and it was throughout a very cordial and positive exchange."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin (Sunny Ways) Trudeau, ASEAN summit, Philippines

"I will answer the fisherman and the farmer and I will explain to them patiently why it is so, but I will never, never allow a foreigner to question why it is so."
"I said I will not explain. It is a personal and official insult. It angers me when you are a foreigner, you do not know what exactly is happening in this country."
"You don't even investigate. I only answer to the Filipino. I will not answer to any other bullshit, especially foreigners. Lay off."
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, say he spoke with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on human rights in Manila on Monday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, say he spoke with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on human rights in Manila on Monday.  (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The rough-and-ready, unabashed tough-guy president of the Philippines made it clear long ago how he feels about outside interference in the manner in which he governs his nation. It seems that his orders to shoot first, ask questions later, has the approval of the electorate, sick of lawlessness, the challenges posed by Islamists' threats and depredations in a basically Roman Catholic country, along with the incidental scourge of drug trafficking and addiction.

President Duterte rode to victory during the general election where he was voted in as a president who vowed to clean up the mess in the Philippines. He had his stint as mayor in a trouble-ridden city to prove he could and would make good on his election promises. On ascending to the seat of government he lost no time in unleashing police and the military to the task of cleaning up both drug traffickers, users, and Islamist threats, though both remain, albeit in diminished form.

His methodology is not for the weak-of-heart, and humanitarian organizations were quick to condemn the man who boasts of his own forays into sweeping up crime and personally killing perpetrators. He is proud of his exploits and enjoys shocking those who disapprove, and they are legion, though they are not the electorate, but outsiders. Outsiders like Canada's Prime Minister who is no one's understudy as a proudly boastful self-promoter. His own popularity with his electorate has plunged in reflection of his administration's mismanagement on every file save self-aggrandizement.

Justin Trudeau no doubt reminded Mr. Duterte of his visceral dislike of Barack Obama whom he referred to unflatteringly as a "son of a bitch" who could "go to hell" for chiding him over his methodology in fighting crime, urging instead that the drug war in the Philippines be tackled "in a way that's consistent with basic international norms", in so doing earning Duterte's eternal scorn and derision. But there's a new President now in the United States and the two men, Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte have common characteristics, notably that of thuggish temperaments.

"Countries around the world know that when you engage with Canada you will hear about human-rights concerns and we are the first to mention that we are not perfect, either", gloated Trudeau. Certainly, he takes credit for much, having shouted out to the world at large that "Canada is back!" when he was elected Prime Minister. As for Trudeau and his political party admitting to occasional 'imperfections' that would be a pleasant surprise to most Canadians, as their Prime Minister's election promises appear to have failed one after another while his government forges ahead in their implausible mismanagement.

A different story emerged from President Trump's performance with the irascible Duterte, as the two-of-a-kind duo met and discussed issues of mutual interest and import to both countries. President Trump declared that he and Duterte "had a great relationship", and simply took to another subject when he was asked whether he had raised concerns over human rights. Duterte's spokesman, on the other hand remarked that no human rights or extralegal killings were mentioned during the Trump-Duterte discussion; rather they spoke at length of the Philippines' war on drugs.

A joint statement issued in the aftermath of their discussion declared that they "underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential, and agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs". So isn't that grand? Could be that Duterte is scheming how he might disinvite Trudeau from taking a seat at an ASEAN East Asia Summit, as the first time that Canada has been invited to sit at that Summit, the host being displeased with the manners of his guest.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fascism Lives! 

"[The annual Polish Independence Day march this year represents] a dangerous march of extreme and racist elements."
"We hope that Polish authorities will act against the organizers. History teaches us that expressions of racist hate must be dealt with swiftly and decisively."
"[The march disproved] anyone who thinks that hatred of Muslims protects the Jews."
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon

"[Polish government authority strongly condemns racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic ideas, but the  march represented an expression of patriotic values]."
"[The rally was misunderstood, it was] a great celebration of Poles, differing in their views, but united around the common values of freedom and loyalty to an independent homeland."
Poland’s Foreign Ministry 

"It's clear that these types of marginal voices are caught and send abroad by the Polish press, and this is an image problem."
"Poland is an oasis of security, peace and tolerance."
Deputy Prime Minister Mariusz Morawiecki

"[Poles must take the initiative to lead] sick Europe [to the path of] health, to fundamental values, to true freedom and to the strengthening of our civilization based on Christianity."
Law & Justice party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski
Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the annual march to commemorate Poland’s National Independence Day in Warsaw on November 11, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI)

Protesters carrying poster pictures of Roman Dmowski, a leading Polish nationalist of the 1920s and 19302, a virulent anti-Semite, played homage to his vision of a Jew-free Poland, reprising his vision  to the present, where fewer than 10,000 Jews are left in Poland, after 90 percent of the three million Jews in pre-war Poland were exterminated during the Holocaust years.

Small assemblies of counter-protesters were kept separate from the main March, by police. But groups of women carrying signs saying "stop Fascism", were still kicked and pushed around by nationalists. Masked protesters shouted racist slogans, their banners reading Pure Blood, Europe will be white or uninhabited. Other expressions of pure unadulterated good will and Polish pride in patriotism read variously:
  • Pure Poland, Jew-free Poland
  • Jews out of Poland
  • Refugees get out
  • Clean Blood
  • Pray for an Islamic Holocaust
Flags of Falanga, a historical nationalist group that advocated "Catholic totalitarianism" and removing civil rights from Jews were also in evidence. But the government was firm, accusing Polish media of fomenting problems for the country through its focus on "fringe incidents" and "provocateurs" among those in the 60,000-strong march whom one organizer described as 70% patriots, and 30% right-wing supremacists. Adding that it was the voice of the 70% that mattered; every country had its disgruntled 30%.

The ruling Law & Justice party has rallied Poles to the embrace of their national heritage. With that rallying came a vow that the country's traditional conservative Catholic roots were destined to be returned to their place of honour, and Poland was embarking on a path of "pride, independence and strength". Eastern Europe altogether has rejected diluting its culture and heritage by the acceptance, as the EU demands, of millions of Muslim refugees.

Life has been made dangerously intolerable for Jews in Belgium, France, Germany, Sweden and Britain by the introduction of millions of Muslim immigrants, refugees and migrants bringing their special brand of Islamist anti-Semitism with them. The irony is that in Eastern Europe which has rejected the EU call for all member-states to acquiesce to the demands of acceptance of the Muslim refugees and migrants, right-wing nationalists have taken to openly decrying the presence of Jews who have traditionally lived there.

Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags in Warsaw on November 11, 2017.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Saudi Arabia's Sea-Change

"We are returning to what we were before - a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world."
"We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today. We will end extremism very soon."
"We want to lead normal lives, lives where our religion and our traditions translate into tolerance, so that we coexist with the world and become part of the development of the world."
"Seventy percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 30. In all honesty, we will not spend 30 years of our lives dealing with extremist ideologies. We will destroy them today and immediately."
"Saudi was not like this before '79. Saudi Arabia and the entire region went through a revival after '79. ... All we're doing is going back to what we were: a moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world and to all traditions and people."  
"Some clear steps were taken recently and I believe we will obliterate the remnants of extremism very soon. I don't think this is a challenge. It reflects our values of forgiveness, righteousness and moderation. Righteousness is on our side."
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
The prince made the announcement at an investor conference in Riyadh
The prince made the announcement at an investor conference in Riyadh Credit: AFP PHOTO / FAYEZ NURELDINEFAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images
"[I'm not optimistic about the reforms but would] still like to be optimistic … since everyone will suffer if they fail."
"[The reforms are] not engaging Saudi society, enough."
"We wish Mohammed bin Salman well, and we need economic [and social] reform but we also need to discuss [these issues. The change] is being done in very narrow circles. [Ordinary] people are not feeling engaged."
"Conservatives have already lashed out. They’ve been lashing out since 2003. Al-Qaida, or ISIS, or the radical Wahhabis … these are the extremists in Saudi Arabia … and they don’t want change. They have resisted, and will continue to resist. ... The only thing stopping them is [government] security."
Saudi commentator Jamal Kashoggi

"By weakening the clerical establishment and making clerics simple government workers [Mohammed bin Salman] will be able to give women more rights, as he is proposing."
"If 10 million women are given the right to drive in Saudi Arabia and if just a fraction of those women buy cars, take driving lessons or buy insurance, that would contribute to stimulating Saudi Arabia’s stagnant economy."
"Whenever the state clashes with the [conservative] clerical establishment, the state emerges victorious and there’s no reason to believe that things will not be the same, this time."
Hilal Khashan,  political science professor, American University of Beirut
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmon's promise to his countrymen that the strict, uncompromising version of Islam known as Wahhabism will be diluted, and that it did not always represent the norm in Saudi Arabia, is somewhat surprising since Saudi Arabia morphed out of Arabia in an agreement with colonial Britain based on the power structure and influence between the Saud dynasty and the rigid fundamentalism of Wahhabism, the movement founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. 

It may have become more sternly observant with the rise of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, but it was never moderate. Moreover, Saudi Arabia, struggling to compete for influence with the new Shiite power in the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, as the custodian of the two most holy sites in Islam Mecca and Medina, took pains to portray itself as the true leader of Islam. And as such its punishment meted out for infractions led it to match Iran death-for-death in capital punishment. Yearly state deaths of 150 prisoners distinguished Islamic justice in Saudi Arabia, with claims by
Reprieve, a human rights group, that 41 per cent of those executed in Saudi Arabia in 2017 were killed for non-violent acts such as attending political protests.
Image result for how many people did Saudi Arabia execute this year?
The Independent

But Prince bin Salman is on a modernizing journey for his country, eager to open it to new economic opportunities since the price of fossil fuels plummeted, looking for diversification and foreign investment from the West. An anomaly and rather bizarre, given the massive investments Saudi Arabia has made, building its Wahhabist mosques and madrasses all over the world as it exported its brand of Islam globally, and with it the implementation of jihad and the support of jihadist groups the West calls terrorists. Now it invites Western investment in Saudi Arabia; exporting jihad, importing pluralistic capitalism.

Call the initiative what one will -- and the Prince obviously prefers enlightened and timely modernization -- it will certainly change this religion-straitened society. Given the prominence and influence of Saudi clerics, it will be an uphill struggle, one that Prince Mohammed obviously faces with the relish of a challenge, from the perspective of his 32 years, and the prospect of becoming King with the departure of his father, King Salman. If a signal that a change is on the horizon, the loosening of restrictions for women is prominent.

How many Saudi women will look forward to the opportunity of attending sports matches, an opportunity hitherto denied them, is debatable, once the thrill of offending men has passed. But the spectacle of a burqa-clad woman driving a car for the first time leaves much to be desired. Enveloped in a fabric cage, how free would a woman feel, driving a car toward independence? How independent is she requiring the permission of father, uncle, brother, husband, even son, to go abroad, to open a bank account, to sign a legal document?
"This prohibition on driving is just one in a vast series of laws and policies which prevent women from doing many things."
"The guardianship rule stops women from making every decision in her life without the assistance of a male relative, even if that relative is her 7-year-old son."
Liesl Gerntholtz, Human Rights Watch
FILE - Aziza Yousef drives a car on a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 29, 2014, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving.
FILE - Aziza Yousef drives a car on a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 29, 2014, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving.
The notice has been received by members of the royal family, state authorities and the business community that business as usual is being interrupted and so is the casual acceptance of nepotism and corruption. Having your freedom of movement, however temporary, suspended even by having to remain in a luxury hotel until advised otherwise, is a sobering reality that being part of the aristocracy the wealthy business class, the clergy, no longer would be their shield from imposed change of the social, religious and business order.

"For sure, it does not make me comfortable. Anything that has sin in it, anything that angers the Almighty -- it's a problem", voiced one cleric on news of women attending events where men would be present. "They did a pre-emptive strike. All those who thought about saying no to the government got arrested", observed another cleric. He would, however, accept the changes because Islam requires the Saudi ruler be obeyed. "People go through the door that you open for them", he said philosophically.

"Society in general at this time is very scared. It will push women into society. That is what is in their minds, that it is not right and that it will bring more corruption than benefits", stated  another cleric. One who disagrees stated his initial unwillingness to permit his wife and daughters to own cellphones, but that realities altered his way of thinking, and he feels that Saudi women driving cars would eventually face the same acceptance: "With time, if society sees that the decision is positive and safe, they will accept it", he avowed.

As for leading Islam finally in a more moderate, enlightened direction, away from threatening those of other religions, much less refusing to accept the presence of other religions, Prince Mohammed's drive to soften Saudi Arabia's Salafism in recognition of the 21st Century, has already been spoken of by another ruler, President al-Sissi of Egypt, whose declaration that it is past time Islam stopped being a threat to other religions and exporting jihad to wreak its destabilizing effect abroad, failed entirely to move the clerics of Al-Azhar University, the leading Islamic authority of Sunni Islam.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Preying on the Desperate

"If we had received our immigrant visa as was promised to my father, we could all be living together in Canada now in safety. But this is just a dream that can never come true now."
"We ask for our father's life savings to be returned to us because we and our mother need the money to live and survive without our father, our caretaker."
Jeanine, Sabee, 25, Heilbronn, Germany

"He was given a decision only as a result of his death. The Canadian government, as well as Desjardins and Auray, as agents of the Canadian governments, have benefited and continue to benefit from the investor immigrant program tremendously."
"We urge Desjardins, Auray and the Canadian government to return my uncle's money to his children, as the money is rightfully theirs and they need it to live and survive."
Danielle Assad, Niece, Elias Sabee, Cleveland, Ohio

"We have lost our father, the soul of our family. We are living from the outside, but dead from the inside. You see the many emails that my father sent to the Canadian embassy that were ignored, which haunt me every day."
Michael Sabee

"[It is] unfair and unconscionable [for the parties to profit. If it's not because of the [processing] delay, the family could've been in Quebec now."
"This is a tragic story. I feel Desjardins shouldn't just hide behind the standard contract language. It has the moral responsibility to do the right thing."
Robert Cohen, Sabee family lawyer, Quebec

THE PARTIES HERETO agree on the following matters in order to determine their respective areas of activity relative to immigrants and aliens in order to meet the needs and the particular situation of Québec;
1. This Accord relates to the selection of persons who wish to reside permanently or temporarily in Québec, their admission into Canada, their integration into Québec society, and the determination of levels of immigration to Québec.
2. An objective of this Accord, is among other things, the preservation of Québec’s demographic importance within Canada and the integration of immigrants to that province in a manner that respects the distinct identity of Québec.
3. Canada shall determine national standards and objectives relating to immigration and shall be responsible for the admission of all immigrants and the admission and control of aliens. Canada shall discharge these responsibilities in particular by defining the general classes of immigrants and classes of persons who are inadmissible into Canada, by setting the levels of immigration and the conditions for the granting of citizenship, and by ensuring the fulfilment of Canada’s international obligations.
4. Québec has the rights and responsibilities set out in this Accord with respect to the number of immigrants destined to Québec and the selection, reception and integration of those immigrants
Canada-Quebec Accord, Government of Canada

Quebec has autonomy in immigration within Canada. This represents yet another demand made by Quebec to the federal government in recognition of its 'nation' status. In reflection of what Quebec insists is its unique status as a French-speaking 'nation' within the greater Canadian confederation where the majority language in reflection of its British-heritage roots, is English. The affectation by Quebec is that the province is a 'nation' within a nation; it labels everything 'national' within the province.

And so the controversy that has arisen with the Sabee family's relationship to Quebec's immigration process is uniquely with Quebec, not the Government of Canada, although the Government of Canada could step in to use its influence in the case, the Government of Quebec would consider it an infringement of their autonomous rights on the immigration file.

That the Sabee family has been treated shabbily is without doubt. To begin with, that their application for immigration under the Quebec investor program required a massive investment, and that their application took so unconscionably long to process. And then was rejected on the basis of the reality that given the dangers of living in Syria at the time which Mr. Sabee was so anxious to escape, he was killed, thus making his surviving family ineligible to continue with the application.

Elias Sabee had applied under the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program to bring himself and his family to Canada as landed immigrants prepared to make a sizeable financial investment in Canada, through Quebec, by launching a business and preparing to hire employees; a definite asset to the province and presumably to himself and his family establishing themselves in a new home far from the dangers facing them in their native Syria.

Through the intermediary function of the Quebec-appointed Desjardins Trust Inc., Mr. Sabee took out a loan to finance a $400,000 commitment rounding out the $120,000 he was able to invest in cash representing money from his family along with profit from a business in skin-care he operated in Syria. This was a requirement of the immigration program to achieve permanent residency.

Syria's descent into civil war in 2011 left the 62-year-old, still awaiting word on his application, concerned for his family's safety.

He had  heard nothing about his 2008 application. Finally, in November of 2016 he lost his life in a bombing event while living in his native Aleppo with his wife, anxious to guard their property. Their three children had been sent out of Syria for safety. His wife and three grown children are now all refugees in France and Germany, anxious to have their father's investment for his failed application returned to them.

Failed, according to Quebec Immigration, because the applicant was no longer alive, and the file was closed.

When Mr. Sabee made his application and handed over $120,000 while taking a loan for the remaining $320,066 to make up the $400,000 required deposit to accompany his application, he was under the impression that processing his application would take no longer than a year; instead years went by, leaving the family fearful and wondering what the final disposition would be, even while Syria was embroiled in unending violence and insecurity, leading to Mr. Sabee's eventual death.

Desjardins has rejected the family's request for a refund, noting financing costs: "Desjardins duly accomplished its duties in this situation and we can only reiterate that at any moment, there is no money to be reimbursed or returned to your clients", read a letter to the family's lawyer. As for Quebec's Immigration Ministry, it responded: "It is is important to remember that the [ministry] does not intervene in the funding process. It is a private contract".

Leaving the indelible impression that both the Quebec government and the Desjardins investment firm have a tandem focus, that of shameless vultures.
From left, Elias Sabee, with his son Mario, daughter Jeanin, son Michel and wife Therese, died in a bombing in Aleppo last year.
From left, Elias Sabee, with his son Mario, daughter Jeanin, son Michel and wife Therese, died in a bombing in Aleppo last year.  (FAMILY PHOTO

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