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.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Intellectual Freedom

Where else better to celebrate the opportunity to exercise intellectual freedom than in a country that exemplifies the best that any liberal democracy can offer? And, furthermore, using the venue of a tax-funded public library. For we love our public libraries and use them well - their inventory of publications on any conceivable subject - the better to further our ongoing education outside the world of academia.

And, in Canada, in the city of Vancouver in the province of British Columbia, national Freedom To Read Week is being celebrated in a very special way. It would appear that the library board, or the chief librarian, has a very special speaking treat in store for Vancouverites. For the library's choice as featured author for this acclaim-for-literature week happens to be a man known as an Anti-Semite of the first order.

Author of countless articles detailing the usual Jewish conspiracy claims, and going even further, to invite his readers to believe that Zionists manufactured al-Qaeda, a mere sub-plot to a larger Jewish plot to subvert the U.S. Constitution, and in the process handily target Muslims for mass murder, ostensibly in revenge for horrific assaults against the West that they were not guilty of; framed by the Jewish conspiracy.

Moreover, this same highly esteemed writer, Greg Felton, has also revealed that Zionists encouraged Nazi Germany to exterminate Europe's Jewish population; in fact aided and assisted in incinerating their brethren. Thereby neatly exonerating all the world's enablers of responsibility in the event and the extent of the Holocaust. Which was, in all likelihood, a shield beyond which the greater drama of Jewish world domination was playing out.

Where, one might ask, would this man be more welcome, more celebrated than in Iran, which also espouses that very same line of incendiary slander? Well, on the face of it, in Vancouver, too. This man's writing appears in the Tehran Times - now isn't that a surprise? - along with other newspapers in the Arab world. Where, just incidentally, not just anyone has the freedom to write what they think; where, just incidentally, press censorship is reality.

And now, this much-published writer can also be seen and heard - live! - in Vancouver. Some ingrates - most likely Jews themselves - have sought to reason with the good people at the Vancouver Public Library who appear to value - despite protests - their public relations coup in bringing the author of "The Host and the Parasite: How Israel's Fifth Column Consumed America", to public appreciation.

The chief librarian, Paul Whitney, claims, loftily, that in the spirit of free discourse and the exchange of ideas, this is merely a matter of "intellectual freedom".

How like the Jews to take things out of context, to make things so personal.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Transformation: CBC to Al Jazeera

How about that, a nice Jewish boy has finally made it. To the big time. Just where he deserves to be. His grandfather, David Lewis, was a good and a just man. A proud Jew, a proud Canadian, a disciplined politician; a practical-minded, socially aware human being.

His father, hmmm, Stephen Lewis, born with a silver spoon, but raised on Socialist gruel. Attending a public school like any other normal kid, but transcending normal, chauffeur-driven to and from.

Avi has moved beyond kvetching Judaism. He's one of those self-loathers; his Jewish heritage is such a drag. Now that other heritage, socialist devotion to a better world for everyone - it too has been transformed, has become another kind of left-wing ideology, the kind that sees companionship in understanding between fascism and the far left; truly two of a kind.

Avi has become what one radical communist touted as a class warrior. "Whoever cries out against Jewish capitalists is already a class warrior, even when he does not know it... Kick down the Jewish capitalists, hang them from the lampposts and stamp upon them."

In lieu of Jewish capitalists, Avi has carefully selected Americans, the U.S. Its society, culture, politics. And he sincerely hangs them from the lampposts of his scornful dismissal, believing them to be the scourge of the earth. But there's a place for Jewish identity and Jewish politics and Jewish loathing in all of this; just opt to perform as a spokesman for the very source of anti-Semitic enablement.

Now he's taking up a post in that very den of social/political iniquity. To report on their unfortunate excesses against humanity so all may read and take umbrage along with Avi Lewis. His audience will be wide, and for this he is most appreciative. His audience will range from the English-speaking world, to translation for the Arab-speaking world.

Because he is a Jew, speaking not as a Jew - although his audience does not recognize this - but as a radical leftist, his words will be received well.

In the Arab world he will be perceived as a triumphant discovery, yet another Jew anxiously willing to sell out his ancestry for a pottage of fame. Mind, it is infamy he brings on his grandfather's name. But he learned his grandstanding aptitude well, patterning himself effortlessly after his father's style. Concern for humankind? So they insist.

Like most radicals, the background is one of privilege, and all patricians know they must defer to the masses, that great proletariat for whom they deign to speak. Railing, in the process, against the very privilege that gave them the opportunities they chose to spurn. Representing themselves as one with the people whom they purport to serve.

And let's face it, he just wasn't getting anywhere fast with the CBC. That once-proud Canadian institution since become drearily irrelevant, just as it slid irrevocably into the same leftist trend that Avi Lewis now exemplifies. That same social democratic left-turned infrastructure that lauds the unprivileged Palestinians's struggle against the oppressive Israeli military might.

One doubts he will be missed by his CBC audience, let alone the CBC network, which appears to have struggled with the difficulty of sufficiently recognizing their erstwhile host's talents. In an interview, Mr. Lewis appears to have spoken most disdainfully of the lacks apparent in the CBC structure, as opposed to the "resource-rich" work environment of Al Jazeera.

He denies Al Jazeera's reputation as an apologist for the Arab world: "absolutely hilarious", he declares. It's the nationalist right-wingers in the United States that has given Al Jazeera its black eye. As a journalist, he says, "I like to judge things on the evidence", without, alas, recounting the evidence, as it would be of such interest to everyone to hear it.

Things may be a little tough for Mr. Lewis at this juncture. His biting reproach of America's social conscience has garnered him scant few admirers there, so he's finding it "pretty difficult", what with public officials declining to be interviewed with him on the record. People aren't fond of shooting themselves wilfully. Unless you're an Avi Lewis.

And he's revelling in his newfound future, hugging himself with satisfaction in the fact that his value has been recognized and he now has the opportunity "to have the resources to do stories properly; a rare luxury". A shill for Al Jazeera.

But then my opinion is somewhat tainted, unlike his.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Religious Obligations in Islam

They've been interpreted and re-interpreted ad infinitum. Islam, after all, is one-and-a-half millennia-aged. That's a long time in human history. Written history. And at that time the world was a far different place than it is now. Technologically, in any event.

Knowledge-wise, perhaps not so much. Societies were then more distinctly separated, and they would have it so. We think that the world was a more dangerous place then, but was it? In the micro-level, perhaps.

The kind of societal law and order that any nation relies upon to ensure the safety and security of all its people was largely absent in some countries of the world, but not all. Not to be compared, however, to what obtains in the modern world.

Yet, on the other hand, the cataclysmic armed disasters that one country is now capable of visiting upon another - at a remove, through the increasing development and use of weapons-at-a-remove - might quality this era as a potentially more violent time in history.

But in the instance of a desert society of nomadic tribes each suspicious of the other, preying on one another and each resisting the other's attempts at territorial securement, there was no universal law and order.

In the Middle East it was, quite simply, one distinct tribe against another; the territorial imperative at its most basic, primal level. Until they became unified through the auspices of a tribal religion.

A religion that reflected the disorder of the day, seeking to implement a universal message of control over the disparate parts of the whole, eventually - at least on the surface - pacifying rival tribes with the message of brotherhood in Islam.

Taking the best attributes of those cultures and clarifying them into a code of behaviour that reflected a spirit of peace - after centuries of Islamic conquest.

Now, Turkish religious scholars have undertaken to reinterpret the Hadith, a body of scripture that reflects the vision and parables and conclusions of the Prophet Muhammad, writing at that time for the edification and collectivization of a squabbling, desert-hardened community of communities. From whence comes Islamic law, Shariah.

The plan being to reinterpret the Hadith so it no longer reflects the conditions of life and society as it was at its inception, the birth of Islam. A prevailing culture that classified women alongside livestock as valued possessions indicative of wealth and standing. To reinterpret and reclassify some of the laws deliberately designed to ensure male domination over their weaker counterparts.

Which, in turn, gave assent to honour killings; justification for murder as a result of a woman's intended or unintended, guilty or innocent presumptuousness in bringing shame to her family. By becoming a victim of rape or incest, by assuming without due cause, that she had leave to enter a room, a vehicle, a public arena, where men were assembled.

All these prohibitions against women mingling in the company of men for their own protection. An awkward admission that men, practising Islam, are incapable of regulating their behaviour, of disciplining their basic animal urges, of civilizing the brute in themselves.

Therefore, women must take all necessary precautionary steps to ensure they do not awaken the beast in men. Equal, some would claim, but very, very separate.

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Throwing Their Wait Around

So, what else is new? The leading Democratic-presidential contenders are thrusting ahead full steam trying to outdo one another, to impress that fickle (for Clinton) electorate that they're the person of the future (hello, Obama) to lead their country. Each contradicts the other, punishingly finding fault with one another's promises, although truth to tell, they echo one another in content.

Senator Obama appears to have elevated the debate to an elegant, almost spiritual promissory note that has enraptured his audience. Senator Clinton appears increasingly to pale in comparison with her opponent in elevating the discourse beyond the practical to the Elysian Fields of Faith; in self, in country, in the future; above all, in Obama!

She is struggling to recover the upper hand. He, not at all smug, but quite convinced of his superior lead - as who will now disavow its reality? - continues to counter all her efforts at persuading the public that it is she, with her experience, her dauntless vision, her commitment and love of country who will offer the best opportunities for America's near future.

Barak Obama's lead, his charismatic performances that have elevated him in the esteem of his countrymen - at all levels of society, across religious, ideological and class strata - reaching far outside the confines of his own country's borders, to transfix and fascinate Europeans, Africans, Asians, could have him coasting at this juncture, but still he issues those unforgettably opaque yet transcendent messages.

Oops, they're coming down to earth a trifle. Settling on yet another topic, geared to reflect the concerns of the latest home audience. Hillary Clinton is now on record as threatening - promising? - to haul the U.S. out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. It always lingered there in the background for her party, and now it's out there, front and centre. Wait: Senator Obama is echoing her.

They're both chiming it together: NAFTA is dead, unless Mexico and Canada agree to greater concessions availing American interests in "strengthening labour and environmental standards". Wot!! Labour unions struggling to maintain themselves in the United States have the faintest representation of any country in the developed world, so what's up there? And since the U.S. refused to ratify Kyoto what environmental standards do they mean?

Words, words. It all comes down to protectionism, and if the Democrats exemplify anything it's protectionist imperatives hoisted against the devilish plans of their neighbours to do their utmost to pull the trade wool over American eyes. As if. As though any country entering into a free trade deal - any trade deal - with the United States would ever come away with the upper hand.

Said Mrs. Clinton: "I will say we will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate. I have said we will renegotiate NAFTA and you would have to say to Canada and Mexico 'That's what we are going to do." Said Mr. Obama: "We should use the hammer of a potential opt-out to force Canada and Mexico to reopen trade talks." Did they consult beforehand?

Shameless opportunists, both. Appealing to the voters in a state claiming to have lost jobs to NAFTA, while knowing full well that most other states of the union have realized a real boost in their economies thanks to NAFTA. Knowing full well that Mexico and Canada dance to the tune of America's demands which often enough overturn agreed-upon NAFTA rules.

Truth is, the suspense is killing them. Will their dreams of presidential power come to fruition? They haven't all that long to wait, after all. And of course there's always the disgusting possibility that their Republican rival John McCain will receive the ultimate nod, and they'll be a highly-regarded historical footnote.

Good to try another time, though; at least one of them.

Time out.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

So Much For Sincere Regrets

Looks as though the sorry saga of medical incompetence isn't quite over for Dr. Charles Smith. Despite his recent admission, replete with crocodile tears of remorse at the enquiry set up to review his work, and which found the commission of serious errors in 20 of the 45 suspicious child deaths he helped investigate as chief paediatric coroner in Toronto, he's now demonstrating an unparalleled degree of chutzpah.

This man, who admitted to sloppy habits along with procrastination and faulty and incomplete professional training leading to egregious errors during the enquiry, has now turned back into what he has always been; an arrogant sociopath. He experienced no crisis of conscience when in his self-appointed role as "defender" of vulnerable children, and professionally-inadequate coroner, his "expert" testimony was directly responsible for the conviction and incarceration of innocent people.

Once questions began to be seriously asked about his professional competence, he found it expedient to leave the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and go elsewhere. He took up a one-year contract in Saskatoon as a surgical pathologist in 2005. When he became somewhat notorious as his past began unravelling in the news, the Saskatoon Health Region's board declined to approve his hospital privileges.

Whereupon the health region terminated his contract. But Dr. Smith decided to take recourse to action, appealing that decision to a provincial tribunal which, a year later ruled the regional health authority had erred. In the interim Dr. Smith's licence to practise in the province had expired, meaning he could not then legally practise medicine in the province.

When a new license was released to him, it included a condition that denied him the practise of forensic pathology. A logical conclusion, given his history. And, given the legal and professional rebukes and the public shame that this man had experienced, one might assume he would be grateful to slink back into some hole in the ground and not bring undue attention.

But no: he has decided to sue the Saskatoon Regional Health Authority for wrongful dismissal. Is he out of touch with reality, or what?

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Oh, The Pain Of It!

Surely the great multinational pharmaceuticals whose anti-depressant sales represent the bulwark of their splendorous coffers of earnings, issued one great heartfelt groan of pure pain at the recently-released research findings suggesting that the wholesale use of prescribed anti-depressants give value to scant few patients, while sending the profits of their makers into the stratosphere.

One after another, the "cures" in pill form for whatever ails humankind are proving to be somewhat less than efficacious despite what their manufacturers claim. And little wonder, given the scores of deleterious side effects commonly experienced by those unfortunate enough to have been prescribed medications for the failing organs and other bodily constituents that so plague humankind. From congenital malfunctions to lifestyle-derived diseases.

We've become so accustomed to popping pills most of us never read the cautionary literature in the finest of print that comes with the medications, or the pharmacy print-outs warning of the potential for iatrogenic effects. High blood pressure, cholesterol, stroke and heart medication, anti-inflammatories; they've all got their dirty little secrets.

Hyperactive children are placed on a steady diet of chemicals to induce compliance. Long term side effects? Who knows?

And that huge segment of any population visiting a doctor complaining of symptoms identified as depressive, are routinely handed out prescriptions for anti-depressants. Upset over something? Deal with it. Get out in the fresh air, exercise, take yoga lessons, indulge in a little meaningful introspection to isolate the cause of one's depression.

Now four "new-generation" anti-depressants - inclusive of Prozac, Effexor, Serzone and Paxil, have been demonstrated to be roughly equivalent to a placebo for effectiveness. In other words, mind over matter; think you're imbibing a chemical that will have a useful effect on your "condition" and it will.

And since one in six individuals will experience depression at some point in their lives, that's one huge audience clamouring for chemical relief from what ails them.

Oh sure, it was found that in extreme cases of depression, those who are incapable of responding to other types of intervention, the anti-depressions can have an ameliorating effect, but that group is representationally minuscule. In Canada alone, 30.2-million prescriptions were filled for anti-depressions in a one-year period.

It's easy for a harried and busy family physician to scribble out a prescription, then go on to the next complainer.

Of that 30.2-million prescriptions, about 20-million were filled for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, a newer generation depressant. New is always good for the pharmaceuticals, it means more sales, more assurances going out to prescribing physicians and patients alike that their health problems will be well looked after.

Trouble is the SSRLs have been linked with an increased risk of suicide, particularly among young people.

It's not only the pharmaceutical giants feeling the pain of revelation. Some health professionals are exceedingly reluctant to give up a valued tool of their profession. Yet it's a known fact that many doctors will prescribe pills the moment someone presents with symptoms of depression.

"One thing I can tell you is that as you go up the scale of depression, the proportion of people (who are extremely depressed) gets fewer and fewer, according to professor of psychology at the University of Hull in Britain, Irving Kirsch.

The study, just published in the journal PLoS (Public Library of Science) Medicine found that the anti-depressants provided virtually no benefit over placebos for moderate depression, and only a small measure of help for those who are severely depressed.

That indicates, says the study's lead author, Dr. Kirsch: ".... that depressed people can improve without chemical treatments".

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Swindler Extraordinaire

Or master charlatan, take your pick. On the other hand, perhaps merely a foxily enterprising opportunist. He seems to have glommed on to the incontrovertible fact that people will believe what they want to believe. And they appear to want to believe that anyone who declares themselves to be seriously committed to that Old Tyme Religion - of U.S.-style hucksterism that appeals for money to support the cause of God - to be the Almighty's spirit working on earth.

For the fact seems to be that people are just itching to take the word of Jim Bakker; yes, that ineffable primate of Praise The Lord and Tammy Faye fame. He's back. He of the $129-million-a-year empire of religion for the masses through the expedient of televangelism gone directly to the peoples' living rooms where he could mesmerize them into rhapsodic visions of heaven in the futures through the simple medium of financing the Bakkers' Heritage Christian theme park. Itself heaven on earth.

Until, alas, revelations of a sex scandal erupted and not even old friend Jerry Falwell's kindly monetary intervention could do anything to keep that PTL Empire from collapsing. They proved between them, with Jim Bakker's silver-tongued platitudes in praise of the Lord, and Tammy Faye's irresistible mascaraed, lash-batting that God had faith in them, so why wouldn't those who worshipped at the alter of tatty Big Box Religion not have faith in Jim and Tammy?

Faith! They also worshipped them, every word that dropped out of their mouths, every promise that erupted from their throats, every inducement and enticement had their irresistible pull. And when Jim Bakker appealed despairingly to his audience that "we need ten thousand dollars a month to stay on air, we're on the verge of bankruptcy, we can't pay our bills", his wheedling weeping distress loosed a waterfall of donations.

But with his failed reputation also came enquiries of the most inconvenient kind from disbelieving, disgruntled supporters. The shame they endured, so sad. Even sadder the five years of imprisonment for embezzlement. But you can't keep a good Man of God down, and here he is once again, surfaced in Missouri, and moving from temporary quarters in a run-down area into a huge new complex newly built for him, a 600-acre complex named Morningside.

It's a start, with more to come. It's nothing like his previous empire, with all of those three thousand employees doing his bidding and that of the Good Lord. The current enterprise boasts a mere 30 employees, but it's on the go. And destined to grow. The same entranced supporters who shelled out big time for "lifetime partnerships" in Heritage USA will do the same for Morningside, and it'll take off like a rocket hurtling into space. And Mr. Bakker will be advanced the same opportunities to divert millions for his personal use.

You'd think, logically, that all those hundreds of thousands of former supporters of this failed televangelist would denounce his feeble attempts at a come-back, disgraced for life, and good riddance. But, none of it. This is Missouri, after all, the "Show Me State", of Missourians thought to be somewhat slow on the take-up and as bright as a tarnished penny. So Jim Bakker is showing them, and they're lapping it all up, delighted he's back in business and entertaining them as only he can.

As one of his ardent supporters claimed, "there's a lot of love left for Jim Bakker". And what does that say about the perspicacity of his followers? Um, guess they deserve one another.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Jewish Connection

Well, that's really good news. That Muqtada al-Sadr has decided, after all, on an extension of the cease-fire he imposed upon his Mahdi militia. While he remains piously incommunicado, in some unknown place in Iran, continuing his religious studies, intent on arriving at a level of learned scholarship to rival that of his deceased - dispatched-by-Saddam - father.

Another six months of declining to clash with American troops in Iraq. Big relief. Really. Fact is there are more than sufficient militias, eager to battle it out with foreign troops in Iraq, so one less to worry about is one less to worry about. And so, it can be anticipated further than the current situation of low-frequency spear-throwing may continue.

And how's this for high-flown rhetoric; the Iraqi government characterizing this new move, along with the al-Sadr movement - which, if one recalls, is questionable in any event, since Muqtada al-Sadr, once a semi-integral part of the government, chose to step down and go his own way, rejecting the Shia-Sunni coalition in favour of battling American troops - as "a cornerstone of the political process on the path to building a new Iraq".

Some path, that. And the really hilarious, if not downright hideously Machiavellian part of this is that Iraqi government security forces, controlled by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq - a Shia militia - has been waging its own low-profile, but exceedingly provocative war of attrition on Muqtada al-Sadr's faithful, arresting them, harassing their families and overall offering goodwill gestures on behalf of the government.

Sunni malovently against Shia, Shia confronting Sunni, all bitter enemies and not to be placated by the simple fact that they are all Muslims, all ethnically, culturally and socially similar, all human beings with the same needs and aspirations. And now - Shia against Shia, where does it end? The implacable hatred evidenced by one sect of that great religion against the other. If they so much detest one another, how to measure their detestation of Jews?

Funny that: Shias hold the ghostly personage of the 12th imam to the most sacred level of belief; that he will one day return to earth from his present mysterious place of residence to which he departed centuries ago and where he remains in a shroud of mystic revelation. Salvation will arrive with his presence, for it is held that on the day of Judgement he will appear among his followers to lead the way.

And with him at that signal time in the future toward which all pious thought is centred? None other than a learned and wise Jewish man, one whose presence on earth, and whose prescriptions for a life well lived have come down through the millennia to inform countless believers in his divinity of the rightness of his message: Jesus Christ.

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How Supremely Incautious Can We Be?

Possibly it's true, that there's one sucker born every minute. I'm in no position to doubt that. Particularly given the numbers of people accommodating themselves to being suckered. No one could possibly be ignorant of the fact that fraud artists are happily at work doing their best to cajole people out of their hard-earned money.

Having a ball doing it, too, it would appear. Since there appears to be no lack of individuals - presumably halfway endowed with sufficient brains to get by in life - who eagerly bite the bait. Not that anyone might wish to suggest that people go through life casting suspicious glances at every approaching stranger, eliminating all correspondence of unknown derivation, anticipating that everyone is out to steal from them.

Just exercise some restraint from compulsive reaction, use one's common sense - if they're imbued with any - above all, don't fall for the approach that riches can be had for little-to-no-effort, other than to be complicit in someoneelse's shady schemes. Greedy buggers.

Hey, there's even a sheepish admission by a columnist in the Lifestyles Section of the newspaper I read, that he wasn't sufficiently diligent in responding to an email from "his bank" and how grateful he was to "his bank" for catching the anomaly, stopping fund transfer, effectively bailing him out of his own moronic sleepwalking.

Sometimes it's encouragement to send money directly for the purpose of qualifying for a much larger amount of money - send it along, chum/p/s, as a goodwill gesture and you'll win the jackpot.

Turns out they're the unhappy Jack sitting on the pot, with no recourse to action in reclaiming their escaped funds. Sometimes it's falling for that old "you won!" come-on, be it a vehicle, a vacation or whatever - again, a goodwill gesture is required and all too many are happy to be compliant.

The really funny thing is that we ascribe to all these losers one dominant fact; they're elderly and not quite fully engaged, a tad shy of full-wittedness. Well, not necessarily, it would appear.

New statistics appear to reveal that about 6 in 10 adults succumb to these silly blandishments to get involved in a neat scheme to rid themselves of their own money. These so-called 'victims' (victims of their own gullibility) report an average of 21 contacts through fraudsters.

Victims claim demands averaging $1,900 from fraud artists; how incautious and trusting can one be to loosen that much cash and send it flying into fraud artists' hands can one possibly be? Losses range the gamut from a few dollars to a whopping $50,000, amounting to an estimated total of $450-million(!) lost on an annual basis. But wait, that's not the most unbelievable part of this.

The victims range across all demographics, from educated to not, wealthy to not, young to elderly. And so much for the hip generation of today, one-third of victims are under age 30, while those over 60 represent a relatively lighter load of idiots, at 13%.

Best of all, those with university degrees and juicy incomes in excess of $100,000 are as readily sweet-talked into compliance as any other groups.

The categories of money-parting fraud are numerous, from sweepstakes fraud to high-pressure sales-pitch vacation frauds; bogus health products and cure frauds, to investment fraud; cheque cashing/money transfer job fraud, to overpayment for sale of merchandise fraud.

They're cunning; you can receive notification in the mail that an unknown relative has died intestate, and lawyers have traced to you as the only living family member. Make a deposit at your bank, under the serial number given in the letter - which, incidentally, is addressed to you, specifically, middle-initial included - and the bulk of the estate will be yours.

Email messages purporting to be from your bank wishing you to confirm certain personal data; just log in to the message line and confirm, thank you very much. Make a modest deposit for a time-share vacation home and everything will be arranged for your dream vacation, ad infinitum.

The big question here is: trusting, or stupid?


Friday, February 22, 2008

Denying Science Its Just Due

Yes, they're right in flagging Canada's dismal record in funding critical scientific enquiry on the environment. Canada has been remiss for decades in adequately funding science projects of all kinds.

We have the scientific expertise, we have built some world-class scientific infrastructure, our universities graduate skilled scientific technologists and brilliant scientific enquirers, but we've become lamentably niggardly in setting aside reliably ongoing funding to ensure that Canadian scientific innovation can continue to percolate.

And the current Conservative-led government hasn't bothered to shine a bright light of support on Canadian scientists, no more than its predecessors.

In fact, they're probably worse in some respects because of their actual withdrawal of needed monetary support from scientific monitoring of environmental situations as a result of global warming, in those very areas where we most need to be aware of what has been happening and what continues to happen, as our weather patterns inexorably change and our atmosphere becomes ever more degraded.

Now none other than the highly respected British journal Nature has published an editorial faulting Canada's current government for its dreadful lack of commitment toward science and the environment. Response from official government sources has been swift and unequivocal; the conclusions are quite simply "incomprehensible" and most certainly "misleading".

On the other hand, Canadian scientists are standing up and shouting "right!". Not at all proud of the fact that the current government is stunting the potential for scientific enquiry and enlightenment on the environment.

After all, if we can't understand what is happening, and why it is occurring, and where the most serious problems arise, then how can we possibly devise a science-based working response in hopes of remediation?

It "has expressed what many of us feel", according to Andrew Miall of the University of Toronto, president of the Royal Society of Canada's Academy of Science.

Dr. Miall and his colleagues have been witnessing the dismantling of scientific advisory bodies, and the dismissal of people vital to science such as chemist Arthur Carty, former president of the National Research Council.

Where most developed and wealthy countries of the world are busy supporting science and technology, Canada's dismal record in ignoring the need for such support is troubling and speaks to a lack of intelligent leadership in this area. The government has been severely truncating budgets for scientific enquiry at a time when we need it most.

While the Canada Research Chairs program is well funded and able to recruit the scientists we need, the funding for applications for scientific programs just isn't there. We've made strides in some areas, notably the Canadian Light Source synchrotron in Saskatoon, yet big-science projects such as this one hardly know where their ongoing funding is going to come from.

Surely a country as well endowed with educated professionals in the fields of science, technology and engineering, can do a lot better that this?

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Cavilling, Forever Nit-Picking

That's what the opposition does; they take their role seriously. Not their role as elected officials in the Parliament of Canada, entrusted to waive personal dislikes and to fairly weigh options that are in the country's best interests, setting aside partisan politics for the greater good. Not that, but to oppose. Oppose what, after all? Well, it would appear just about anything that the party in power, the current government, proposes to dispose.

If it's done neutrally, fairly, with a view to representing the best interests of the country, no one could quibble with that. But when it's straight-out political, in that 'my party of choice has a better agenda than yours', then we're in trouble. The kind of trouble that, for example, Canadian troops face in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, with the very public squabbles between the prime minister of the country and the leader of the official opposition highlighting uncertainty.

Which the Taliban and their backers are only too happy to exploit, as why would they not? If indeed Canada's position in Afghanistan is that tenuous that there is not universal acceptance within the various political parties of our position there and the need for it, then any helpful little nudges on their part may hasten the collectivity to a firmer response, and a pull-out. Leaving the field to the fundamentalist Islamists to repeat their previous administration.

Look, the prime minister is confident that Canada has committed itself morally in defense of eventual normalcy in Afghanistan, along with Canada's NATO partners. That Canada's presence in that country is giving hope for the future, enabling Afghans to discover what their country can attain to. To all those who consider the man intransigently set on his own decision making, Stephen Harper has unsettled his critics by demonstrating that he can listen.

And having done so, and consulted with Liberal leader Stephane Dion, he has chosen to accept key portions of the Liberal position and the alterations they put forward, for the purpose of reaching a consensus. Resulting in a new motion proposing an extension of Canada's mission in Afghanistan, accepting the Liberal ideas, and incorporating them into the larger proposal, clarifying Canada's future focus on reconstruction, development and training.

And setting a firm pull-out date from Kandahar - just what the Liberals have been clamouring for. But now that their demands have been met, they're suddenly uncertain, and to Mr. Harper's statement that "It seems clear that we have moved significantly toward the kind of bipartisan consensus that can be presented to Parliament for ratification", the Liberal defence critic glumly responds it's too precipitate; his party may or may not sign on.

Stephane Dion still intends to grill the prime minister over a five-month disparity in the Liberal- recommended pull-out date (February) and the date the prime minister has indicated (July). The motion will be tabled for debate in the House of Commons, giving the opportunity for a two-day discussion. And this will be a matter of confidence. Defeat the motion and take the country to the polls.

The prime minister gently offered a little reality check to his critics and his larger audience: "If Canada wants to contribute to global security, we will have to participate in UN peace-enforcement missions, not just traditional peacekeeping, as well as intelligence sharing, and and development." The simple fact appears to be that the future may call more frequently upon Canada to take part in more combat missions.

And gruffly outspoken General Rick Hillier warns Canadians that there is a fall-out from this public bickering over Canada's mission in Afghanistan. He doesn't make claim that assaults against Canadian troops owe their stepped-up occurrence to the parliamentary verbal assaults against our presence there, but he does caution that this may be exactly what is occurring.

Where once military adversaries sought to crack coded messages, they now need only to turn to the Internet, to access information freely available for public consumption thanks to our valued freedom of information, and casual airing of our nation's discontent.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Zimbabwe's Dilemma

Zimbabweans, even if they could afford to buy the food they need, find themselves looking at bare shelves in their food markets. The very basic commodities of daily life are simply not available. And they've been given the information that the country's government statisticians have figured that the official inflation rate now stands at over 100,000 percent.

Is that staggering, or not? The wonder is that Robert Mugabe hasn't imprisoned them for outing that data.

But he's in a good mood, things are going along zippingly for him. It's his birthday after all, he's reached the prime old age of 84 in a country whose population cannot begin to approach half that age in their ongoing search for a fulfilling life.

Smoke, anyone? Nice way to relax, forget your problems. That'll cost you $500,000 (Zim/babwe). To put that in perspective, the exchange rate is $8-million (Zim) to the U.S. dollar - and rising.

That awkward imbalance highlighting the perilous descent of the country's finances and future is of no real concern to President Mugabe and his friends, though. They get a very special rate, bearing no resemblance to that imposed on their hapless countrymen. The Mugabe-approved insiders are doing all right for themselves, building huge mansions.

In stark contrast to the impoverished population struggling for existence in their shantytowns. But a nice display will be put on for the president and his cronies in celebration of the great man's birthday. As for the upcoming presidential elections, contested by "traitors" and opponents of his regime, he's not concerned, he's "raring to go, raring to fly"; never give up the ship.

The two rivals within the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by the determined and much-bashed Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara have experienced their own problems, flailing about in disagreement about presenting a united front in facing next month's elections.

In so doing, indelibly bruising their own cause. And up comes the country's former finance minister, Simba Makoni, intent on traitorously unseating his president. Tossing him out of the Zanu-PF hasn't diminished his resolve, and he'll battle on. And he's got a good battle before him, to wage against those notoriously rigged polls.

What seems to be driving Mugabe even more insane than he already is, is the certain knowledge that Mr. Makoni has covert support from within Zanu-PF, and he doesn't know who they are. Nor do they have any intention of tipping their collective hand.

Understandably, since no one likes to bring to themselves the kind of attention that will guarantee them a speedy dispatch from this mortal coil. But the president remains confident nonetheless, that he will not be deposed.

The European Union, Britain, the United States are all waiting with breath bated, ready to pitch in and support and fund a new administration in support of political reform.

Not likely, it would seem, as long as the corruption-prone Zanu-PF becomes reinvigorated with a potential win on the part of Mr. Makoni; far more likely should Morgan Tsvangirai be successful, bringing his MDC party into governance.

All will be revealed.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A New Country - Welcome!

What a furore has erupted over the self-proclamation of statehood for Kosovo. Albanian Kosovars are delirious with joy and triumphant accomplishment. Serbia, Russia, and Serbian Kosovars are apoplectic with anger. Russia and Serbia have been fulminating for months over the intentions of the provisional parliament proclaiming its intent, and seeking an independent seat for nation-recognition in the United Nations.

Both Russia and Serbia have warned, darkly, that this is an illegal act, not to be countenanced, and that were it to be accepted that Kosovo's claim to statehood be seen as a legitimate, sanctioned move, other countries hosting restive ethnic populations could expect to face demands for separation, just as Serbia has. That to give credence and to accept such a unilateral declaration would be tantamount to giving a broader acceptance to the separation aspirations of other groups within sovereign countries.

Well, it's done. Kosovo has declared itself a country, and is busy designing its own flag. It is, after all, comprised of 90% Albanian Muslims, as opposed to a mere 10% Serbian Christians; a sprinkling of others. The European Union had expected its 27-member countries to agree to a blanket welcome to the new country. Oops, there are five dissenting member-countries; unsurprisingly all of them have restively home-grown separatist movements. They agree: illegal.

Is it illegal? Well, it hasn't been authorized by the United Nations for one thing, and therefore is in violation of international law, the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Accords. Additionally, UN resolution 1244 which brought about the end of the NATO-led bombing of Serbia, affirms Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo. Historically and culturally, Kosovo is considered the well-spring of Serbia's past.

The Helsinki Final Act of 1975 clarifies the principles of territorial integrity and state sovereignty alongside that of the inviolability of borders. The clear and concise message being that without the consent of the state involved - in this instance, Serbia - borders cannot be changed - in this case, to suit Kosovo's Albanian population who wish to be independent and sovereign in their own right.

Clearly then, under internationally recognized and agreed-upon legalities, this is an illegal act. But is it an immoral, an unethical act? Clearly not. Seen in the still-simmering hatred evidenced by the former president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic's attempts at ethnic cleansing against his-then Albanian population.

Russia, China, Spain, Romania, Cyprus, Greece and Slovakia, are among many countries of the world facing determined separatist movements at home, not to mention the many in south-east Asia and in African countries - and, of course, in Canada. They'd be shooting themselves in the solar plexus to welcome Kosovo into the fold of sovereign nations.

Yet here's the bulk of the European Union, France, Great Britain and the United States, all rushing to congratulate and defend Kosovo's move. Might there conceivably be another, underlying agenda at play here? Western nations anxious to demonstrate to Muslim countries that they are more than amenable to accepting and working on behalf of Muslims, to the detriment of some Christians.

See? The world is not witnessing an great global, political, social upheaval across religious lines at all. It's not the West against Islam, folks. We love you, truth to tell, but simply cannot abide the ruthless marauding bloodlust of Islamist jihadists.

They'll be the death of us.

Got it?

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Monday, February 18, 2008

The Language of Faith

The most economically impressive, politically stable, socially integrated and universally powerful country in the world is as rent with religious affiliation and dogmatism as the most backward of the world's economically bereft, politically dangerous, socially unstable countries of the world. Isn't that a conundrum?

Not really; it's an expression of basic human need, and human proclivities. Yet for a country that boasts more Nobel laureates and greater scientific and technological break-throughs than any other on earth, one whose 17th Century founders deliberately determined there should be a separation between Church and State, there seem to be more churches in every town and city in the United States than there are libraries, post offices, banks and fire stations.

Only the ubiquitous presence of gas stations outnumbers that of churches, it would seem.

This is indeed a godly people. From moderates to born-agains, evangelicals to televangelists, the United States of America is representative of every mode of worship to the Divine that can be imagined, reflecting their diverse population, a multitudinous mix of peoples derived from countries around the world, gravitating to America to find their fortunes, live their dreams. Or, at the very least, escape the oppressive regimes from whence they originated.

Faith is in the very air that American breathe. Not necessarily the immigrant hordes, with their own quiet observance of foreign-to-America religions, but the old-time faith that the founding peoples brought with them and elaborated upon, giving them an authentic "made in the U.S." stamp. It's been said, and with reason, that anyone can become President of the United States; any of its people can aspire to that grave station.

Oops, atheists and agnostics need not apply. Forget other credentials, nothing, just nothing at all: Nobel award, elevated scholarship, mastery of the fine techniques employed in diplomacy, wizard of economic theory, sociologist extraordinaire; nothing can compensate, even remotely, for the lack of theistic embrace.

For the populace will not have it. Sans godliness there is nothing remotely tolerable let alone acceptable about any candidate for high public office, however talented, however blessed with genius. Talk about cheek!

Any candidate running for office in competition to rally support, must be capable of demonstrating his or her suitability for that post by indicating, unmistakably, their personal pact with God. The successful candidate will prevail upon the voting public by relating their personal and very deep and abiding faith.

Once that has been established, it's smooth sailing to proving to the electorate that their binding faith is superior to that of their opponents. The ability to emote charismatically cannot be overstated.

And here's Barack Obama sweeping the nation with his faith-inspiring call to change. "We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

To those curious onlookers not swept off their feet by the sublime and sweet aura that Mr. Obama exudes, the thought might intrude that there is change, after all, each time a new administration sweeps to power with their unique agendas.

Mr. Obama promises a new kind of change, obliquely, without substance in reality, nor need for explanation; calling, like a true believer, for faith.

That skeptical onlooker might construe the statement "We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.", to be trite prattle. What, exactly, does that mean? It has a mysterious, mythic, promising sound, an empowering premise, and as such wonderfully effective on a matter of faith.

It just doesn't parse so well as an intelligible statement of fact and reality. The messianic message of change; simply have faith, in the deliverer of the faith message, and all will be done as one would wish it.

It's the mass hysteria of born-again politics in a country whose population cleaves to the doctrine of Divine faith as the answer to all of the country's vexing problems, foisted upon them by an inadequate, albeit faith-filled administration.

Good luck.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hitting The Brands

They're in business to make money and they don't care all that much how they do it, but they do squirm when their businesses' good names become besmirched by the charge that they're not behaving like good corporate citizens by selling garbage to kids. Which they've been doing for an awfully long time, without repercussions to either their bottom line or their reputations, until recently.

It has taken an obesity-among-kids revolution to turn the harshly-bright spotlight of public censure on purveyors of almost-food, designed to tempt kids' taste buds through the use of carefully researched chemical preparations. Nutrition? Well, it's food, it fills the gap to satisfy hunger, doesn't it? Some would say to excess. The tastebud-pleasing overuse of salt, sugar, and harmful fats have wrought their damage.

And look here: a children's advertising initiative brought forward from non-profit, self-regulating Advertising Standards Canada has extracted a shame-faced pledge from such food and beverage production and purveying giants as Kellogg Canada Inc., McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Ltd., Nestle Canada Inc., Cadbury Adams Canada Inc. and McCain Foods Canada to cease advertising to children under age 12.

Henceforth all such advertising will be directed to their time-strapped, menu-clueless parents instead. With childhood obesity tipping the scales of public opinion, something had to give. Society cannot, after all, presume to impose upon the producers of ersatz food products conditions that would demand they design better foods, without tampering with the nutritional essence of whole-food products.

No money to be made there. It's where scientific invention transforms ordinary whole foods into almost-food products that tantalize and tease taste-buds of people long unaccustomed to eating good, wholesome foods - where the money is made, hand over fist. Undiscriminating food consumers who can't remember what fresh fruits and vegetables, unadorned fish and poultry sans chemical additives taste like; don't know what to look for in any event.

We don't have the time nor the inclination, let alone the experience and the knowledge to prepare our food properly in the belief that it's too difficult, too time-consuming, too boring. What will actually be accomplished by having corporate brands agreeing to pull in their hefty advertising horns is a moot point. Children will no longer be entertained by cute cartoons extolling the taste virtues of the foods they represent.

Instead their parents will be targeted, and the same types of virtues enticing their children, like taste and texture that bears no resemblance to the food stuffs from which they're derived will win over their parents. Because there's no preparation time, they're convenient, won't spoil, and tempt corrupted palates.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pride Goeth Before The Games

There has been a steady, ongoing rumble out of the West about the Olympic Games' venue in China, a country whose recognition of human rights is slight at best, absent when it affords them certain opportunities and advancements, at its worst. But the prevailing thought, when the Games were awarded, was that an anxious China would begin to see the error of its ways, in its need to present to the world as a premier location for the renowned Games.

Its prestige would rise as the world came to China to take part in the Olympics in the summer of 2008. Visitors to the country would see for themselves how technically advanced, how economically fruitful, how socially responsible, how governmentally respectable the country has become. They would view the games, look about at the splendours of ancient China, joined with its modern equivalent, and admire unstintingly.

And it's true that China has advanced its society in many ways. While spectacularly failing it in so many other, more significant ways. The quality of life in China has suffered exponentially as China has churned up its domestic production in its determination to become the world's trade and export engine. Workers' rights has suffered, the atmospheric conditions inimical to human health and well being have risen; care and treatment of the vulnerable has plummeted.

These are matters internal to China, as China insists. But her external influence which has been withheld in places like Sudan where she could exert that influence beyond a gentle chide, is what has infuriated human rights activists. To the extent that their high-profile and much-admired American trophy figure for the games, Steven Spielberg's bowing out as Olympic ceremonies artistic advisers has dealt a stunning blow to Chinese pride.

A petition desperately urging China's humane intervention in Darfur, signed by a significant number of Nobel laureates didn't crease the brows of China's bureaucracy, nor did the emphatic lobbying of any number of concerned diplomats and celebrities. But Steven Spielberg, yes indeed. Seems he enjoys a highly respected place in the Chinese public's esteem.

A public now expressing consternation and surprise, wondering what on earth distant Darfur's problems have to do with China's hosting of the Olympic Games. And reeling under the snub delivered to their country; their understanding of the situation somehow stunted by their government's information firewall.

Reporters Without Borders offers its opinion: "Every time a journalist or blogger is released, another goes into prison. China's dissidents will probably be having a hard time this summer."

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Deadly Dominoes

As goes one troubled, terror-fraught country, there goes the next. Tumbling, one following the other in a display of inchoate surrender to the final authority of Islamist fundamentalists intent on up-ending all the democratically-inspired advances that weak economies and fragile political systems have managed to present to their people, groaning under the burden of underprivilege, wavering on the edge of intolerant Islamism.

Pakistan is a populous country whose demographics are inclusive of liberal, western thinkers, restive fundamentalist warlords, plaintively democracy-resistant Muslim faithful, and corruption-ridden bureaucratic functionaries, civil servants and high-placed armed forces personnel all espousing their own agendas for self-enrichment to the detriment of the huge and political-weary electorate.

Moreover, Pakistanis in general, while fighting their own internal dissent and the very real threat feared by the more progressive among them of an Islamist coup following a civil war, want no part in the current government's tenuous alliance with the interests of the West. There is a broad agreement among Pakistans that their government should not be assisting in the global war on terror.

Even while their own country presents as the originator, the template, the breeding ground for virulent fundamentalism expressing itself in the call to global Islamist jihad. While the government of Pervez Musharraf is nominally aligned with Western interests, it has seen fit, like its predecessors, to placate the tribal areas supporting the Taliban and al-Qaeda, as long as attacks on Pakistan are forestalled.

Pakistan's military and its government is itself well riddled through with jihadist sympathizers and adherents, and the tender balance is a difficult one to maintain, so the party of Mr. Musharraf is in a tight place, refusing outright to allow foreign troops to enter the troubled border region for fear of an uncontainable backlash. Regardless, support for the PML-Q is at the vanishing point.

And, according to Tahir Amin, professor of international relations at Islamabad's Quaid-a-Azam University, "The more that the U.S. and western powers insist on retaining Pervez Musharraf as president, the crisis in our political system will continue." That's a really hard place to be in; without Musharraf in place the limited alliance will fail.

And as goes Pakistan, so goes Afghanistan; the spread and the ascendancy of fundamentalist Islam will be unstoppable, and so much for the UN-NATO presence in Afghanistan; a fruitless and certain-to-failure effort gone awry. The promised 'free and fair' elections don't look as though they'll become reality in this desperate political landscape.

The admonition that "You are playing with the peace of the world" expressed by a weak and vexed President Musharraf, cannot fall on deaf ears, yet is does, since his own people want to be rid of him and certainly will not vote to further his aspirations to remain in charge of the country. With his absence, it's certain the Pakistan army will no longer respond to U.S. urging to pursue the border presence of Taliban and al-Qaeda.

All the rioting, kidnapping and suicide bombings taking place in the country, in the months leading up to the election - inclusive of the assassination of Mr. Musharraf's leading political opponent - hasn't endeared him any more to the electorate. Much less the certain knowledge that he has designed an election that has been rigged to favour him.

Pakistan knows what it faces. It does not, however, know how to face up to its own rescue. "The future of Afghanistan lies with Pakistan and the security of Pakistan affects the security of the United States." So claimed Mohsin Raza Khan, director of ARY News, Pakistan's second most-watched newscast.

There is a real and growing awareness that if Monday's ballot results in riots the opportunity for that to ripen into an outright civil war might very well further destabilize the country toward complete collapse. And that, domino-effect-wise, would most certainly "affect the whole world".

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Palestinian Myths Abroad

Labelling Israel an Apartheid state, and by logical wider extension, Jews as racists, represents yet another riff on that old blood-sport of anti-Semitism, appearing under yet another guise.

How best to enlist the support of anti-Semites everywhere, than to stick the Jews with the very label that they have always fought strenuously against, when it applied themselves, or to other minorities. Adopt and adapt a loathsome term to describe your enemies and the liberal fascisti of the academic world clasp it to their bosom.

Jews have always been sensitive to any vestiges of racial discrimination, wherever it appears, whomever it targets, for they've long been accustomed to being the targets of that very same dreary pathology, passed along from one generation to another.

From the imposition of ghettos, to expulsions and denials of civil rights; from forced renunciations of faith and the life-saving embrace of others; from pogroms to the Final Solution, Jews are very familiar with the scourge of racial apartheid.

They do not, however, and never have practised it. Only suffered through the viral victimization of its practise wherever they have settled in the great millennias-long diaspora. Jews have always been in the forefront of activism in support of human rights.

The savage irony here is that the very disease they have so long fought, both on their own behalf and that of others, is now being skilfully used to slander them.

A public relations smear that first raised its ugly presence in Great Britain where academics eagerly took to the idea of isolating their Israeli peers for the perceived sins of their state has spread its noxious roots elsewhere. An academic boycott of Israeli academics and scientists has morphed an offshoot represented by Palestinian efforts to poison the minds of liberal-minded scholars as "Israeli Apartheid Week".

Now Canadian universities too can boast their compliance with Arab student activism in delighting to smear the reputation of a state and a people for whom the very notion of apartheid is anathema. Engaging the interests of left-leaning students and their supporters, along with a cadre of professors who find the very idea of blaming Israel for the ongoing, seemingly-insolvable problem of peace between Israel and the PA a fine way to while away the time.

The University of Toronto took out a full-page advertisement in one of Canada's national dailies to piously explain its position in permitting the presence of this sordid event at the university by declaring itself open, as an institute of higher learning, to all manner of questioning debates; better to keep it in the open, and air it, than spurn it as unworthy of debate.

This high-minded attitude is shared in Montreal, Ottawa and Hamilton with universities there happy to oblige the happy event.

A keynote speaker at the University of Toronto, Palestinian Member of the Israeli Knesset, Dr. Jamal Kahalka explained "Israel is implementing apartheid policies in Palestine by building the apartheid separation wall, bypass roads for Jews only in the West Bank, restrictions on movement of Palestinians, hundreds of check points, in addition to the siege and daily violations of basic human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza."

His politically entitled position as a member of the Israeli Knesset, means that he will be listened to with respect. Yet as a politically empowered citizen of Israel he chooses not to mention the reason for the detested wall, the bypass roads, and checkpoints, for they happen to be dreadfully awkward inconveniences to counter his message.

The wall prevents further suicide incursions, as do the checkpoints; the bypass roads have become a way by which Israelis attempt to escape attacks on their vehicles and their persons by militant PA residents. All these attempts to isolate would-be suicide-bombers and murderers have been undertaken by necessity; how else to protect innocent civilians?

The simple fact remains that Israel does not and can not exist as other than a state under siege. That the country is constantly on the alert for suicidal incursions, terrorists planting explosives in people-sensitive areas such as crowded markets, popular restaurants and hotels where large numbers of Israelis are wont to gather, accounts for its need to exercise caution.

The fact that suicide bombers, before the wall, were able to gain access to vulnerable civic gathering points and murder dozens of innocent people, speaks to the need for walls and checkpoints. The too-common occurrence of innocent-appearing individuals boarding buses and blowing themselves up alongside others on the bus, no longer occurs.

The wall and the checkpoints have proven to be extremely effective in hugely lessening the deadly assaults. Assaults which continue in other areas, on Israel's border with Gaza, where Kassam rockets are daily launched into adjacent Israeli towns and villages.

The reality is, however, that Palestinians living in Israel are Israeli citizens, with all the rights and privileges of other Israelis. As the presence of Palestinian MKs attest, they have the right to elect representative Palestinians to the Israeli Knesset. One such Palestinian MK is, in fact, a member of the Israeli Cabinet.

The State of Israel stands proud in the geography of the Middle East as a liberal democracy.

Where all of its citizens: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Baha'is and Druze have equal rights under the law. Freedom of association and freedom of speech and freedom of the press is evident, with Palestinian MKs free to express views in the Knesset actually inimical to the future, safety and security of the state.

Publication of Arab-language and -concerns newspapers exists in stark contrast to what pertains in neighbouring states.

Freedom of religion is protected in the country. Any citizen is free to petition the Israeli Supreme Court on a presumed matter of basic rights violations by any government body. Aside from Hebrew, Arabic has official language status in the country. All official documents are published in Arabic as well as Hebrew; likewise for road signs and entertainment films through subtitling.

An Arab judge sits on the bench of the Supreme Court. Druze and Arabs are represented in the senior ranks of the Israeli army. Arab soccer players are important participants in Israeli soccer teams. The Hadassah Hospital boasts one-third of its staff as Arab. The Israeli Arab population has complete and equal accessibility to all Israeli universities.

The country's legal system recognizes Muslim shariah law, alongside Christian cannon law, Druze law and Jewish talmudic law.

Does this sound even remotely like a repressive, racist country with an agenda that favours only its Jewish citizens?

Although Israel is a country whose birth gave safe harbour to Jews, whose very purpose is that singular safeguard against other countries' laws and political and ideological purpose designating Jews as inferior, as has been done in countries throughout the Middle East, and most catastrophically in Nazi German, she also offers equality to others.

Myths often have some substance, dim though they are, in fact. In the instance of Israel being slammed by ignorant academics as racist, in keeping with their inner embrace of viral anti-Semitism, the substance has been turned inside out.

This attempt to name and shame, blame and boycott, is a game for ardent anti-Semites to enjoy themselves to the fullest in the safety and respect given them through the institutions they represent. As institutes of higher learning, of questing for truth and fact, this mission has been smudged by its own racist ideology.

And more's the pity.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008


What's to complain about? Finally, the Republican party in the United States appears ready to nominate a candidate for president of their country who may be interested in performing worthwhile actions on behalf of the country. And all of its people, not merely the haves.

Heaven knows, America could use some help right about now, given its pathetic state of self-doubt, so unlike America.

Mired in a miserable war it imposed on another country's people, a war that is costing its treasury painfully huge debt, much to the delight of other countries, like China. Complacent in its erstwhile economic plenitude and eager to haul the underclass into the American dream of home ownership, something went awry on the oversight, and now there's economic collapse.

Bad enough that millions of Americans cannot afford decent medical care, nor take comfort in medical insurance in the event of personal health catastrophies. Plain painful that huge multinationals with their huge advertising and public relations leverage over peoples' common sense, inform government.

Now here's a candidate who actually has a conscience, some thought for the underbelly of society, the working poor, those who struggle daily to achieve a bare minimum of requirement to sustain their undernourished, under-housed, under-educated, underprivileged families. At least it appears - somewhat - that way.

Yet here's some social curmudgeon of a capitalist neo-conservative, writing in The New Republic to wring his metaphoric hands in despair and contempt over the Republican-seditious bent of the man. Citing his co-operation with John Edwards and Ted Kennedy in co-sponsoring a patients' bill of rights. Good on him!

Grieving over John McCain's having co-sponsored a bill with Chuck Schumer allowing the re-importation of prescription drugs and another permitting wider sales of generic alternatives - all fiercely contested by President Bush and his cronies. Understandably; what do they care that Americans pay more for prescription drugs than any other nation on earth?

Lament that Senator McCain teamed with Carl Levin on bills closing down tax shelters and requiring businesses that give out stock options as compensation to reveal the cost to their stockholders. Ha! More power to him; less power to all those wealth-inspired tax shelters, and sneaky businesses seeking other ways to replenish their power base without informing stockholders.

Measures bitterly opposed by big business? Damn right they would be. And the person on the street is supposed to be fed up with John McCain for his stance on one occasion after another to go to bat for the little guy at the expense of corporate interests?

A break, give us a break.

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Prince of Terror

Ding Dong, the prince is dead,
The wicked, wicked prince is dead!

Simply put, his time had come. The master manipulator of strategic terror was taken by that other of his own league, the Prince of Death.

Aided, of course, by those sworn to avenge the hundreds of his victims who suffered unspeakable torture and viciously casual death.

He ran and he hid, with the ample support of disguise and safe harbour offered him by his admirers and supporters. Those to whom his death bespeaks tragedy. Those for whom the deaths of countless others reflects a nonchalant yet triumphant victory in their shared jihad.

His end was guaranteed by the sheer weight of blood staining him, yet sustaining his heroic presence among his deadly tribe.

If it was indeed skilled Israeli covert agents who planned his timely dispatch, the message is apt. Out of a perfect score of ten, 4 allotted to a simple fulfillment of a vow to bring to justice the evil mastermind of destroyed lives.

Another 4 to deliver a successful message that Israel can and will reach into the darkest, most remote and seemingly protected spaces to expunge her deadly enemies. The remaining 2 represent another message: there is an alternative; accept the country's presence.

Cease the course of mutual destruction.

This is the epitome of a rough neighbourhood. The geography replete with totalitarian, dysfunctional states and deadly, roaming militias bent on slaughter. Interspersed with nations struggling to lift themselves into the 21st Century.

How to survive in such an unforgivingly brutal atmosphere, other than to employ and perfect upon tactics reflecting those of one's deadly adversaries?

The prevailing mantra in Arab Muslim societies blaming Israel, the Jews, and Zionists on their own social backwardness, economic failures and political dystopias must stop.

Life is more than a race to the finish line.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Changing Times, Changing Lives

In free, liberal democracies there are some issues that really are sacrosanct. The freedom of expression, of association, of religion, of social debate, of political association, for example.

The freedom to express one's opinion as long as it does not go beyond the realm of reasonable apprehension, so long as one does not slip into malicious slander as an expression of hate, inimical to social order and injurious to individuals or groups singled out for censure on the basis of religion, ideology, ethnicity, gender.

Those are reasonable parameters. Giving us ample space to prattle on about our perceptions, moderately and even ironically expressing opinions about everything on earth. These are freedoms guaranteed us as members of free societies where the rule of law represents both our restraints as civil beings and our entitlements as responsible social beings.

Which is why - when one group takes action to stifle, blame and condemn another for a public expression that is in its essence, supportable by evidence, reality, even absurdity through hypocrisy - we are puzzled and affronted, and declare ourselves unwilling to accept what can only be construed as an attempt to waylay our freedoms.

So it's nice to know that Calgarian and Muslim leader Syed Soharwardy, acting for the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada has decided to withdraw the complaint lodged with the Alberta Human Rights Commission against former publisher of the Western Standard, Ezra Levant. Because, Mr. Soharwardy states, he now realizes how precious is that right to freedom of expression in Western society.

That Mr. Levant chose to publish a series of controversial cartoons originating in Denmark - and which caused a violent convulsive backlash across the Muslim world, resulting in deaths, destruction of property, threats against the publisher of the Danish newspaper that originally published the cartoons, and death threats against the cartoonists - was an expression of his personal defiance against the vicious unreasonableness of Muslim anger.

Particularly in light of the fact that most other Canadian media were sufficiently cowed by the potential danger inherent in outraging Muslims who claim such ironic cartoon depictions of that which they hold holy to have abstained from publishing. Claiming that they had no wish to offer offence to Muslims.

In the process eschewing in the most cowardly fashion, to perform their duty to publish all newsworthy items; duties they don't shirk when it comes to other religious faiths being lampooned.

In the meantime, Mr. Levant was forced to defend himself. Hauled before a human rights commission to explain his position, as a Canadian with rights which appear to have been illegally revoked by a quasi-judicial body responding to an irate complaint from a witlessly humourless fundamentalist religious body.

His on-line magazine was closed as funding became tight in his need to pay legal fees. A year of his life was stolen.

On balance, it might be said he hasn't suffered all that much, in comparison to Danish cartoonists whose caricatures published in Jyllands-Posten earned them fatwas and the country a crippling economic boycott of its goods and trade. Certainly not in comparison to Kurt Westergaard, one of the dozen cartoonists behind the incendiary Muslim tirades and threats.

Three men intent on murdering him were just brought into custody. In respect of which Mr. Westergaard says "Of course I fear for my life after the Danish security and intelligence service informed me of the concrete plans of certain people to kill me. However, I have turned fear into anger and indignation. It has made me angry that a perfectly normal everyday activity which I used to do by the thousand was abused to set off such madness.

"I could not possibly have known how long I would have to live under police protection. I think, however, that the impact of the insane response to my cartoon will last for the rest of my life. It is sad indeed, but it has become a fact of my life." His satirical drawing of the Prophet Mohammad sporting a stick of dynamite atop his turban was not appreciated by the Muslim community for whom any depiction of the Prophet is considered sacreligious.

As with Mr. Soharwardy who claims now to understand the backlash against his group's complaint on the basis of freedom of expression, the chairman of the Organization of the Islamic Faith in Denmark proclaims his organization to consider the cartoon issue "closed".

The fact that Mr. Westergaard and his co-cartoonists have suffered and continue to do so, that people were killed as a result of their having deliberately, and with aforethought brought the matter before the international Muslim community ultimately resulting in the violence that occurred, appears to trouble them not at all.

Mr. Levant has other ideas. He plans to sue the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and Mr. Soharwardy. He will launch a protest of his own, a civil lawsuit through which he intends to recover the tens of thousands he has had to spend defending himself as a result of the complaint lodged against him.

He has no hopes of recovering lost time, but his equanimity, combativeness and resourcefulness in the face of injustice remain intact.

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Kudos To Both...

How usefully illuminating to finally see that Stephane Dion and Stephen Harper are capable of stepping beyond partisan bickering, to form a tentative, albeit tenuously-single-issue alliance of co-operation. What a breath of fresh air in a stale atmosphere of shrill reproach and even-tempered contempt.

Reasonable will do it every time. Bringing dissenting opinion - born as much of stubborn dislike of one another's policies and personas and encouraging truly asinine and juvenile complaints to erupt giving no credit to the dignity of their positions and the importance of their decisions on the national scene - to its timely end.

Giving the media more than ample opportunity to mock and crow about divisiveness, lack of leadership and dereliction of parliamentary gravitas. Now, after all the pundits' disclosure of what they don't know collectively, but what they nonetheless prophesy in unwelcome election calls popping up like early springtime garden bulbs, we find mutual respect being evinced.

The prime minister and the leader of the official opposition have stepped down from their rhetorical soap-boxes replete with aggressive rhetoric on wars and non-wars to take up the mantle of statesmen. Compromise is, after all, possible. Dignity can be restored to the proceedings.

A recalcitrant Stephane Dion succumbed to the logic and reason offered him in quiet consultation with his chief policy advisers, a redoubtable trio of two seasoned politicians and an academic quick-study. Who managed, between them, to remove the blinders and the head-set from their leader's determined opposition toward Afghanistan, and invest him with the clear-headedness of reality.

They are now agreed to a two-year extension of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, however conditionally, to 2011. The very nature of the military commitment in Kandahar province is yet to be completely understood, but when Mr. Stephane can muster the courage to reverse himself to the extent that he can say that the Liberals did not intend to "micromanage" troops on the ground, it's an expression of a complete turn-about.

Yes, it most certainly should be up to Canada's politicians, its elected legislature, to determine Canada's commitment, the positioning of its troops, but it can only logically be the military hierarchy itself which can reasonably determine how best to implement the troops' purpose, mode of action, and goals while stationed there.

The prime minister states that the Conservatives and the Liberals have reached near-to-common ground on their respective positions, after a harrowing period of pertinacious dissent and verbal assassinations more in keeping with a schoolyard disagreement than proceedings in the House of Commons. He is himself open, he declared, to considering Mr. Dion's altered ideas.

For Stephane Dion now appears to admit to the necessity of some measure of combat operations by Canadian forces, though they speak specifically to the issue of training or security duties. On the other hand, what the troops are currently engaged in on an ongoing operation can most certainly be described as security duties.

It's an unfortunate but very necessary place for Canadian troops to be stationed in Afghanistan, in the most difficult-to-subdue part of the country, but we are there, and we are committed, and that is the reality.

Nice to know that Mr. Dion got the essential message. Good for him.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Preamble to Terror...?

We've long been made aware that some societies and cultures see nothing amiss in stimulating children's imaginations by suffusing their minds with attitudes and impressions that other societies find atrociously childhood-destroying. Take, for example, the Palestinian Authority, currently bargaining with Israel for an end to their long destructive war of attrition, and suing for a peace that will bring a nascent state for Palestinians into existence alongside that of the Jewish State. Living thereafter in eternal peace and trust.

Sounds very neighbourly and certainly about time that the two populations began to treat one another with the respect due each, to engage in a trusting relationship that can only benefit them both for the future. And then reality rears its ugly head in a world where nothing appears to be as it should. A world where young children are exposed to a PA-sponsored television show that teaches them hatred and revenge as a way of life.

That show, Tomorrow's Pioneers, teaches, through impassioned rote and clever cartoon characters, that Israel is an illegal presence, having stolen land from the Palestinians; that Tel Aviv is Arab and requires liberation through terror action. A child is prompted to respond to the query, what is Tel Aviv? "It's our city: Tel-Rabia, but the Zionists today call it Tel Aviv, but it will stay ours, and we will return with Allah's will. We will continue the resistance."

There is a catchy little tune with children singing, "We will never recognize Israel...", and the child hostess reminding her viewers of the imperative to "liberate our homeland from the Zionist filth", and the stage is set in childhood to attain to martyrdom in response to the overwhelming cause of the Palestinian people. The map displayed on PA television demonstrates an absence of the state called Israel; only Palestine is named there.

Children are easily led and inspired to believe what they are told. Their innocence is exploited handily by those who see them as useful, expendable tools for the future. Making childhood fascination, a childhood sense of justice and that child's place in the order of things a certain indication of adult interest in prolonging and expanding upon the call upon them to dedicate to the cause.

Childhood fascination becomes the preamble to adult aspirations.

As far abroad as Canada, a University of Toronto student has posted Internet messages supporting and encouraging attacks against Canadian military forces stationed in Afghanistan. Urging jihadists, and budding terrorists to see Canadian soldiers as legitimate killing targets: "...now it is POSSIBLE AND LEGITIMATE!" wrote Salman Hossain.

And although the authorities have been alerted and are watching this would-be jihadist and terror-encourager closely, no move has been made to shut down his hateful screed on the Internet site where he contributes. We are such a tediously complacent and forgiving lot. Other Muslim students at the campus have taken steps to remove themselves from his odious remarks, although they haven't come right out in condemning them.

Sometimes, however, these terror-aspirants cannot be totally ignored. Their deadly encouragement on the Internet, their complicity in planning terror attacks, and their total commitment to jihad is too seriously suicidal for any country to tolerate. And thus it has proven finally to be for Said Namouh, who settled himself innocuously in a backwoods area northeast of Montreal.

This dedicated al-Qaeda supporter was skilled in producing battlefield and weapons instructional videos - an invaluable aid to terrorists wishing to propagate their vision of Islamist justice meted out to deserving infidels. In Trois-Rivieres, Mr. Namouh edited the Global Islamic Media Front videos threatening Western countries, with a view to inspiring world-wide terrorism.

Those videos were given prominent display on the Caliphate Voice channel, one of al-Qaeda's most pernicious propaganda groups. "With regards to security ... I don't think there is a danger. Thanks to God, there is no suspicion", he wrote to one of his many contacts. Even while his activities were being monitored and he was being followed.

Police took action, finally, to apprehend him when they became convinced he was making preparations to leave Canada for the purpose of carrying out a car bombing overseas; possibly, they theorized, in the Palestinian territories. "My great dream", he wrote in a posting, "is to become a martyr at your side".

Thus do children become convinced and ultimately, convicted terrorists.

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Unaware Idiocy

Canadians represent a fairly intelligent, aware and engaged population. We're also kind of self engaged in the sense that we appear to think more highly of ourselves than we should, in fact. Certainly when it comes to the usual Canadian response to anything American, we're more than slightly lacking.

In that we have a tendency to feel ourselves superior in just about any way to Americans. Better balanced, more tolerant, infinitely more knowledgeable about the world at large.

And while some of that may be true some of the time, sometimes it's really not. Fact is, we're no different, little better, and insecure to boot. No one could accuse Americans of insecurity.

They know who they are and they're proud of it, even though they don't always agree with one another. Canadians tend to be more than a little smug about ourselves. Americans are just overbearing about their visioning of themselves in the greater world.

They have no need to become more informed about the rest of the world, since they are, after all, Americans. And, fact is, the world travels to the U.S., not the other way around, for help whenever they get themselves in deeper problems than they can manage. And everything American just happens to fascinate the world at large; they're bigger than life, and won't let you forget it.

Well, that's them. And there's us. Canadians are more interested in what happens on the international scene, we like to be informed. Accordingly, our news media does their best to cover foreign affairs and to keep us up to date; it's no less than we expect of them.

Environics Research was recently commissioned to do a poll and what they found was both revealing and depressing.

Let's see now: 63% of Canadians believe that their country has more influence in the world than 20 years earlier. Canadians appear to believe that peacekeeping represents Canada's most vital international contribution. And we also believe that we are inordinately generous with international contributions, including foreign aid. And important too in other ways, as demonstrated by our much-vaunted multiculturalism and immigration rates.

Trouble is, we're a tad slow on upgrading our knowledge base, because Canada hasn't been actively engaged anywhere in the world in peacekeeping missions for decades. We have, however, been engaged in NATO-sponsored activities where our armed services have been doing low-grade monitoring of an elusive peace which has had the unfortunate side-effect of bringing them directly into conflict situations - where, fortunately, our troops have acquitted themselves very well.

As they continue to do now, in Afghanistan, in yet another UN-NATO mission, this one to combat a Taliban resurgency, and to assist Afghanistan in developing itself as a functioning democracy. As for international contributions, we're a middling middle power and likely will always remain so. Nothing wrong with that; Canada has chosen not to seek power, per se. And foreign aid? Hide our collective heads: we're donating less now to foreign aid than ever we have; 50% less than 30 years ago.

Influential on the world stage? We did make some stabs at that in an earlier era, when, post prime ministership, Pierre Elliot Trudeau busied himself frantically travelling all over the world as a Canadian emissary for peace. He soon stopped his frenetic travelling; no one seemed very much interested. There was, of course, the later Canada-led move to ban the use of landmines. And even later, the Canada-sponsored "need to protect" vulnerable populations.

Just about the most appalling poll statistic was one that indicated fully 52% of Canadians feel convinced the United States is "the most negative force in the world today". Now how about that bit of judgement? We pride ourselves in being knowledgeable, in understanding world affairs, in keeping up to date on the news, yet we casually pass by the danger to the world order represented by rogue states like Iran and North Korea and point instead to the U.S.

Canadians: complacent and self-congratulatory.

Something is screwed on backwards.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Miring One's Foot Deeply In Offal

Why is it that ecclesiastics of high standing and repute simply cannot resist impulsive oratory taking them well beyond their sphere of responsibility to their flock? Everyone has opinions, of course, and those with the position of one such as the Archbishop of Canterbury succumb to the belief that their mode of reasoning and of introspection and of observation is impeccable and beyond doubt.

It may well be so, when they reserve their comments to that which they know best.

But perhaps, in the case of Dr. Williams' recent musings on the place of Islamic sharia law eventually receiving recognized legal status in some areas of marriage and inheritance, his confidence in his ability to synthesize experience and observation was a trifle misplaced. Had the subject been of such fascination to him, a wiser, more prudent man might have seen the value of seeking more directly expert opinion.

Say, for example, Muslim women happy to live in England where their legal rights are assured in equality under Britain's laws. He might have sought to interview women who, although living in Great Britain where universal suffrage and equality under the law is assured its citizens, still are exposed to living miserably in community-imposed versions of shariah.

But Britain is a peculiar place, truth to tell. While bigamous relations are clearly seen as belonging to the criminally social sphere under its laws, officialdom is capable of overlooking its presence when it presents as polygamy, permitted by Islam. So much so that additional welfare, council housing permissiveness and tax benefits may be claimed.

Speak, Dr. Williams, to the multiple-extra wives, entitled under that little relaxation of laws through efforts at accommodation, where the funds go ... directly into their "husband's" bank account. "Some sort of" recognition of shariah law for Muslims living in Britain will effectively ensure that Muslim women continue to be chattel.

Is this the essence of accommodation, to accept the presence of an alien culture unwilling to surrender traditions of long standing however inimical in their practise to 50% of that signal demographic, ensuring they may not, through this special provision, be assured of equal status under Britain's parliamentary laws of long and honoured tradition?

Archbishop Williams will not apologize to those among his congregation, much less his wider audience in Great Britain, over his musings on the reflection of accommodation of a religion's laws, some of which run counter to the prevailing culture, social mores and laws of the land. "I believe quite strongly that it is not inappropriate for a pastor of the Church of England to address issues about the perceived concerns of other religious communities, and to try and bring them into better public focus."

The country's prime minister begs to differ. According to Gordon Brown, it is not "inevitable" that elements of sharia law should become part of the British legal system. Of course, in the due course of time, it may very well come to pass that certain elements of sharia law would become part of the British legal system - but, on studious reflection - it should not. Unless Britain also may choose in the not-too-distant future to submit to Islam, itself.

Archbishop Williams' predecessor was not amused, considering such a thought, much less the likelihood of it ever coming to pass, to represent a situation which would be "disastrous for the nation". Dr. Williams' idly-conscientious comments have had the unfortunate effect of stirring up potentially more social conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Interestingly enough, Labour MP Khalid Mahmood has urged Dr. Williams to step down: "It was incredibly crass and naive for the Archbishop to say what he did. If he doesn't go then, at the very least, his advisers should." This is a British MP whom British Muslims love to hate, one whose integration into British mores and acceptance of British law and customs has brought censure upon him.

An on-line petition to force his resignation was undertaken by his Muslim detractors, outraged by his commitment to the country as a Brit, not as a Muslim. He is faulted for not having voted against the Iraq war, for voting for the terrorism bill, for not supporting wearing the hajib by schoolgirls, for criticizing Muslim groups who would not attend Holocaust Memorial Day.

He has earned the contempt of Muslims for not representing Muslim "feeling and opinion". Along with some other Muslim MPs and peers, he stands accused of supporting the country's political parties and the government.

But Dr. Williams feels "If we can attempt to speak for the liberties and consciences of others in this country - as well as our own - we shall, I believe, be doing something we as a church are called to do in Christ's name".

Does that include surrendering the autonomous and indigenous laws of the land?

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Confidence: Nothing Quite Like It

The game's afoot, and what seemed, only several months ago, a tediously long, drawn-out process has miraculously been transformed into a fascinatingly tedious, long-drawn-out process. The U.S. presidential primaries has engaged, infuriated and compelled its audience.
They focus on reading all the exhaustive explanations and descriptions and prognostications all the political pundits cared to reveal.

In the process exhausting peoples' patience with the absurdities inherent in the process and within the repeated candidates' declarations of sterling intent and experience that places them head and shoulders above their competitors. Political passions have been unleashed, and the zeal of partisan supporters for their candidates of choice is both uplifting and irritating; depending upon one's own personal choices.

And while the Republican campaign has speedily narrowed its choice in the best of all possible promises for their future in a candidate who appears to embody the choicest characteristics of a patiently decent human being who has experienced a good deal and come out of the harrowing of his life with a world view that can only be good for the country, the Democrats struggle in what has become a surprising dead heat.

And what's the first signal that a winning campaign has come up against an immovable object? What does a sport team of high repute and immense popularity do when its winning streak has been impossibly muted by a series of losses? Why, fire its manager, its coach and hire more promising specimens. That Hillary Clinton has taken that route sounds a death knell to her aspirations.

And Barack Obama is standing taller than his mortal height at the moment, while promising to gain height as his supporters heft him higher and higher on his winning momentum. He's telling them what they need to hear, to inspire them toward a new, a different country. They've become sick of what their country has aspired toward and sadly, achieved.

They don't have the answers to make themselves well again, and neither does he. But he's promising to find them, to find a new direction and make the required changes. He believes in himself, and they believe in him. All one needs is confidence and the ability to enthuse and inspire, and confidence becomes transformed into success.

There will never be an Obama-Clinton ticket. And, good a candidate as he is, there will not be a President McCain any time soon. He fought the good fight, however. Imagine: Even President Bush has endorsed Mr. McCain - kind of. Much as he has slagged Mr. Obama for intimating he would "attack Pakistan and embrace Ahmadinejad".

This is the U.S. president who thought fit to wage a war his father before him declined. Something about a father-son complex where the son sets out to demonstrate to his father his ability to outdo him, and in the process restore his personal sense of dignity, integrity, honour. An extremely costly little conceit that has cost many lives.

A process and a set of military procedures that has seen many who helped launch it fall by the way; some, like Colin Powell, who might have deserved better if he had known better. An unfortunate decision that has cost the U.S. treasury dearly.

And given that it was under this Republican president's watch that the American economy seems somehow to have found itself near collapse, and given that the U.S. military finds itself mired in an unpleasantly malodorous stew of societal collapse and fratricidal frenzy, and given that the United States holds a leaden burden of debt, there is a price to pay.

Ready or not, here comes the first black man to assume the mantle of President of the great United States of America.

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