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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lifestyle Choices and Other Sins

So no one's perfect. We know that. Most people would hardly hazard to encourage the perception in others that they personally represent perfection. We all have our failings. Our little peccadilloes, our idiosyncrasies, our demented little pleasures which, guilt-ridden, we practise in stealth, far from prying eyes. Thing is, if you're a public figure there is no way on this Earth that untidy little secrets can be kept from the public eye.

Take, for example, the image in today's society, of a cigarette-smoking public figure. It just isn't on. Where once it was considered to be the sign of sophistication, worldliness, to see a character actor smoking in a film, is now considered extremely bad taste. Knowing now what we do about the nasty health effects of tobacco, how life-shortening it is in its cancer-inducing propensities, most advanced societies eschew its practise, campaign against public smoking.

It's become semi-illicit, as a questionable habit, considered self-destructive, a blight, a burden for a public health system. Odd, that. In that at one time gambling was strictly forbidden in most societies, seen as an evil. It, like tobacco, happens to be severely addictive; less so to some, all-consuming in its addictive qualities to others. Responsible for social disorder, bankruptcies, suicides.

Yet in many societies now, including those of North America, there is now state-sanctioned gambling, a means by which governments raise money, other than through taxation. Excise tax on cigarettes are a punishment, a means by which smokers, addicted to their daily weed, enrich government coffers. Gambling now, in state lotteries, in the establishment of government-approved casinos and other venues, has been legalized and has become a real cash cow for governments at all levels.

And for charities, as well. Ironic, isn't it, that health-related charities, like hospitals, or charitable enterprises that raise funds through charitable giving, enabling them to fund disease and health-related research, have now also taken to running lotteries to enrich their take, as well. Gambling, like smoking, is an unfortunate social disease. Entrapping people with a predisposition to either of those vices. It's difficult to stop, once started.

Somewhat like those who abuse 'recreational' drugs, or alcohol. Yet society and the laws that governments impose upon their societies come down hard on addicts of drugs and of alcohol. Both represent a real danger to society at large in the pursuit of their addictions' satisfaction. By comparison, smoking and gambling appear as junior offenders, acceptable in polite company, to a degree.

Holy mackerel! As though Senator John McCain hasn't enough problems in the weeks left before the U.S. presidential election, what with the Republican administration- inspired financial meltdown, his unfortunate choice of an untried and inappropriate vice-president, now it's been revealed that he long ago succumbed to gambling. Taking his pleasure at craps, and going on regular binges.

Well, it's his life, and it's to be lived as he wishes. Who would deny anyone their pleasures in life? Um, a picky electorate, already insecure in the promise of a 72-year-old aspiring to lead that great country for a four-year term, in very troubled times? And, needless to say, should something unfortunately untoward shorten the man's life-span, who steps in? Not a very inspiring picture.

Senator Barak Obama, step right up there. You're leading in the public opinion polls, not tainted with the administrative rubbish attributed to the Republican party, and your investiture as the Most Powerful Man On Earth, would please many. At least initially. Until the burden of the position wore you down - say about February of 2009? Guess you'd need to relieve some of that tension.

Go from a three-cig-a-day habit say, to a pack-a-day? Your choice, Marlboro Man.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Another Reason Why

Canadians, along with other westernized countries of the world that have agreed to join the UN- and NATO-led forces attempting to establish normalcy in Afghanistan - that part of the world where what we think of as 'normal' has eluded the country from time immemorial - now have yet another reason to cite, as requiring our presence, our own sacrifices.

It's been said that to kill off the Taliban, or the ambitions of the Taliban, that resurgent, determined, element of fundamentalist Islamists, fifty percent of the population of Afghanistan would have to be eliminated. The Taliban are legion; there are their mullahs, utterly devoted to rigid theocratic rule, their battle-hardened mujahadeen, and countless rural peasants who have been pressed into service.

There are those who inspire them to action through their common goal, to bring fundamentalist Islam under shariah law to as wide a geographic spectrum throughout the world as possible, through global jihad. Central to the belief of inspired domination is the certainty that there are no other religions, simply those that pose to represent the will of false gods.

All of which are degraded, and whose worshippers simply devote themselves to false and misleading deities, and whose customs and values, moreover, are degenerate and highly unworthy of retention. Those who are not done away with in the larger sweep to Islamic power, must be forced to swear fealty to Islam. Al-Qaeda is the leading exponent, admired and sheltered by the Taliban.

Those who resist their cause are justly scheduled for obliteration. And that includes teachers of children, if not the children themselves; girls who aspire to become educated and become in turn, leaders of their communities. When education is denied boys and girls, and boys are taught within the confines of a madrassa in a language not their own, to worship Allah and reject worldly values, the Taliban win.

Women, since the fall of the Taliban regime, are now able to fend for themselves in the workplace; where before they were consigned to a life of poverty and gradual starvation. Their resistance against which earned them torture and death. The country's governing body now has among its legislators, a good proportion of women, determined to represent the best interests of the country at large, and women and children in particular.

Greed and corruption remain rife, and possibly always will, but perhaps to a more graduated, lesser degree, as Afghan-style democracy takes hold. The Taliban know this and they will never agree to forego their aspirations to take back the country and rule it once again as they did before, availing themselves of the opportunity to impoverish the people and dominate women and children.

As symbols go, apart from the presence of female Afghan legislators, what could be more powerfully offensive to the Taliban and their interests than a senior female police officer, accomplished and highly respected? A career that Lt.-Col. Malalai Kakar began years earlier, interrupted by the ascendancy of the Taliban, then resurrected when they were ousted by international forces.

"We killed Malalai Kakar. She was our target, and we successfully eliminated our target." Militant Islam respects only those women who remain vulnerable and as such complicit in their own misery, for they have no other choice.

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Please Who Exactly?

Each of the political parties running for election in Canada's 2008 general election has its critics. Interesting to read the bitter criticism coming from former Reform members with respect to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's performance thus far, and his agenda as revealed both through his minority administration and that which holds promise should he be re-elected. Nothing to rock the boat of most Canadians' embrace of moderation in all things.

With a dollop of what was once radical left-wing initiatives. Simply because this is how Canadian life and custom has evolved, and it's what we're most comfortable with. One might think, wrongly, as it turns out, that Western Canadians whose orientation is conservative in outlook would take comfort from the fact that they've a prime minister at long last who expresses their values, in large part. Economic, if not quite social in nature.

But no, they're unhappy, with the realization that to acquire the votes of sufficient numbers of the electorate, any party's platform must be seen as agreeable to the social status quo. Which is to say, forget about abortion and same-gender alliances, they're here to stay. We'll have to focus instead of making that huge effort to honour our treaties with our aboriginal communities.

And come to a reasonable and workable conclusion with how this country can successfully manage its carbon (dioxide) atmospheric pollutants, given our haste to further develop the Alberta tar sands for crude, really nastily crude oil. And increase Canadians' ability to access safe and reliable and timely health services. And give aid and assistance to those in our communities who require it. Including help to university students.

Yes, encourage business and investment in the country, as well. Without the balanced furtherance that comes with investment and support for manufacturing and technology industries in the country how can prosperity result? Yet, out west Mr. Harper's old cronies despair over his abandonment of "principled conservatism". While nothing could be further from the truth; he's demonstrated both principle and conservatism.

Simply not to the degree that will meet with their satisfaction, but which would most certainly alienate him from the larger electorate. We don't want free-market health care, nor to muzzle free speech, or make access to abortion more difficult, and deny same-sex unions. There are, certainly, some items we'd like more of, such as 0.7% of gross national income dedicated to international development assistance.

More affordable housing, as swiftly as it can be accomplished; an increase in the number of food inspectors to ensure the safety of the Canadian public in the food we eat; that kind of social welfare detailing. On the other hand, we don't really buy in to Jack Layton's free for all, since nothing is free, and we're not prepared to give him a free hand in yanking prosperity out from under the country's financial underpinnings.

Stephane Dion was right on, for a change, when he characterized Jack Layton's newest stated initiative to produce a balanced budget despite massive social spending by cancelling scheduled corporate tax cuts to encourage investment and a healthy economy, as "old fashioned, job-killing" socialism. Mind, his election platform doesn't strike as particularly responsible, in its grand sweep of spending and taxation, either.

Who ever thought that so many of us would have to pinch our nostrils and consider voting Conservative possibly for the first time in our voting lives? Since it would appear that a majority of Canadians, despite their caution about the Conservatives, seem to believe that the current governing body is more likely to administer our affairs of state with moderation than the Liberals, the NDP, the Greens.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

An Image-Conscious World

That's the world we inhabit. We are so busy, so involved, we feel too often we scarcely have time or the inclination to look beyond the superficial. What we see at first glance is what we believe the exterior reveals about the interior. Sometimes we're right, often enough we're not. But in politics, where the manner in which a candidate for public office portrays himself and expresses himself, the image he or she initially conveys tends to be the one that sticks.

All the more so when that candidate is incapable of communicating deftly, effortlessly, with a certain verbal skill, in a language not entirely familiar to him. This places the candidate in an obvious deficit position. In the case of Stephane Dion, image at first was to his benefit; he was described as highly intelligent, a former academic, a man of great integrity and probity, a man whose love for country was not under debate.

Trouble was, he had unfortunate baggage from day one. Cerebral he may be, but a high degree of intelligence does not necessarily a good politician make. Moreover, in his previous tenure in the since-disgraced Liberal government of Jean Chretien, and the following brief tenure with Paul Martin, Mr. Dion held an environment post with which he accomplished nothing at all, despite his impassioned declarations of support for the Kyoto Accord.

It has not, needless to say, helped him very much that the current Conservative government under Stephen Harper, has gone out of its way to denigrate Mr. Dion's vaunted intelligence as a political leader, labelling him a tax-and-spend exemplar. In so doing, encouraging the electorate further to solidify their already-deleterious opinion of a leader who appeared to fumble, offering feeble threats to the Conservative government agenda, never carrying through on them.

In the light of which history, Mr. Dion's complaints of shabby treatment by his political opponents fall on deaf ears, for the most part. The simple fact of the matter seems to be that being a decent human being, a highly intelligent individual, insisting that he alone among the political leaders contesting the leadership in this general election of 2008, will avail him scant advantage in the face of his rather pathetic appeal for support and understanding.

The Canadian electorate wants to be presented with a strong, confident, knowledgeable and capable leader, and Mr. Dion simply does not inspire confidence. Despite his continued attestations with respect to his personal suitability. He may indeed have confidence in himself, his dedication to the enormous tasks facing the country, his ability to surmount them and make Canada a better country, but the greater majority of Canadians remain to be convinced.

And they won't be, in the brief space yet allotted to him to convince them that he's the right man for the job, leadership head of the right party, before election day. When even Ed Broadbent, the highly seasoned and respected former leader of the New Democratic Party is of the opinion that Mr. Dion hasn't presented as leadership material on the basis of his own campaign, that's fair enough evidence that it is not merely voter bias.

"He's incredibly smart and knowledgeable. He has facts at his command and can marshal them quickly in an academic setting, but he's not much given to dialogue and likes having the final word. He can sometimes give the impression of talking down to you like a schoolteacher. Even if politicians feel they have the right answer they have to be prepared to enter into dialogue. That's the downside of being an academic in a political setting."

That's the considered opinion of an academic who admires Mr. Dion, a former colleague at the University of Montreal, Daniel Weinstock. The voting public is not amenable to being hectored and lectured, nor patronized. Stephane Dion famously claims that he wants to debate Mr. Harper on the vital issues that face Canada today, but Mr. Harper is not interested in anything but fobbing him off, and what a pity it is that Mr. Harper will not submit to dialogue. Mr. Dion appears himself guilty of what he charges Mr. Harper.

While it may very well be true that unfair accusations, a vitriolic and nasty campaign has resulted in the political opposition having placed Mr. Dion at a disadvantage in the public mind, and that the news media have been only too happy to add their critical commentary to the noxious potion, perhaps Mr. Dion has himself to blame. For a man who claims to be humble in nature - and which he very well may be - it takes a certain amount of ego to insist that he's the man for the job.

Public perception appears to challenge him on this self-propelled observation. And, from the hints that continue to snidely erupt from his own caucus, there are more than enough failed leadership candidates who still believe his come-from-behind win was an unfortunate anomaly, a political erratic.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Between Heaven and Hell

That's more or less the definition of limbo, as a theological term, although it has long entered the world of ordinary speak. As in the current crisis on Wall Street in the United States, and the status of President George W. Bush's bail-out package for its financial sector. Limbo, that's where it is. And here the markets thought, soon as they heard the proposal, it was a done deal, and didn't they pick up at that news. Pity the big money investors on Wall Street, all is doom and gloom.

Should Congress pass the bill that the White House has placed before them, America's banks and lending institutions can get on with life, become rescuscitated, reassert their dominance, and everything will once again click into place. Some pain, much gain. For them, in any event. For the ordinary person on the street, all those people who have, or will, lose their homes, their belongings, lose employment, find themselves with nothing to sustain themselves - well, there's always hope.

After the initial shock of the losses, the collapse of the U.S. financial market, when the G-7 hastened to assure their big-brother partner that their thoughts were with them - as how couldn't they be, since Europe, Japan and Canada will most certainly feel a lot of the pain imposed upon them by their intermingling of financial services with the U.S. - some have had second thoughts.

Blame is beginning to trickle in from some G-7 countries, most of whom are mute, but some, like Germany's finance minister have called Washington "irresponsible"; by its efforts to resolve the crisis through government buy-up of worthless securities, exacerbating the crisis. The G-7 would far prefer the expedience of enacting tougher and tighter financial regulation for future stability. Sensible, no?

As it is, the current collapse exemplifies what neglect has wrought in world money markets, following the example of the United States. The U.S. was of course, the leader in that market, the respected, trusted leader. The very exemplar of the free market system, capitalism writ large. And although there's no such thing as a free lunch everyone seemed to be dining out for free, and reaping huge benefits that have suddenly dissolved.

The bipartisan and bicameral meeting with members of Congress and the White House in Washington was a handy bit of theatre, some necessary showmanship to assist a flailing Republican presidential campaign. To which Barak Obama and Congressional Democrats willingly lent themselves. Manipulation goes both ways. Senator Obama and Nancy Pelosi appear ready to sign on to the bail-out. Senator Obama quoted as feeling "things were moving forward".

While the traditional wing of the Republican Party and more particularly, Senator McCain are not so ready. He has stoutly withheld endorsement of the agreement. There are, he said, "legitimate concerns". The Republican candidate hesitant to buy in to the bailout; the Democratic candidate ready, along with his party heavies, to do just that. Now who looks better to the electorate?

And how's that for a cleverly manipulated turn-about? How's that for expressing value and responsibility to the electorate? Well, Main Street doesn't think much of it actually, and while resenting the very notion that tax money will save the banks and leave the suddenly materially-unendowed with memories of what they once had, may recall before casting their vote that it was a Republican administration that brought them this disaster.

On the other hand, would the Democrats have acted any differently? All that steamy rhetoric about representing the ordinary people, of taxing the wealthy in a country and an economy with an ever-increasing divide between the rich and the poor guaranteeing exactly what? What monetary policy guidelines separate each from the other? The free market is enshrined in the American system.

"Our Hard-Earned Pensions Are Not Up For Grabs", neatly expresses the outrage of unions. "The Bush administration wants us to pay the freight for a Wall Street bailout that does not even begin to address the roots of our crisis", claims AFL-CIO national president John Sweeney. He would know, of course. Unions are so uncompromisingly out for the little guy on Main Street, dammit. But they don't make law.

How could he doubt his president who claimed sensitivity in the knowledge - in a national address on television - that what would impact Wall Street would harm Main Street? And that he, personally, as president of the great United States of America was equally concerned about Main Street as he was about Wall Street. Mind, President Bush is a Wall Streeter himself, and has little idea of the struggles of Main Street, but his heart is there.

The German finance minister warns of an opening rift between the G-7 ministries that would resonate for years to come in international economic relations. Things will never be the same again. Some are far more sanguine. Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney considers the impending rescue effort to be "bold and timely", required to bring an end to the global credit crisis. Isn't he a one? Actually, he's a former senior executive with Goldman Sachs.

Perhaps Senator Dodd, a Democrat and head of the Senate Banking Committee had it right on when he described the failed meeting as a "rescue plan for John McCain", which took lawmakers away from their business for two useless hours of public relations and flashing news cameras.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Frail Alliances

How inconveniently unfortunate to have a former president of the Liberal Party of Canada write a triumphantly displayed opinion piece on the editorial page of one of Canada's premier national newspapers, denouncing the loser-status of his one-time party, and arguing that it is due for a political drubbing. And how precisely that position reflects the thoughts of many among the voting public.

However, Liberal leader Stephane Dion, blithely shrugs it off, advises his supporters to "ignore" the unsolicited, embarrassing, nuisance opinion of Stephen LeDrew. Well they may, but it will have most certainly accomplished some measure of damage to an already faltering campaign. Which began on an awkward footing with the much-vaunted, now damped-down "Green Shift" and a lawsuit.

The excessive promises lavishly sprinkled here and there by the Liberal Party on the campaign trail, amounting to a truly outlandish expenditure of the public trust has certainly not enhanced the electoral position of the once-natural-governing party of Canada. But where there's life, there's hope, as that tired old saying goes. And Stephane Dion soldiers bravely on.

On the other hand, Mr. Dion exudes confidence in himself in his intellectual capacity, his governing promise, his and his party's sterling platform geared to rescue Canada from the greasy grip of the Conservative Party. He trusts himself, even if his own party insiders now wince at the prospect of his continuing leadership. Challengers position themselves carefully in the background of this election.

And what's the latest promise from Mr. Dion? Why an investiture of time, care and taxpayer funding for the purpose of offering protection to ethnic and religious institutions, synagogues, mosques, temples, community centres and parochial schools. Mr. Dion unveiled his "communities-at-risk" program to great fanfare, the protector of the vulnerable in society.

Bear in mind that it was the Liberal Party of Canada that institutionalized the concept of Multiculturalism, the kind of multiculturalism that ensured ethnic, traditional, cultural, religious separation. That ensured various groups in Canadian society whose allegiance to clan, tribe and religion set them apart from the mainstream, and saw, through government's encouragement, no need to integrate.

Rather than recognize their uniqueness of the past as possibly complementary to full integration into the Canadian social fabric, reflecting the mainstream, they saw official encouragement to remain apart. And in remaining apart in their little respective ghettos of the mind, they ignored the presence of others instead of becoming familiar with and accepting of differences and celebrating multiplicity.

Those same diverse groups, under these circumstances, felt completely free to celebrate their differences, to hold themselves separate and apart, and to import ancient grievances from their countries of origin against other traditions, cultures and religions with whom they now shared citizenship in a new country. Canadian culture, society's values and customs meant little to them.

Settling in Canada, for a great many people, became a choice harbour of safety, another option, in a sea of international uncertainty. There was no need to honour Canada, no need to invest loyalty, to waste emotional pride in it. Citizenship ensured haven, and with dual citizenship passports in hand, many returned to their original homes, returning to Canada temporarily, only to take advantage of the "free" social welfare benefits.

Much has been said of talented and educated professionals coming to Canada under the belief that their professional credentials from abroad will be honoured and they will be able to immediately plunge into practise here without the inconvenience of having to demonstrate professionalism up to Canadian standards. Yet so many of those whose hopes for accreditation languish in despair, have left their countries of origin because of crises that imperilled their well being.

New statistics recently issued reflect the fact that children of immigrants are far more likely to graduate from a Canadian university than their non-immigrant counterparts. Those from South-east Asia are hugely more likely to graduate; those from African and Hispanic-speaking countries, far less likely. It is culturally determined; academic virtues recognized by Asians and Indians, far less valued by Africans.

The desecration of ethnic cemeteries, fire-bombing of religious parochial schools and community centres does not take place in a social vacuum. Create the environment for social-cultural separation, make it official, encourage separation, and the country sees social Balkanization, not coherence.

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What Does He Really Represent?

Hard to figure. For those who admire and cling to the possibilities he hints at, he represents the best choice for the chief administrator of the most influential and powerful country on this planet. They think they know his message. They think he reflects all the qualities that they want to see in a leader, to counteract their weariness with the current administration that has led them to a condition of severe disquietude about their country.

Embroiled in far-off conflicts the costs of which have threatened to exhaust the treasury at a time when there are quite a number of internal issues the country has been unable to deal with, like the state of Medicare and the potential of universal health care; like timely rescues of large swaths of the population fallen victim to catastrophic weather conditions; like the need to upgrade deteriorating civil infrastructure; how to deal with illegal immigrants.

Oh, and yes, there's that little item of a collapsed economy, the cataclysm of financial markets imploding under the weight of money markets forgetting the very basics of sound, ethical economic policies. Underlying all of this is the perennial issue of race relations in that vast country with its diverse populations; largely white Americans, with a sizeable black minority and an even larger Hispanic demographic.

Then there's the issue of growing unemployment as manufacturing jobs have slowly stolen away to more profit-enhanced venues abroad. The problems in facing up to society's infiltration by religious extremists whose goal is to completely unsettle the civil discourse, stealthily remove the country from its clasp of secular politics and bring it into the orbit of fundamentalism.

Is Barak Obama the man to meet all these problems head on? Can he be groomed on the job to speak to the manifold issues on the international scene that will of necessity take the attention of any sound global leader, but most particularly that of the United States? More than any other single country, or coalition of countries representing mutual interests, the United States of America's decisions impact around the world.

Can this young man with his limited executive background even given his brief exposure in Congress, claim ownership of the grave decision-making needs inherent in the position of President of the United States? He appears calm, confident, gravely intelligent, with his finger on the pulse of the nation. But many, in whose thoughtfully considered opinion the nation should give careful thought, have their doubts.

"I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such I am bound to disappoint some, if not all of them." Is this the introspective viewpoint of a self-acknowledged leader of a nation? This is not, after all, how Senator Obama portrays and presents himself and his nebulous agenda on the campaign trail. Is he capable of governing, or is he not?

Yet, this was his considered assessment of himself, as a tabula rasa, perhaps not quite completely known even to himself, in his autobiographical "The Audacity of Hope". If he indeed permits himself to become a blank screen prepared to accept the message of many different views written bold in full view purporting purpose, then where is his own persona, where his idiosyncratic self and purposeful direction?

It has been pointed out by his detractors from the dexter wing of the political spectrum that his sometimes-furtive behaviour, his backtracking, his disowning of what was originally presented as his true values, demonstrate his lack of character, his willingness to sway whichever way the political wind blows. He evolves as he goes, trying out the political suit that most resonates with voters, clothing himself in their expectations.

Expectations he has himself ignited in the hopeful minds of Middle America and Young America and Elite America who see in him long-overdue expiation of a historical wrong. He has walked a fine tightrope, trying to mollify uncertain suspicions from the black community while disarming white voters who want desperately to believe they have matured beyond the racial question that has so long dominated American life.

A community that feels it has finally moved beyond colour, to identify a candidate universal to their country's need. They want to believe him and to believe in his promise. They hope because he has encouraged them to hope. They believe because he has promised that he can deliver them out of the unhappy morass that is American society today. They want him to discharge them from guilt, and to bring them into Utopian America.

He is no Jesse Jackson, no Al Sharpton, who sharpen their rhetoric on the whetstone of blame, perpetual black rage against unkind history. Theirs is the fall-back of arrested adolescence as a people emerging from the shadows and lurking there still, fearful of the full strength of the sun. They refuse, in their ghetto mentality, to become fully accountable for themselves, for their failures to adjust to the new reality of opportunities.

He is most certainly not of their ilk. He stands tall and proud and ready to face head on any adversity that stands in the path of his full disclosure of himself as a whole human being. Trouble is, the world awaits full disclosure. Who is he, exactly? Other than representing what his supporters are looking for. Why has he changed his position so many times on so many issues?

What does it say about his certainty, integrity, gravitas, that he has exhibited a proclivity to make so many poor choices in those with whom he consorts? Until their irregular or erratic, or downright dangerously radical values are revealed publicly and he is forced to disown them, and with that, his own values adapted from theirs. From gun control, to wiretaps, faith-based initiatives, recognition of an indivisible Jerusalem, he waffles and weaves.

His supporters seem not to be able to focus on those disturbing anomalies in the character of an individual whom they take to be perfection incarnate, whose message is the shining light of hope for the future. Change and hope and empty rhetorical gestures like "yes we can", resonate with his ardent followers. They question nothing, demand no accounting, wish for no explanation from their candidate.

What record, exactly, is he running on? How has he been prepared by experience, by life's adversities, by exposure to high-level administrative exigencies, to govern a nation?

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Snake Oil Salesmen

The fox in the chicken coop. How does that solve anything substantive, but to solve the problem of non-layers?

America in financial crisis is not a pretty scenario. Not for the United States, and most certainly not for all those other countries' economies and banks which have placed their trust in the capitalist system of national enrichment. Now the problem is, enact legislation to do some patchwork quilting for the future, or let the bodies lie where they've fallen.

Not all the bodies responsible for the fiasco in lending-and-borrowing, mind. Sub-prime mortgages handily bundled into debt instruments sold and re-sold in global financial markets. Some of those elite sub-prime decision-makers have come away hale and hearty.

And no doubt ready and eager to give the game another try. Among them can be counted the U.S. Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. They're top drawer bureaucrats, overseeing the financial stability and health of the American economy, right?

This crisis erupted under their watch, right? That ranks high as an example of extremely poor stewardship. What happened to conventional market discipline, pray tell? Under their tutelage. Who assumes responsibility? Oh, the system.

Let's get this straight, the current administration, concerned about its legacy on so many fronts, although busy internationally, would have liked to exalt the ordinary American to the status of the extraordinary American. Which is to say, even those who didn't have a pot to piss in could place that pot in a home of their own.

Without unduly exerting themselves; no down payment, non-existent interest rate, lackadaisical mortgage payment schedule. Wouldn't this kind of imbecilic bubble be scheduled to burst at some time in the near future? Hello, there?!

Some of them could even play the game of the lenders and borrow against the capital they didn't pay for on rising market prices. Increase their mortgage, withdraw sumptuous sums of expendable cash and buy another property, an SUV, take that trip abroad to see the Pyramids, go to the local Casino and have a ball.

It's only money. You only live once. Might as well live nice and high on the hog. Or the bull market.

No down payment, no liquid assets for the banks, no big deal. And everyone was happy to buy into this free-for-all, this offering to the American public the opportunity to have it all, no sweat equity, nothing untoward like earning the opportunity. Mortgage brokers dove into the fray, getting credit for signing deals, not for bringing in liquid assets.

Credit unbridled, greed re-visited in a manner not thought quite credible, but it seemed to work, never mind those old-fashioned financial critics who thought they knew everything. What's gnu, pal? Why a U.S. deficit that will reach into the stratosphere for the next two years, at $1.5-trillion. Can anyone count that high?

Help is at hand, a bailout, a rescue, taxpayer funded.

Mr. Bernanke has warned Congress it is in everyone's best interests to approve and pass the rescue bill stapled together by the Republican administration; to authorize the Treasury to buy about US$700-billion in bad-ass/ets. Oh, some good assets in there too, of course, and they'll be disposed of at an advantage to the buyer - the U.S. public - at some time in the future, when things begin to settle down.

Meanwhile, the U.S. badly needs foreign investment. Japan, which itself so latterly suffered under a severe depression it is only now edging out from under completely, is offering to buy, buy, and it will, as a good ally. And Warren Buffet wore his patriotism with pride in his charitable giveaway of five billion of his fabled wealth to White-Knight America's faltering economic divestitures.

"I believe if the credit markets are not functioning, that jobs will be lost, that our credit rate will rise, more houses will be foreclosed upon, GDP will contract, that the economy will just not be able to recover in a normal, healthy way", Mr. Bernanke warned Congress. The lawmakers, after their initial tizzy, are now holding out for oversight.

Treasury Secretary Paulson hedged at specifics. "Experimentation" would be the order of the rescue whereby the U.S. Treasury would buy those nastily worthless mortgage-related assets from their disabled banks. Bad word that; wasn't it kind of experimental - the short-cuts and lapsed ethical practises that led to the financial breakdown to begin with?

It's also a little smelly in a fishy kind of way. Mr. Paulson et al was kind enough to pave the way for rescue for Goldman Sachs, permitting them and Morgan Stanley to convert to bank holding companies entitling them to borrowing access from the Federal Reserve. Isn't it odd too that Mr. Paulson had a mind-splitting $700-million of his own invested in Goldman?

There are rescues and there are private opportunities.

Yet if Congress approves the bill as it's written, no one will be able to question any of the moves to rescue the U.S. economy initiated and followed through on the orders of Treasury Secretary Paulson. Supreme authority.

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Low Blows

Well, our prime minister wasn't too quick on his metaphorical feet when he responded so lamely in response to Quebec's arts community complaining about cuts to the arts. They have taken it personally, as is their wont, in La Belle Province. But really, Mr. Harper, to piffle about with claims of rich galas and parties and taxpayer subsidies, is just a bit much. A clumsy rejoinder. You're capable of a more thoughtful, balanced and credible argument.

Mightn't you just have reminded the voting public that under your stewardship of the national purse overall funding through the Department of Canadian Heritage and their various agencies has increased? Far more sensible. This isn't a street fight, you know, it's an election process. Try to refrain from bridling overmuch in indignation over unbalanced reportage by responding like a pit bull.

And don't, for heaven's sake, whine. "When the NDP runs an ad like that, it just shows the extreme side of the NDP, a side of the NDP that has no serious economic program at all for the country, just a whole bunch of promises without limit, without any idea of how they're going to pay for them." Mr. Harper, you've indulged in hysterics.

What the NDP is resorting to and indulging in is the opportunities that avail them through the process of conducting a pre-election campaign. This is reflective of the available modes of impressing upon the voting public some opposition-discomfiting factoids - or perspectives thereof - while enhancing their own reputations.

In other words, what resonates with you as false and misleading is simply par for the course in an election campaign, as you well know in your more rational moments. It's just tough to battle bad optics. Of course, you can't think of everything, but it would help if you tried, and made an attempt to think ahead about how these things will redound on you.

Look, for example, at what's happening in Quebec, where you've coddled and wheedled your way to some measure of electable popularity. All for naught, now. Sarcasm will sometimes get you everywhere, and viewed interminable times on Internet sites. Take "Culture in Danger", a bitterly divisive Quebecois rant against Anglophones. Who seek to control and deny Quebec culture.

And you're the man. See what I mean?

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A Leader Emerges

Looking good, Jack. Far more like a leader should. Whatever grooming exercise you've undergone, has been good for your image. You sound better, look better, seem more on track with your message to the Canadian electorate.

Finally, it appears, on the surface, in any event - and that's what we get during an election campaign; surface - that you've matured from the garrulous, self-reverential, smirking, camera-ready candidate for high office, to a credible representation of a leader-in-waiting.

Nice public relations, good planning, respectable showing. Craftily designed too, the new agenda that seems to echo that of the current governing party, albeit canted a trifle more to the left of the political spectrum.

No more shrill ideological promises - that served only to alarm the electorate - and hysterical denunciations of the other parties' designs on re-structuring the country even further to partner American values. That's a refreshing change.

Calm and quietly confident. How unlike your former antic and jocularly charismatic self, Jack. Convincing, too, in a delivery that imparts to the onlooker a demeanor and a platform less rigidly nonsensical than of yore.

Of course, there's those wake-up items like withdrawal from NORAD and NAFTA and the WTO. Kind of nice if we could go it alone and make it on the strength of our own virtuous capabilities. But this is a very interconnected world, as we all know.

And our capacity is as good in all those areas as the strength of our alliance with those whose values and aspirations match ours. Geography too; that certainly claims a large part of our allegiance. Sometimes these alliances work in our favour, you know. It's always good to have friend and colleagues in this great wide world.

It's also refreshing no end to see that Stephane Dion and his Liberal party have finally outdone the New Democrats in their spending promises. The NDP's multi-billion-dollar promises look positively measured set beside the $55-billion-and-growing of the Liberals.

And what a precious little tidbit, to hear Bob Rae conspiring to kidnap NDP votes.
Borrowing back from the NDP those long-time Liberal supporters who parked their vote as a protest with the NDP - at the invitation of your party - in disgust over former Prime Minister Chretien's Sponsorship Scandal that led Canada to have its government corruption-rating fall from its accustomed high rating among the G-8.

Strategic voting aside, however, the NDP lucked in, given that Liberal party popularity still hasn't recovered.

To the extent that the peoples' choice polls place you second in line for popular appeal as potential prime minister, and Stephane Dion languishing deep down in the doldrums of voter rejection. Good enough reason to change tactics, offering the New Democrats as governing material, not merely a stand-up representation of the country's conscience.

Watch out, Jack; some of those with whom you're prancing about the dance floor in condemnation of cut-backs to the arts might just come back and take a big bite when the occasion demands. But keep up the good work. Even if you don't make it to 24 Sussex Drive.

You'll look good, sound good, and possibly do good as the official Leader of the Opposition. It's been done before, though you're no Ed Broadbent.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Thin Gruel....

How about that, the United Nations World Summit is to be Sarah Palin's coming-out ball. Her introduction, as it were, on home territory-at-a-remove to the international community. That will most certainly make up quite handily for her perceived lack of experience on the world stage. She'll go in one fell swoop from the image of "sheltered life" as a typical American who, until a year ago, did not possess a passport, to a global political insider.

She is scheduled to meet a predictable handful of foreign leaders, those who depend on the free-handed spirit of the United States, in pacifying the expectations of those who support the American agenda. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, for example, an affable and most appreciative supplicant for Western support against the predatory Taliban, and Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe, an enemy of Venezuela's errant Hugo Chavez. And - and Henry Kissinger!

Oh yes, U-2's Bono, the pretentious world-saviour too. Will they test the cerebral mettle of this untried Governor of Alaska? Would they know how to, what to listen for, what to ask her, how to judge? Well, brilliant and canny former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger would know how to, what to, but would he kiss and tell? Oh, to be that legendary fly on the wall. Intriguing beyond imagination to quietly stand by and bare one's ears.

She is, truth to tell, a stage prop, a Republican phenomena, a symbol of what the party holds dear in all its rigid fundamentals. As some onlookers would have it, insufficiently intelligent, experienced, informed, objective, trustworthy. Despite which, her obvious robust self-regard and unfortunate lack of humility would have the public think otherwise. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

Her credentials, or lack of them, are balanced in the studied opinion of her party, by her instant celebrity, her conservative exotic appeal, in a staid and arthritic old white man's perennial game of governing entitlement. While the president of her country addresses the world body, warning of the unsettling and immediate danger to the globe of regimes such as Iran's and North Korea's, all eyes will feast on Governor Palin's photogenic appeal.

To the so-unfair charge that she owns a deficit in international affairs, she admits never having met a foreign leader heretofore, defending herself by pointing out there is nothing unusual in that. Asserting that scads of other vice-presidential candidates were green in that regard, not only her. While nothing could be further from the truth, in reviewing the record.

She is her party's eye candy, fervently espousing the party's God-inspired agenda. A street-smart, assertive woman, confident of her place in society, given to control, entirely submissive to a fundamentalist reading of the Holy Book. She, like other spirit-haunted believers in the Almighty, has answered God's command to go forth and represent him in the corridors of political power.

And what political power, representing which country's interests is more relevant in the world than that of the United States of America? The choice of Senator John McCain, once seen as possible and probable, and likely to result in a passable governance, has suddenly reversed itself and become a problem, in its potentials, for the rest of the world.

Senator John McCain will languish happily in the background, satisfied that he has offered his country the best it can anticipate to replace him should the unforeseen occur.

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Technicolour Dreaming

There's Stephane Dion touting the Liberals' richer, fairer, greener Canada, promising only they are capable of delivering Canada into this Utopia with its cornucopia of plenty for all.

Mr. Dion has given a pass on the foundation of his election promises, his Green Shift, and shifted over to promising economic gain for the pain of overlooking practicalities and voting Liberal. Despite, somehow, the polls demonstrating a Liberal lag in voters' opinion in consideration of whom voters consider to be the most promising manager of the country's economy; and it wasn't him.

The Liberals' four-year, $55-billion financial overhaul of Canada, bringing us neatly through the 21st Century as a prime example of what a country can accomplish to furnish its people with unparalleled opportunities for personal growth and trade expansion to benefit all, has been unveiled with their "Richer, Fairer, Greener: An Action Plan for the 21st Century". Sounds appealing and rife with promise.

Everyone is set to benefit from the largess of the Liberal plans. From the country's poor, to its middle-class families, farmers, auto workers with yet another tax-paid infusion - and immigrants as well. No one will be left behind on the tide that will inevitably raise Canada into a perpetual state of plenty, thanks to the grand, some might say grandiose economic planning of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The Liberals are set to adapt to a new policy guaranteeing "respectful federalism" with the provinces. They will bolster the failing manufacturing sector, bring poverty to its unwilling knees, and promote the country's arts and culture sectors. We will all flourish under the beneficent gaze of a Liberal government.

Permitting ourselves in our new state of bliss to forget previous Liberal governments that yanked social network programs out from under Canadians' expectations of universality of access and program-fairness inviolability.

Elderly and spent civic infrastructures, from bridges to roads, public buildings and allied structures will be renewed, retrofitted, made spanking new again by a massive infusion of public dollars. Doubtless British Columbia's problem-prone rail system will be overhauled as well as bringing on new rail systems to benefit a country whose Liberal administrators are hell-bent on transforming as eco-friendly.

All to the good, no doubt about that. Sounds like a fanciful translation of someone's dream cycle of perfection in public administration. "A Liberal government will never put Canada into deficit. Period," vowed Stephane Dion earnestly, and who would not believe his owlish professorial integrity?

New revenue will just roll effortlessly into government coffers, some $40-billion of it, from the Green Shift carbon tax alone.

Increased spending for badly needed social housing; to honour Canada's pledge to increase foreign aid; the production of a more reliable medical care system are all in the books. And then there's the lapsed Kelowna Accord still awaiting the original promise made by a previous Liberal prime minister who dithered away his opportunity to take Canada into international respect and prosperity.

It was, Mr. Dion reminds us, a previous Liberal government that eliminated the deficit inherited by its predecessor-Conservative reigns. Alas, in the process also butchering Canada's pride in its social programs, more's the pity. But here they are again, promising to make right what they disrupted in the first instance.

Not only that, but the Liberals would root out waste and (sshh! corruption...!) improving government bureaucracy, to find savings in programs that can be improved upon by abolishing waste.

Revenues from the Green Shift carbon tax would enable the Liberal government to do all of that. Puzzling in and of itself, since the carbon tax touted by the Liberals is expected to be revenue-neutral, finding its way back into the tax-payer pocket by way of reduced taxes.

We won't even think about manufacturers and producers and distributors increasing their prices to consumers to make up for the additional burden placed on them by those same carbon taxes.

Something for everyone in this ambitiously plan; even tax cuts aimed at large corporations. What's that annoying buzz? Oh yes, the Liberal accusations that the Conservative government was cutting tax revenues too deeply in decreasing the Goods and Services Tax.

Isn't it just like the party pooper he is for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to scoff at the feasibility of the Liberals' detailed, well-thought-out plan for economic success for all Canadians?

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Monday, September 22, 2008

News, Daunting and Trivial

We see it so often, the peculiar and often insane juxtaposition of news items on a page of the newspaper, one urgently upsetting, the other just plain trivial in nature. Page A2 of today's paper, a national newspaper no less, three columns and a number of large photographs of beautiful people in a glitzy setting, raving on about the Emmys. Which inane television program and its untalented but attractive stars will be chosen for U.S. television's highest awards.

I think to myself: people care? They read this stuff? They take all this nonsense seriously? It matters to them?

Directly next to that breathless article, a single column, page-long, devoted to China's latest food atrocity: Government negligence and corporate greed leading to serious contamination of yet another food source. Not just any food source, but milk and milk products, the primary consumers of which are mostly children. And, it appears, authorities in the country had knowledge of the tampering of milk products before this outbreak resulting in countless children becoming seriously ill.

The World Health Organization has taken the country to task for its laggardly response to this new crisis in confidence. Sometimes governing bodies are more complacent than they should be. When it comes to food safety and production in China there have been more than enough scandals to ensure that those in whose care the safety of the indigenous food supply, let alone that shipped regularly to global destinations, should be reliable and safe.

Food safety is so fundamental to the needs of any society, one might imagine, obviously wrongly here, that it takes precedence over so many other issues of social regulation. But then, even a country like Canada which prides itself on its record of food safety for the consuming public comes up against the hard fact that safe procedures are sometimes not sufficiently hygienic to ensure complete safety from deadly bacterium.

But in Canada's case, with the recent recall of cold cut meats, the Listeria outbreak was occasioned by food safety laxity in a stringent environment which demands better. In the tainted milk scandal unfolding in China today - the dreadful incidence of thousands of children falling ill as a result of ingesting milk products to which melamine, a type of plastic agent, has been added - it was the result of deliberate and industry-wide corruption.

Melamine was deliberately added to dried milk powder, to ice creams, to yogurts and liquid milk because it mimics the presence of protein in chemical tests. Something that industry producers and even farmers resorted to in an effort to conceal their watering-down of the original milk product to obtain a higher profit margin. In the process endangering the lives of consumers, and most bitterly, the lives of babies.

The situation has sent shock waves outside China as well, since a number of companies, including the Swiss conglomerate Nestle, manufactures their products in China, using Chinese-derived milk products, of course, for sale and distribution in the Far East. Although they steadfastly maintain that they exercise the same level of product maintenance and quality control in China as they do elsewhere, it's clear their guard was down.

Melamine added to milk and milk products has the potential to cause urinary conditions, including kidney stones. And it was discovered to be present in baby formula. There is a mass recall underway, but there is also a mass stampede of frantic parents taking their young children to hospitals. The hospitals identifying cases of mild impaction, readily remedied, and other, far more serious instances of infants' kidneys being destroyed.

Along with a number of deaths. All avoidable, with a measure of due diligence to food safety. Yet, we're informed that this situation is not unique, not new, but that the consumer and safety irregularities had been in place for years. Which translates to the country's consumer protection agencies either being ignorant of the problem, or incapable of stemming it.

A New Zealand dairy with a joint venture with China's worst dairy offender has been aware, it would appear, for a considerable length of time that a catastrophe in food safety was brewing. Their overtures to the government, and requests for a recall had been ignored. China is such a huge country, with an immense population and a gigantic array of industries. Corruption is known to be rife.

There have long been accusations levelled against the government that it is not upholding its most vital duty to the population, in ensuring safety of the food supply available to its people. The government, although purporting to have the best interests of its people at heart, seems comfortable ignoring such problems until they become an international horror story.

China, so long insulated against the world outside its borders, has latterly become consumed with the desire to throw its doors open to the world, to proudly demonstrate how much has been accomplished in bringing the country prosperity, how it has been able to challenge the apprehension of the outside world of China as a political backwater, a socially challenged and materially deprived country.

A huge financial investment, along with a political one, was made in the production of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. A proud, efficient, capable and wealthy country showed off its consummate ability to entertain the world at large and to burnish its reputation as a surging world power.

This is China's statement to the world. It is functionally incapable of focusing on the vital matters of providing safe and reliable food to its population, through the neglect of a bored, corruption-prone bureaucracy. Yet it can muster its huge talents and careful designs to stagger the world with its precise and practised artifice.

Much like the juxtaposition of news items; the dread with the drear.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

He Is Not Amused

Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress has tested the waters of Canadian justice and found them rather luke-warm, not at all to his expectations of fairness to his rather singular cause. Which is to hold to account any news media who dare publish facts or opinions that he personally holds to be critical of Islam.

As though it is remotely possible to be ignorant of all that transpires in the world today as a result of militant Islam.

There are, without doubt, countless Muslims in Canada and elsewhere in the world who find the violent assaults against Muslims and non-Muslims alike repugnant beyond belief, who assiduously strive to remove themselves from the warped ambitions of Islamists, who detest that miserably blood-seeking jihadist mentality that besmirches the honour and reputation of ordinary Muslims, let alone the religion they hold dear.

They may wince in recognition of the truth of some of the jaded observations of writers who denounce renegade fundamentalist Muslims who claim to be doing the work of Allah in victimizing thousands of innocents around the world in their quest for a global Islamic renaissance, but they don't, generally speaking, claim that Islamophobia has overtaken reasonable discourse.

Yet Mr. Elmasry claims in his submission to Richard Moon of the University of Windsor, a law professor tasked by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to review its online hate speech mandate that "the state should act to empower those who are disadvantaged by hate speech, and that may mean lowering the voices of some in order that others may be heard". Stifle free speech.

In point of fact, the state already has acted to empower those disadvantaged by hate mongering. We have well-used laws against just that. Anyone convinced they are the victim of hate-mongering can lay criminal charges and have their day in court. Those who practise their ideologies of hate are not celebrated in this country for their good citizenship.

And it should seem obvious, even to Mr. Elmasry, that what he contends is hate speech is his very particular view, while others perhaps more temperate and reasonable, understand that the guarantee of free speech enables, even encourages the airing of reasonable debate in the public sphere, on any side of any question.

Mr. Elmasry himself has famously indulged, in public, in hateful statements betraying his very personal bias toward violence against those with whom he disagrees. His is not a neutral voice of persuasive reason. But rather a shrill voice - claiming to represent the community of Muslims within Canada - of opposition to some of the core values of the country.

A person, moreover, who sees nothing amiss in embroiling this country in the affairs of another region of the world entirely. People living in Canada from diverse backgrounds have no need to be encouraged to erect barriers of misunderstanding between one another. In fact, if a useful dialogue can take place - as indeed it does in some quarters - the outcome can be useful in a broader sense, elsewhere.

Mr. Elmasry's claim that "political pressure" was involved in encouraging the Canadian Human Rights Commission to refuse to bring his complaint against Maclean's magazine to a tribunal has no basis in fact. The political powers that be in this land stood aloof from interfering in the process.

It was the concerted and concerned agglomeration of private citizens and the news media that may have exerted some influence on the decision-making of the CHRC, but perhaps not at all.

His claim likewise that the complaint process as practised through the auspices of the country's human rights commissions do not have the effect of placing an undue burden on the accused is abusive of our intelligence.

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Promises, Promises

Isn't it amusing no end, the way the Liberals have accused the governing Conservatives of squandering the country's healthy economy to their agenda of spend-spend-spend. And using a good portion of the fiscal surplus to pay down the country's debt. The bounders. Yet, during this general election called so premptorily by the minority government, the parties competing for the electoral vote are promising the heavens above.

Stephen Harper, in a lengthy interview with John Iverson, said he was not prepared to promise any new spending initiatives that he felt the country could not afford. Accordingly, he hasn't broken the bank through election-fever promises, with his modest proposals. On the other hand, the Liberal Party, through its leader Stephane Dion, has engaged in a truly imaginative spending spree totalling $80-billion.

Now that's a breath-taking sum. If we had the wherewithal we could fly to the moon. Forget practicalities, behave as though we have the wherewithal and fasten your seat belts, we're on our way...! Stephane Dion promises lavish dollops of taxpayer-funded money to solve the nation's short-comings. The Liberals, when they had the opportunity on so many occasions, took the initiative to truncate social programs...but now here's Mr. Dion, ready to restore them to health.

From child-care support, to pharmaceuticals, hospitals, various health services and doctors, to immigration and funding for retrofitting buildings and homes for a greater remedial response to environmental degradation. Farmers, fisherfolk, foresters, no one will be left out of the Liberal's generosity and commitment to making Canada a more functional, definitely improved country.

As though scads of money is the cure-all for every problem a country faces in today's trouble-prone world of global interdependency, and the inevitable fall-out of the most powerful country's finances and economy sending confidence-destroying ripples everywhere. So that, at a time of fiscal unease, political-economic caution is a definite asset.

Yet the electorate is always forgetful of the fact that elaborate funding plans must come from somewhere, and it's their already-overburdened pocketbook, by and large. It's simply that the promises are so attractive, so seductive. Who wouldn't want to solve the ungovernable problem of our faltering health-care system?

On the positive side, the Conservative government has pledged a fair sum in support of assisted housing and poverty reduction. On the questionable side, it has cut back funding for culture and arts beyond what might be reasonable for a country that prides itself on its literature, theatre, music and plastic arts.

So that when Stephane Dion promises that a Liberal government would provide reliable funding in that arena, at an affordably modest cost, that is worth listening to. Some of the arts funding cuts through Canadian Heritage are obviously ill considered cost-cutting measures, and badly require re-visiting and remediation.

Canada has a vibrant arts community, a well-earned reputation in the arts and we need to continue supporting it. While most Canadians wouldn't argue against careful monitoring of where our cultural funding goes, and would choose to cut off so-called cutting-edge productions showcasing extremes of violence or bizarrely gratuitous sexual gratification choices, that requires selective, not wholesale cutting.

As for the Liberal claims of the Conservatives' agenda with respect to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, there may be some truth to that. There is no love lost between the CBC and the Conservatives. The CBC has had a deep-seated place in the Canadian landscape as a highly respected voice for Canadian cultural values. The older generation, those over the half-century mark, are loyal to a fault.

The pity is that the CBC, which should be a politically neutral venue whose function is to highlight the best of Canadian theatre, music and literature appears to have gone astray. It's become stridently left-leaning. The quality of its programming has deteriorated to an alarming degree. In-depth reportage is lamentably biased; the broadcast voice of Canada has dropped quality to the lowest quality denominator.

It has felt justified in its bid to drop its historical focus on classical music. It has also played a sadly diminishing role in bringing intelligent, informed discourse through the airwaves to the listening public. The broadcaster, wholly funded by the Canadian public, has chosen to abandon its traditional listening public in a bid to increase its audience among the young and the hip.

It has become a haven for mediocrity. It chooses to chase after an increased audience potential, offering lukewarm listening fare available through other, commercial-type broadcasters. The new head of CBC Radio can claim that the reason she personally values the Corporation is "I often find myself trapped in my car by something I had no idea I would be interested in."

While the CBC's traditional listening demographic would turn that around to bemoan the fact that they often find themselves in an expectation mode only to find themselves trapped by something they discover to be of completely no interest to them. More's the pity.

Still, we're hoping it isn't yet time to pull the plug of the $1.1-Billion yearly investment in programming reflective of traditional Canadian values. Trouble is, the venerable old CBC keeps insisting on disabusing us of our fond hopes.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Afghanistan's Progress, Security

Just as reconstruction in the country with the considerable practical assistance and funding from UN and NATO-allied countries is realizing success in producing greater numbers of desperately needed civic institutions, like health clinics and schools, the country's resurgent enemies - determined to erase all such examples of progress and modernity, to bring the country back to the stone age - is also progressing.

The country which, post-invasion, was relatively peaceful with the Taliban removed - despite the dire straits of destroyed infrastructure and extreme poverty - has now slowly begun to revert to its former unsettled state of destabilization. Bolder, more frequent and blatant attempts to instill fear in ordinary Afghans and increased attacks against NATO-deployed volunteer armies by terror and suicide raids have been unsettling.

So, where several years earlier, foreigners, both aid workers and allied militias involved in both reconstruction activities and protection from the Taliban were able to walk about freely without fear of attack, the clock has turned back to an earlier time. People live now behind compound walls and move about stealthily, warily, with armed guards at the ready.

Still, western-trained Afghan soldiers have now begun to take over patrol duties from NATO-allied soldiers. It is they now wearing new helmets and body armour, since NATO troops are increasingly handing over duties to the Afghan National Army. They must increase greatly in numbers and ability to attain the professional capabilities of a national army, allowing foreign troops to depart, but they're on the way.

The foreign presence cannot be stationed there forever. Yet the powerfully resurgent Taliban presence and their increasingly violent attacks resulting in the deaths of both civilians and armed personnel, both foreign and domestic, clearly indicate that a greater foreign presence of trained troops is required for the meanwhile. If the Taliban are to be finally defeated.

Security has been markedly increased in the wake of greatly increased attacks and the resulting deaths. Yet now Afghan families are able to make normal life plans, and those who can afford it travel by air to Mecca. To travel safely has necessitated that they and any foreign travellers must submit to no fewer than five hand-searches of their persons before embarking on their scheduled flights.

And then, also, the country's local businesses are coming to life. Producing Afghan specialities and produce once again for wide distribution within the country. More than three million additional young girls now are able to attend school in comparison to some seven years ago. Infant mortality rates have plummeted with greater numbers of babies surviving infancy.

Half-destroyed homes have been repaired. This, of course, is mostly in large urban areas, where some greater degree of control can be attained. In the rural areas where people feel less secure and the culture of conservative religious observation still mitigates against freedom for women, progress is slower. In the more remote rural areas, farmers and their families are often victimized by the Taliban.

Restoration is slowly taking place, with international funding. It will all be for naught if the allied troops prove, in the end, to be unsuccessful against the Taliban push forward. If the Afghan National Army and its police force prove incapable of pushing back against the resurgently confident Taliban.

Pakistan has yet much to answer for. And casting the net wider, Saudi Arabia as well.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

"For Our Descendants"

How very noble, how honourable, how responsible. They can only have our admiration. We have so wronged them. When all they desire is to protect the patrimony of future generations. How could we have been so wrong, as to attribute to them those nasty self-serving functions of greed and hegemonic entitlements?

There it sits, the vast Arctic frontier. Empty, unvalued, deserted of any civilized presence, let alone the permanence of particular and proved ownership. So why not just exercise a spirit of generosity and undertake to provide guardianship for it? It is perhaps, only a spirited rumour that the region has vast undersea resources.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appears to have informed Russia's national security council that the country is on the cusp of unilaterally expressing very definite ownership of that geography. Oops, guess he kind of forgot the traditional and historical interests of Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States.

Well, those things happen. Sometimes one's enthusiasms just allow one to get carried away on a stream of imagining possibilities.... And then there's the rude interruption of reality. There are five polar nations, in point of verifiable fact. That's called reality. Each of those polar nations has a vested, cultural, historical, political and economic interest in the Arctic.

Wouldn't you know it, just when things were looking so dreamily good. But fact is, those polar nations, including Canada, are in the process of collecting geological data for presentation to the UN body responsible for such clarifications as designating ownerships, to solidify their territorial claims.

Mind, Russia too has made some initial claims, yet to be finalized and formalized to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. So why this great big hurry? Not enough to have planted that undersea titanium flag? Guess not. The Kremlin has been rather feisty of late, very restless, extremely combative.

Is Russia already anticipating running out of oil and gas? Leaving them once again in an unfortunate beggarly condition with which to face their countless direly heartless enemies? "Our biggest task now is to turn the Arctic into Russia's resource base for the 21st Century", according to Mr. Medvedev.

Thing is, Russia always comes up with reasons why they do this and that, the kinds of "this's and thats's" the rest of the world looks on askance, even with alarm. As in oops, not playing fair. Aggressive techniques have become the Russian tactic of proven expedience. And here we thought we're inhabiting a world more given to diplomacy?

"The main issue is that of reliably protecting our national interests in the region. We need a solid legal and regulatory framework for our activities in the Arctic. We need, above all, to finalize and adopt the federal law on the Russian Arctic zone's southern border. A treaty fixing in law our external border on the continental shelf is also on the upcoming agenda. This is a very important task."

Darn right, it is. Russia claims the Lomonsov Ridge to be an extension of their geological territory. Hey, hasn't Canada, with Denmark's scientific assistance, given voice to ownership of that same ridge? Yet Mr. Medvedev says "I stress that this is our obligation and quite simply our duty to our descendants. We must ensure reliable protection in the long term for Russia's national interests in the Arctic."

We hear you, loud and clear. Do you hear our little whispers here? Prime Minister Stephen Harper - Canada, don't you know - has expressed a clear determination to aggressively pursue Canada's territorial interests in the North. It's our Arctic too, you see. We've got historical claims, as do Norway, Denmark and the U.S.

Can't we be reasonable?

What's the hurry? We're all in this together, chum.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mystery Partially Solved

One must have patience to hear out any of the brilliant theories put forth by Stephane Dion; invariably what he has to say becomes mangled, somewhat incomprehensible as it issues from his mouth, a victim of syntax gone awry, an incapacity to communicate in plain English. But he certainly extends the effort.

He is spurred on by his ambition to unseat the current prime minister of Canada, to himself take his place.

And for that purpose, and to cast doubt on the agenda, the abilities, the sincerity and intelligent purpose of the current government, his message to the voting public is clear enough; the Conservatives has no business in the highest seat of governance, to administer this country's fortunes.

It is the Liberals who represent the party whose agenda is most suited to reflecting Canadian values.

Stephen Harper is disinterested in bringing the country any closer to even a partial solution on Canada's place in the global strategy to fight environment degradation. It is Stephane Dion and the Liberal party that owns the strategy that will haul Canada into international compliance with Kyoto.

The latest accusation is that the ruling Conservatives are soft on crime.

All this will come as news to Canadians who, while they will agree there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm, more bordering on pragmatism on the part of the current government with respect to carbon dioxide befouling out atmosphere - flummoxed by the country's reach to produce an energy source the world is clamouring for - in the process besmirching our environment even more through the tar sands' development.

But soft on crime? Not likely, my good fellow. Furthermore, Canadians' collective memory does go back the scant few years to when, under a Liberal government, that very same Stephane Dion, then responsible for the environment, accomplished exactly nothing on Kyoto compliance. That having been said, a recent revelation may explain much.

The professorial Liberal Leader of the Opposition, contesting Prime Minister Harper's fitness to lead the country, portraying himself as a saviour of Canada through his battles with Quebec separatists, author of the Clarity Act, ardent nationalist that he is, owed many of his ideas and statements to the talent of a speechwriter, name of Christopher Flavelle who writes for Salon.com.

Which is to say, this proud Canadian, self-portrayed as a suitable leader for the country, articulated his sincere vision through the auspices of an American speech writer. Gag me with a ladle of petroleum. Wot? No equally-knowledgeable Canadian speech writers? Granted, someone of the ilk of David Frum mightn't fit the bill exactly, but surely there are gifted Canadian speech writers?

Who actually have some well grounded knowledge of the country, having grown to adulthood there, experienced life there in all its permutations, witnessed events of historical occasions, taken due note of political situations, to avail themselves of the requisite knowledge and background to draw upon in writing speeches for our politicians aspiring to govern the country?

The thing of it is, this same Christopher Flavelle has revealed himself as lacking an in-depth knowledge of Canada and its political and social culture. Obvious in a know-it-all sweeping statement of disdain titled "Northern basket case", for Slate.com, and re-published in Canada's National Post of September 16. Setting out, through his thumbnail sketch, Canada's unfortunate loss of its traditional consensus.

We have, he claims the 'Italy-Israel disease' of frequent elections and constant political eruptions, the obvious sign of a dysfunctional state. The traditional political consensus of which he writes qualifies as a rejection of the Liberal right-to-govern, abandoned as a result of the too-oft-governing-party succumbing to rampant corruption and abandonment of principles, comfortable in its habitual perch.

Canada's politics, this expert claims, is in turmoil, the result of a succession of minority governments. "...brutalizing Canada's once-broad political consensus and producing a series of policies at odds with the country's socially liberal, fiscally conservative identity." Oh? as compared to what, exactly? Last time I checked, Canada's values were still reflective of those signposts, an observation confirmed by the current prime minister's personal affirmation of same.

Mr. Flavelle makes reference to Canada enviable presentation as a fiscal model of its peer countries in the G8, having posted a succession of budget surpluses. Those cushy surpluses, he should know, represent the result of over-taxation. And the "reckless cut to the national sales tax" represented the current government's approach to leavening the situation through several truly modest GST cuts.

He's right in one of his observations, Canada having cut its foreign aid spending, and that's truly regrettable, but the previous Liberal governments which had pushed in the UN for a universal aid target by industrialized countries to .7% of gross national income was never, ever, realized by the previous Liberal governments. Nor has the U.S.

This guru of Canadian politics describes the Liberal Party of Canada as "Canada's left-wing standard bearers since the country's independence in 1867". Now there's a zinger of monumental proportions. Whatever happened to the ideology of the New Democratic Party? It was the NDP's determinedly-persistent nagging of the Liberals that brought left-leaning policies into law; definitely not Liberal-led initiatives, but results of minority governments bowing to the demands of their NDP support, demanding social justice.

It is only latterly that the left side of the political spectrum in Canada has become so crowded - the Liberal Party edging closer to the NDP, and the nascent Green Party picking up some of the NDP's traditional values, along with the Quebec-first Bloc Quebecois now in a state of separatist rigor mortis, while the combined conservative parties under a single banner now sits fairly firmly on the centrist ground once held by the Liberals.

The "draconian" policies referred to in Mr. Flavelle's spite-filled little screed are difficult to recognize; one wonders what he might possibly be referring to, in speaking of a minority Conservative government that has ventured carefully to enact legislation expressive of the mind-set of the average Canadian. In the process, going great lengths to allay the fears of Canadians who did indeed harbour a fear of extreme right-wing bias from the minority government.

What does this man know that Canadians do not? He speaks of the dire consequences of parties "fighting for the left-wing vote, the Conservatives might win simply by sliding up the middle", so what exactly is his point? Either the maligned Conservatives are, as he claims, draconian in their right-wing excess, or they're centrist, as he also claims, in 'sliding up the middle'.

Bearing in mind that when comparing Canadian politics to that of their American brethren, the Conservative Party in Canada expresses similar values to the Democrats in the U.S. Canada has no true right-wing party roughly analogous to the Republican agenda in the United States. Again, exactly why is this man so aggrieved for poor old Canada?

His parting shot in expressing disgust at the electioneering parties resorting to dirty tactics, character assassination and the like, pointing out the "nasty kind of personal attack campaign" that the Conservatives are indulging in, "...releasing an ad that showed a bird defecating on the leader of the Liberal party", merely illustrates how amusing we can be in our awkward attempts at political commentary.

Think about it, a cute little puffin, of all the creatures of the avian variety, lingering a trifle over-long in comfort on the broad shoulders of a determined Leader of the Opposition, leaving a little love-pat. It happens to the best of us. We Canadians shrug it off, apply a little aqueous solution, and go on our way.

For dirty tactics Mr. Flavelle should indulge in an in-depth evaluation of the current U.S. presidential campaign and the mud-slinging, absurd accusations and feverish media search for closet skeletons. But then, as the saying goes, all's fair in the despair of political ambition.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Full Steam Ahead on Political Blathering

We're in the throes of political accusations, character assassinations, the full blame game, culminating in vote-for-me. The prognostications for the country's future are bandied about by self-serving political parties and their leaders; success can only be ensured by the wholesale acceptance of the promising party's platform, rife with a splendorous scattering of tax dollars to pet projects.

The single largest issue that has voters' attention is the economy. Not quite faltering, not quite yet, despite the drama taking place south of our border, with American financial institutions tailspinning into bankruptcy, and their economy staggering under the weight of a horrendously costly, unwinnable war, along with the fallout of greed and corruption of their corporate heads making lending decisions based solely on the rate of return.

"A re-elected Conservative government will make prudent investments to help the southwestern Ontario economy grow", promised the prime minister. Spare the details, offer the global picture and paint it rosy. Ontario is the sole province whose performance has been less than sterling. "There are and will be difficulties in the world economy", he declared. "At the same time, Canada is not in the same situation as the United States.

"Our household sector, our government sector, and our financial institutions have solid economic fundamentals", and he's right there. Canada has always had a banking culture unlike that of the U.S. with their multifarious independent banks. Our top banks are in the position of coddling healthy balance sheets; with little bad-money investments in U.S. debt instruments.

It helps considerably that under Canadian law no foreign individual or institution can buy up greater a greater than 10% interest in any major Canadian bank, unless the minister of finance acquiesces. And under the Free Trade negotiations the very idea of making our national institutions vulnerable to aggressive buy-ins by U.S. financial institutions was wisely nixed.

But that didn't stop Stephane Dion from moaning that Canada now has the worse economy in the G8; a reversal in recent fortunes when Canada was in the top position. Our labour productivity has gone into decline, as our export opportunities plummeted in tandem with a higher dollar value, making our products more expensive - particularly for our largest trading partner, new bereft of pocket change.

On the positive side, however, there was a considerable uptick in commodities pricing and Canada has those items, lots of them for sale on the world market, thank you very much for noticing. High commodity prices have buoyed the Canadian economy. Yet, warns Elizabeth May of the Green party, "Mr. Harper's fiscal policies have already severely undermined the strength and resilience of Canada's economic fundamentals".

Don't think so, not really. As part of the global economy, Canada is simply reacting, relatively mildly to date, to the international financial show-down affecting all countries in an increasingly co-dependent world of financial markets.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

We're Going To The Polls

Expressing great fondness for our politicians is not a Canadian virtue, so Prime Minister Stephen Harper can relax about the fact that he isn't generally beloved of the populace, leading him to express himself as not having entered politics "to be loved". We do, however, want to respect and hold in confidence the abilities, intelligence, and capabilities of those we bring to high office. And despite initial fears that Mr. Harper held a hidden agenda that would be revealed once in office - to the great social detriment of the country - that never did materialize.

Instead, Stephen Harper has governed reasonably well, with a steady hand at the helm. He's made his share of errors, many of which he embarked upon deliberately, and he obviously has no intention of correcting them, for he sees no need to capitulate to public opinion in those instances. Banking, of course, on the simple fact that these are minor irritants; revocation of funding for special interest groups, or not expressing sufficient determination and will to bring the country into a pact to fight environmental degradation.

He knows his audience fairly well. And he plays to that knowledge with skill and manifest aplomb for a relatively young man true to his convictions. As much as most Canadians feel, and state, that the environment is a hot topic, with all the reminders of failure coming in the form of cataclysmic weather events, we're sitting pretty tight, not all that concerned about making sacrifices to slow down an impending crisis we are told is nigh. The economy has been bubbling along very nicely, and most Canadians are managing to make ends meet, and more.

Unemployment has been at a low ebb, although manufacturing has met some disastrous decisions by corporate interests seeking to outsource elsewhere. The Alberta oil patch has been comfortably making up that lapse, largess flowing to other parts of the country as a result. In the process further destabilizing the environment. The leader of the opposition in Parliament, Stephane Dion, has what he feels is a brilliant, workable solution. He's met with scant success in selling it.

In the usual pre-election build-up, parties across the spectrum are sprinkling expensive promises to ameliorate this condition or that, to bring voters around to the potential of voting for them. "We'll stop price gouging at the gas pumps with a tough monitoring agency, a gas-prices ombudsman and reform to the competition legislation of this country", claims Jack Layton, leading the NDP. Now that resonates with motorists right enough, but it's debatable how many would vote the socialist agenda.

None of the party leaders have yet broached the uncomfortable situation of universal medical care coverage in this country, trundling feebly along with long waits, and slowly being breached by the introduction of private clinics supported in part by the federal government - although carefully, moderately, and not in total. None wish to discuss in anything remotely resembling a solution, the situation in Afghanistan, where Canada's military resources have been stretched thin in an effort to subdue and combat the Taliban.

The party currently in power appears to be polling ahead of its opposition parties in popular appeal, albeit marginally. Canadians simply do not see themselves as a majority conservative country. That is conservative, certainly not Conservative in the mode of, for example, the Republicans in that great country southward of us. It's anyone's guess what the end of the day on October 14 will result in. But obviously Mr. Harper is banking on a slight majority.

All of the candidates have impressive academic backgrounds, though not all of them were academics. They're articulate, with exception, and forthright and postulate agendas that appeal to at least a portion of the population that normally vote left, central and right. And it's instructive to realize that the right-leaning party is no longer leaning in that direction, quite entirely. It has positioned itself neatly toward the center.

While the left of the spectrum has become quite crowded indeed, with the nominal center having unleashed itself from that post and edging into leftist territory, along with the fledgling party of environmental purpose. All the leaders purport to be ordinary Canadians whom fate has somehow shoved out into the limelight, reluctant though they may be to shine there. Their ambition has been shoved under the barrel of modest declarations, while they quietly and with confidence promise to guide us to the promised land of plenty.

Stephen Harper has led us on a steady course, internally and externally. He has proven to be a trifle too wedded to his own authority, but he has also exercised some notable level of constraint on his party's conventional unease with relaxed social conventions. He has exercised restraint where it has been demonstrated to him by the majority of the population that they will brook no interference by government in personal choices.

His government has managed to behave responsibly, morally and ethically on the world stage, in the United Nations and other fora where Canada is increasingly being recognized as a steady influence for balanced world good. In short, for his brief stint as prime minister of this country he has acquitted himself on balance, very well indeed.

Um, would I, personally, vote for him and his party? I'm tempted. He has gained my respect, while the other leaders have steadily eroded my positive regard.

Am I prepared to vote for a party I've never before even thought in my wildest dreams I would support? That's a good question.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

All Things Considered

Lose this most important, career-affirming, long-time aspiration with honour, by clasping his virtuous values close to his bosom through the selection of a running mate whose values exemplify his own (from across the political divide)? Or decide, however painfully, under the realization that there is little other choice, in the drive to win the White House, but to jettison values.

Along with personal honour alongside that sacrifice. Bite the bullet of expedience, and select a vice-presidential running mate whose experience, values and cultural-religious adherence clash with his own. Senator McCain, a man of passionate love of country, an exemplar of political and social moderation, has submitted to his overwhelming, overweening desire to ascend to political power by the only means left to him as a Republican candidate.

Needful of the support of that great Evangelical constituency in America. By professing to share their divisive, undemocratic coercive special agenda. Whereby the relaxation of social mores to accommodate all reasonable lifestyles in a liberal democracy is seen as anathema in a God-fearing democracy.

As one who has long complained of the errancy and divisiveness of partisanship, he offered himself as a Republican more than willing, for the social and political advance of his country, to meet his Democratic peers half-way, in Congress. His was the median between the American left and its right. To meet halfway was simply practical, sensible, and he felt, workable.

Senator McCain's natural doppelganger within the Democratic Party, was his good friend and colleague, sitting as an Independent Democrat - one whose personal popularity remained undiminished, despite his falling-out with mainstream advocates in his party - Senator Joseph Lieberman. They shared a vision, if not an identity, for the future and well-being of their country, as social and political moderates.

Quite simply put, each represented their country's best instincts. Superior attributes as sensitive, sensible, knowledgeable and experienced Congressmen. Even if as elder statesmen - particularly as elder statesmen whom folk wisdom and experiences both domestically and internationally made each expressly suited to governing from the helm, primary lawmakers.

The decision to run as a team would have presented their countrymen with the opportunity to helm their government fully representationally, neutrally, albeit secularly. Despite Senator Lieberman's personal and deep-rooted religious orthodoxy, his deep respect for his country's history and its Constitution would impel and compel him to administer in a manner that fully respected the separation of Church and State.

Despite Senator McCain's lacklustre - given American religious standards - embrace of religion which would naturally propel him to govern in an evenly, moderate, responsible secular manner, however, he experienced an epiphany on the road to the White House, realizing the necessity to clasp fundamental religion close to his bosom.

Truth was they would never have garnered universal Republican support, alas, had Senator McCain chosen to anoint his good friend. An already-suspicious evangelical Christian voting bloc would simply have withheld their vote, handing an easy victory to the Democrats. Who themselves have enthusiastically embraced the social strictures inherent in classical religious belief in the infallibility of God's judgement.

Senator Joseph Biden, the good man that he is, in admitting publicly Senator Clinton's superior experience and readiness for a position he was elevated to, is somewhat in conflict with his own party's relaxed attitudes toward abortion. While Barak Obama's opinion is held as religious heresy by the right, despite his Christian beliefs, his vice-presidential running mate, as a Roman Catholic in good standing, publicy affirmed his personal rejection of abortion rights.

Truth is, the potential candidacy of Senator Lieberman to complement that of Senator McCain would simply have insulted the fundamental values of mainstream Republicans. The support John McCain so much requires to realize his dream of ascending to the presidency would have been denied him through the influential hard-right religious demographic. The vision of a brace of two wise, elderly proponents of responsible moderation - boring beyond belief - politically and socially inadmissible.

They would have failed in the attempt to offer themselves as an antidote to the failed expectations of their predecessors, the Republican presidency under George W. Bush. The change they offered simply would have no resonance within the Republican party. Their presentation as an alternative to the status quo, and to the promises of change being offered by the Democrats would have held little appeal. It was, though, Senator McCain's decision to make. Knowing well the outcome.

Failure, with dignity, pride and honour intact. Perhaps a soupcon of regret to tantalize future memories of what might have been. Instead, Senator McCain plucked out of obscurity a mercurial fireball of unknown provenance, a pitbull with lipstick whose social and political aggression and skill in elaborating upon her own political myth-making has launched her and her party into celebrity status, entrancing the American public.

In so doing Senator McCain chose, in the wisdom of his years and his notable experiences, to offer the Christian right a palatable initiate into the noble battle for hearts and minds, giving the tabloids and water-cooler set ample opportunity for the thrill of the chase and the gossip that underlies inconvenient revelations.

Interesting, and sadly predictable. 'Tis the way of the world.

Senator McCain offers the Christian right a candidate they can celebrate, an antidote to his own unfortunate civil-social and religious inadequacies. Surrendering his morals and long self-inculcated moderate approach to life's demands. Here is a political helpmeet who can call directly on God for guidance. One who has indeed been called upon by God to do His divine bidding.

Whose fervidly fervent prayers elicit divine response. God, in fact, is very close indeed to the American dream of private enterprise and public duty. Though the Founding Fathers, themselves adamant about the primacy of separate realms; the secularity of politics, the personal life-need of religion,the U.S. Treasury recognizes a different message: "In God We Trust".

It is God's will that Governor Sarah Palin deliver John McCain to the United States of America's presidency. If Governor Palin prays hard enough and long enough it will be God's will that may position her to represent womanhood as the Divine Spirit's highest Congressional representative. Her impressive confidence and belief in self and Saviour spell magic to an entranced public, amazed at the electricity of her presence.

Her own singularly prescient message: "Just be amazed at the umbrella of the church here, where God is going to send you from this church. Believe me, I know what I am saying - where God has sent me, from underneath the umbrella of this church, throughout the state."

The dementia of piety. Is this the ultimate solution?

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