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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hey, There!

Get lost. Literally, figuratively. Until and unless the Kremlin can successfully accustom itself to the idea that it can and should co-exist with other countries of the world without its proclivity to incessant hints of aggression, and the kind of sniffy hyperbole that they think will result in respect, they should give a wide berth to the kinds of alarming adventures they indulge in to be noticed.

We know you're there. Full stop. Stay there.

Respect the sovereignty of other countries at least in equal measure to that which you insist on receiving from others. Is that so difficult to comprehend? As you sow so shall you be met with. Now that makes sense, doesn't it? Not too popular with the European Union of late, right? No country likes to see its citizens huddling in despair, freezing in the dark.

There's a disagreement between the five polar presences respecting possession, recognition and entitlements. Nothing new there; the courageously intrepid 19th- Century explorers of two Continents set out to establish a presence on behalf of their nations, and a mild unease between all the principles still exists. Brought to the fore, surprise! by the presence of vast undersea mineral and petroleum resources.

Through the just intermediary of the United Nations and the Law of the Seas it will yet be revealed through scientific scrutiny and evaluation where the boundaries of possession will be drawn. Despite your triumphally controversial, impetuous, yet admittedly audacious and successful flag implantation.

You'd like the security of harbouring for yourself the future security of vast revenues through those undersea resources. So would Canada, the United States, Norway, Denmark. They too have claims, yet to be fully determined and acknowledged. So sit tight, like the rest of them, and await revelations and conclusions.

And just by the bye, exercise a little restraint in your international communications. You'll find yourself more highly regarded; others won't mind respecting you so much with a little co-operation and open-minded regard for others. Stop provoking other countries. As for example, those Tupolev jets tickling Canadian airspace, without prior notification.

The provocation perhaps a double-edged flick of arrogance toward both Canada and the United States. Staged as it was just on the cusp of the brief sojourn of President Obama to Canada, for his initial courtesy call. Courtesy; doubtless that's a concept not in great currency in the Kremlin, though it should be, despite going against the grain of its political culture.

The government of Canada is not known for making falsely accusative remarks against other countries. But we do respond when provoked. Certainly not like an angry bear when it's provoked, but within the diplomatic protocol. Bear in mind that there are international obligations between countries that should be observed to maintain cordial relations.

The current and ongoing standoff between the Kremlin and the Canadian government does not particularly bespeak a comfortable future, and that's a shame. The chief of the Canadian defence staff has identified overflight incursions as a perplexing irritant of several years' duration, reminiscent of the old Cold War. Does that bespeak our future? A return to the past?

A Russia with a leaking currency and bottomed-out oil prices that insists regardless on expending huge amounts of its treasury on upgrading its military, on modernizing its military infrastructure, and purchasing unwholesome amounts of armaments doesn't present a comforting picture for the future. Your own people aren't tickled pink at their growing unemployment rates and feckless government impositions.

Haven't you anything better to do with yourselves in this troubled world? Take a step back, and reconsider your generous support for Iran's nuclear program. Do we take it that Iran's irascible aggression toward the rest of the world is a reflection of your own? Unremarkably, or remarkably as the case may be, Iran does not enjoy a high state of regard from her neighbours, either.

Do we know you by the company you keep, or do we know others' intent by the company they keep?

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Psychopathic Exploiters

Hard to believe, but they exist, the scum of the earth, those bottom-feeders that seem to take some kind of deranged pleasure in the misery of others.

They're the ones who shout out encouragement at desperately miserable people threatening to commit suicide. They're the ones who give handy advice to the mentally disturbed, in the interests of furthering their disturbed state of mind. They are those bereft of empathy for others, seeking pleasure in witnessing human despair at the lowest ebb of existence.

They're the enablers, the exploiters, the encouragers of human misery. Preying on the unbalanced minds of insecure and socially depressed people, lonely and looking for understanding and a few words of solace. Finding instead, those who craftily present as empathetic to their plight, all the while they skilfully manipulate the uncertainty and vulnerability of those living on the edge of unbalanced psychic turmoil.

Chance encounters through Internet connections can have devastating ultimate consequences for those whose social and self-protective antennae have been impaired through mental illness or hormonal imbalances, leaving them easy prey for the game-playing of social misfits comprehending the damage their malicious interventions will produce, and revelling in the outcome. A tragedy for the other, a triumph for them.

In Ottawa, we've learned that police in Saint Paul, Minnesota have uncovered the Internet presence of a male nurse who portrayed himself as an 18-year-old woman, insecure and troubled, yet capable of friendly, concerned overtures to another 18-year-old insecure and troubled university student. One who divulged to the on-line presence her state of mind and her thoughts of suicide.

How fortunate for Nadia Kajouji that she happened to luck in to the friendship of a young woman so very much like herself, with the same troubling worries and concerns, and the same solution through which all those uncertainties could be obliterated. Along with their lives. This young woman, who was in actuality a 46-year-old man, resembled her in so many ways, understood her problems, sympathized, and wanted to help.

So much so that they discussed the most commonly-used method of suicide among young people in the United States, helpfully recommending that Ms. Kajouji take courage and embark on that option open to her to solve all her problems. Describing the method, the type of rope to be used to ensure success; the knot to be used, and enthusing about how simple it all was. In the end, Ms. Kajouji chose to drown herself.

This was, evidently, not the first time the suspect, yet to be arrested, became involved in such situations. But it may very well represent his first and perhaps only real success in persuading a young woman that she was on the right track in solving the problems of her life as a university student overwhelmed by situations she felt herself incapable of coping with.

Nadia Kajouji's grieving parents will be relieved to see William Francis Melchert-Dinkel arrested, charged, and brought to justice. If only to ensure that his vicious malice is out of commission, and shut away he will no longer present as a danger to vulnerable young people, not knowing where to turn for help.

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Reactive Revulsion

There's an editorial in the Ottawa Citizen, tut-tutting about the unreasonableness and crude discrimination revealed through the fact that a retired Ontario judge, Paul Staniszewski, has given orders that no Muslim students be funded by scholarship opportunities his endowment to York University and the University of Windsor affords to eligible students.

Well, it's unfortunate, actually. The simple fact is that when a gift is given, the intent should be altruistic; morally and ethically it is given to the gifted to do as they deem most advantageous for the matter at hand. And, in any event, to single out an ethnic or religious or political or ideological identity as a handicap and an impediment to eligibility just doesn't seem fair, does it?

If the student exhibits all the academic credits and qualifies in all other respects for eligibility considerations for scholarship funding, then that should be that, in all fairness. On the other hand, there's this: We've been learning in Canada, within Canadian universities, unions and other academic affairs that not always is the just and fair way recognized, nor followed.

It's rather nasty that an academically qualified student be disqualified because, simply because he is Muslim. That's an errant diversion from Canadian values of equality and freedom and respect for others. Do we have any idea why Mr. Staniszewski reached the conclusion that he found it repugnant that any of the money he granted the university assist in the career aspirations of a young Muslim student?

Was it a general revulsion at the global presence of Islamic jihadists threatening world stability, coursing through countries both Islamic and not, leaving corpses in their wake, and inspiring terror through the bloody-thirsty promises of revenge against the various Satans? Or might it have been his distaste and irritation at seeing university campuses high-jacked by Muslim student groups, stridently and viciously condemning Israel for its 'apartheid' polices, and intimidating Jewish students?

Might this tactic be a measured and well considered one, as a way of attempting to reason with Arab and other Muslim students, to alert them to the fact that their methods are incendiary, brutal and quite unappreciated, and that which they sow can come back to haunt them? Why is it all right for students within Canada from a Muslim culture and heritage to impress upon the general population their hatred for Israel and Jewish students?

Why can it be accepted that Jewish students are forced to protect themselves from assaults both verbal and physical, and for the rest of us to put up with hearing slogans like "Death to the Jews", while someone whose generosity funds academic opportunities for students, deciding to make exceptions for those who disrupt and demean others - even if it's symbolic and doesn't impinge on the malefactors necessarily - is seen to be practising 'discrimination of the worst kind'.

"Discrimination of the worst kind", in insisting that a personal endowment not be used to further the academic aspirations of one of a group who deny equality and respect to others on campus, and who threaten their well being? I think not. To declare that this constitutes the worst kind of discrimination is, in fact, practising a double standard.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Right To Speak

As Arab Canadians, insists Khaled Mouammar, national president of the Canadian Arab Federation, he and his group have every right to speak out against what he and they discern as 'lopsided media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict' and to 'challenge negative media depictions of Arabs as corrupt and barbaric proponents of terrorism.' These are mendacious stereotypes, that exist to characterize Arabs as what they are not, and it is the duty of the Canadian Arab Federation to challenge them.

Who could disagree with anyone's right to defend themselves from what they feel are errantly discriminatory descriptions of character, culture and tradition? By all means speak out, speak up, and defend. Of course the perception that media coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict is tainted is a subjective one, and there might not be complete agreement with that.

In fact, it's a fairly good bet that Jews feel often enough that news is canted in favour of the Arab position. It's in the eye and perception of the beholder; a human enough trait. And this country celebrates its freedoms to express opinions and contest others' expressions if they're felt to be inimical to one's self-esteem, or denials of reality.

There should be fairly general agreement that the world at large has been treated, particularly of late, say the past several decades, to outrageous examples of fanatical Arab and Muslim brutalities. And they have been pervasive, and fairly frequent, and occur throughout the world, in areas of conflict and within and without countries, both near and far.

Attacks by fundamentalist jihadists have become startlingly commonplace in the West; both viciously verbal and homicidally final. Attacks targeting both moderate Muslim civilians and Western targets at large. Little wonder that Arabs and Muslims feel themselves slandered; it's an unfortunate impression indeed.

Within Canada, however, the debate tends to be rather more civilized, more sedate, more conservative. There does occur from time to time, observations that may seem to be culturally cutting, claims being made that appear to smear in a wide arc rather than a careful selectivity impacting on the minority of fanatics that cause huge problems not only to the Muslim community but the larger world as well.

Countering that reality, vicious portrayals of other countries' attempts to defend themselves from fanatically aggrieved groups, and then displaying an outreach of denunciations encapsulating an entire ethnic group, and violently intimidating and harassing an ethnic-cultural-religious student body does not accurately reflect what Canadians accept as our social contract and values in mutual respect.

Jewish students, for example, do not form posses of accusers, lift aloft flags and banners of terror groups, display cruel caricatures of a purported enemy, and shout "death to the Arabs" or "death to the Muslims". This type of socially dysfunctional and vicious display of hatred owes its presence to the representatives and supporters of the Canadian Arab Federation, exclusively.

So, yes, Mr. Mouammar, while you do indeed have the right to speak out in protest, you do not really have the right to foment an atmosphere of violent accusation and demonstrable hatred against other, very identifiable groups. And although you claim that criticism of Israel does not, in your opinion, represent anti-Semitism, your youth cadres, supported by your organization, do express their anti-Semitism by their rallying cry of "kill the Jews".

If the CAF truly does seek to engage in useful debates, do it in a civilized forum with due respect to all parties. At which time you will gain the respect due you as Arab-Canadians capable of extending civil courtesies to other ethnic groups within this great country. It's civil discourse, and it's the Canadian way.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Inexcusably Racist

It's rather mind-boggling that a newspaper in the United States in this memorable year would publish an utterly degraded cartoon purporting to bring humour to a situation that is itself reminiscent of a minor tragedy, and transforming it into a vehicle for the expression of blatant racism.

In a year where the United States of America was able to muster sufficient goodwill and hope in the promise of a brighter future through the election of a politician whose vision for the country reflected the will of the majority of its voters, and yet could also still express bitter racism of a type that has besmirched its history in a very public venue, is nothing short of amazing.

The cartoon itself, without the narrative balloon was a misery. With the printed word it became a double-entendred and utterly unmistakable attack against both the premier representative of the country's government and the large demographic of African-Americans who might have thought they had at last realized the dream of being free at last. There is no freedom anywhere, it would appear, from racial discrimination.

The publishing of the cartoon in the New York Post makes a mockery of a new vision for social relations in the United States. The Reverend Al Sharpton is not many peoples' idea of an honourable civil rights activist; he is himself guilty of nasty discriminatory statements. On this particular occasion of his mounting a protest against the Sean Delonas cartoon this repugnant man should have the support of all people of good intent.

Rupert Murdoch's apology is meaningless. To 'personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted' is in itself an insult. He should personally feel offended and insulted, and betrayed by those whom he trusts to exercise sound judgement in publishing his newspapers. He should be so personally offended that he should take immediate steps to disown the editor, the paper and its cartoonist.

It isn't the 'sensitivities of our community' that Mr. Murdoch should be concerned with, it is the injustice and the misery he once again inflicted upon a population more than sufficiently burdened with its share of tragedy as a result of racial bigotry and intolerance. He stands himself guilty of those crimes for effectively trivializing them in the manner in which he has done.

The cartoon cannot be excused by claiming that it was not meant to be racist. It was clearly racist, in tenor and intent.

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Confrontational Fascism

Consider the source, above all, when confronted by violent irrationality and unbridled hatred. It doesn't erupt from nowhere. There has to have been a deliberate introduction. Children, after all, don't usually evince suspicion and hatred, they must be led to it. Culturally, socially, politically indoctrinated into a cult of hatred.

Becoming a social contract; one once instilled, is there to stay, to fester and eventually reach its tentacles outward in an inevitable trajectory of proselytizing, sharing with others their rancid antipathy toward others. Prejudice has a way of infiltrating one's inner consciousness, assuming its place in the arsenal of presumed life-coping skills.

Not the very best of emotions, to be certain, but in its own way validating a measure of superiority, that one is part of another entity, not the despised one. It has always been a useful measure of side-tracking criticism of one's own short-comings. Not merely the short-comings of individuals, but those of governing bodies, diverting attention from themselves toward a universal scapegoat for directional blame.

It's a disease of temperament and exclusivity and readily transmittable to others who themselves assume a sympathy for the radical views of popular sentiments, prepared to be assimilated into the culture of hatred toward a readily identifiable group often held in low esteem. The thing of it is, every society is infested with groups prepared to isolate others.

What is happening in universities across North America - and which actually started at University of Toronto, heaven help us all - is merely a reflection of what has occurred on the world stage. For example, within that august world body of equality and respect for others, the United Nations.

Where the nightmare of countries casually and brutally practising human rights abuses have formed a self-supportive cadre of a tight majority singling out one particular country for blame as a human-rights abuser. Just as the UN's World Conference Against Racism was formed to address global racism, religious intolerance and discrimination, and in the process became utterly perverted, so too have university campuses become a blatantly unwitting tool of racism.

Where demeaning and bitterly racist poster cartoons characterize the State of Israel - a parliamentary democracy of equal entitlements and justice under its laws in a sea of dictatorships, monarchies and oligarchies practising rough justice - stands accused of fascism and discriminatory oppression. This is not an isolated instance of rude discrimination on the part of Palestinian sympathizers.

The simple fact is anyone should be sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, bereft of the opportunity to form their own autonomous region by the simple fact that their leaders have traditionally been more focused on grasping opportunities to enrich themselves, than to order themselves to work on establishing the infrastructure and the will to aspire to nationhood.

What is happening now in universities around North America, is the steady infiltration of aggrieved Arabs and Palestinians - long fed a cultural, social diet of Jew-hatred bolstered by a desire to destroy the single country in the Middle East that presents as 'alien' to the general tradition, culture and religion - into the general academic population to pursue their agenda of demonizing Israel and Jews.

Jewish students at the universities are targeted as supporters of Israel, as agents of a diseased and demonic culture, religion and society. It's passing strange that Jewish student groups do not actively agitate for public opinion denouncing the Arab and Palestinian terror groups that attack the State of Israel, yet Arab and Palestinian students feel entitled to encourage one another to run amok, shouting "death to the Jews!"

This is not vintage Canadian heritage or the expression of Canadian values, to wreak havoc and foment violence against member groups of Canadian society, or yet against other countries of the world. Yet groups like Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights insist on their right to spread hatred and encourage violent actions against Jewish students on campus.

The vicious viral propaganda labelling Israel an 'Apartheid State' is not consonant with the truth, nor is it reflective of the Canadian way, Canada's values and social contract. The Government of Canada itself treads a careful line, not to offend any of its citizens whose heritage values may be offended by political decisions it makes; government has supported a sister-democracy, and denounced a terror group.

The campaign of intimation, harassment and violence, both implied and practised, is deplorable, vicious and unreflective of what Canada stands for. It is what bred the disaster of Air India Flight 182, and it is reflective of what resulted in Nazi ghettos and extermination camps.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Honour Restored

Not guilty. What a phrase that is. Forgiveness of presumed trespasses. Not responsible for the claims of malfeasance filed against an honourable man. A man of great esteem in his peoples' estimation. A tribal elder, one whose lifetime has been spent in searching for his peoples' salvation from the damnation that modernity and history alike have mired them in. He led his Saskatchewan band to oil royalty freedom, and he fought for his country during the Second World War.

And he somehow managed throughout the course of his life to nurse a virulent hatred of Jews. Only he knows whether that hatred developed before or after his having been exposed to German public opinion post-WWII, when he was posted there as a Canadian soldier. There, in conversations with Germans, he said he was convinced by their arguments that it was Jews who started the war. That being so, the Nazis were certainly justified in endeavours to annihilate the Jews.

And he said as much during a health conference in Saskatoon back in 2002 where, addressing the people assembled there, he placed the blame on Jews for causing the Second World War. How that ties into a health conference is puzzling, but these things happen, one supposes. And when a reporter present at the time asked him later to further explain his remarks, he was treated to quite the extemporaneous little dissertation on Jews.

“How do you get rid of a disease like that, that’s going to take over, that’s going to dominate?” Ahenakew explained helpfully. “The Jews damn near owned all of Germany prior to the war. That’s how Hitler came in. He was going to make damn sure that the Jews didn’t take over Germany or Europe. That’s why he fried six million of those guys, you know. Jews would have owned the God-damned world.”

His audience didn't seem unduly concerned at the time, but when the reporter did his duty and reported what he'd heard, an astonished public reacted, and not positively. Mr. Ahenakew must certainly have been just as astonished at the reaction his comments elicited. Outrage? At him? He caused sufficient embarrassment to the Saskatchewan First Nations that they dropped him as a senator - at the urging of the federal agency overseeing them, admittedly.

In his 'not guilty' finding, Saskatchewan provincial court Judge Wilfred Tucker, although personally deploring the outrageously deprecating statements, said he found no ill motive could be ascribed to Mr. Ahenakew. His interpretation of events were that there was no initial, planned intent to spread hatred. Well, he certainly wasn't spreading the good news of the brotherhood of man, inclusively and without rancour to any.

This was a legalistic, subjective opinion. Somewhat lacking, to some, in interpretation, but evidently not the wounded and stricken representatives of the Canadian Jewish community, who seemed to indicate that they nevertheless respected the judge's finding (would that be the judge's opinion?). They were, they claimed, content with the judge's having expressed his own denunciatory opinion of Mr. Ahenakew's hateful remarks.

Personally, it would take a whole lot more than that for me to feel content about the outcome of this second trial. As a Jew, I feel let down, concerned that the law as interpreted by this judge has been insufficiently involved in persuading me that this reckless and incendiary demeaning of a people, the horrible assumed agreement that a monumental number of people were deservedly obliterated from the face of life can be considered a non-lethal statement of someone's belief.

It is no comfort to me to hear from this humane-afflicted individual that "I would say I understand Hitler had his reasons, but I still don't support them", in an exculpatory statement of undiminished belief. That he has been found not guilty of promoting hatred of an identifiable group brings great comfort, however, to Mr. Ahenakew, for he has said "thank God it's over, and I mean that. It was awful."

Was it now? To be held to account for stating an abhorrently-warped view of fellow humans, of feelingly and empathetically validating the need to act, to remove the disease of Jewish culpability in war-mongering and globe-controlling enterprises from the land of the innocent and the free-minded?

Now, ostensibly relieved that his honour has been restored, he will be welcomed back as an honoured senior to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. Where, at future events he will once again be able to deliver himself of his odious opinions, spreading hate among his confreres.

Shame on them all.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Anti-Semitism on a Roll

Everywhere, it seems of late, the aeons-old scourge of anti-Semitism has resurfaced, blighting the atmosphere of cordial social relations, spuriously condemning a people by once again mantling it in responsibility for all the ills of the world. A steady and continual surge of blame and hateful scorn blooms like an unstoppable crop of noxious weeds, set to strangle public discourse and balance of opinion.

It seems not all that long ago that Jewish communities everywhere were able to sigh their relief at the universal belief that anti-Semitism had finally been laid to a well-deserved grave. That in the modern world of communications and intent to universalize brotherhood there was no room for that abhorrently warped view of fellow humans that permitted the social bigots among us to casually air their prejudices.

The sad truth of the matter is that the establishment of the State of Israel - in the determination to provide for world Jews what the global community was not prepared to - a haven of peace and security - has also given birth to another kind of Jew hatred, as that state has been pressed over the space of its existence to militarize itself for protection against the hostile forces surrounding it.

As long as Israel was seen as a humble and self-effacing presence, fearful of preserving its population, it had the support of the world community. When Israel mounted its initial defences against impossible odds, the world offered a grudging respect for the tiny nation determined to exist. But when Israel came of age as a mature country capable of facing down its enemies in a war of attrition, the tide of public opinion slid back to the old and familiar.

The left, once the sworn enemy of fascism, dictatorships, despots and religious fanaticism, has done a complete about-face and embraced all those ideologies in various guises of presentability, simply because they now regard those represented in those guises as the underdog, and the values of the West antithetical to humanity.

Israel is now characterized as the epitome of all that is wrong with Western values, coalescing as a fascist occupying force. And as such it brings quite amazing cooperation into play between the guilt-ridden liberal-left West, and the jihad-driven fascist Middle East. All the excesses of violent jihad are excusable, viewed through the lens of forgivable response to colonial oppression.

The combined forces of committed jihadists and victimhood-embracing Islamists are beside themselves with delight at their good fortune, that the very Western interests they so abhor willingly support their misbegotten aspirations.

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Canadian Union of Public Employees

CUPE Ontario, a union whose purpose it is to represent the interests of federal public employees has somehow morphed into a cudgel of condemnation of the State of Israel, under the firm direction of its Ontario president, Sid Ryan, who takes it upon himself personally to reveal his anti-Semitism under the guise of defending human rights. Under this man's steady hand, a committee of CUPE's university workers passed a resolution boycotting Israeli institutes of higher learning.

Aiding, assisting, abetting and wildly encouraging Mr. Ryan is Ali Mallah, Ontario vice-president of the Canadian Arab Federation, and just coincidentally, vice-president of CUPE Toronto, among his many other political/union hats. Mr. Mallah is skilled at libelous anti-Jewish spoutings, characterizing the trio of "Dion, Rae & Cotler: Pro-Apartheid & anti-Human Rights", among other scurrilous accusations. Clearly, the match between Mr. Mallah and Mr. Ryan is one made in anti-Semite-heaven.

The resolution cementing an earlier boycott of Israel's universities and its researchers calls for their counterparts at Ontario universities to boycott working with Israelis and their institutions which have been identified as 'doing research that benefits that nation's military'. This, as a purported reaction in part to Israel's recent "Cast Lead" offensive in Gaza, where the IDF targeted the Islamic University.

The very institution of higher learning that lent its laboratories to perfecting more viable rockets to be lobbed off into Israel. Which institution, in fact, was used to store rockets and bombs and where the Hamas military elite was comfortable having their many strategic planning meetings. And where the university's professors helped to develop explosives for the terrorist group.

This is the sanctity of the institute of higher learning that CUPE has declared itself committed to avenging by declaring Israeli academics persona non grata in Ontario. University workers in Ontario are urged to look closely and critically at their academic and research ties with their Israeli counterparts. Palestinians in Gaza may support their university's commitment to jihad, however.

If Sid Ryan, (following on the leftist-initiative of unions in Ireland, Australia and the U.S.) insists on his personal abrogation of the focus of CUPE, then why not indulge in a fair focus on the matter of Israel versus the Palestinians? Why not give equal focus to the profound failures of the Palestinians' governing councils to justly represent them, instead of exploiting their vulnerabilities?

The private biases, bigotries and proclivities of a disaffected group bringing a passionate view, one-sided and antagonistic to the fore, with its irrational, malign forces of prejudice and hate doesn't really add to the debate, nor further it in any positive way. Surely the leadership of CUPE Ontario has far more pressing and legitimate issues according to its mandate?

To so assiduously pursue a tainted resolution bogged down in bigotry and falsehoods betrays a public trust. Of such dimensions that the CUPE Ontario leadership presents as one needful of a spirited house-cleaning. The national president of CUPE, Paul Moist, is unequivocal in his stated belief that the academic boycott movement is contrary to CUPE's core values.

With his long experience in unions, let alone as national president, Mr. Moist is well aware of CUPE's rightful advocacy in the realm of quality public services needful for the strength of the communities we all live in. The focus needs to be on the quality of public health care, strengthened communities and municipalities, and public child care.

CUPE's absurd and harmful positions on an international matter they have chosen to support one blinkered side of is unbalanced and useless other than to sow dissent and bitterness within Canada. The resolution just passed by the Ontario committee speaks more to the resurgence of anti-Semitism as a renascent tool for Jew-haters than a representation of a public service union.

More's the pity for that.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Science Myopia

These are tough economic times to be sure, and there are areas of government spending that should be cut back, but surely it makes no sense whatever for the Government of Canada to eliminate funding of research to the extent that it has done. And now the announcement that the National Research Council must eliminate three of its research groups and downside yet another.

It's anticipated that as many as three hundred skilled, technical, professional, scientists absorbed in cutting-edge scientific work will see their positions disappear.

Instead of valuing these researchers and taking steps to ensure that they remain committed to this country and its needs, the government has decided the NRC must look for cost cutting measures, like any other government department, at a time when research and development is more critical than ever.

The National Research Council is well known both nationally and internationally for the quality of its research. It does Canada no credit whatever to diminish its efficacy.

The Institute for Information Technology and the Institute for Microstructural Sciences will be phased out of existence as a result of the NRC's reorganization. And we'll be the poorer for it. What kind of sense does this make, when we require increased innovation and scientific commitment to solve the many problems and meet opportunities that the country faces?

We've educated these fine minds and trusted them to gear into research whose results will inevitably bring progress of one sort or another to the country, and to now simply let the mechanisms by which we employ these experts and researchers lapse, makes no sound sense whatever. It is, sad to say, irresponsible. If cost-cutting is the measure by which we grade research and scientific endeavour, we're in a sad state.

How will this reflect back on Canada that despite these units being acknowledged as cutting-edge research groups, whose findings have attracted international plaudits, they've been identified as redundant. All the more so when Canadian scientists often share work and results with their scientific counterparts elsewhere in laboratories around the world.

We do, after all, pride ourselves as a nation of innovators, enterprising searchers for perfection in science and technology.

Government investment on an ongoing basis in innovation, science and technology should be strengthened, not weakened, regardless of the economic climate. It is new technologies, emerging innovations that will move us forward. The kind of cutting-edge research that the National Research Council has been well known and universally admired for, should be protected and encouraged, not abandoned.

For almost a century the NRC has been celebrated as Canada's premier research facility, specializing in aerospace, biotechnology, engineering and construction, fundamental sciences, information and communications technology and manufacturing. All vital areas of interest to any country with pride in its scientific capabilities, its facilities and its vision.

Cutting back on our commitments to scientific innovation and research may spell a monetary relief in the budget in the short term, but it presents as long-term abandonment of our need to develop and grow the country's innovative capacity.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

What Obloquy?

Last year in Tibet a peaceful demonstration to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's flight into exile in India brought the heavy hand of Chinese authoritarian rule into the picture when riots ensued in Tibet and the provinces surrounding it. China claims 22 people to have been killed in the riots and the government troops' attempts to put down what they felt was an apprehended insurrection.

This year, as the 50th anniversary of the Chinese government clamp-down on Tibetan autonomy nears, the government is taking no chances. It has taken steps to close Tibet to the outside world. Tourism has been halted, and outside observers may no longer obtain permits to enter Tibet. Security forces have been deployed for the purpose in hand, to "firmly crush the savage aggression of the Dalai Lama clique, defeat separatism and maintain stability".

No entry permits will be issued to foreigners, tourists, news agencies, for the foreseeable future. The ban extends outward from Tibet including three of the surrounding provinces where ethnic Tibetans live. The Tibet Daily editorial explained it is imperative that China "maintain heavy pressure on criminal violators from start to finish".

From within Tibet reports are issuing of severe and aggressive reduction of monks in key monasteries, in concert with the bivouacking of armed forces on the religious sites. Reports of several dozen Tibetans having been arrested for carrying the likeness of the Dalai Lama in Lithang County, Sichuan Province have set the stage for further suppression of 'violence'.

As a demonstration of the exigencies of diplomacy, visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is treading lightly, making no specific mention of this new flash-point in relations between China and its vulnerable Tibetan population. Rather, in a reprise of historical antecedents; in the interests of global stability given current economic problems, and environmental concerns, human rights has slipped off the negotiating table.

Matters will proceed that much more smoothly, with China not facing the sting of opprobrium relating to its human-rights record, and the two super powers can proceed without inconvenient diversions to pave the way for co-operation without fear of inconveniently unwieldy confrontations.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Canada's Position: Unequivocal

Canada has, under its current Conservative government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, dedicated itself to battling the endless scourge of anti-Semitism. Recognizing the fragile state of existence of the State of Israel surrounded by hostile neighbours and terrorist groups, some of them state militia proxies, Canada has taken it upon itself diplomatically and politically, to state common cause for, and support of Israel, a sister democracy.

This unequivocal position of support of Israel has traditionally been a tenuous, more equivocal one, in Canada. Within the hallowed halls of the United Nations Canada has, in the past, too often disgraced herself by withholding support, and even on occasion vapidly voting in Arab-led denunciations against the "Zionist entity".

Which, one supposes, translates as one prime minister away from capitulation once again to the uneven, hypocritical majority in the UN.

In the wake of the IDF's "Cast Lead" operation in Gaza, and Canada's expressed support for Israel's right to defend itself against incessant attacks from Hamas, an assortment of Arab diplomats in Canada were delegated to convey their countries' displeasure with Canada's "uneven" stance on the situation. But Canada's response was a well considered one, given the circumstances, and she had nothing to explain.

Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has been quite clear in expressing his government's support for Israel, and its determination to present a unified front with the country. Canada is the only country besides Israel itself to announce its withdrawal from participation in Durban 2, the UN conference on racism, knowing full well from previous experience that its singularly odious purpose is to vilify and condemn Israel.

The Government of Canada has taken it upon itself to consistently vote against hypocritical resolutions at various international forums that single Israel out for humiliation and blame for violation of human rights. Claims generally brought against the Jewish State by a compendium of countries whose human rights records are blatantly and punishingly dreadful.

Minister Kenney has no hesitation in condemning the fear- and hate-mongering of established Muslim and Arab groups within Canada who seek to demonize Israel and encourage censorious public opinion against the state. And by extension Jews, wherever they happen to live, including within Canada. Groups such as the Canadian Arab Federation and the Canadian Islamic Congress, whose leading functionaries are resolutely anti-Semitic.

In his address to the inaugural conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Commission for Combating Anti-Semitism that took place in London, England, last week, Minister Kenney quoted Prime Minister Stephen Harper following upon his visit to Auschwitz: "I was moved beyond words by what I saw to revulsion, anger and most of all a deep, aching sadness for the millions of innocents who perished.

"But I also felt hope, hope because of the indomitable spirit and strength of the Jewish people; hope that left behind the horror of the Holocaust and moved forward to build the thriving, modern democratic state of Israel and also hope because today most people in most civilized countries recognize anti-Semitism for what it is, a pernicious evil that must be exposed, confronted and repudiated whenever and wherever it appears, an evil so profound that it is ultimately a threat to us all."

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Customs and Traditions

There are some customs and traditions so blatantly inhumane that they represent a universal affront to humanity. In traditional fundamentalist religious societies it is a commonplace that women's rights are not observed, particularly in rigid patriarchies. Assaults against women then assume another dimension, when they are so outrageous that they simply fall into the sphere of indignities and crimes against humankind.

In rigidly male authoritarian societies where women have few freedoms, it has been accepted that men can behave violently against women. Menfolk holding the women in their families to a rigid standard of submission to male authority. They are dependents with few recognized legal rights of their own. In places like India and the Middle East women's lives are easily forfeit if they insist on their rights as individuals, as women, capable and responsible.

In Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan women continue to be denied the opportunity to achieve an education. They may appear in public only appropriately garbed, in the presence of male family members. In Saudi Arabia and elsewhere women are expected to be chaste and modest in their clothing, in the public arena. Honour killing is practised in Syria, Jordan, and elsewhere in the region. The justification for which is that a woman who brings dishonour to her family through loose morals(loosely interpreted) must forfeit her life to restore the family's honour.

And in these male-dominated hierarchies women risk disfigurement through beatings and through the common practise of being doused with acid. Iranian Ameneh Bahrami, a young university electronics graduate who had met another student at her classes who became fixated on her, was dreadfully assaulted by him, when she continued to spurn his advances, culminating in his threats of dire harm if she continued to refuse him in marriage.

"He told me he would kill me", she said. "He said, 'You have to say yes.'" Well, she did not, she continued to refuse his advances throughout the space of two years while he kept insisting that she accept him. Finally, upon leaving her place of employment in 2004, waiting for a bus to take her home, he threw sulphuric acid at her face. It dripped down her neck, on her hands and arms, leaving her flesh withered.

Seventeen operations followed. She lost one eye and the remaining one permits her limited sight. Her face remains scarred, but she has no further money to pay for additional surgery. In Muslim countries it is common to offer "blood money" to atone for violence, but despite her mounting medical bills, Ms. Bahrami has steadfastly refused to accept money from her attacker.

The judge hearing her case in Tehran enquired of her whether she would like her attacker's face to be splashed with acid, just as he had done to her. "That is impossible and horrific", she responded. "Just drip 20 drops of acid in his eyes so he can realize what pain I am undergoing." In a subsequent interview she said "People like him should be made to feel my suffering."

Under Islamic Shariah law this kind of punishment is considered just and legal. The man has never indicated remorse. His attack on the woman was instigated because of his love for her, he insists. Iran's Supreme Court has since rejected the attacker's appeal and upheld the blinding, as just punishment.

Mahmoud Salarkia, Tehran's deputy public prosecutor, claims the publicity in this case would be useful in deterring future such attacks. If that is what it takes.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Deportation Fears

What a truly extraordinary world we live in. There are those dainty-minded groups who abhor the very thought of holding violent psychopaths responsible for the vicious and bloody chaos they help to create, and object to any steps taken to remove them from the society they infect and threaten.

And, there are the very fiery-tongued, jihad-committed radical Islamist clerics whom society wishes to rid itself of, who invoke on their own behalf, the unspeakable spectre of justice meted out to them, that would run counter to their human rights.

This is the kind of lunatic choreography of values and imperatives we see playing out among the uber-concerned 'human-rights' groups critical of Western initiatives to cleanse themselves of the malignant presence of terror-inspiring jihadists in their midst, portraying those governments as heartlessly inhumane, in attempting to send the incendiary provokers of death back to where they came from.

One such instance comes to the fore in the case of the radical Jordanian cleric Abu Qatada. Whom the British government identifies as having "long established" links with extreme jihadists around the world. Inclusive of armed Islamist groups in Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, not to mention al-Qaeda.

In 1994, Abu Qatada sought and was granted refugee status in Britain. His jihadist preaching to British Muslims since that time has brought charges against him sufficient to see him imprisoned time and again, resisting deportation orders. What upsets Amnesty International is that this man has been convicted on terrorism charges in his native Jordan and for that reason they feel he will be subject to torture and imprisonment.

Well, so be it. Abu Qatada was considered to be, at one time, Osama bin Laden's representative in Europe. He fears, through deportation, that Jordan will enact an inhumane punishment protocol for his benefit. How does that balance against his mighty efforts to entice conscripts within the British Muslim population to join in bloody jihad against Western interests?

The British Home Office finally won an appeal against a court ruling that had prevented the deportation. "I'm delighted with the Lords' decision today... My top priority is to protect public safety and ensure national security and I have signed Abu Qatada's deportation order which will be served on him today", said the British Home Secretary, commenting on the ruling by Britain's Law Lords.

"I am keen to deport this dangerous individual as soon as I can." To which Mr. Qatada's lawyer responds in irate condemnation, that her client would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, slamming the British backflip on its "willingness to confront the ugly issue of the use of torture".

How's that for a trade-off; protect from imagined torture one who foments against the British state, urging bloody jihad against an innocent population.

In Amman, an official confirmed that there would be a move to retrial on the cleric's return to Jordan. He is known to have funded a terrorist network, dismantled in 1999. "By law, he will be put on trial again once he arrives in Jordan because he was sentenced in absentia in 1998 and 2000 for 15 years of hard labour for terrorist activities."

The country's Minister of Justice claimed: "If he is deported, he will get a fair trial in line with Jordanian legislation". If human rights groups equate torture with hard labour, it seems a small price to pay for ridding the world, however temporarily, from the threats to public safety of this man's dedication to jihad.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Climatic Short-Sightedness

For a wealthy country it's truly a shame that Canada eschews the necessity to adequately fund science and research. There are so many research projects ongoing in the country, yet all of those projects, with few exceptions, operate on a shoestring of funding, never quite knowing whether the funding will continue. Research and development is important to any country, and governments have an obligation to the future and well-being of their country to fund ongoing projects securely.

Not in Canada, for some puzzling reason. We have the scientific know-how, we have the keen minds and scientific backgrounds, and there is no really good reason why the federal government has always been rather stand-offish about its obligations to recognize the need for secure funding for research. Talk about ambivalent; the current prime minister spoke of the country's commitment to Arctic science. Partly to protect the country's heritage and 'ownership' of now-contested territory.

Yet the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory in Nunavut, 1,500 kilometres above the Arctic Circle, just about the farthest north possible, stands in peril. It can access funding for upgrading of the facility, but the funding to ensure its ongoing research capabilities is uncertain. For the perfectly logical reason that the National Sciences and Engineering Research council which provides its funding is itself the victim of federal government cut-backs.

In the recently handed down budget there was no funding for climate and atmospheric science. Although funding was made available to maintain and upgrade existing Arctic research stations. So the infrastructure is assured for the time being, but funding to enable scientists to do their research, not so much, since their current funding is speedily reaching the point of no return.

The research being done at the facility has its focus on the Arctic atmosphere, itself a barometer of climate across the country, and by extension, the rest of the planet. From its position the Earth's protective ozone layer can be optimally studied, and climatic change observed.

What the matter with this country?

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Disgraceful Retreat

After the usual sturm und drung orchestrated by Quebec separatists, the National Battlefields Commission has succumbed to defeating itself and the expectations of some 2,100 history buff re-enactors from the United States, Europe and Canada who had planned for months to mount a grand event to honour the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

Who might have anticipated that Commission chairman Andre Juneau would do other than wearily shrug shoulders and proceed?

But no, he expressed a concern that the commission wouldn't be able to "guarantee the safety of the public". Fearful of facing off against the vociferous opponents of historical re-enactment to honour history in an objective manner, because of his apprehension of their "veiled threats of violence". Well, what else is new with that disaffected, ever-aggrieved lot of buffoons?

Since when does a federal body succumb to placating sovereigntist groups who bridle and defy authority or other peoples' rights to observe historical events because, in a country like Canada, we would fear the eruption of physical violence? Has it come to this? Again? Sovereigntist Le Reseau de Resistance du Quebecois, aided and abetted by the Bloc Quebecois and Parti Quebecois leaders of perpetual whining misery launched their offensive, and the Commission imploded.

Well, hey, then came Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff riding to the defence of the debate: "What I don't like, frankly, is that sovereigntists are trying to dominate a free debate. As someone who likes Canada and knows a thing or two about its history, I want to have my say". He did, he had his say, and painted a nice line in the sand, and it's really a warm comfortable feeling to hear this prime ministerial-aspirant avow his liking of the country.

But what the hell? Did he confer with his provincial counterpart, Liberal Premier Jean Charest, and let him know he's a jackass? The good premier strutted the stuff of appeasement, letting it be known that he had no intention of attending the re-enactment. "It's not enough [to wait] 150 years to do that. Maybe at 300 years or 350, or maybe never." Really? He feels that acutely humiliated?

So, the separatists prevailed, and Quebec City will not be the site this year, as it has on quite a few earlier occasions, of the battle commemoration. Nor will it reap the benefits of tourism and the dollars that brings in, allied with the planned re-enactment in honour of history; not defeat, not victory, but reality reflected by history. No matter, the separatists remain aggrieved.

And they reserve their right, as citizens of a free society (never mind that they option to constrain others; they must have their freedom to protest) to mount another tedious protest at the seat of government. Their strident demands were met, yet they will proceed nonetheless with a demonstration on Parliament Hill.

Moreover, Imperatif Francais and Societe Saint-Jean Baptiste de Montreal insist that all federal involvement in other scheduled events commemorating the 250th anniversary events be withdrawn.

Why? Because they say so.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The People Have Spoken

Bang the drums loud enough, long enough, hard enough and people will submit, if only to achieve a level of blessed quiet. What the hell, having achieved his goal, finally, there was the great man, shouting from the balcony of the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas.

His 'socialist revolution' vindicated, and he given permission to reign as he will. "This soldier is a pre-candidate for the presidency for 2013 to 2019" he triumphed. "We have cleared the political horizon. The doors of the future are wide open. Today I declare that I dedicate, and will dedicate, my life to the service of the Venezuelan people.

"In this path I will dedicate all that remains of my life", he joyfully vowed. What on earth is particularly 'socialist' about crowning a self-annointed king in perpetuity? That's a monarchy, a tyranny of the elite, a bullying of a people into succumbing to the desires of one who aspires to rule in perpetuity. The inheritance of majesty.

In a newly-beggared economy, with sinking petroleum prices, scarce and scarcer treasury funds were siphoned off to pay for the launching of a massive public relations triumph, assuring the public that their hero of the revolution is there for them, only for them, to ensure their future and that of their glorious country.

The state-monopolized media did its very best to lead the public to the only conclusion that their dedicated and fearless leader would accept. If not this time, then another; last year's rejection led to this year's acceptance. Even if there was some vote-rigging, the majority spoke, 54%-worth. Done deal.

The vote might have been different had it taken place six months from now, given the badly faltering economic situation. Venezuelans don't enjoy paying 50% more for basic foodstuffs than they've been accustomed to paying. And something resembling real dollars for oil. Growing unemployment does not bode well for the near future.

Well, so what, if Hugo Chavez has realized his goal of potentially being able to hold office for as long as the democratic process whereby his people vote him in to a majority is a possibility? Much can happen between now and the future. Venezuela, after all, has an opposition party, and a large student force that agitates against Mr. Chavez's self-aggrandizing goals.

The 50-year Cuban reign of Fidel Castro does not necessarily represent a goal that Mr. Chavez may meet or exceed. His aspiration to rule until 2049 may yet elude his grasp.

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Much Ado

Isn't it just like officious authorities to lose sight of the larger picture? But then, that's what the self-righteous of officialdom excel at. And, in a society that reveals its neuroses by institutionalizing the criminalization of recreational drugs one could claim - legitimately, as Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has done - that no one is above the law. The law, famously, tends to asinine forfeitures of human tendencies.

That which might be licit becomes illicit, even while other substances proving to be similarly injurious to one's health are societally and lawfully accepted. A small indiscretion that has cost Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps dearly is blown entirely out of proportion.

A world audience that heralded a world-class athlete capable of outdistancing in performance and endurance all previous contestants, looks on gape-mouthed at this man's fall from grace. Can we be serious about this? This is an individual whose genetic endowment has given him a massive edge over all other athletes in performing at the very highest level of achievement.

This is a young, active man, doing what all young men do from time to time. Present at a party, and partaking of recreational, slightly mind-altering drugs. For relaxation, for pleasure; simply perhaps to be seen as no different in that sense from any other normal, healthy male.

An indiscreet photograph taken of him sipping a cocktail would have elicited no censure. Why then, because he was photographed smoking the mildest of all possible drugs? Smoking marijuana? Please. Get a grip. For this his reputation stands in jeopardy, his likeness is emblazoned on the front pages of tabloids, and nervous advertisers yank his contract.

It's not as though, as the righteous objectors claim, that the use of marijuana represents a portal to the world of hard drug use and the collapse of civilization as we know it. The substance, in fact, is far less potent as a mind-altering drug than alcohol. At its worst, dependence on either is a plague, but like anything else in life, moderation is the key to balance.

Or is that balance is the key to moderation?

"It's a mistake I won't make again", claimed the much chastened 23-year-old, apologizing for his temporary fall from grace, a stumble off that marble plinth of athletic perfection. No, he won't; he'll take greater care to ensure that his little peccadilloes are not henceforth photographed.


Monday, February 16, 2009

A Way Of Life

The vicious struggle between the Taliban and the current government of Afghanistan, aided by Western forces, shows no sign of abating, and instead demonstrates the resolve of the Taliban to overwhelm both the corrupt and inept government of Afghanistan and the foreign forces stationed there to assist that government. Over time, the Taliban which was originally ousted from Afghanistan in the post 9-11 invasion, has managed to resuscitate their fortunes.

That the United States, during the original invasion, was too hasty in declaring the rousting of the Taliban a resounding success, is a weary story of incompetence and inability to clarify their vision of the future. Currently, the country remains unpacified, and more of its vast, ungoverned geography than ever is in the control of the Taliban, which has set up its own system of governance, out of the reach of Western forces.

Despite which, NATO forces remain resolute in their determination to eventually prevail in their dedication to removing the Taliban from potentially taking over the country once again. Apart from trying to hold territories previously freed from Taliban rule and then re-taken by the fundamentalist Islamists, foreign forces and their countries' diplomats and NGOs are feverishly attempting to normalize that portion of the country free of Taliban.

And that too is questionable, given that the Taliban keep demonstrating how capable they are of infiltrating crowded urban areas thought to be safe zones, to explode bombs and engage in suicide missions, killing hundreds of Afghan citizens. Last week a well-orchestrated Taliban attack mission succeeded in destroying a key government building, killing 28, injuring 50. Another such mission was apprehended more recently by police in Kandahar City.

The Afghan National Police remain notoriously corrupt, just like the politicians at every level, and indeed the society as a whole. The country's police are poorly paid, and have often enough slipped over to fight for the Taliban, with promise of more generous recompense. Suicide bombers dressed in police uniforms regularly detonate themselves inside police stations. Over a thousand police officers were killed in the past year, in far greater numbers than the better-trained and -paid national army.

Volunteer Canadian police officers from Canada, along with Canadian soldiers, have undertaken training of the Afghan police for the purpose of instilling more reliable and professional conduct in the force, battling against drug use and endemic corruption. With the hope, eventually, that the two home-grown forces will prove capable of mounting their own defences. Other NATO counterparts are busy in other parts of the country doing the same thing.

Western-type law enforcement is an unknown quantity in Afghanistan, and it is that, as much as practical arms training that remains the teaching goal. Both the police and the army have to recognize their role as providing security for the country. Complicated to some degree by tribal affiliations, different cultures, traditions, languages, and conventional suspicions. Yet it will be up to them to institute trust and good relations from within the entire vast and far-reaching communities of villages and farming regions.

The hope is, in the end, that Afghanistan will manage to succeed. Likely at some near-future date when the government itself takes a good stiff broom to sweep out all the human detritus that now pose as government officials and elected parliamentarians. The alternative is to produce what has now occurred in Pakistan. An agreement by the embattled government there, to accede to the violent demands in northwestern Swat valley where Islamic Sharia will be restored in the region.

The militant fundamentalists determined to reimpose Shariah Islamic law in its strictest form, have won their battle. "We're announcing ceasefire as a 'goodwill gesture'", magnanimously declared a spokesman for the militants. And, as another act of 'good faith' they released a Chinese hostage. They will, of necessity to their creed, demonstrate other 'good faith' and 'goodwill gestures'.

By closing down all schools welcoming girls in the region, having already destroyed over 200 girls' schools. They're on a roll.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Good Name Back?

Well, gee whiz, I don't think so, Mr. Radwanski. Simply because the presiding judge felt that the evidence as presented did not adequately indict you as an irresponsible bureaucrat, one who saw nothing amiss in squandering the public trust and with it a goodly proportion of taxpayer dollars, does not truly release you from responsibility.

You can't have been all that ignorant of the guidelines issued to all public civil servants. When in doubt, enquire. No need to be oblivious to responsibility, other than to shirk it.

And you cannot have been entirely unaware that the government looks rather askance at their senior employees who seek to advantage themselves to the extent that you obviously did. Your expense claims were outrageous. The manner in which you took advantage of perquisites not meant to be utilized in the manner you felt comfortable in doing, mark you as a rather unintelligent self-availer.

How absurd it was that you have been acquitted, when you are clearly in breach of the public trust. As privacy commissioner you were entrusted to perform at a certain level of competence. It would have been assumed that you would perform the many duties you were entrusted with with diligence and honesty.

You harassed, intimidated and created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty among the workers whom you were responsible for. You would brook no criticism, and any who were sufficiently audacious to comment unfavourably on your techniques and findings discovered themselves to be downgraded and marginalized.

You saw nothing amiss in treating yourself and a favoured minion to luxurious treats you termed "working" lunches. Anyone might consider a bill representing $122 for a single breakfast, lunch or dinner, and up to $250 for a dinner on the taxpayer dime rather excessive, but not you.

Your extended periods of time away from the office in favour of summertime visits to your cottage did you no credit. Nor did your claims to time you weren't entitled to.

Your juggling of accounts for travel advances was rather irregular and questions your understanding of the basic requirements for self-direction and responsibility as a trusted public servant with access to public money.

In short, sir, you haven't a good name at all, and that's truly a shame.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

The (Foul) Deed Done

Here's hoping that the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate won't live to rue the day they succumbed to panic, urged on by a new president whom unkind fate has introduced to the world on a maelstrom of internal and external financial disaster. Compelling the good man to act in haste, whereupon he may eventually, and the world with him, repent in leisure. But perhaps not - for who, after all, is able to foresee the future?

Certainly not all the financial experts wringing their impotent hands in confusion. None of this, after all, was supposed to happen in an atmosphere of trust that the markets should be self-regulating and eventually self-righting, and never behave in a manner that would prove to be inimical to their prolonged good health. They most certainly would, if this were a mechanical and as such trusted mechanism outside the wayward hand of humankind.

Now here is a bill representing 5% of the American GDP, with no guarantees of success, but burdened with much hope, (despite the prospect for failure), now awaiting President Obama's signature. There are simply too many imponderables in the financial collapse, and too few informed 'cures'. The alarm expressed by America's trading partners at the resolute xenophobia expressed in the Buy American clause cautioned the administration of its international obligations.

Of its trading partners none is more invested in future trade and inter-related economies than is Canada, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has become uncharacteristically morose about the frailty of the partnership. Whatever difficulties the United States faces, so too does Canada for our economies have become so entwined that it becomes difficult to find where one can do without the other. Whither goes the U.S. market, so too goes Canada's.

One and a half billions-worth of goods and services every day pass across the U.S.-Canada border, amounting to a whopping $700-billion in this last year alone. Each country represents the other's largest, most reliable trading partner, a circumstance responsible for seven million American jobs. Canada supplies more energy to the United States than any other country, including fossil fuels.

We're also the largest customer of American exports. Protectionism has proven in the past to be harmful to the world economy. Examples abound, not the least of which was the wrong turn taken during the dirty 30s when the U.S. closed trading ranks in upon itself in a wrong-headed effort to save itself from financial ruin, abandoning its global responsibility and as a result deepening the financial disaster.

The dread 'Buy American' clause has been diluted in its final presentation, but it remains there, an ugly warning to American trading partners in a global economy. We have full evidence of how critical the inter-relationships in this global economy are, and what the enormously deleterious fall-out is, given that the collapse of the U.S. economy has directly impacted on its international financial partners to begin with.

Having been the initiator of a world-wide financial collapse, the United States, in a desperate effort to save itself from any further losses, beggars itself, and in the process abandons its international, and legal responsibilities. Republicans were stridently averse to signing on to this emergency package; viewing with regret and distaste the earlier rescue launched by their Republican president, resulting in failure and waste.

This entire scheme, in its vast, far-reaching and ultimately partisan oneupsmanship, reflects the values and the ethics of the Democratic Party, strenuously taking steps to perform an unequivocal left-turn from the Republican Party's choices and values on the tail of an emergency. Somewhere, in between each party's rigid partisanship, there resides balance and intelligence of choice.

It will be President Obama's unenviable task to struggle to find that balance, beyond mere rhetoric of bipartisanship. But all the best intentions in the world won't help him if he remains strictured by his own party's vigorous self-availment, leading to the other party's resentment and unwillingness to lend itself to a non-partisan unity of meaningful purpose.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Recrimination, Incrimination, Interpretation

What a horrible waste; two young lives lost. One, the victim, lost forever to his family who will never see him smile again, embrace him, celebrate with him, express their love for him, together. His parents, his siblings, his nephews will retain the dense misery of the pain forever lodged in their hearts, and call up unbidden, memories of what they've lost, stricken by thoughts of his last desperate moments in life.

The other, an arrogant, aggressive, psychopath whose crime of murder, although he was only 17 at the time he took it upon himself to cruelly torture another soul, then take his life, has been tried in a court of law, and sentenced as an adult. Shawn McKenzie, taller, larger, stronger, and with a pack of his friends, intimidated an innocent passenger on a public transit bus in Ottawa.

When the drama of confronting, intimidating, threatening, and finally murdering Michael Oatway had concluded, what precisely might Shawn McKenzie have felt he had accomplished, one can only wonder. The 23-year-old young man with the fullness of his life ahead of him, en route to visiting with his future wife had not the slightest inkling this would be his final passage in life.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger informed the courtroom packed with onlookers that it was his opinion a youth sentence was insufficient to fully reflect the extent of Shawn McKenzie's crime. It was his studied opinion that Shawn McKenzie did not represent as someone who could be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society through means of a youth court sentence.

"Shawn McKenzie is entirely responsible for the killing of Michael Oatway. His moral culpability is complete. Shawn McKenzie pulled out a knife in circumstances that were reckless and dangerous. He intentionally approached an innocent bystander on a bus and ultimately deliberately caused the death of that innocent bystander", commented Judge Maranger.

Mr. McKenzie has received a life sentence for the murder he committed, and for which he has demonstrated no remorse. He could have desisted during the confrontation he provoked with Mr. Oatway; one or more of his companions made an attempt to draw him away, but he persisted, determined to demonstrate how powerful a bully he envisioned himself as being, and in the process surpassed even his friends' expectations.

"In this case, the harm runs very long and very deep. The lost love, the anguish and anger caused by this crime, are impossible to measure or to convey, through my words" the judge said prior to reading Mr. Oatway's mother's victim-impact statement. The judge also based the sentence he handed down on his having noted that there was no sign of remorse or regret evidenced throughout the court proceedings.

Mr. McKenzie's mother feels, unlike the Oatway family, that justice has been far too harsh on her misunderstood son. She attested that she considered him to be a good son. "There are worse killers out there than my son. My son is not a killer", she claimed. On the incontrovertible evidence, however, he is that, and more. Her son's actions were an anomaly, she claims, not representative of his true character.

"He said to me once, 'Mom, I messed up, but never like this'", she said as evidence of her belief that he did feel badly about what he had done. Surely as his mother she would have asked: "Why would you do such a thing?" To which he might have responded that he 'messed up'. Tantamount to expressing regret that his actions would cost him dearly.

And so they have. He will be confined for a considerable length of time, and during that confinement his already-obvious unwillingness to become a valued member of society will have been exacerbated by the convicted's emotions of anger, humiliation and blame of others, along with his prison interaction with more hardened of society's pathological human failures.

He, at least, will one day have his life and his freedom restored. What he has destroyed can never become whole again.

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The Horror of War

If anyone ever had any doubts about the misery, the terror, the horror of war, they should force themselves to view photographs of injured, maimed, dying and dead children. If nothing else could work to persuade people that any and all other means be sought before any country would resort to war, then viewing these photographs surely would.

Yes, there is a genuine case to be made for protecting oneself against violence from another. And every country can legitimately claim that if another country embarks on a course of destruction with the intent to conquer it militarily and destroy its peoples' lives, then under international law it has a right and an obligation to itself and its population to respond.

When there exists such an historical and intractable conflict as the world sees between the State of Israel and the Palestinian populations in the West Bank and Gaza, surely suspicion, anger, blame can be overcome when there is a sincere effort to meet one another's objectives; largely each side making an effort to retain what they feel is their peoples' inheritance, yet willing to trade off.

Reason cannot overcome passion, and passionate emotion leading to aggrievement and an inability to bargain in good faith simply has both sides clinging to their wish list of optimal needs, with neither willing to make the tremendous effort required to surrender something of great value to achieve something of greater value; peace. If for no other reason than to safeguard the lives of the next generation.

While perusing the web site of the on-line Haaretz Daily Newspaper yesterday I came across a portal that likely wasn't meant to be there, and out of curiosity clicked on it; it read "Help Gaza", and it took me to a gallery of photographs, many of which represented a horrendous calamity, graphically illustrating the dreadful death of a child.

Others were photographs of children, their eyes wild with terror, in horrible pain as they were being carried toward medical help. For some of these children, that desperate run for medical assistance would be too little, too late. For others it would mean their lives would have been saved, but the trauma that they experienced would never leave them.

This is no way to represent ourselves as thinking, feeling human beings.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oaths and Recriminations

"Political violence must end today", said Morgan Tsvangirai as he took an oath of office in front of Harare's State House. His tens of thousands of supporters there in attendance to witness the longed-for event heard him out with great satisfaction, no doubt. "We can no longer afford brother against brother, because one happened to have a different political opinion."

The man who was tried and acquitted of treason against the state, who suffered arrest, incarceration and beatings has finally won his way into the government of Zimbabwe. How much further could that country possibly surrender into failure? An unendurable inflation rate, a collapsed economy, an unsupportable unemployment rate, scarcity of food, and a dreadful medical epidemic out of control?

"From the end of this month, every health worker, every teacher, every soldier, every policeman will be paid in foreign currency", pledged Mr. Tsvangirai, as Zimbabwe's prime minister in the new power-sharing government. All those public servants would swear allegiance to anyone who could guarantee them pay in guaranteed currency, not Zimbabwe's vastly devalued ZWD.

Zimbabwe's hyperinflation will not be easily solved, nor its agricultural base built back to what it was, before Robert Mugabe's move to destroy it, through his government's persecution of the country's white farmers, forced off their land so it could be occupied by his supporters, supremely inept, disinterested in farming, allowing the fertile fields to rot, and Zimbabweans to lose their farm jobs, the country its former cornucopia status.

The people of Zimbabwe may very well have great expectations for the new government's ability to forge ahead into a more promising future, but given the dire straits of the economy, it will be a long hard slog forward, needing a massive infusion of international funding. Their need and the opportunity to assist coming at the very juncture where global financial systems are in severe decline.

There was, however, a certain element of bleak, black humour, unintended as it was, injected into the ceremonies inducting Mr. Tsvangirai finally into the government, when the master of ceremonies unctuously spoke of Mr. Mugabe as "a statesman of great luminous vision and hope, indeed a man of distinction", as President Mugabe administered the oath to Mr. Tsvangirai.

With no doubt some inner misgivings, leavened by the committed knowledge that he would, once some degree of stability could be restored to the country, take future steps to edge him out of the power base he now enjoys, as he has done in the past.

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Trust Us (not grim reality)

This time they were somewhat more sensitively discreet; no limousines dropping the bank hierarchy off for their hearing in the House of Representatives on this more recent occasion of sober reality and muffled mea culpas. The chief executives of Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, State Street and Wells Fargo sat meekly, taking their chiding with due care to optics.

They were, they swore, committed to paying back all those taxpayer-funded billions in bailout money, as soon as they possibly could. You do believe them, don't you? That funding most certainly did not find its way into their personal, sagging pockets; perish that ugly thought. Lines of credit were available to their good customers, certainly that's so; customers need but line up for the credit, and where are they? Doubtless hiding whatever cash is available to them in piggy banks, under mattresses.

"It is abundantly clear that we are here amidst broad public anger at our industry" understated Goldman Sachs's Lloyd Blankfein, allowing as how Wall Street "lost sight of its larger public obligations". These CEOs are truly apologetic for the misunderstandings, but it must be understood that they have been victims of the markets. And they've taken steps to sacrifice some of their comforts. Did they not, after all, travel to Washington by train rather than corporate jet?

Oh yes, that sordid story of the Citigroup jet as an instance of how the banks have chosen to use the $700-billion Troubled Asset Relief Program funding still rankles. No less, actually than Merrill Lynch's decision - while it was in the throes of billions of dollars in losses - to render $1-million to each of approximately seven hundred employees - after nine banks received $125-billion of U.S. Treasury injections.

The banks' use of those funds to plump up their balance sheets, to buy up rivals at bargain-basement prices instead of re-opening credit lines to businesses and consumers did not raise their profiles meaningfully, positively, in the jaundiced opinion of irate lawmakers. Nor did the well-publicized corporate retreats to luxury hotels in Las Vegas and elsewhere.

All the while forcing higher credit card interest rates on already-debt-ridden consumers. Warned one lawmaker, "You will be publicly pilloried". He's right, and along with them the administration and its various governing bodies which decided not to practise due diligence and follow the trail of the funding to ensure it matched the purpose for which it was meant.

And here we always felt it was out-to-pasture politicians who had the lock on handsomely provisioning their financial larder. It is, after all, a free market capitalist society isn't it? A phenomenon we in the West identify as ethical malfeasance - corruption in other words - practised elsewhere.

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Vandalizing Neanderthals

Somehow, you just can't take the hoodlums out of society. Public property whose purpose is to increase quality of life, or to enhance the environment is just too tempting for those with a penchant toward destruction; alternating with those - certainly of a like anti-social clan-base - incapable of restraining themselves from purloining goods meant for the public interest.

Simply too tantalizing, the opportunity presented to them, to enhance their own interest in benefiting from ill-got gains.

So here's a highly praised project unveiled in Paris in July of 2007, where twenty-thousand bicycles were docked at stations throughout the city for residents and tourists to take advantage of, rather than use pollution-causing motor vehicles. These self-service bicycles, rented for about $1.50 an hour on an honour system.

Picked up handily at any of the kiosks around town, and later parked at any other kiosk once returned, the "Velibs" have been the subject of another type of self-service.

The enterprise was greeted with great acclaim at its initiation by environmentalists and cycling enthusiasts. A workable solution to congested roadways, and a terrific alternative to the expense of getting about by taxis. An opportunity for people to casually take temporary stewardship of a Velib [velo (cycle) liberte (free)] to enable them to zip around the city on errands or for recreational purposes, exercise, or sightseeing.

People being people, some of us responsible, others careless, while still others engaging in illicit and socially destructive activities have taken their toll of this socially responsible, municipality-initiated engagement in public transit alternatives.

On the far side of improbable, the bicycles continuing their useful transit opportunities in the winter months, have been implicated in the deaths of five users whose unfortunate ends resulted from accidents.

But since December, the plan launched by the socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, has begun launching in surrounding boroughs, and it is also being duplicated in foreign cities such as London, San Francisco and Singapore. They should look to Paris's experience as a cautionary tale.

The sad truth is that 11,600 of the grey bicycles lauded for their "damage-resistance" have been vandalized. And another 7,800 of the conveyances have simply vanished.

Young people have been using the handily-available bicycles for thrill seeking, performing daredevil stunts they film and set to rock music, posting them on the Internet. Inclusive of head-spinning descents down the stairs of the Montmartre hill, and gravity-defying leaps of bicycle-and-rider.

Tire slashing appears to be the social statement of preference of most of the junior vandals taking their place in society, according to the 500 repair personnel engaged by the project. Other bicycles have been hung from trees, thrown into the river and when all else fails, shipped out to foreign parts.

An expensive, taxpayer-supported loss, since their replacement cost is about $630 each. "We underestimated the degree of damage that they would suffer", admitted the marketing director of JCDecaux, the advertising company supplying them to the city.

The generosity and public-spiritedness of the plan to enhance opportunities for people to get around and help the environment, however, has greatly benefited far-flung places like eastern Europe and Africa, where many of the purloined conveyances have been discovered to have landed.

City authorities are not discouraged, however, and they will forge on with the project. In fact, they're planning to expand it with the introduction of an offshoot of the self-service transport plan: Autolibs
Uh, oh. International black-marketers in stolen vehicles will be rubbing their greasy hands in anticipation.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

U.S.-Iran Interaction

President Barack Obama has held out a tentative open hand to Iran. Which Iran instinctively smacked down. Leading the United States to chide that its open hand would be singularly inefficient, meeting a clenched fist. Clenched fist, however, comes naturally to the leaders of Iran, since the Iranian Revolution. Most particularly toward any vestiges of the West, but absolutely toward the Great Satan, and the little-brother Satan.

For Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stoop so low as to give any credence to the new American administration's wish to embark upon a new understanding with the Islamic Republic of Iran, some pre-conditions were sternly stipulated: it must end its support for the Zionist Entity and it must apologize for past crimes against the Islamic Republic.

That being understood, Iran might consider opening talks with the United States, as superpower to superpower. With the understandable proviso that they meet as equals. "The Iranian nation will welcome genuine changes" to U.S. policy, grandly asserted President Ahmadinejad. "The Iranian nation is prepared to talk. However, these talks should be held in a fair atmosphere in which there is mutual respect."

One recalls the efforts of former President Jimmy Carter, himself a fundamentalist believer in God, and who believed that as a devout Christian, devout Muslims would respect him, his administration, his country. How wrong he was. Then there was former President Ronald Reagan, yet another devout Christian, who attempted, through the fierce determination of Oliver North - another devout Christian - to open a dialogue of trust - and release of American hostages - with Iran.

Americans offered trust and Iranians proffered contempt. Playing the U.S. actors for fools, assembling from them armaments enabling them to get on with their war with Iraq, while pretending innocence with respect to the whereabouts of the horribly maltreated American hostages. Ah, but that was then; there is no American Embassy stuffed with diplomats for Republican Guards to hold indefinitely, though there might be, if talks succeed.

And if President Obama's overtures delivered through his trusted diplomats fail to deliver what President Ahmadinejad insists upon: Americans to reject their long-time trust in and support of Israel and Iranian opposition groups based outside Iran; those "terrorists" who seek to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees (an impossible but tiresome aspiration of traitors and fanatics), there can be no dialogue.

Iran, said he, would be willing to co-operate with the United States. In such obvious areas as combating drug trafficking, and terrorism. "If you truly want to fight terrorism, come and co-operate with the Iranian nation, which is the main victim of terrorism", offers Mr. Ahmadinejad. Unblushingly, resolutely, righteously; he knows of what he speaks.

Iran's proxies in Lebanon and Gaza fight mightily on Iran's behalf to combat the forces of terror. It is not only Israel, but Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States that are guilty of fomenting terror and violence against peace-loving Iran.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Transition To Same Old

Practical reality follows euphoria; what was once billed as hope for the future has somehow transpired in short order to a threatening future. Hope has suddenly become an endangered emotional underpinning, thrust from the spotlight by that misery of fear. From having nothing to fear but fear itself, to a resounding, heartfelt, audacity of hope, and coming full circle back to fear - of an economic collapse so deep, so wide and all-encompassing that America may never find itself back to solvency.

"A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe." How is that possible? After all, all those masses of people who shed suspicion and fear to claim hope for their own, still have reason to hope. How is it that they are now faced with another prospect entirely; that if they do not submit to the fear of the immediacy of financial/social collapse by accepting a massive debt that will submerge their inheritors' hope for the future, they will have failed the test of hope? Or is that trust?

The circuitous, tortuous maze that led to this revelation comes as rather a surprise. The man with nerves of steel and the mellifluous voice of reason, who steadfastly adhered to calm while all about him was in turmoil pre-election, now, as President, has suffered a collapse of vision himself. From resolute calm, transformed entirely to resolute badgering, insistence that all will be lost for the need of a massive infusion of the country's future wealth.

He is the president. Upon him falls the massive realization of acute responsibility. His decisions must be sound and well argued to himself before they are presented to others, many of whom are ready to sit in judgement. History is the only judge; that is the understanding that comes from experiencing the future, securing its place in history. President Obama's urgent pleas to Congress to validate his vision for the future resonated with passion and misgivings.

Trouble is, some of his previous choices, critical ones at that, in establishing the inner core of his closest, most trusted, obviously qualified advisers have been questionable at best; embarrassing at the worst of their revelations. An unfortunate shedding of some deep level of trust in his ability to discern the qualities of those who can be trusted to act in the public good from those who trust themselves to act on their own behalf. Is that change Americans can believe in?

The worry is that good money - lots and lots of it, an astonishing sum of Treasury funds that are to be borrowed at high cost - will go the way of the previous 'rescue'; wasted, unaccounted for, an exercise in futility and outrageous self-entitlement by those lacking conscience and a will to support the nation's need.
The enormous job losses speak to the urgency of the emergency, and the need to do something to shore up American fortunes, however.

President Obama stressed the disaster to the nation that the massive layoffs represent; to the country's financial stakes, its future, its ability to turn itself around, terming it "irresponsible" to further delay passage of the $840-billion stimulus package. That the Senate has since passed with some alterations to what many Republicans see as just another omnibus bill with line items that will do nothing for the emergency and represent the usual partisan pork-barreling.

Still, fully 67% of Americans have signified approval of their president's stimulus negotiations, and the Republicans, though in high dudgeon in their disgust for the incalculable risks being taken and the dodgy inclusions in the package, have little public support. And with the good news, the relief of the passage of the bill through the Senate by a nice majority and with several Republicans casting their vote in favour, the deed is done.

Whereupon the U.S. stock market immediately and enthusiastically posted a definite vote of confidence: a downturn.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Ferociously, Fiercely Fuming

That's Quebec's separatists for you, always bursting out of their skins with outrage over something someone said, somewhere, that they feel has the deliberate intention of diminishing the authority and the rightfulness of their claims to represent a nation, in and of themselves as pure laine Quebecers.

Sovereignty for the Province of Quebec is no light matter, to be dismissed with the flick of a casual statement. Nor a statement fulsome in condemnation issuing from the mouth of one such as France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, even if he does represent the mother country.

How stridently righteous are those like Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe become, in their insulted umbrage at the nerve, the unmitigated hubris of an almost-outsider, to criticize the raison de'etre of Quebec separatists. "Do you really believe that the world, with the unprecedented crisis that it is going through, needs division? Needs hatred? Sarkozy demanded.

Not one to take being verbally assaulted without response, Mr. Duceppe denies being hateful. Indeed not, he has no reason to hate Canada and Canadians, they have been singularly generous over the years, in striving, albeit unsuccessfully, to comply with all the irritated demands that the province insists it is their right that the rest of Canada provide; from recognition of special status, to mind-boggling amounts of funding transferred to them, courtesy of one unctuously courting federal government after another. Quebec votes count.

And the rest of Canada can count, too. Knowing that Quebec receives a truly unequal amount of equalization payments, enabling it to offer its residents services well beyond those most other provinces can afford. The ongoing little games of strong-arming the rest of Canada, anxious to dampen Quebec's grievance, and avoid further threats of leaving Confederation, continue unabated. Pay us, handsomely, or we'll leave.

President Sarkozy does not appear to think too highly of extortion by any other name. And Mr. Duceppe returns the compliment by rejecting Mr. Sarkozy's unwarranted, ungracious, demeaning, and offending comments. "We can be a sovereign country and that does not mean that we hate Canada. On the contrary, it's a great country and I like the Canadian nation very much." As why should he not, since the binary relationship is so rewarding?

But the rallying cry for outraged interventions on the French-Canadian landscape is launched yet again, fomenting defiance, and grieving once again the loss of New France. Another affront to the dignity of Quebec and the lamentable inability of English Canada (let alone American historians and historical battle re-enactment buffs)to desist from wounding Quebecois sensibilities has erupted.

On the horizon another unspeakable event wreaking carnage on the sensitivities of a people diminished by their minority presence in a majority language and culture. When amateur historians with a thespian bent invade the province to provoke, in the theatrical-historical re-staging of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Not to be countenanced, the sheer nerve of these Philistines, seeking to celebrate the loss of New France!

The Parti Quebecois and Bloc Quebecois have raised their voices in a concert of fierce denunciation of this obvious attempt on the part of English Canada, in cahoots with the Vermont-based Quebec Historical Corps, with its historical battle re-enactors -all two thousand volunteers of them - in plunging proud Quebecers' faces in the offal of historical wrongs.

Despite claims from the re-enactors that this is meant to honour the memory of the event, not celebrate a triumph or a failure.

Much as they agitate and protest, they're unable to forestall the proceedings, since the National Battlefields Commission is a federal agency, and it alone administers the Plains. "There is no country in the world with any pride that celebrates its own defeats", moaned a Bloc MP. That is true; most countries who have suffered a defeat memorialize it as a tragedy, but this country, Canada, suffered no defeat.

No mind; the sovereigntists - separatists - are foaming at the mouth with unbridled hysteria at anyone seeking to arrive on French-Canadian soil deeming it appropriate to theatricalize their historical torment. This miserable historical event, this calamity which befell New France; the symbol of the abandonment of French rule in North America is a tragedy, and must be seen as such.

Rallying the troops for protests and damning the federal plot to further destroy French culture.

Then there are the sensible, level-headed, federalist-leaning Quebecers like the mayor of Quebec City, the federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister also, who dismiss these hysterics. "I'm a little tired of hearing talk of defeat. That's not what I'm made of", Mayor Regis Labeaume said. And professor of history, Desmond Morton labels the protests for what they are; crass manipulation by separatists.

"Sovereignty is dying of collective boredom. It is not in a healthy state. They've got to find something to talk about... The favourite notion of Quebec nationalists is that we are being victimized by somebody", he said.

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