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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Revelatory Perspectives

Things are not always as they seem. We all know that. Don't we? But we reach the conclusions we are meant to develop. Call it manipulation, or exploitation of the intellectually lazy, or those unable to find reliable news sources, certain audiences believe implicitly in what we are informed is the truth and nothing but the truth. Even when it's the truth replete with add-ons, converting the truth to a lie very useful to the political interests of a national political elite.

Even with a good many news sources insisting otherwise, and intimations of malfeasance swirling about through the news media, the preponderance of opinion sat squarely with a trusted source. And when that trusted source is the most powerful country in the world, in fact the only remaining global powerhouse, who might see an underhanded agenda? The weak-minded, of course, the element whose conservative discipline bids them look more closely.

Having to do so, unfortunately, would betray those who sought additional facts and figures, as bigots, and who wants to be named a bigot? The very fact that stoutly determined Western forces were arrayed in full armour to protect a Muslim population from the vicious depredations of a larger Christian population set out to destroy them suffused us all with a sense of honourable neutrality; we ride to the aid of the victims.

Well, oops, and dear me. Why did we not read former Canadian Maj.-Gen.Lewis MacKenzie's notes on United Nations peacekeeping operations in Bosnia in 1992, and listen to James Bissett's opinion as former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania from 1990 to 1992. Both men, after all, were first-hand witnesses to that horrible civil war. Most people knew that the then-prime minister, Brian Mulroney's wife Mila was Serbian-born. Awkward.

"General MacKenzie was probably the most outspoken United Nations official about the fact that the Muslims were shelling their own people in order to get international opinion on their side", said Peter Robinson, lead lawyer for former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, visiting Ottawa to interview witnesses in preparation for the war crimes trial against Mr. Karadzic being carried out in the Hague.

"Essentially they created disasters or massacres and blamed them on the Serbs. Some of those (massacres) Karadzic is charged with committing himself." Well, what else would you expect Mr. Karadzic's lawyer to contend? He is, after all, defending the man accused of being responsible for "ethnic cleansing" where thousands of Bosnian Muslims died. Mr. Karadzic faces no fewer than 11 charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

That would include the accusation that he was the driving force being the mass murder of 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia, heartlessly ordering the shooting of civilians during the 43-month siege of Sarajevo by forces under his command. He is on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He has taken the stand to deny responsibility for those atrocities.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Insists that Muslim leaders ordered the shelling of their own people to bring pressure on the United States to intervene on their behalf. Maj.-Gen. MacKenzie has informed Mr. Robinson additionally that there is good reason to believe Serbian forces were not responsible for the market massacre that took place in Sarajevo when people were lined up for bread rations.

Ambassador Bissett claims there to have been "a lot of evidence to indicate that Muslim leaders killed their own people", and that he believed that Mr. Karadzic "did his damnedest to prevent the war". Mag.-Gen. MacKenzie, in fact, published a book, Peacekeeper: the Road to Sarajevo, in 1993, where he recounts a conversation with then-French president Francois Miterrand, that "the majority of the blame" for the violence "rests with the Serbs", but the Bosnian Muslims usually broke ceasefires first.

That "strong but circumstantial evidence" exists "that some really horrifying acts of cruelty attributed to the Serbs were actually orchestrated by the Muslims against their own people". Mr. Karadzic himself has a fascinating account of former U.S. Ambassador Warren Zimmermann encouraging Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic to flout a peace agreement reached between the Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Croats, in favour of a unilateral declaration of independence, with U.S. support.

The contention being that the U.S. was interested in demonstrating to the Muslim world its good will, in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War. But Bosnian Serbs would not submit to Muslim rule that would bring to Bosnia an Islamic fundamentalist state. Prior to the 1992 civil war Bosnian Muslims were welcoming battle-hardened mujahadeen who had fought the Russians in Afghanistan; Osama bin Laden among them, along with jihadists from Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

The United States, at that juncture in East European political history, chose to support Bosnian Muslims rather than democratic Serbia with its long history of fighting alongside the western allies against fascism. "They basically backed the wrong horse. We're paying the price for it now. We see some of the same people now in Afghanistan and Pakistan were in Bosnia".

Why does this all seem so familiar? Its echoes can be seen in NATO being bogged down in Afghanistan. It can be seen in the current U.S. administration slighting and abandoning Israel in favour of impressing Muslim and Arab states with its 'even-handed' approach to solving the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma by forcing Israel to make unrealistic sacrifices to appease Palestinians' grossly entitled demands.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sumo Wot?

Generally an emotionally contained society where public visages of neutral serenity obtain, the Japanese nonetheless have a love of pricking pomposity. They enjoy breaking free of social constraints and restraints, and do so in that most public of arenas, as contestants on wacky, whoop-it-up television game shows where no costume, no behaviour is sufficiently excessive or extreme to display, with appropriate gusto.

Sometimes with the slightest hint of embarrassment. Which, nonetheless, holds no one back from participation.

That tight-knit group of three islands in the Pacific with its paucity of land and crowded cities, along with the formula of understated Zen Buddhism ensures that people are orderly, compliant and publicly low-key. But the Japanese have a zesty love for life, for nature and for things natural, and what is more natural than enjoying life and taking every opportunity to express one's appreciation for it?

They thrive on the absurd, while still maintaining a public demeanor that upsets no applecarts. Drawing attention to oneself through rowdy or demeaning behaviour is not looked kindly upon, in public. But turn on a television set anywhere within Japan and entertainment of the zaniest kind is right there up front and popular.

Karaoke was born in Japan and offered the most strait-laced, publicly-uptight the opportunity to unwind.

Those game-show contestants gamely allow themselves to be dressed in the most outlandish, clumsy costumes in the name of good-humour and hearty laughs. Sumo wrestling is watched on television too, as an art form more than the art of wrestling; weight, agility, crafty weighing of one's opponent's moves grasps the attention of sumo aficionados. Its practitioners are respected as much as are master craftsmen.

And it is more than likely that "Sumo suits", plastic novelties worn for their comic effect also originated in Japan before importation abroad. That the student government of Queen's University has nudged itself guiltily into the realization that these 'suits' represent an "appropriat[ion] of Japanese culture", are "disrespectfully racist and dehumanizing instruments of oppression" is quite simply beyond the pale of credulity.

The Alma Mater Society, dear me - prissy little hearts throbbing with profound sorrow in publishing a two-page apology, cancelling a food-bank fundraiser the while which intended to feature as the comic quotient two Sumo suits - has presented themselves as the quintessentially-collective horses' ass - or perhaps more appropriately a herd of horses' asses, deserving of one another's company.

What the Japanese themselves would consider to be rollicking good fun, the AMS humbly grovels over. The Japanese sense of humour borders at time on a comic adoration of the absurd, and should they ever get wind of the turgid prose of self-righteousness posing as a collective apology, they will have received the wonderful gift of uproarious laughter at the expense of the heavy-hearted, sensitive idiots of the PC world.

And where else than on campus, and what other campus, come to think of it than the very one mentioned in the recently-released report by the Canadian Federation of Students as having the distinction of "white privilege" permeating the very physical structures, the essence of the institution; "walls, books, classrooms and everything that makes Queen's what it is."

One cannot apologize too abjectly for being Canadian, young, white, intellectual and manifestly stupid.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Zesty Discrimination

There we go again, things getting out of hand because of the convenience of human rights tribunals which can be called upon to rescue someone out of high dudgeon, while at the same time slandering and bankrupting someone else.

One individual feels entitled to bringing the wrath of human rights down on the head of some feckless individual who has no intention whatever of scorning human rights, but is simply responding on a person-to-person basis of social antipathy. People just don't get along all the time, simple as that.

Some people have a habit of going around rankling others simply because they can, and they focus on a target, and then draw back in horror because their target defends themselves. No one is that personally entitled that they can harass others and become enraged when a response from their heckling seems too um, personal.

Calling someone's professional credits as a humourist into question does invite some pay-back.

Guy Earle, a comedian living in Ontario was standing up there on a stage at a Vancouver restaurant called Zesty's, and doing his shtick. It's a difficult thing to do, but a committed comic knows the show must go on, even when he has a paucity of those to amuse, as occurred in May 2007 when he was performing before a sparse, lacklustre crowd.

Mr. Earle's temerity in responding acidly to a heckler through the acknowledgement of sexual orientation has so far cost him $20,000 in 'penalty' of defending himself. If the complainant, Lorna Pardy, is successful in her 'free' bid to have Mr. Earle convicted by the B.C. Human rights Commission of the charge brought against him of 'discrimination' on the basis of her lesbianism, it will cost him another $20,000 to satisfy her hurt feelings.

In a classic he-said, she-said exchange of accusation and counter-accusation, common sense appears to have dissolved into mindless acrimony. Mr. Earle, living in Georgetown, asked for a little human rights-consideration to be drifted his way, citing issues such as debts, employment and family obligations, which a tribunal judge dismissed. He'll be squeezed until he truly repents his haste in returning insult with insult.

Ms. Pardy, according to her complaint, was a complete innocent, attending a local event at a private restaurant that featured Mr. Earle as master of ceremonies and comic factotum. Whereupon she was treated to a string of vulgar homophobic and sexist comments courtesy of Mr. Earle. She returned the compliment by dousing him several times with the contents of her drink. He, while not appreciating the spontaneous shower, insulted her beyond limits.

On the other hand, Mr. Earle claims that Ms. Pardy and her same-sex partner refused to stifle their objectionable comments throughout his and another comic's performance, interrupting their spiel and generally discombobulating them. It's called heckling, and it is extremely difficult to rise above with equanimity while attempting to impress an audience with one's wit. It is not uncommon for responses from performers to be on the caustic side. Profane, too, tch, tch.

Ms. Pardy resents and denies Mr Earle's version of events and predictably, Mr. Earle finds fault with Ms. Pardy's story line. They disagree vehemently, it is safe to say. But Mr. Earle has not set the dogs of political correctness upon Ms. Pardy who is evidently a "fat, ugly lesbian"; he forgives her her unfortunate appearance and predilection. Ms. Pardy is not so easily comforted.

She is intent on extracting her $20,000 to soothe her hurt feelings and that, is the human rights truth.

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Liberal ThinkFest

That festering aggrievement just ballooned into a miasmic fog of indignant flagellation at the lapse of morals and ethics that overtook Canada once the self-esteemed Robert Fowler left the corridors of power, advising one government executive after another. He might have predicted that everything would just fall apart without his guiding thoughts. And he was right, and he was right there at the Liberal ThinkFest to make sure everyone knew he was right.

He did own, perhaps reluctantly, to a brief acknowledgement that the Conservative government of Stephen Harper did their duty in saving his life after abduction by al-Qaeda in Niger. He forgives them for they know not what they do. No one in his beloved Africa is responsible for the murderous rampages continually embarked upon, tribal revenge exacted as an existential imperative, raking down every unfortunate soul in their path.

The speech Mr. Fowler with his long history at Department of Foreign Affairs (when it was External Affairs), and as foreign policy adviser to Liberal prime ministers, Messrs. Trudeau and Turner; Conservative prime minister Mulroney - formerly Canada's longest-serving ambassador to that hallowed international hall of infamy, the United Nations - feels he has the experience and the authority to critique his government and his country.

His opinion does appear to contrarians who view his experience and his distinguished past with less than perfect respect, to be confrontational, conflicted, distorted and self-promoting. This is what is called oppositional political perspective. Otherwise his speech was interesting, albeit conclusively errant. This knight's cause was caustically enunciated and the values of his government faulted.

Insisting as he has that the current Conservative government must "accept the reality and importance of the ironclad link between ... continuing turmoil and volatility in the Middle East and the rise (and) growing strength of international terrorism". We can be forgiven for casting grave doubt on this conclusion, one set aside with a good measure of intellectual contempt by those who are in possession of a balanced assessment through the rigour of intelligent thought.

Israel represents, within the Middle East, not only a non-Muslim, Judaic presence as an insult to Islam, but also the presence of Western thought, governance and social and political structuring within a society that abhors all of that. Because it represents, in its social, political, structural and commercial success, all that Islam does not recognize. Because it represents in live form, a victorious West, a vanquished Islamic global presence.

It is a symbol of loss of prestige, of international standing, of successful humanity, not a cause of the rise of terror in and of itself. Remove Israel from the picture and the first line of defence is suddenly absent. The risen and rising tide of fundamentalist Islamist jihad will not suddenly collapse, it will be empowered to continue its rabid defiance of modernity and peace while marching toward its renascent caliphate.

His passionately (anti-Semitic) claims that Canadian politicians of all stripes formulate foreign policy on the Middle East and other issues only with a view to winning votes and scoring political points at home for the vital Jewish vote is patently absurd. How many Jews in Canada? How does 365,000 sound? How many Muslims living in Canada? Over a million, and growing. So which demographic vote is the more important?

His contention that politicians are busy in "the scramble to lock up the Jewish vote in Canada [and] selling out our widely admired and long-established reputation for fairness and justice..." hardly reflects reality. In his original department, External Affairs, the bias was always toward the Arab states to the detriment of Israel. But Canada itself has always been an ally of Israel, the myth being that Stephen Harper's Conservative government altered policy.

Mr. Fowler is free to believe what he will, and he is also free, in Canada's liberal-democratic society with its guarantees of free speech, to spout what he will. Even while teaching at the University of Ottawa. Which also does go a long way to explaining that esteemed university's long-perceived biases.

Of course the Liberals' record did not come off completely unscathed. It was an equal-opportunity blame-fest, and much of the accusations levelled against Liberal politicians who went out of their way to appear to make common cause with the supporters of Tamil Tigers, the Free Khalistan separatists and other radical immigrant groups who brought their religious and political agendas with them from abroad were well founded, but old stuff.

Ill-wishing Canada on the issue of assuming a winning vote for one of the United Nations Security Council 2011-12 seats does not reflect nicely on Mr. Fowler's opinion of his home and native land. Particularly as it appears he will soon have his fervent wishes become reality in the Canadian retrieval of our troops in Afghanistan. To deploy them, under UN guidance in the hellhole wars of Democratic Republic of Congo.

Canadian battle groups back into peacekeeping. On a continent that has never known internal peace. One that forever sends its clans and tribes on missions to destroy one another. And there is that Middle East connection again; with the recently-convened Arab League meeting agreed in support for Arab countries suffering under the indignity of "Western pressure".

Sudan most notably, censured by the international community and its president sought to stand trial for crimes against humanity resulting from Sudan's Arab administration and its Arab militias having slaughtered tens of thousands of non-Arab Muslims in Darfur, raping thousands upon thousands of women and girls, creating hundreds of thousands of homeless refugees who, even in their camps are murdered and raped by the Arab janjaweed and dying of starvation.

There's the values, morals and solidarity of which the knowledgeable and experienced Robert Fowler speaks so convincingly.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nuclear! Arms! Deal!

Good to see the United States and Russia getting along where it counts. An agreement to cut their nuclear arsenals sounds very promising. Both countries to cut back by 30%, representing the most comprehensive nuclear arms control treaty in a generation. A full year they've been going at it. Concluding with President Obama speaking with President Medvedev for the final confirmation.

The most important foreign policy success for President Obama to the present time. Possibly the only foreign policy success, more like it. But this is important, really big news, and we should all applaud it. "Today, we have taken another step forward in leaving behind the legacy of the 20th Century while building a more secure future for our children", proudly proclaimed President Obama.

And the details: Capping deployed strategic warheads at 1,550. That means cutting the current total from 2,100 to 1,550 for the United States and from 2,600 total for Russia to 1,550 as well. Oh. Really. Each of these two powerful countries are to be left with 1,550 strategic warheads. How many of those warheads would it take to create Armageddon? Thought so. Classic overkill, ha, ha.

Of course, these are not rogue countries, despite the extreme nervous tics that each country demonstrated throughout the Cold War, when the spectre of a nuclear attack resulting in a localized and perhaps spreading nuclear winter might have been a real possibility. These are two rational countries who, despite their collective insight and intelligence almost brought unspeakable carnage to the world stage.

So they've decided between themselves to diminish the stockpile. That's nice, isn't it? What about addressing the real problems with nuclear weaponry? The fact that an irredentist country like Pakistan possesses nuclear weaponry, and dispensed the fruit of their scientific know-how to other restless regimes, like Libya, North Korea, Iran and by extension Syria?

How about addressing that little item? How to dispossess North Korea of its proud attainment, and feed its starving people instead? How to dissuade Libya from again taking up the nuclear option, and in the process do the same for Syria, intent on re-nuclearizing itself despite the set-back it suffered thanks to an Israeli strike?

Above all, find an agreement between an recalcitrant Russia and a hesitant United States to defang the nuclearization intention of Iran, for a safer world for all of us?

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Studies In Intolerance

The Canadian Federation of Students' Final Report of the Task Force on Campus Racism has revealed that, in actual fact, there is nothing too wrong on university campuses throughout the country other than the fact that some people who consider themselves injured parties for one reason or another will always resort to evoking sympathy because of their minority status.

It is an undisputed reality that individuals who represent majority groups also find it difficult to 'fit in', to find their place in the campus social world. And, though members of the majority, also seem to think they too are unfairly harassed, unfairly marked, unfairly overlooked, and unfairly closed out of the cliques they would dearly like to be part of.

What recourse do they have to remediation of their outsider status, real or imagined? Guess they'll just have to do what people always have done throughout social history, those who never seem to find a comfortable place for themselves, those who suspect they are ill done by: get along anyway.

Of course if you receive complaints from visible minorities in a hyper-sensitive university setting where no school administration wants to be labelled insensitive to the needs of minorities or the under-privileged, social or otherwise, you do your damnedest to meet the perceived needs of the 'racialized' within the university setting.

The nomenclature "racialized" appears now to be preferentially politically correct, adopted by visible-minority groups on campus, though its interpretation appears problematical. They are particularly scornful of what they term Eurocentrism. In other words they can practise intolerance of those of European background whose majority status informs societal convention in North America, and decry its existence as being inimical to theirs.

The conclusion reached by the Canadian Federation of Students after hearings taking place on university campuses across Ontario, is that "white privilege" permeates. How could it be otherwise, in a sense, since the schools were set up originally to serve a kind of social monoculture, and the institutionalized place settings and even student events were traditionally designed for a white majority.

The conclusions reached by the study appear to be based solely on a super-sensitive 'gut-feeling' toward the supposed oppression of visible minorities, augmented greatly by individual hearsay. People falling into the category of the 'racialized' (who did this to them?) seem convinced their needs are overlooked, that they are marginalized, have lesser opportunities, are not respected for their differences, because of their differences.

One student went so far as to claim, viewing a sea of white faces around her that the atmosphere did not reflect "who I am as a person". Ontario's universities reflect as a mild and mannered microcosm of the larger society within which we live. Quickly, however, transforming to a society where a steadily growing presence of visible minorities will soon reflect a largely ethnic-diversity atmosphere.

If a student on campus feels aliened by "beer and pizza" parties because this does not reflect their cultural-social norms, who should be made to feel guilty about it? In any society, furthermore, no matter where it is located on the globe, minorities stand out as different, not necessarily inferior, and they must seek for ways and means to integrate into the larger society until they find comfort within it.

It takes thought and determination and a wish to succeed. It is not accomplished by shrieking racism at every turn, unless there is good and ample reason for that accusation, requiring remediation. Those students who testified at the many hearings did so because they felt they had a story to tell, a very personal aggrievement against the larger society. This does not result in a balanced, honestly realistic report.

The authors of the study claim their point in producing the results they did was to alert university administrations to the difficulties which may exist. And where racism is discovered to be present, to present 'anti-oppression' training. It sounds, in actuality, that ultra-left-wing students have captured the Federation and mean to sound an alarm that reality does not support.

It is, of course, this very same student body and their extreme sensitivities to justice and fairness and the underdog that radicalizes perceptions of those whom they presume represent oppressors, causing them to slander and behave oppressively themselves toward others, in their support of events like "Israeli Apartheid Week".

Oh, what a peculiar web we weave when first we practise to discriminate....

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

No Burqa, Quebec Says

There they go, challenging and targeting women again. Foreign customs bothering home-grown Canadians once again. Well, it is socially challenging to come face to niqab with a woman. How to respond? Since the woman, wearing an almost-total covering reveals only her eyes, she wishes to see, but not to be seen. One looks away. Little purpose in offering a smile since one cannot detect a response. And the response could very well be alarm that in noting the presence of a burqa-garbed woman, you are in a sense invading her privacy by acknowledging her presence.

It is a bit of a social dilemma. But it is not a threat. It is, rather, a very sad commentary on ancient tribal taboos of women being seen in public. Their presence was to be discreet to the point of invisibility. Their physical discomfort and constraints on social interaction labelled them some man's property upon whom this restraint was imposed. That very small segment of the immigrant population living in non-Muslim countries and preferring to continue social segregation in deference to religious beliefs, mistakenly ascribe that need to absolute cover-up to Islam.

Just as many religions retain more ancient practises, incorporating them into the formalized religious practise, so too, evidently does Islam. But, we are informed Islam does not insist that its female followers be anything but modest in their public appearances, not severely invisible as, lifeless objects to be avoided. In the interests of accommodation to minorities and immigrants Canada has gone far in encouraging incorporation of diversity due to tradition and heritage into the larger community.

But there are always limits to toleration of customs that impede social integration and complicate society's embrace of the needs of all its citizens. In the case of the Egyptian woman who adamantly refused to put away her niqab while obtaining French-language instruction, and who insisted that she be treated vastly differently from all other students, asking her to leave the program was appropriate. Because she interfered with the rights of other students through her insistence on exceptionality.

But when out of an immigrant population of several hundred thousand Muslims where no more than a few dozen women might wear the niqab, to enact a law forbidding it - why? Bill 94 insists that the government has 'drawn the line' on accommodation: "If you are someone employed by the state and you deliver a service, you will deliver it with your face uncovered. If you are a citizen who receives services, you will receive them with your face uncovered", according to Premier Jean Charest.

Was a law needed to accomplish this? A law aimed specifically at one identifiable group whose vast numbers have no intention of wearing this face covering? Isn't this like swatting an amoeba with a concrete pylon? Could this not have been handled less confrontationally? The head of the Muslim council of Montreal was quite right when he wondered why Quebec legislators worried about a practise that was so marginal within the Muslim population. Little wonder the Muslim population feels targeted.

On the other hand, in the fourth-largest Muslim-populated country in the world, Bangladesh, its largest hospital, the Bangabandhu Medical University Hospital in Dhaka, ruled that its staff may not wear full-face burqas in recognition of an increase in thefts of mobile telephones and wallets from wards. Yet only a small number of women working at the hospital wear a niqab.

"We decided to enforce our uniform regulations after discovering instances of stealing by veiled staff", according to one hospital authority, adding, "some burqa-wearing staff had been secretly sending unqualified proxy workers to cover shifts for them. And doctors working in the hospital claim that burqa-clad women travelling to work on crowded public buses, who do not on arrival change into regulation uniform could potentially carry diseases into the hospital.

Bangladesh is a Muslim country, where a very small minority of women wear a full burqa. Montreal is a secularist province with a sizeable Muslim minority, very few of whom wear a full burqa. Is Montreal racist in targeting burqa-clad women? Is Bangladesh? And can anyone claim that wearing full face covering is not a challenge to security, identification and communication?

Having said which, it's a touchy, delicate matter. Mr. Elmenyawi's argument that "If we are talking about integration, then this is actually much worse, because it will prevent them from integrating or changing their ideas. We should leave society to self-adapt, let them either explain themselves to their fellow citizens or adapt and change their ways", seems to get to the heart of the matter.

It is a social conundrum, however, and does without doubt reveal a touch of condescending bigotry to target women already socially marginalized within general society.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Eat Crow And Chew Carefully

When a vast aggregation of your peers feel it is necessary to rebuke you for having embarked on a really, seriously stupid course for someone who is in the business of deep thinking, surely that is an indication of how egregiously wrong you've been...? It should be, if you're even moderately intelligent. But then, that pre-supposition wouldn't hold water if, as provost to an institute of higher learning you distinguished yourself by behaving boorishly and in the process embarrassed your institution by spurning that most basic of all freedoms now, would it?

Questions aside, it is heartening to see that the Canadian Association of University Teachers felt it incumbent upon themselves to attempt to restore a few units of sanity and creative intelligence to the debate raging around the University of Ottawa's failure to reign in a cadre of obstreperously rabid anti-free-speech advocates. Worse, that their provost, Francois Houle, gave encouragement to their antipathy toward free speech in their anticipation that a fairly well-known comic speaker scheduled to speak on free speech would upset their leftist applecart.

So there's the admonition to Provost Houle: "We feel you [Houle] owe an apology to Ms. [Ann] Coulter and, even more importantly, you owe the University of Ottawa community an assurance that the administration of the university strongly supports freedom of expression, academic freedom and views the role of the university as fostering and defending these values." That's the content of the letter made public, sent to Mr. Houle.

Presumably, a chastened Mr. Houle will now admit to rashly having exceeded his authority, much less a public sense of the fitness of stifling free speech through veiled reproach and a not-too subtle contempt for an invited guest's process of thought and right to expression. Through the absurd contretemps that resulted in Ann Coulter's cancellation due to the real possibility of violence from the overheated student crowd, the university has been made to appear truly ridiculous.

And Ms. Coulter, even for those who deplore her politics and her needling, disrespectful sarcasm directed at minorities to satisfy her own funnybone, she has become a figure whose right to speak is supported by everyone. How could it be otherwise? Regardless of how distasteful her pronouncements, they do not constitute hate speech, merely hateful speech. She does not agitate violence against others, she simply wants to marginalize them socially. No one need take her seriously.

Representing as she does, despite her ethical handicaps - a free-speech advocate who was exposed to hateful slander by those whom she herself slanders - an individual whose views could be debated and exposed to ridicule for their puny absurdities, she was instead, given the kind of publicity money couldn't buy, and those interested in seeing and hearing this now-notorious figure - whatever their reasons - have grown in number.

Provost Houle would do well to take the criticism of the Association of University Teachers seriously, and learn from his insensitivity. Without his having cautioned and insulted Ms. Coulter the student body within the university whose purpose it was to stifle free speech that emanates from a conservative mind, the issue and the resulting debacle would never have become as elevated and violent as it did.

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Tight Numbers

Budgets, aren't they awful contrivances? Attempts to ensure that finances remain in balance. Without which balance danger looms of bankruptcy; not a pleasant prospect, neither for an individual nor a business. Much less for a governing state, be it a city, a province, a nation. And here's Ontario, once the work-engine of Canadian Confederation, in dire financial straits. Having to pull in our gut, as it were. From lavish, unheedful, wasteful spending (hear that, Queen's Park?) to abstemiously careful management.

Let's face it, not fun. Needful - yes, practical - definitely, amusing - not in the least. A good steward of the public purse, one with foresight, not merely hindsight of regret, would, presumably, not have got us in this tight place to begin with. But this has been a spending government. And an extremely wasteful one, with one scandal of ill-gone taxpayer resources after another. Even with the squeeze we find ourselves in now, some social engineering of questionable value is being put in place. Does it really make sense to put kindergarten children in school for a full day?

We're a province that finds itself with a whopping $220-billion debt, representing 37.2% of GDP or, in more approachable terms that really hurt, $17,000 in debt for each and every warm body in the province. And with interest rates certain to rise sooner than later, it will represent an additionally soaring cost to the government (us!) of $500-million yearly, in annual servicing fees. Would you run your household like this? Could you?

Well the solution is at hand, and it's one that's seen the light of day in a previous incarnation when we had a New Democratic Party-led provincial government. Not so great a distance, after all, between the Liberals and the NDP in many instances then, is there? Nor, for that matter, when it comes to fiscal restraint and remedial re-structuring, the Conservatives, either. They're all the same, incautious with taxpayer-funded services. We need those services, but we need them to be efficiently operated, with useful oversights.

Our hospitals, which we hope are run sufficiently well to service our growing needs (growing population mostly through immigration and a growing cadre of the elderly) have been forewarned to find further 'efficiencies', internally. So, much-needed beds will be closed down, and perhaps operating rooms as well, and their budgets will be screaming for relief. Hospital operating costs rise at about 4% annually, and they've been granted a miserly 1.5% increase. We can only hope.

According to our provincial finance minister, with this well-honed budget, cutting where required to produce the least ill effects, (don't we hope) our deficit of $21.3-billion will be reduced to manageable levels within eight years' time. Of course, this lot will likely no longer be in office; who are they to offer us guarantees of balancing the books they've tipped off balance? Not entirely their fault that the province lost 158,000 jobs in the last year, true.

Which has helped push us over into the have-not status we've never enjoyed previously, entitling us to close to a billion dollars for this fiscal year, hurrah! Our GDP is expected to begin its climb out of abject misery toward 2.7%, and the economy certainly is beginning to turn around, grudgingly, grindingly, like a rusted-out ocean liner stuck in shallows.

Now public-sector workers - isn't that predictable, hello Bob Rae! - can expect to tighten their belts as far as wage increases are concerned for the next little while. Many of whom have been doing all right, however, while those in the private sector have been struggling. Teachers, as a class, tend to be extremely well remunerated, as are health professionals, and deservedly. Spreading the pain around, a little.

We're still on solid, sound ground though, and seen as great for investment from international sources looking to place their money where it'll be sound, safe, and grow. That cut in corporate income taxes that most taxpayers don't like, and the harmonized sales tax which they detest will, eventually, bring us out of the shoals, back into prosperity.

Settle in, Ontario. We're on our way ...

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fizzle, Pfft! Mischief in the House

What a tangled web was woven, only to come awry. Any holes that can possibly be tugged into a Conservative-government initiative seem to Michael Ignatieff to be worth the attempt to drag the Government of Canada into a state of ignominy through design. A truly worthwhile project whose intent it is to focus the attention of the G8 on the critical issue of women's and children's health - even that presents as fodder for a clever political opponent to disparage the government's intent.

What could sound more responsible, coming from a head of government, the acknowledgement that this federal government seeks to gather momentum in influencing other wealthy countries of the G8 to to commit to improving the lives of females in parts of the world where 536,000 women die through complications of pregnancy or childbirth yearly. The need for proper nutrition, medicines, health tutelage, building of clinics and support for women living in under-developed countries is obvious.

The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to put forward that very agenda of committing to improving the health of women and children in developing countries at the upcoming G8 summit. It took no time at all for the Liberals, and their astute leader, to pounce on the opportunity to turn a humanitarian commitment into an ideological free-for-all.

The claims that without setting out specific parameters through the inclusion of sensitively-phrased references to abortion and contraceptive help, the government's right-wing agenda was obvious. It meant to deny desperate women an important tool through which they could space pregnancies. And gave the opposition parties yet another cudgel to smite the Goliath of right-wing government with.

But of course, Stephen Harper, when pressed, claimed "The door isn't closed to any option, including contraception, but we don't want a debate on abortion", which wasn't all that remarkable, since Canadians are not really interested in discussing that divisive topic. Abortion is recognized as a legal medical procedure in Canada. But Canada, under the guise of helping poor nations is not in the business of endorsing abortion as a contraceptive tool.

All the more so in that abortion is a religious, cultural taboo in so many poor nations of the world. Abortion rights represent a touchy subject, anywhere in the world. In extending much-needed aid to those who need it, there should be no strings attached: abortion if situations require such procedures, but no requirement, necessarily for abortion to be recommended.

Which is not quite the same as equating the Government of Canada's position with that of the United States under Ronald Reagan who refused to fund 'family planning' in undeveloped countries which might include abortion. Under President Reagan this was a deliberate hold-back of funding because of abortion. Under Prime Minister Harper, nothing is off the table, and contraceptive means may include abortion, but that will be decided by the aid-receiving country.

Michael Ignatieff, while pompously warning that this critical issue of providing much-needed aid to third-world countries to improve the health of women and children should not be a matter of ideology, made it just that, by attempting to force the government into wording the proposal to come before the G8 in such a manner as to obliquely include abortion in a maternal-health proposal.

Mr. Ignatieff was obviously oblivious to the reality that within his own party this is a divisive issue.

So the motion placed on the floor of the House of Commons that could be interpreted as including abortion flat-out inclusive to a "full range of family planning, sexual and reproductive health options", to be reflected in the government's maternal G8 maternal health initiative fell flat on its inglorious face.

Somehow taking for granted that all Liberals MPs would be steadfast in support of the motion, no one bothered, neither the Liberal leader nor the House whip, to ensure the troops would be on hand and willingly complicit in stopping the enemy in its tracks. Divisiveness and polarization of opinion appears to be the Liberals' new stock in trade. Lacking any meaningful alternatives they themselves can usefully devise.

Truth is, the Conservative-led government has been leading quite in the manner that a Liberal government would.

The grim reality for the Liberals is that Michael Ignatieff keeps proving over and over again how ineffective he is in his current position. His eagerness to return the Liberals to power, and his overweening desire to become prime minister appear to have sapped his grey matter of intelligent awareness of reality. Why would he not be aware that several of his MPs would vote against the Liberal motion, and that there would be a good chance that 14 would abstain by absence?

What kind of never-neverland does this man inhabit? "I would have preferred a different result last night, and we have some internal caucus issues to work out", Mr. Ignatieff allowed, to curious reporters. Now isn't that absolutely droll?

"Clown City" - where's that at?

And failing all that, isn't it time for the opposition to give the opposing a rest and join the government in the best interests of the country - opposing when and where there is a reason to.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Those Bush-League Schools

Betcha dollars to doughnuts Allan Rock, PC, QC, LLB, the 29th President and Vice-Chanceller of the University of Ottawa, formerly Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations, before that Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada under the Liberal-led government of Jean Chretien was blind-sided by the University of Ottawa's vice-president and provost, Francois Houle. It must have been fascinating to have been the proverbial fly on the wall when the two met post-email sent to caution Ann Coulter, pre-address at the University.

"On campus, we promise our students a safe and positive space", according to a sociology and women's studies student, one of the several hundred protesters who had gathered to voice their obstreperous objections to the presence of this controversial, quite politically-incorrect political commentator and rabble-rouser. Well, Ann Coulter certainly raised the ire of the rabble dead set on preventing her from speaking at University of Ottawa yesterday.

Effectively squelching the opportunity of those many more who had gathered eagerly for that very purpose. A minority of vociferous hot-heads intent on apprehending a thousand people from attending a free-speech address on political correctness mounted by a free-speech advocacy group met with success when the speech was cancelled due to the potential danger their volatile presence presented to the speaker.

"It's a shame", said one of the would-be attendees. "They claim we're the intolerant ones, yet they're the ones who refuse to allow a conservative speaker to come to campus. That is the definition of intolerance." And one political science student had it right on target, disappointed that though he did not support the speaker, he had looked forward to the resulting debate. Ms. Coulter's very arguments, flippantly insulting, speak volumes about her agenda.

"Since I've arrived in Canada, I've been denounced on the floor of Parliament - which, by the way, is on my bucket list - my posters have been banned, I've been accused of committing a crime in a speech that I have not yet given, I was banned by the student council, so welcome to Canada!" Yes, oh yes indeed. Welcome to Canada. To one of the most tolerant, egalitarian countries on the face of this Earth, guaranteeing all the freedoms that free societies must.

It's just that obviously, something happened on the way to the forum. A university whose purpose it is to expose its students to various points of view, to encourage them to seek answers to vexing problems, to debate and to dialogue from a position of strength in knowledge, yet to be sufficiently open to other opinions that their own might diverge slightly if those others are sufficiently convincingly, somehow managed to imbue many of its students with an inviolable sense of self-righteous entitlement.

That entitlement, clearly, being that their opinions, set in stone, are not to be tampered with. That scholarly, academic, political, social, economic, and even politically correct opinions that are deemed averse to their own are obviously not entitled to a hearing, let alone a discussion possibly leading to a civil and perhaps even useful exchange of opinion. That the speaker in question thrives on provocation, and fancies herself a leader in right-wing opinion is utterly irrelevant to the situation at hand.

Even rabble-rousers may have some insights and clarifications that might prove useful in a general sense. Even those who clearly identify themselves by their messages as bigots may usefully point to problems that beset society that require amelioration. Rejecting everything out of hand simply leads to further polarization and that helps no one. "This has never, ever, ever happened before - even at the stupidest American university." said Ann Coulter.

Canadians are closed-minded, disinterested in debate, certain their established ideologies give them the right to slam the door on discussion? We've certainly seen ample evidence of just this in other situations where the liberal-left has insisted on its right to defame, slander, blame those with whom they don't agree - all the more so when they're in the process of slamming an entire community in the interests of support to those whom they consider ill done by.

In that instance, one occurring year after year in the most sanctimonious and damning of displays of hateful bigotry, and in that instance other groups who hold other opinions are silenced with the withering charges of racism and apartheid leanings. What's sauce for the goose becomes poison for the gander. Hatred emanating from the right is despicable and to be denounced and shunned. Hatred emanating from the left is admirable and to be supported.

This is freedom of speech and equality of opportunity, Canadian-style. Oh, not universally, but that it exists at all, and is countenanced as business-as-usual, gives a well-earned black eye to Canada's institutes of high dudgeon.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sinister, Malevolent Intent

It is unfortunate that a highly-regarded Palestinian MP has been precluded from his speaking engagement in three Canadian venues. Some malign force has not been responsible for the oversight of swiftly granting a Canadian entry visa for Mustafa Barghouti, an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative council, to enter Canada in sufficient time to meet his speaking tour times.

Of course, as a member of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East tells it, the event had been in the planning stages "for a couple of months".

Mr. Barghouti, it must be assumed, must have been well aware for "a couple of months" that it would be his responsibility to do the paperwork from his end, to secure said visa in sufficient time for normal processing. And, according to the Canadian embassy in Israel, there is a recommendation that visitors apply for visas at least six weeks before the planned travel schedule. Mr. Barghouti engaged in a little bit of Russian roulette, applying for his visa on March 5.

His visa application was duly processed and forwarded to him by March 19. Which date, unfortunately happened to be the day before his first scheduled appearance. That's a fairly speedy turn-around, actually. And the six-week recommendation cannot be new to Mr. Barghouti since he has applied for such visas previously on other, earlier occasions. Might he have assumed entitlement to special treatment?

Due to the delay, Mr. Barghouti's anticipated trip was cancelled. He was unable to appear as scheduled in Toronto and Montreal and Ottawa on the week-end just passed. Sometimes the plans of mice and men do go astray. Particularly so when too much is taken for granted. So it is rather absurd, given the casual manner in which Mr. Barghouti treated his obligation to give sufficient time to the Embassy for processing his visa, that critics now turn to the government.

In a press release Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East claim that deliberate "obstruction" on the part of the Canadian government had come into play. Claiming Mr. Barghouti was effectively "muzzled", as a critic of the State of Israel. Of course Dr. Barghouti has also been a stern critic of the Palestinian Authority. He is also a fervent sponsor of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, eschewing violence.

So the argument of government interference are nothing but pathetically absurd. How typically left-liberal, anti-conservative, anti-moderate.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Watch Your Uncultured Step

It's one thing to be invited as a notoriously right-wing commentator on contemporary affairs of political correctness, to address a curious and semi like-minded audience wanting to see up close and personal the physically engaging personality whose un-politically correct tongue lashings have made so many sit up and take notice. Quite another when one of the universities to which you have been invited to speak has its university administrator caution, in the most ungenerous of terms, against speaking rashly, insensitively, to a Canadian audience.

Stifling freedom of expression in a university setting, one that accepts as quite necessary in the spirit of open dialogue and discussion, the hate-fuelled event labelled "Israeli Apartheid Week" which stands out as the single most egregious display of precisely what Ann Coulter is being warned against? Oops, and my goodness, we are so suddenly sensitive to the implications of having someone appear who minces no words in her opinion of social backwardness masquerading as ultra-liberal enlightenment.

Imagine, the effrontery of enthusing over the potential to invade Muslim countries to convert the population from Islam to Christianity. Novel in its implications that erasing Islam from the mindsets of jihadist morons would effectively emasculate their religious fervour. There's a lead balloon for you at the Israel-bashing party.

But not to worry, this woman is an equal-opportunity-basher, considering she feels the same about Judaism needing to complete its journey toward Christianity.

Ann Coulter is urged to use "restraint, respect and consideration", when addressing her conservative audience at University of Ottawa. The very same venue where the student federation welcomed the opportunity to distinguish themselves by refusing to use "restraint, respect and consideration" when addressing their conjoined article of faith that Israel represents murderous racist apartheid.

"Promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges", according to Francois Houle, vice-president academic and provost of U. of Ottawa. Forewarned is forearmed. Mr. Houle has kindly given Ms. Coulter ample examples for her address on freedom of expression, on a silver salver. She should give him credit.

His prissily contemptible admonition to a social-political commentator who obviously relishes the spotlight of notoriety will surely earn him a special mention in her speech? In her round of speeches, since she is scheduled to speak at a number of venues; University of Western Ontario, and University of Calgary, as well. She will no doubt be accorded a more cordial welcome at those two institutes of higher expression.

"I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind." Unexpressed, but inherent in the totality of the experience is that the admonition can be readily lifted if her target is Israel, and its intransigence, its dreadful record of oppression, its intent to murder and maim Arabs, its wish to conquer the world.

But we would like to effusively welcome this personage to Canada, and to hope she will enjoy this experience. It will provide ample fuel for further discussions back in the United States, on those poor simpletons in Canada. Which her country so kindly permits to exist on the same continent.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Functional Independence?

Isn't it past time for First Nations peoples in Canada to decide to come in from the cold? Living in seasonally-inaccessible places might have made perfectly good sense when First Nations lived in their traditional milieu, but that is no longer the case. People living in remote communities no longer fend for themselves, using age-old knowledge handed down through the generations of how to live on the land in all seasons. Capable, and independent and resolutely knowledgeable.

Yet those same people cling to what they claim is their heritage, to the traditions of which they are proud, but don't really know how to practise. Or, if they do, and the results are as they once were, and privation and starvation brought death to communities unable to adequately feed themselves over long winter months, that too has been altered.

As valued citizens of Canada, the government and the people they govern wherever they are, feel an obligation to the well-being of those in remote communities.

Wishing to honour their ancestors and a way of life long gone, there is a reluctance to sever the link with the land. In all likelihood, that refusal has more to do with local politics, with tribal leaders enthusing their members with a need to respect the past and live within it, than any practical reasons to remain there. There is nothing practical about huge unemployment figures, about poor health facilities, about expensive, imported food and inadequate schooling.

Aboriginals in far-flung communities in Manitoba, where 30,000 First Nations peoples live, require 2,500 shipments of food, construction materials and medical supplies annually. There is a constant trucking in of those supplies, at huge cost, all to supplement and fortify an impractical existence. The people living in those remote communities are totally reliant on winter roads to enable trucking in of supplies and for access to hunting trails.

Those roads are also vital to enable the ill, people with high rates of tuberculosis, those with diabetes, young and old, and there are many, to reach dialysis centres. The roads are a vital life-line to social interaction with relatives living on other reserves, and just to connect far-flung communities. The current year has proven to be a difficult one for those remote, northern communities.

This year's unusually mild winter has meant that winter roads that go over semi-frozen rivers, lakes, creeks and muskegs have melted unusually early into muck and mush. Stranding trucks carrying supplies, and people travelling from one site to another. A state of emergency has been declared in 11 communities due to dwindling supplies; food, fuel, construction supplies.

Since 2001, over 25% of the winter road system was moved to land at exorbitant cost. Still, the roads have become impassable. And rescue missions have had to be launched to ensure that those stranded on those remote roads do not die. "The federal government told us that they are ready to work with us. The department has agreed that they will pay to fly in supplies like construction materials and fuel."

Indian and North Affairs Canada is responding to the crisis. Have they any other option? The Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba chiefs thinks not. "I hope this year's events and the current situation will force all levels of government to take action", said Grand Chief Harper. "This has become a human rights issue - no one should be cut off like this", he said. "No one should feel this isolated."

Precisely. Given the vast and distant Canadian geography, the difficulty of getting around, the uncertainty of the seasons, given climate change, it makes no good sense whatever for remote communities to continue to insist they wish to live as their ancestors did. They do not, they cannot; they are entirely dependent on costly rescue missions.

The self-imposed isolation, leading not to an authentic replication of traditional aboriginal lifestyle, but become a failed experiment in stubborn nostalgia. No one can turn back the clock on a vanished era.

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Freedom to Post, so to Speak

Oh, those student groups, they're at it again. First they welcome with open arms "Israeli Apartheid Week", then they decline to permit another event to enter their precincts in the hallowed halls they feel confident to control in the country's ivory towers. The U.S. columnist/political commentator Ann Coulter is scheduled to appear at Marion Hall, University of Ottawa, to speak on political correctness, media bias and freedom of speech on Tuesday.

Ann Coulter is quite a controversial figure, a self-promoter, a preening, opiniated, shrill-voiced agitator of some considerable note, perhaps equivalent in reputation to other right-wing speakers in the United States; Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin do come to mind. For the fastidious minds and values of most moderate people what she represents comes out on the dark side of public life.

But, of course, universities celebrate all those freedoms and she is free to spout her vision of politics, the media and of course, freely engage in freedom of speech.

Canada's very own conservative political activist Ezra Levant, is also scheduled to speak at the same event; he will, in fact, introduce Ms. Coulter. Does the respected (and volatile) Mr. Levant feel this association, however slight, will burnish his reputation? Well, why not; it is the topics, not the individuals who associate themselves with those topics that lead the show and deserve our attention.

Somehow, regardless, some individuals do tend to get in the way of orderly review.

"The federation does not support Ann Coulter speaking on our campus", student present Seamus Wolfe proclaimed. "We're trying to work with the administration to see if we can ask her to do her speaking event somewhere else." And while the administration may not see things their way, the federation does control which posters are placed within the University Centre building.

One recalls the slanderously disgusting posters set up to advertise IAW, portraying Israel and the IDF as vicious, murdering beasts, attacking defenceless, trusting, adorable Palestinian children. Posters with photographs of a beautiful young blonde woman full of herself and her pulchritudinous lock on right-wing conservatism seem blandly innocent in comparison.

Values are peculiar, perverse and idiosyncratic, to be sure.

But given the university's Student Federation's adoring helpfulness in blackening Israel's name and supporting a biased version of Middle East history, one might think they would do a little research, to discover that perhaps Ms. Coulter's thoughts don't completely run afoul of their own. The Student Federation and those groups supporting IAW enjoy their assaults on Jewish sensitivities; they should make themselves aware of Ms. Coulter's thoughts there, too:

Slash-and-burn columnist Ann Coulter shocked a cable TV talk-show audience Monday when she declared that Jews need to be "perfected" by becoming Christians, and that America would be better off if everyone were Christian.Coulter made the remarkable statements during an often heated appearance to promote her new book on advertising guru Donny Deutsch's CNBC show "The Big Idea."In response to a question from Deutsch asking Coulter if "it would be better if we were all Christian," the controversial columnist responded: "Yes.""We should all be Christian?" Deutsch repeated."Yes," Coulter responded, asking Deutsch, who is Jewish, if he would like to "come to church with me."Deutsch, pressing Coulter further, asked, "We should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians?" She responded: "Yeah."Coulter deflected Deutsch's assertion that her comments were anti-Semitic, matter-of-factly telling the show's obviously upset host, "That is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews."

In which case, they should be welcoming her to the podium, and making common cause with her. Of course, that's a trifle facetious; Ms. Coulter has little use for anything that appeals to the fanatical left-wing conscience, so they're quite on track, attempting to delete her from their intellectual, justice-seeking space of higher learning.

There is such delicious irony in activist, left-wing students deploring the speech of someone like Ms. Coulter. She takes such huge pleasure in being provocative, tingling with joy at the surprised responses to her political vision. They on the other hand, take huge pleasure in being deliberately obtuse, disinterested in moderate discourse, intent on spreading calumny, casting blame and hate where their 'instincts' tell them it belongs.

"There is an interesting line between what is free speech and what is hate speech. As difficult as it is to navigate that boundary, Ann Coulter has a history of hate speech and we wouldn't invite somebody who spreads hate to come to our campus", bridled Mr. Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe makes himself deliberately unaware that there are those on campus who would, and did invite that somebody to speak on their campus.

For doesn't the campus speak to and for and from all ideologies, in the search for meaning and understanding? She obviously has a message that some elements on campus find useful. And one of them, economics student Nicholas Fleet avowed his feeling that it is an "affront" that the student federation is energetically denying him the opportunity to place posters at the University Centre.

"People like Ann Coulter will come and go, but freedoms such as expression need to be tested and should be respected by student unions", said Mr. Fleet. Noting, as he agreed that he would respect the dictate of the federation by abstaining from distributing the posters, that the very federation that took steps to halt the distribution of the posters printed them.

"They took our money for printing the posters, but in the end they said we couldn't put up the posters", he complained. This outspoken and to many, embarrassingly right-wing columnist's visit was sponsored by the International Free Press Society-Canada and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute.

Interesting how Mr. Wolfe overlooks the deliberate intent and maligning of an entire people and their state as racist, violently thuggish malefactors through the support of "Israeli Apartheid Week" as an extremely virulent form of spreading hate. It's the particular ox that's being gored that makes one a social crime, the other an acceptable protest. Her political bias is faulty and hateful, but not his.

It might make a nice little project during Reading Week - perhaps an annual event - to circulate the publications written by Ms. Coulter, to ensure that the student federation knows whereof they speak when they denounce and refuse to have any part in this woman's presence and talk. For their convenience: Guilty: Liberal Victims and Their Assault on America (January 2009);If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans (October, 2007); Godless: The Church of Liberalism (June 2006); How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)(October, 2004); Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (June 2003); Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right (June 2002); and High Crimes and Misdemeanors:The Case Against Bill Clinton (August 1998).

Best sellers all. And imagine; she has been judged one of the U.S.'s 100 most influential young
thinkers. Just like them, if from the other pew.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Loyal Opposition

It truly is difficult to credit the fierce determination and the rantings bordering on hysteria from the Parliamentary seats of the Opposition, shrieking about the Conservative government insulting Parliament by refusing to release un-redacted documents relating to Canada's participation with NATO in Afghanistan. Seems perfectly reasonable to most reasonable people who truly are not all that interested in the hugely overblown issue of Afghan detainees possibly suffering ill-treatment at the hands of their captors, fellow Afghans, that these documents refrain from entering the public sphere due to security concerns.

Of course, Canada joined NATO, as a paid-up-member-in-good-standing at the behest of the Liberal government that preceded the current Conservative-led government. At that time it was conceived as the right thing to do, to send Canadian troops to that misbegotten country, in fulfilling our international obligations. According to the Liberals who took us there, hoping to fend off criticism relating to our non-entry as combatants in Iraq. At that time it would have been just as clear as it was later, that Afghanistan is not the most human-rights-dedicated country in the world. Something the Liberal government more or less shrugged off as immaterial.

However, now that the Conservatives are in power, the issue becomes exceedingly front-and-centre, and the shouts and accusations and screams proceed apace. Despite that, when the current government had been alerted to some incidents of abuse relating to captured Taliban handed over by Canadian troops, there was intervention. In the larger order of things, with Canada's troops facing very real and constant danger, costing us dearly in lives lost, there is much to attend to. The health and well-being of those intent on killing international troops does not come top to mind.

When Canada and the United States and Britain and Holland and all the other NATO participating members finally leave Afghanistan is it even remotely possible that some bright minds believe that country will have done a U-turn in its social, political, religious and human-rights ideological underpinnings? That because of a brief (in the history of the ever-occupied country) time in which foreign troops with their superior attention to morals and ethics were among the Afghans, is it imagined that suddenly Afghanistan will transform to an enlightened democracy?

Yes, it is true that some conditions have improved in some areas of the country, most notably the capital, while elsewhere traditions and a backward culture and religious conviction inimical to equality and rights remain in the dark ages. A greater number of children, including girls, now attend school, and access to fundamental health care is available in some areas. Underlying all of this is the fact that women and girls are and will remain in thrall to the wishes of men. Underlying all of this is the fact that the government of Hamid Karzai, his minions, and the general society, remains irremediably corrupt.

Similarly, the Liberals had no interest whatever in enjoining the Americans to view Omar Khadr's status as a teen-age jihadist when they formed the government. And that was at a time when Mr. Khadr was a purportedly vulnerable, misunderstood young person only there through the evil machinations of his sinister al-Qaeda-supporting father who envisaged the role of brave mujahadeen for his sons. Now that he is a young adult (he might have been thought of as being a young adult at the mujahadeen training camp, in fact, and not a 'child-combatant' because of his chronological years) the Liberals have discovered that the nasty Conservatives have consigned this Warrior for Islam to purgatory.

In point of fact, Omar Khadr, and his obnoxious family clinging to violently fundamental, fanatical Islamism, had the opportunity to remain in the countries which celebrated the kind of religion that they favoured, but they chose to return to Canada which had given them safe haven and freedom to espouse their fundamentalist scorn for Canada, while ensuring they had access to universal health care and other social services simply unavailable in the human-rights-offending countries they cherished.

It's past time for the Liberals, for the NDP and the Bloc to stand down from their absurd bully pulpit of superior morals and ethics, and behave like responsible parliamentarians, positions they were voted to act responsibly within to reflect true and practical Canadian values, not freshly-minted pseudo-values of political opportunism.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Just Do It ...

It's quite sad that a country like the United States of America finds itself in a perplexed position, not knowing how to react to a situation it has itself designed, placing it in an impossible reactive condition of failure to achieve what it told itself it could.

That level of hubris speaks hugely to the depth of lack of intelligence on the ground. How it could be possible that the president of the U.S. would not have been given adequate background to inform him that what he was demanding of Israel would not, could not play, simply because Israel itself had attempted time and again, to produce the effect he wanted, with the very same overtures, yet was rejected repeatedly, is intriguingly absurd.

There could not possibly be anything more Israel could offer irate, entitled, disengaged, disinterested-in-peace Palestinians than it had already committed to, and had thrown back in its face. Absent the total surrender of the land upon which the country sits. And that, precisely, is the matter at hand. The rabid hysteria emanating from the Obama administration over a trumped-up charge of 'insulting' it, through a routine announcement of a routine and commonly-practised event speaks to its infantile need to be obeyed on its terms.

That its terms do not match the existential need of what America claims is its great good friend and partner in democracy, the State of Israel, appears to have been handily overlooked in the rush to bully that country into a cowering, obedient servant reflecting America's needs. And that need, at the moment, is to be seen in the light of approval by Arab and Muslim states. For this is what President Barack Obama promised those eminent countries; that they would see a new relationship emerge with him at the helm of the U.S.

All those brilliant strategists and students of Middle East history who are advising the President of the United States somehow forgot to mention to him that it's all been tried before, and failed. And not necessarily because Israel wasn't sufficiently prepared to sacrifice much that it holds dear, but because at the eleventh hour, the Palestinians pulled back. Everything was never quite enough. The attitude being that of the old horse trader; if he could get that high a price, his goods were obviously valuable and he could insist on more.

The United States does not appreciate being made to look unprepared, it does not like to be surprised, nor does it care for a country so needful of its support, to prevaricate or to ignore its demands. Yet nothing stops the U.S. administration from publicly castigating its great good friend, causing it to lose, if not face, then any conceivable advantage it might have in dealing with an intransigent, grievance-laden, victimhood-adoring adversary who can sniff advantage to itself when it emanates from a mystified and stymied Israel.

If the U.S. is steamed with Israel that's a signal that the Palestinian Authority can call on its stalwarts to riot, because that's all right, they're just joining the bash-Israel festivities. Israel and the Palestinians have dealt for decades upon decades with building permits for both contingents within Jerusalem; there was nothing unusual about the latest announcement of a series of building permits to allow for increased housing on Jewish-owned and Jewish-majority land. The U.S. is angry with what it perceives as a 'right-wing' Israeli government.

Yet the current president has fairly well accepted all that his Kadima and Labour predecessors did in their search for peace, inclusive of a two-state solution supporting Palestinian statehood. Do the Palestinians, however, want that two-state solution? Fomenting violence on an unceasing basis does not bode well for commitment to that two-state solution, for instead of inciting to riot, Mahmoud Abbas could have resumed peace talks, not absolutely and utterly reject them, which he did do and continues to do.

The PA and its Muslim clerics teach Palestinians and their children to mistrust, to hate, to fear and to do violence. A conspiracy is afoot, they say, to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The PA denies that Jerusalem represents Jewish heritage, its antiquity. Each time remedial construction work is undertaken before and during which archaeological teams carefully sift the areas for ancient artifacts, the PA hold their breath and Muslim clerics deny such artifacts represent an ancient Jewish presence.

What they do however, is encourage Palestinian youth to riot, to deny Jewish worshippers access to their own holy sites, and continue to create situations of chaos leading inevitably to further aggravation of already dire relationships between Jews and Arabs. The U.S. administration's testy arguments with Israel over imagined slights due to their irritation over Israel's inability to reach an agreement with an unwilling partner-for-peace has them fuming, and in that process, further destabilizing relations between Jews and Arabs, leading to increased uncertainty and violence.

To punish Israel for its unacceptable behaviour in refusing to accede to their demands, needed defensive armaments have been suspended in their delivery, and that should teach Israel a lesson now, shouldn't it? The U.S. military has been ordered to divert a shipment of 387 bunker-buster bombs from Israel. Instead they will be delivered to a military base in Diego Garcia, where they will do Israel no good in defending itself from attack. This was, it was explained, a "political decision".

Delivery of the bunker-busters capable of destroying underground facilities such as nuclear weapons sites in Iran, has been deliberately held in abeyance by President Barack Obama's administration. A mutinous ally must be disciplined. But this is not particularly new, apparently, as President Obama has refused approval of any major Israeli requests for weapons platforms of advanced systems. Including Apache helicopters, refueling systems, advanced munitions and data on a stealth variant of the F-15E.

"All signs indicate that this will continue in 2010. This is really an embargo, but nobody talks about it publicly", said a congressional source familiar with the Israeli military requests. This, despite that in January 2010, the administration agreed to an Israeli request to double the number of U.S. military stockpiles. Bunker-busters as well as Patriot missile interceptors had been included in that agreement.

However, things change, allies become dispensable, evidently. The current U.S. administration, inclusive of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has given warning that Washington could reduce aid to Israel ... because of its construction policy. Diplomacy has succumbed to idiocy.

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Calling Out Canada

There is no other country in the Western world that has been more generous in the scope of its acceptance of immigrants than Canada. Fully one-quarter of a million new immigrants are accepted as for emigration to Canada on an annual basis. And those migrants and refugees come from all areas of the world. Statistics Canada has latterly issued a report indicating that visible minorities would account for a third of the population of the country by 2031 at the current rate of absorption.

As it is, Canada's most populous cities are reaching, and in some cases, exceeding majority status in their immigrant population. This may perhaps not be all that surprising in that Canada is a country largely comprised of immigrants. Where in its early years the country accepted mostly people of European stock, in the last forty years visible minorities have swelled the population of the country. Canada prides itself on its inclusivity, its welcome to the people of the world.

Canadians view themselves as a largely pluralistic society. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all Canadians, regardless of origin, equality under the law and freedom to practise their religion, freedom of expression, of assembly and of conscience. Canada must surely present as the least-racist, most egalitarian of all countries in its wide acceptance of people of various traditions, cultures, heritage and religion.

But nor is the country perfect; no country is, though they may attain to that state. People are human and discrimination on the basis of perceived race, religion, ethnicity, culture, ideology, practise and orientation does occur, and always will. Discrimination cannot be legislated against and people will always have their biases. So there will always be some level of complaints of lack of opportunities due to perceived racist attitudes.

But for Canada to have been rebuked at the Geneva-based United Nation's Human Rights Council speaks of an institution of a world body that has its values, priorities and perceptions implicitly deranged. Little wonder when human-rights-abusing countries like Libya and Iran play vital roles in the Human Rights Council.

When special rapporteur Gay McDougall made a cursory trip to Canada last fall to investigate the condition of immigrants and minorities in the country, she was criticized for visiting a democracy to begin with, rather than any of a large number of countries of the world where refugees and minorities are abused and life is dismal for all inhabitants of totalitarian nations.

And, sure enough, the report critiqued Canada's role in exerting itself insufficiently to better the lives of minorities, insisting also that Canada should take care to ensure that Muslim and Arab communities not feel 'targeted' by the larger community or by counter-terrorism measures.
Canada, officially, disagrees with Ms. McDougall's conclusions of alleged racial profiling.

Pointing out that some of the conclusions reached were done so on the basis of a single media report, or through the method of several interviews, where no evidence clearly exists to support the allegations. "Unfortunately, in some cases, findings appear to be drawn from anecdotal evidence or from an assessment by one individual or journalist", was the response by Canada's deputy permanent representative to the UN in Geneva.

"It's tragic that the council's main annual session is turning a blind eye to the worst human rights violators - including Libya, which has persecuted two million black African migrants - and is instead wasting time on one of the world's leading democracies", commented Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch.

This is cranky mischief verging on malignity from signal elements of the United Nations.

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Craven and Cowardly

The New Democratic Party at one time represented a political party with a fair and just view of society, held by a balanced and trustworthy aggregation of individuals who broadly supported a wide range of social-justice issues. In earlier times the party had a good measure of political influence in the country that went far beyond its electoral numbers. People had good reason to respect the party and its leaders, whether or not they would vote for them.

Something quite sad appears to have occurred to the NDP over the course of the last decade or so. Some of its very vocal members have seen themselves as the conscience of the world at large - but selectively - Canada not representing a large enough constituency for them. MP Svend Robinson was one such NDP member who loved going off on a tangent, and there was one country that seemed to him deserving of his contempt; the State of Israel.

After having lost his way in the moral-ethical wilderness he was so fond of inhabiting, (purloining gifts for presentation to loved ones an innocent past time) he passed the torch of Israel-bashing to Libby Davies, who felt it her duty to go jaunting around the Middle East metaphorically teaching Parliament a lesson in obedience to United Nations rules and regulations and finding both Israel and the United States badly wanting, yet finding in her heart a soft spot for Saddam Hussein.

In terms of the situation in Israel, I have to ask the member if he considers it to be the act of a civilized democracy whereby a state would use its military apparatus to forcibly put people under occupation when that occupation is illegal? Is it the move of a civilized democracy when the state can use its apparatus to put a democratically elected leader under siege? I do not think so and we should be speaking out against that as well.

They are clearly different situations in Iraq and Israel. However the point I have made, which I think is relevant, is that it is hypocritical for the United States to focus on the one issue of what is going on in Iraq and escalate this to a war situation, while at the same time completely disregarding what has taken place in terms of an illegal occupation and a whole set of other people who have suffered as a result of that.

And when Conservative MP Tim Uppal introduced in the House of Commons a motion to condemn Israeli Apartheid Week taking place in Canadian universities, some NDP members refused to make that a unanimous passage. Libby Davies in particular opposed, vehemently, two motions denouncing the slander against Israel, insisting that "legitimate debate on the issue of Israel's policies as well as to specifically target activist who are engaged in debate" was divisive in nature.

How's that for an Alice-through-the-looking-glass analysis? From moderate leftists, reasonable in their outlook and dependable in their sturdy defence of justice and democracy, part of the NDP caucus has descended into raving radicalism seeing common cause with those espousing violence and slander because they deem it to be in a good cause; the supposed defence of helpless victims who have done nothing to deserve their unjust condition.

There are indeed some fair-minded and courageous NDP members who find Ms. Davies' extreme and caustic views unpalatable: "I have always taken the position that the use of the word 'apartheid' in the context of Israel is hateful and hurtful", responded Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who with Pat Martin and Peter Stoffer, prefer moderation in responding to a complex and intractable conflict in the Middle East.

The estimable leader of the New Democratic Party? Well, he is discreet in his consideration of the conflict abroad and as it is expressed on his home turf. He simply overlooks verbal and intellectual indiscretions as to do so is so much easier on one's emotional state and status as a Parliamentarian. And there the party is, split and slightly dysfunctional; balanced between reason and the politics of sour division.

While their dissembling, disingenuous leader, the ordinarily garrulous Jack Layton carries on, taking his cues where he may.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Friends, Allies and Neighbours

Hysteria at a perceived slight by a beholden ally has overtaken the U.S. administration. Their agenda has been slighted, their efforts taken as of little value, their prestige has suffered a blow, and they will not stand for it. Israel must be humbled, and the sure-fire way to do that is to unmistakably give very impressive support to that country's host of enemies whose totalitarian, anti-democratic, human-rights-abusing states surround it in hostile dudgeon.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, though in mortal combat with his adversaries in Hamas, took the opportunity to indefinitely suspend direct peace talks with Israel, when Israel responded to Hamas-driven border attacks by its attempt to restrain those rocket attacks. Not that the direct talks were going anywhere in a great hurry, but they might, eventually, have resulted in some meaningful direction not altogether futile.

After the long hiatus during which Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continually attempted to persuade the PA to return to the bargaining table, to no avail, the Obama administration stepped into the breach with its wonderful idea of "proximity" talks whereby a third party would shuttle back and forth from the Israelis to the Palestinians, to kick-start a dim level of discussions. As though the sheer force of suggestibility would succeed when face-to-face talks could not.

If Israel truly had no right to defend its sovereign borders and the lives of its citizens, then its attack on Gaza's Hamas terrorists might merit the cessation of peace talks. Such not being the case, it is abundantly clear that the Palestinians have no use for peace talks. That they grudgingly agreed to resume third-party talks speaks to their appreciation of the U.S.'s hard-ball tactics with Israel.

And with Vice-President Joe Biden stiffly upbraiding Israel for its undiplomatic contretemps, and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton castigating the prime minister of another country for his right to determine the course that country will take in recognition of its best interests, the PA feels further emboldened to threaten Israel with yet another intifada.

It is interesting to note that the PA diplomatically named a Ramallah square after Dalal Mughrabi who killed 37 Israelis in a bus-hijacking massacre before she herself died, a martyr, once Joe Biden left the area. This is in keeping with the PA and Mahmoud Abbas inciting Palestinians to violence against Israel, in their partnership for peace.

How discreet was the poster that read, "On the anniversary of the Coastal Road Operation we renew our commitment and our oath that we uphold the charge and that we will not stray from the path of the Shahids..." The U.S. administration has, after all, chided the PA in the past, asking that it refrain from deliberately inciting Palestinians to riot and to violent action. Reflected also in what is occurring now at the Temple Mount.

With Israel's stewardship of the sacred places of all three religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam, free access is given to all worshippers. Despite which the Palestinians, who claim their new state must have East Jerusalem, inclusive of all those sacred sites as their capital, even under Israeli rule strenuously work to deny Jews access to their holy sites, adjacent those of the Muslim society.

Israel's safety and security is seen as expendable by the current administration; the United States has always claimed friendship with Israel, and that friendship is always available as long as Israel is careful to mind what its mentor tells it. Israel has jurisdiction in Jerusalem, the municipality has the right to determine where, how and when it will build, and the United States should be a little more careful about its perceived moderation in viewing one side's excesses and rage over the other's.

Unless their plan truly is to give aid and comfort to the enemy of their friend. A friend in name only, perhaps, but an ally, withal. The U.S. would do well to remember that when it requested that the surrounding Arab states offer a little encouragement to normalcy with Israel, the unified response was a stony disinterest. Just as America is fundamentally concerned with its security, so too is Israel for its, far more directly threatened.

Satisfying the Palestinians by sacrificing Israel will not produce the break-through in Western-Islamic relations that both the Arab-Muslim communities state will ensue, and Western, democratic countries hope it will. To believe so is to succumb to delusional fantasy.

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The Company He Keeps

When one is inordinately proud of one's heritage, and resolutely sustains all that the heritage expresses, and in his everyday life intermingles with those who also profess pride in the same source and in so doing consolidate a general impression that they are at heart offensively belligerent toward those outside that heritage, they are a breed apart.

Which is only to say that human nature hungers to 'belong', to see itself part of an identifiable group, which is as a family, a tribe, a culture, a common heritage. Setting them apart from others whose experience has been other than theirs. It is up to each and every one of us to ameliorate the inherent observations and emotions of 'otherness' that is experienced when in contact with those not of the same background.

And this, precisely, is what the president of the European Muslim Network, Tariq Ramadan, prides himself in doing, performing as a highly trusted, admired and influential interlocutor between disparate groups, most most specifically the world of Islam and the world of Western thought and experience, inclusive of Christianity.

This is a man with a formidable reputation as an intellectual bridge between two social-religious-political factions which have a tendency to view one another with suspicion, based, unsurprisingly, on their past connections, and more precisely their historical disaffection with one another through disagreement with religious and social values, leading to violent conflict with one attempting to overturn the advantage of the other, geographically and spiritually.

Mr. Ramadan - so aptly named as a defender of the faith - is a scholar, an Oxford-based academic, a research fellow at St.Antony's College, lecturing on Islamist thought. His major objective is to reconcile Muslims and Westerners and to erase suspicions between the two through greater integration of what has effectively been two historical solitudes. His goal is to effect a "European Islam".

He is in Ottawa for two engagements; the first to attend a fund-raising dinner in support of a proposed new Islamic studies centre at Carleton University, the second, sponsored by the College of the Humanities and the Carleton Centre for the Study of Islam (as above) is to deliver a speech, titled "Identity and Engagement: Western Muslims and the Public Sphere", in his ongoing attempts to breach the gap of understanding between Islam and Westerners.

As a moderate, Dr. Ramadan has gained the trust of the general community, and the admiration of the vast international demographic he represents, the Muslim ummah. Yet there have arisen questions about Dr. Ramadan's real agenda, whether he is as he seems, whether his public statements which appear reasonable and pacific in nature, cover a truer purpose practised traditionally through the Islamic doctrine of dissimulation.

There are those within the Muslim community - some considered to be apostate, others less given to religious rigour - who find fault with Professor Ramadan's seeming double-speak; his public messages are often seen as equivocating when they should, for a moderate, be unequivocal. "Ramadan is a dangerous radical who, far from modernizing Islam is in fact attempting to Islamize modernity", according to scholar and Muslim apostate Ibn Warraq.

Apples do not often fall far from the trees that bore them. And Dr. Ramadan's direct forbears have quite an illustrious history as Islamists; his father, the Islamist Egyptian, Said Ramadan, was expelled from Egypt, arrived in Saudi Arabia and founded the World Islamic League, devoted to spreading Islam and encouraging the quest for Muslims to found a new caliphate.

Said Ramadan's father-in-law, Hassan Al-Banna, founded the Muslim Brotherhood for the promotion of Salafism, promoting strict sharia. Hassan Al-Banna distinguished himself by saying "If the Jewish state becomes a fact (the Arabs) will drive the Jews who live in their midst into the sea", at that time in history when the UN voted to create Israel in the late 1940s.

With Dr. Ramadan's distinct respect and pride in his heritage, it is doubtful that he would easily shed the ideas, the values and the ideological religious culture that bred him. Dr. Ramadan's father established the Islamic Center in Geneva for the purpose of promoting the ideals of the Muslim Brotherhood, once outlawed in Egypt, and responsible for the assassination of Anwar al-Sadat, who made peace with Israel.

Professor Ramadan is proud too of his family's links to other scholars, those who promote violent jihad as an integral tool of Islamic vigour and assertiveness, leading inevitably to the return of world-wide Islamic domination, a new caliphate. Dr. Ramadan is said to revere that scholar of Sunni Islam who justified the use of women as suicide bombers, while himself exerting care to never publicly condone violence on his own account.

But he has averred understanding that violence would occur under certain circumstances, as when he refrained to outright condemn terrorism, characterizing the terrorist attacks in New York, Bali and Madrid as "interventions". And stating that the murder of Israeli children through terror acts is "morally condemnable", while at the same time presenting as "contextually explicable".

When Ontario was flirting with the potential of introducing Sharia law into the province and throughout the controversy that ensued, including a denunciation of the possibility from Muslim women, Professor Ramadan gave his opinion on the issue on the matter in an interview with an Egyptian magazine that left more questions about his interior intelligence on the topic than were answered.

According to Tarek Fatah, when Mr. Ramadan characterized such a court as "...another example of lack of creativity" among Muslims, "His 'lack of creativity' remark was another reason why so many people feel he still adheres to his family tradition of the Muslim Brotherhood, but employs very sophisticated tactics to make his politics palatable to secular audiences". Chasing a Mirage, Tarek Fatah

His clumsy equivocation in an interview with Nicolas Sarkozy, when the French President was interior minister, where Mr. Ramadan spoke of a "moratorium" in the Muslim practise of stoning women to death who had been accused to adultery, took Mr. Sarkozy aback. Mr. Sarkozy had requested Professor Ramadan's opinion of his older brother Hani, who had endorsed stoning women to death under Sharia law.

So this is the man, a world-famed Islamic scholar, whom many suspect is not the enlightened moderate that he presents himself to be, who is speaking in Ottawa about the place of Islam in Western society, and specifically Muslims making a place for themselves in the West. Is this truly the best that Islam can offer the West in accommodating one to the other as equals?

"I don't see anyone today who is as effective as Tariq Ramadan in furthering fundamentalism in France", according to French journalist Caroline Fourest, the author of a book on Mr. Ramadan. She claims his celebrity is based on mouthing one opinion to Muslims, another to Western audiences. In an effort "to modify the secular state and help matters evolve toward 'more Islam' ... a reactionary and fundamentalist one."

That conclusion - led by Professor Ramadan's own words, actions and antecedents, along with his obviously-noted values, obliquely stated - is sinister and macabre. Occasionally, the mask slips and Janus is revealed.
The mythical Roman figure of Janus, among other things represents the transition between primitive life and civilization, between peace and war.

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