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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Treason Law

It seems like such an anachronism; an anti-treason law. So out of the 18th, 19th Century. Who might have thought that in the 21st Century with all our advances in civil law and the security of nations we would have to resurrect something like a treason law? But who might have thought that there would erupt on the world scene a dread ideology born out of a religion that exhorted its faithful to violent jihad; that there would be a need?

If there had been a treason law, Canadians of Serbian descent who went abroad to fight with the Serbs against NATO troops seeking to bring an end to the Balkan conflict between Albanians, Serbs, Croats and Muslim Bosnians, would have faced a far sterner penalty for their choice than did occur. Any country must consider that its population stands with it at times of conflict. Yet people are conflicted over loyalties between their countries of origin and their country of later migration.

During the Second World War people of Italian descent felt dreadfully uneasy about their country of origin being part of the Axis group while their adopted country was part of the Allied group, and choices had to be made, difficult ones. Those, despite their difficulties and the anguish that they caused, appear light-weight in comparison to the current situation where some Muslim Canadians feel compelled to answer a call to jihad.

That jihad is directed against the Western, democratic, enlightened countries of the world, primarily Christian, where battle cries of Crusaders! and Infidels! are heard to ring out along with Allahu Akbar! There is a problem within Canada of a stealthy infiltration of Islamists, just as that same problem exists in the Middle East, in Africa, in Europe and the United States of immigrants who have aligned themselves with the concept of political Islam.

The steadily growing phenomenon of political Islam where violent jihad is enjoined in a battle against the values of the West, to create conditions for Islamofascism to take the ascendancy with an eventual acceptance of Sharia law globally under a universal caliphate subjugating the West to its will as a reflection of historical longing to create a renaissance represents a real problem.

And real problems require real consequences resulting from dealing with those problems. When young Canadian men are recruited in Canadian mosques to go overseas and receive training in violent, militant jihad so they may take part in what Islamists consider a struggle to overcome Western influence and power, or return home to launch terrorist attacks, it is a problem requiring to be addressed.

The Criminal Code of Canada currently discharges an obligation to charge someone if they assist "An enemy at war with Canada, or any armed forces against whom Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between Canad and the country whose forces they are", the conviction of which is an automatic life sentence in prison.

But a law to be enacted for "high treason" would see someone so charged and found guilty stripped of citizenship. If such a law were to be enacted, the "life sentence" in prison which might represent 20 to 25 years' imprisonment would also mean that without citizenship, the eventually discharged prisoner would find no place within Canada to resume residence.

Were such a law to be enacted it would mean by definition that someone like Omar Khadr and his extended family, would be in line for having their citizenship revoked. It would mean that they would have to return to Pakistan or Egypt permanently. It would mean that they would have no place in Canada, to foment their brand of hatred, and to receive all the benefits of Canadian citizenship.

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Deserving of Privileges

Well isn't that reassuring? Those with mental illness are excused responsibility for the actions they take. Although those with mental illness who have not committed any real crimes can be incarcerated, can receive no attention and no ameliorating treatment and be left to rot with despair until they commit suicide, as the dreadful case of teen-age Ashley Smith demonstrated to our great shame as a society.

No one wanted to hear her pleas for help, a confused young woman with no one to speak out on her behalf. Shunted from one prison to another, her stay extended well beyond what the initial and pretty absurd stay was to have been for the crime of tossing crab apples at a postal worker, and for petty theft. Her mental illness was rewarded by long stays in isolation cells where black despair could overtake her.

Yet a man who travelled on a Greyhound bus and suddenly turned violent, killing and then cannibalizing an innocent young man who was a passenger on that bus, horrifying onlookers while he was locked within the bus with his dead victim, taunting the police, has been given all the professional psychiatric assistance deemed necessary.

And, because he was mentally unstable, he was not held responsible for the grisly murder of a man, and the subsequent assault on the corpse resulting in an hideous assault on the sensibilities of those who witnessed the horror. The psychiatrist who has been seeing to Vince Li's mental condition has lauded his great progress, assessing him now to be ready to deserve expanded privileges.

Ashley Smith is left to die, frightened and alone, her crime barely perceptible on the scale of public civility. Contrast that with Vince Li's abhorrent atrocity for which he is now entitled reduced supervision within the Selkirk, Manitoba facility where he is being held. How long before he is discharged?

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Victory In War on Islamism...?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, just re-affirmed in his executive political role by Canadian voters finally granting him his wished-for majority government, has been a busy man. He has acquitted himself so very well in so many areas both domestic and international. Those Canadians who voted for him and his party feel confident in his ability to continue to steer this country in the right direction.

But hey, did he really declare victory in the war on "Islamist terror", while visiting Canadian troops in Kandahar, preparatory to pulling Canada's military mission out and retaining only a training mission under the auspices of NATO? Victory in the war on Islamist terror? It's a done deal? No further real concerns; Islamism and violent jihad is on the wane, on the way out, beaten?

Could've fooled a whole lot of people with that one. It seems like bravado, not fact. Most unlike our sober-minded, practical, honest and dependable prime minister. Perhaps that was not meant for attribution, merely a casual tip of the hat in true appreciation to Canada's armed forces and most particularly to those military men in his presence at that very time.

On the week-end, a suicide bomber managed to inveigle himself into a secure, seemingly peaceful part of Afghanistan and accomplished much. A provincial police chief, two Afghan policemen, two German NATO soldiers and the most powerful man in north Afghanistan, General Daoud Daoud, was killed on Saturday. His loss was a real blow to the country and to NATO.

The attacker was in police uniform. Previous attacks on NATO members themselves have been conducted by jihadists wearing Afghan military uniforms. Prime Minister Harper was quoted as having said that "Islamist terror" originating in Afghanistan "no longer represents a geo-strategic threat to the world - it is no longer a source of global terrorism."

Did he mean, that good man, that it in and of itself no longer presents as a threat, as opposed to the continuing al-Qaeda terror threat growing in Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Egypt (through the Muslim Brotherhood)? On the other hand, Taliban mujahadeen set loose a series of suicide attacks in Herat, five weeks before the Afghan security forces are set to take charge.

The Taliban, in fact, have launched a series of bloody assaults on a number of regional provincial capitals in Afghanistan. The suicide attacks are taking place in conspicuously government areas, at places felt to be secure where Provincial Reconstruction Teams are hard at work to restore confidence among the people.

Prime Minister Harper spoke movingly of the 156 Canadian soldiers and three civilians who "gave all they had" in Afghanistan. He praised the perseverance of federal ministry public servants dedicated to helping make life approximate the 20th Century in a backward country beset with horrendous poverty and continuous conflict.

A needful, affirmative visit, but a trifle heavy on the optimism.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Poverty Amelioration

The world, it seems, is becoming a better place. That's fairly hard to believe, given the incessant news of conflict between nations and within nations, of nation-wide protests that governments are solving by sending tanks into the streets to use live fire on unarmed protesters. There is news constantly about natural disasters: floods, drought, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, all impacting dreadfully upon vulnerable populations.

But if we were to select from among various causes of human misery one single causative, it would have to be poverty. A close second comes Third-World diseases that eviscerate societies without the medical knowledge and the health professionals and the funding to provide health services and life-saving pharmaceuticals to their people.

But the economically and technologically advanced societies of the world, have always seen it as their obligation to part with a portion of their monetary reserves to help.

And now it seems, from data released in Poverty in Numbers: the Changing State of Global Poverty from 2005 to 2015 by the Brookings Institute report, along with a UN report on the world's economic prospects, there have been enormous improvements internationally in the poorest, most endemically-poverty-stricken populations of the world.

An astonishingly rapid alleviation of global poverty has been taking place, driven, it would seem, by high and sustained economic growth right across the developing world. There's little doubt that assistance from First World economies through UN-driven programs, the World Bank and NGOs have helped. Figures tell the story that between 2005 and 2010, a half-billion of the world's most needy have escaped living below the poverty threshold of $1.25 a day.

The rapid acceleration of poverty amelioration has resulted in the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of halving the rate of global poverty by 2015, being triumphantly achieved in half the time given to succeed in that course of action.
"A lot has changed in the past six years. The economies of the developing world have expanded 50% in real terms, despite the Great Recession. Moreover, growth has been particularly high in countries with large numbers of poor people; India and China, of course, but also Bangladesh, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Uganda, Mozambique and Uzbekistan - 9 countries that were collectively home to nearly 2/3s of the world's poor in 2005 - are all experiencing phenomenal economic advances."
And, suggests the report, over the course of the next four years, another 300-million people will join the larger contingent that has already escaped the misery of unspeakable poverty.
"Today growth is being driven by a number of big countries which are home to large poor populations. Between 2005 and 2015, India (current population of 1.233 billion) Bangladesh (169 million), Vietnam (89 million), and Ethiopia (87 million) are each expected to grow by at least 6.3% per year. In the process, each is likely to see a quarter of its population lifted out of poverty."
China, Brazil and India are leading the global recovery after the international financial meltdown leading to a prolonged recession, with some European countries left in dire financial straits, requiring bail-outs from the EU and the World Bank. The adoption of market-driven economies with young, entrepreneurial and well-educated people in still-low-paid work forces in China and India resulted in rapid industrialization.
"China's per-capita income will hit $85,000, more than double the forecast for the European Union, and also much higher than that of India and Japan. In other words, the average Chinese megacity dweller will be living twice as well as the average Frenchman."
Who might have foreseen that wealthy industrialized countries like Canada, the United States and Britain with their huge public debts would begin to reverse their economic positions with those of China, India, Brazil? Not quite a total reversal, but an interesting phenomenon all the same. From poverty-stricken to low-income but stable and middle-income but stable on the part of the emerging economic giants.

The reversal seen in the economies of the world's heretofore leading economies; Japan hit by a triple disaster, falling back into deep recession; the United States with its massive debt and growing deficit, its reserves held by China, the European Union patching up Spain, Greece and Portugal. Who might have foreseen it?

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"Giving Something Back"

The current governing Liberals in Ontario are not very popular, they have outlived their usefulness to the voters and taxpayers, one and the same.

The inept use of tax money, the added taxes brought courtesy of the premier who had promised not to raise taxes as a condition of his election platform, then brought in the health premium, and the waste seen in the failed ehealth program, along with a litany of other concerns, focusing now on the soaring cost of energy have made him extremely unpopular.

The Conservatives under Tim Hudak certainly see their opportunity to ride the coattails of that unpopularity. But as party leader he's been making spending promises right, left and centre, on beefing up health and education at huge costs, in an attempt to out-promise Dalton McGuinty. It's one thing to promise there will be no cuts to services in health care delivery and education, another to promise that greater funding will be thrown at them, as a solution.

But for sheer inappropriateness of promises to appeal to the voting public, the one about getting tough with prison inmates by having them work on press gangs has to be the stupidest yet. Railing against 'waste, fraud and tax hikes' buys Mr. Hudak the attention he craves and the potential to win over voters. But putting forward a platform whereby those who commit crimes against society must be directed toward public works isn't such a great idea.

For one thing, we have no wish to see convicted criminals out in press gangs, working to clean up the streets or whatever else Mr. Hudak has in mind. I've seen such prison work in progress, in Georgia, where prisoners are shackled and working in a group to clean up the medians on a highway, overseen by a guard with a high-powered rifle. This is a scene right out of a nightmare.

There is no dignity for the prisoners involved, nor in the society itself, in selecting well-behaved prisoners, shackling them ankle-to-ankle, and ordering them to work as a clean-up crew.

Far more tenable and useful without impairing human dignity are the farm-work programs that the federal government has recently chosen to dismantle in federal penitentiary systems. If Mr. Hudak is serious about putting prisoners to work to have them 'give something back' to society, then he can put them to work in a salubrious setting where they can learn something useful and take pride in.

Failing that, prison workshops where incarcerates can produce useful products is nothing new, but would certainly make a whole lot more sense than the public humiliation and display that Mr. Hudak's idea seems to suggest. He should go back to the drawing board on this one and get serious about recommending intelligent solutions to society's problems.

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Unilateral Declaration Legally Invalid

Lawyers to Ban: Declaring a Palestinian State is Illegal
by Elad Benari Lawyers: PA State is Illegal

Israeli lawyers and international law experts have contacted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, demanding that he prevent the Palestinian Authority’s resolution asking for recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1949 armistice lines from being raised at the UN General Assembly in September.

The lawyers say that UN recognition of such a state would be “in contrary to international law, UN resolutions and existing agreements.”

The signatories on the letter include Dr. Alan Baker, former legal adviser for the Foreign Ministry and Israeli Ambassador to Canada, as well as Dr. Meir Rosenne, former legal adviser for the Foreign Ministry, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and one of the authors of the peace agreement with Egypt. Also signed are law Professors Talia Einhorn and Eliav Shochetman, as well as dozens of other experts in international law and lawyers.

In the letter, the lawyers ask Secretary-General Ban to appeal to the General Assembly members to prevent the adoption of the Palestinian state resolution, since such a decision would stand in outright opposition to any agreements which were signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as well as to Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

The lawyers bring up the decision of The Council of the League of Nations dated July 24, 1922. The decision, which was adopted unanimously, calls for the establishment of a Jewish national home, including the right to increase Jewish settlement in all the historical territory of Israel, including Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem. This decision was approved by both houses of the U.S. Congress on June 30, 1922.

Furthermore, state the lawyers, Article 80 of the UN Charter stipulates that the UN recognizes all decisions made by The Council of the League of Nations which preceded it and therefore, the 650,000 Jews currently living in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem are living there legally.

The lawyers further argue that the commonly used term ‘1967 borders’ is invalid since it refers to the 1949 armistice lines and it was expressly stated in those agreements that the armistice lines would not be interpreted in any way as an international border. They note that according to Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, the parties are committed to conduct negotiations to bring about peace in the Middle East, within secure and recognized borders and with a just solution for all refugees, Jews and Arabs alike.

They determine that a proposal by the PA for a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state will be a fundamental breach of Article 31 of the Oslo Accords which were signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995, and in which it was determined that the PA would not initiate or take any steps that will change the status of Judea and Samaria until the end of negotiations, and that the issue of the borders will be determined only through negotiations. When the Palestinian Authority signed on these commitments, hundreds of thousands of Jews had already lived in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem and the PA recognized that the status of these areas will not change until the negotiations end.

“Although the Interim Agreement was signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” write the lawyers, “the U.S., EU, Russia, Norway, Jordan, Egypt and the United Nations signed it as witnesses and will not be able to take part in the violation of the agreement by the Palestinians.”

The lawyers therefore end the letter by calling on Ban Ki-moon to stop the PA attempt to circumvent the negotiation process that was decided upon by the UN Security Council and the agreements signed between the parties.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has constantly reiterated he would seek the unilateral declaration of a PA state by the United Nations if a peace deal is not reached with Israel come September.

At the same time, he has flatly refused to come to the negotiating table and has manufactured preconditions when pressure has been brought to bear on the PA by the Quartet, especially the United States, for the PA to restart peace talks with Israel.

Meanwhile, it was reported on Sunday that the IDF is purchasing non-lethal riot control gear to deal with large-scale Palestinian Authority violence expected in September, when PA Arabs are expected to attempt various violent provocations after the discussion in the United Nations.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 30 May 2011

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Consolidating Terror

Hamas Moving HQ from Syria to Egypt, Warns Netanyahu
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Hamas Moves HQ to Egypt

Hamas is moving its headquarters from Damascus to Egypt, and the terror group is strengthening itself in the Sinai, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Monday.

He also noted that the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Hamas sprung, also has become a more powerful force in Egypt since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. The Prime Minister stated his concern about the inability of the provisional military regime in Egypt to exercise sovereignty in the Sinai, which borders Israel and from where Bedouin and Hamas terrorists smuggle weapons from Iran, Sudan, Syria and elsewhere into Gaza.

Al-Qaeda also has brought 400 terrorists into the area, according to an Egyptian official quoted by an Arab news agency,

The Prime Minister confirmed previous reports that Hamas supreme leader Khaled Mashaal has pulled out of Damascus, where his presence and welcome by Syrian President Bashar Assad is an additional worry for him in the face of the continuing uprising.

The vacuum of power in the Sinai has been illustrated by “the two gas explosions that occurred there” this year, Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Knesset committee. “Global terrorist organizations are interfering, there and their presence is increasing because of the geographic connection between Sinai and Gaza."

The Sharon government agreed to pull out of Gaza following the 2005 expulsion of nearly 10,000 Jews in the area. Agreements with Egypt on security in the Sinai began falling apart after Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza four years ago.

Following the Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, Israel relied on American and European guarantees to monitor the transfer of goods and merchandise from the Sinai to Gaza, but these also have eroded. The opening of the Rafiah crossing this past Saturday has further harmed security.

The de facto dominance of Bedouin tribes and allied terrorists in the Sinai has set the stage for further stockpiling of advanced arms by Hamas and for plotting terrorist attacks at tourist and holy sites in Egypt.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 30 May 2011

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Day Of Anger"

Egyptians packed Tahrir Square again. To express their dissatisfaction with the pace of change. Did they anticipate, truly, a wholesale and instant changeover from the tyranny of a dictatorship to a beneficial democracy? When the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is in charge? Much of what their immediate demands consisted of have been undertaken.

The forcible removal of their former president, and his ruling council, for example. President Hosni Mubarak ensured peace and stability in Egypt for the length of his tenure. He ruled over a people who submitted to a military-type dictatorship, one which saw the emergence of a healthier economy, but it seemed to benefit an entitled elite, not the dwindling middle class.

There was the syndrome of the Middle East reflected in Egypt where the youth, of whom there is a decided surfeit, were largely unemployed, restless, resentful and increasingly vocal. Motivated to use social networking to express their frustrations and plan among themselves to demonstrate in sufficient numbers to ensure that their ruling elite noticed.

The people were fed up with high food and energy costs. With lack of employment opportunities. They resented the strong arm of the police. They were aware of the corruption in government and in fact everywhere around them, because this too represented a way of life that spoke of tradition. Everything must change; they, the youth, were exposed to the knowledge of freedoms available in other countries, denied them.

It was everyone involved together; the secular, the religious, the indigent, the middle-class, teachers and doctors, lawyers and tourism employees. There was room for everyone, even the once-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Absent from this Day of Anger, however, since the evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood's recognition by the military.

This new Egypt is one in transition from dictatorship to arrested civility. The civil liberties that were demanded are not yet in sight, but criminal incivilities are, and socially-destructive tendencies among deviants within society have been unleashed. The new Egypt, absent the firm controlling direction of Hosni Mubarak has moved to a strange place resembling a tyranny of the oppressed.

While former president, Hosni Mubarak, his sons and his trusted friends must now stand trial on charges of corruption and murder in the unfortunate deaths of protesters, to the satisfaction of those same revolutionaries, the country appears to have dissolved into crime central. Extremist Muslims attacking Coptic Christians, burning their churches, threatening their very existence.

Thievery is becoming endemic. The police simply do not seem to be around in numbers sufficient to quell the criminal activity. People no longer feel free to venture out for strolls in the evenings as they once did. They prefer to be safe and remain at home. "We no longer control the streets", claimed one police officer tardily investigating a car theft.

The price of food staples is steadily increasing. There are fewer customers now for goods for sale. Shop owners are barely making a living. Neighbours who once were interested in helping one another now feel alienated from each other. "We can't find fuel. Things are being stolen every day."
"Even though there was no money, people would take care of each other. We would all find something to eat at the end of the day. today, no one cares about one another."
The country's economy seems in free fall; tourism has fallen off, and Egypt is appealing to the international community to keep the economy afloat. The World Bank has agreed to provide up to $4.5-billion to assist Egypt in its modernization efforts. And then?

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Wholly At Fault

Canadian prison authorities should be facing some pretty tough questioning. Correctional Service Canada seems, on the evidence of several high-profile, truly shameful cases, to have been less than diligent in ensuring safety and security of the inmates whom they are responsible for.

There is the shocking and dreadful case of Ashley Smith, a young woman who was incarcerated when what she really needed was a psychiatric evaluation and urgent help, not isolation and despair causing her to take her own life, while prison guards looked on through a video hook-up.

And there is the case of the serial killer Michael Wayne McGray, whom prison authorities in their deep wisdom decided to take out of maximum security and place in a medium security facility, despite that the psychopath himself resisted being moved, and stated his own preference for remaining in a high-security, single-cell facility.

The man boasted about his hair-trigger temper, his lack of compassion, the high he would experience while committing murder. He informed a news reporter that despite being in prison he would have no trouble killing someone, even in incarceration. Which was precisely what he did. Another prisoner, a drug-addict and petty criminal was placed in a double cell with McGray.

Jeremy Phillips, like all the other inmates at Mountain Institution, where McGray had been transferred from the maximum security Kent Institution, knew of the formidable reputation of the killer. They feared him, and they ensured they kept out of his way. Jeremy Phillips, who was forced to share a cell with McGray couldn't very well keep out of his way.

The two men loathed one another; but it was only Phillips who felt fear. He pleaded with prison authorities to move him elsewhere. McGray insisted that he needed his own cell, that he wasn't comfortable sharing a cell with anyone. With his callously brutal reputation and the palpable fear of Jeremy Phillips, it would seem sensible enough that the two be separated.

The prison fraternity knew of Jeremy Phillips' well-entrenched fears, and they knew too that McGray was capable of murdering Phillips. He did just that, strangling him to death, and confessed to the murder without any compunction. An RCMP investigation took six months to come to the conclusion that a murder had taken place, despite the evidence.

The situation is a dreadful blot on the reputation of Correctional Service Canada, the Government of Canada, and the prison authorities at Kent Institution and Mountain Institution next door to it.

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Blazing Cat Fur: National Post Interview with Tarek Fatah off to a bad start....

Blazing Cat Fur: National Post Interview with Tarek Fatah off to a bad start....

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Fire of Discontent

His family roots are in Quebec, although he is dedicated to Canada. As leader of a federal party that's an interesting combination, since he knows Quebec's underside and sense of aggrieved entitlement in a way that none of the other party leaders do, from both perspectives; that of an Anglo whose father was politically involved and of an individual growing to maturity in nationalist Quebec.

He believes he knows Quebecois intimately, and he also believes that his ticket to a possible future as leader of the country lies in articulating Quebec's desires and promising to fulfill them. The current Conservative-led government's majority win in the last election, however, has demonstrated aptly that a political party can win a majority government without the votes always thought requisite in Quebec.

And the unwritten compact that prime ministers should evolve alternately out of Quebec and the rest of Canada has been put to rest, we hope firmly. Still, Jack Layton is a native son of Quebec. And he believes that the NDP, his party, the party that he has managed to pull out of its third-run status into the Official Opposition, is capable of out-running the first-run party.

To allow him to cap his political career as Prime Minister, one fine day. And Quebec is his key to unlock that future.

With that double agenda, he saw no conflict in promises to Quebec that comfortably fit their demands and aspirations. Restrictions on the use of English for federally regulated industries in Quebec; favouring the implementation of a law that would see the appointment of only fully bilingual judges to the Supreme Court of Canada; opposition to allowing some students to acquire a right to public English schooling in the province.

He is in complete sympathy with Quebec's wish to secede "If you are absolutely convinced that there is no place for you in Canada and you don't see your future within the Canadian federation..." making voting for the Bloc a sensible course of action. But that course of action could be far better achieved through voting for the NDP, because the Bloc hasn't delivered, and the NDP can.

"What constitutes a majority is 50% plus one", he has finally admitted publicly at a news conference, where he unveiled his shadow cabinet. The NDP has succeeded in obtaining a 103-member caucus, with the near-demise of the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois. "It's in our official policies. It's been adopted in our Sherbrooke declaration. That's been crystal clear for 5 years as official policy of our party."

French Canadian voters have demonstrated in the clearest possible manner how impetuous they can be in arriving at a decision. By voting en masse for political candidates about whom they know nothing whatever, who never even bothered to show up in their riding, who decided not to take part in all-candidates' meetings, who have had no experience whatever in politics, they showed the extent of their naivete.

Having failed to secure the most basic knowledge of what would result in voting for extremely young, unprepared, uncommitted candidates, they are fully capable of exercising the same kind of spontaneous, politically infantile behaviour that might result in their separating from the rest of Canada, without fully understanding what that might accomplish.

Considering a majority to consist of 50-plus-1 is not the clear majority that the Supreme Court advisory of 1998 represented in the Clarity Act, which allows the House of Commons to decide whether a referendum question is sufficiently clear and understandable, and what would constitute a majority. To break up the unity of a country is serious business and it should be treated seriously.

Jack Layton's cavalier attitude to possible secession in his eagerness to satisfy Quebec also demonstrates that he either chooses to ignore or not recognize that Quebec enjoys playing games with the rest of Canada, holding its petulant little diatribes and demands as an immoral, unethical blackmail that invariably result in its receiving its unbalanced and unfair demands.

The point is, the rest of Canada is fed up with all these games. And Jack Layton is simply adding fuel to the fire of discontent. Pity, that. Immoral, too.

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Blazing Cat Fur: Sid Ryan Is A Liar

Blazing Cat Fur: Sid Ryan Is A Liar

Friday, May 27, 2011

G-8 Funding Arab Aid

The G8 has met again; the world leaders of the industrially, technologically, economically advanced countries of the world have discussed issues of global significance. The emergence of the world economy out of a severe downturn, for example, and the fragile economic condition of some countries like Greece and Portugal, Ireland and Spain, for example.

But it would seem the lion's share of discussion evolved around the "Arab Spring". The commitment of NATO in Libya, the new governments in Tunisia and Egypt, and the plight of Yemen and Syria with the governments of both exacting casualties among the protesters appealing for employment and political freedom.

The Group of Eight is concerned primarily with the issues that brought these protests into the light of day. Mass unemployment among the young of Arab and African countries. Restless youth who become easy recruits and foils for extremism. For behind all of these popular uprisings lurk the potential for yet another type of tyranny to take over from the old, discarded ones.

From the tyranny of inherited rule through family dynasties, the political elite, the military elite, the royal elite, the oil sheikdoms, to the more threatening tyranny of the politicized, extremist Islamists for whom the ideology of jihad and conquest is a threat not only to the populations at risk, but in their jihadi outreach, to the world of the West.

So the United States and Great Britain and France have expressed urgent appeals to their confreres to commit to providing additional economic support to Egypt and Tunisia - both in dire economic straits because the insurrections that so recently transformed the governance of both countries impacted badly on their trade and tourism.

The World Bank claims that without intervention all of the affected countries will continue to be unable to provide employment for their large and growing cohorts of young people coming of age and becoming increasingly frustrated and angered. The European Union, the International Monetary Fund are all pledging to assist.

Finally, and most importantly, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also pledging $4-billion and $10-billion respectively. But it must be noted that the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia are fabulously wealthy from oil revenues. It makes little sense that it is the West, the United States, the European Union, the G-8, that are leading the charge to bring economic balance to Arab states.

What are those oil-invested rich Arab states waiting for? Islam decrees that it is an obligation for Muslims to aid one another. Why is it that it requires the impetus of Western countries to become involved and pledge billions they themselves are not in possession of, struggling to uplift their own economies out of recession, before the wealthy Gulf States think of assisting their Muslim brethren?

For its part, the Government of Canada has announced that monetary assistance will be funnelled through its contributions to such financial institutions as the African Development Bank and NGOs, rather than handing funding over directly to Egypt and Tunisia.

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Judgement Day Arrives

Yet another world-class psychopath has been apprehended. Ratko Mladic, for whom Serbia has long turned a blind eye to the urgent requests of the international community and the International Criminal Tribunal, has now finally been apprehended. Serbians in general, by a ratio of 7-to-1, consider him a war hero, someone whose exploits on the field of battle is heartily applauded.

His sixteen-year protection by the Serbian military, the government and the people, 78% of whom claimed in a recent enquiry that they would never turn him in, if they were aware of his presence, has come to an end. The reason for this is no mystery, for economics played a great part in the final collapse of his mendacious security.

The security of being enabled to join the European Union simply overrode the pride in continuing haven for the Butcher of Sarajevo.

"Ratko, our hero", is no more. Uncomfortable questions will continue to be asked, of course, how it was that Ratko Mladic was able to evade capture and extradition to the Hague for so long. He has been seen openly attending public events, dining at popular eating establishments, and living in peace and serenity tending his flock of goats at a farm owned by a cousin. He had powerful protectors.

The savagely bloodthirsty atrocities he commanded in the slaughter of civilian Bosnian Muslims marked him as extraordinarily conscienceless. Such hatred is exemplified by ethnic strife and resentment and historical events that become deeply seared in the collective memory of ethnic and tribal groups that have always despised one another.

It is not particularly that the Serbs were more heartless than the Croats and the Bosnian Muslims, since all three groups were fully capable of launching inhumanly deadly missions against one another. General Mladic's father was a partisan who was killed by pro-Nazi Croatian soldiers in 1945. The 500 years of Turkish rule in Serbia, detested and resented by Serbian Christians, linked Bosnian Muslims to the former oppressors.

These are entrenched background resentments and hatreds that could explain in part why each of the groups, Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, responded to their own impulses to slaughter one another. It is the order of the magnitude of Ratko Mladic's offence against humanity that sets him apart; his demented, anti-human determination to cleanse Bosnia of Muslims by driving them out, by massacring them.

The atrocities attributed to his urging of his troops to corral civilian males of all ages and in one fell swoop slaughter 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in a UN-protected 'safe' area of Srebrenica, sets him and them apart. Rape, torture, mutilation, and unspeakable atrocities were committed under his instruction and insistence.

Serbia's new president, Boris Tadic, anxious to bring his country into the EU, will be viewed by many Serbians as a traitor for allowing himself to be bullied by the United States and Britain with their security intelligence aiding him in the location and apprehension of Serbia's self-proclaimed "God". Now a sick, elderly man, no longer the fiercely fearful general charged with two counts of genocide.

A symbolic victory that will offer a ghost of closure for some, but not all of his victims, whose bleak lives echoes their loss of brothers, fathers, husbands, sons, and the carnage their daughters and they suffered, which can never be ameliorated.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Waiting In The Wings

The "Arab Spring" has made front-page news for months. The illusion in the minds of the West is that the protesters who were successful in Tunisia and Egypt, and who are now struggling in Libya and Yemen and Syria to force their governments to end traditional tyrannical rule running roughshod over human rights will be replaced eventually by democracies.

But this is the Middle East, and North Africa, under Islam. And Islam has undergone a stark transformation over the past fifty years and more. It is no longer the benign, albeit all-encompassing religious ideology it once was, calling its faithful to prayer five times daily, and exhorting them to be kind to one another as Muslim brethren.

This new manifestation of Islam, long in the brew, harks back to the original, whose evangelism succeeded by the sword. Instead of the sword, suicidal martyrs for the cause as fanatical jihadists are being constantly recruited and trained, making their faithful mark as living bombs. They slaughter Muslims and Westerners alike.

And it is not a benign version of Islam, the religion of peace that most of its adherents describe it as, that is waiting in the wings to take power, but offshoots of Wahhabism, and the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda, whose ultimate mission is the unification of Islam and the renaissance of a global Islamist presence under Sharia law.

Egypt, the most populous of the Arab countries is undergoing its transformation, in response to the call of its Tahrir Square protesters for freedom from dictatorship. It was the young, the unemployed, those who are familiar with Internet technology and social communication that led the way and they espoused democracy. Waiting in the wings, the Muslim Brotherhood.

While the youth espoused democracy, they and much of the 'street' denounced their President, Hosni Mubarak, for maintaining the country's peace treaty with Israel. The military was faithful to President Mubarak only until it could no longer confine the protests, then agreed to depose him. At which time the Muslim Brotherhood felt far freer to agitate for its agenda.

Things are beginning, slowly, to unravel. For Israel, as a nation seen as a creature of the West, an interloper, a foreign presence, an ethnic and religious apostasy within the Middle East. An official enquiry has found former President Mubarak and his two sons must stand trial for murder and corruption for which the death penalty will be exercised.

This is greatly pleasing to the Muslim Brotherhood. As is the decision to open the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, to 'relieve' the blockade of Gaza. A spokesman for the European Border Assistance Mission has expressed concern that no invitation has been expressed to them to re-activate international standards for security checks in accordance with the 2005 agreement.

Israel's concern, needless to say, is the greater latitude available now to Hamas to continue smuggling arms and terrorists into Gaza from Egyptian sources. The peace deal between Egypt and Israel looks increasingly fragile.

Since Jordan is comprised of a majority Palestinian population its peace agreement with Israel too is hugely unpopular. The failure of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to re-commence is used as another excuse by Jordan to reconsider the viability of the peace agreement.

Syrians, embattled by their government, would far prefer that President al-Bashir go to war with Israel to reclaim the Golan Heights, than target their peaceful protests. Libyans too see Israel as an enemy, even while they struggle against their dictator.

Waiting in the wings in all these countries, as in Yemen, are the Islamists, for their opportunity to capture the opportunities now being extended to them through the overthrow of more secular-oriented tyrants within North Africa and the Middle East.

All is not as it seems to naive Western diplomats and politicians.

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Destroying Trust

The obscenity of a young woman incarcerated as punishment for acting out in a way that really harmed no one, and then extending her prison stays indefinitely, sending her from one prison to another, until in her despair she committed suicide, reflects horribly on this country. That kind of punishment and justice is beyond incredible.

The nightmare of a young woman in desperate psychological distress being forcibly held in isolation for long periods of time would unhinge anyone.

Some triumph of justice for a civilized, democratic country that offers universal medical treatment for its citizens, and guarantees of self-actualization, and protection of individual rights and freedoms under our vaunted Constitution.

Ashley Smith tried time and again to commit suicide because she had nothing to live for, and everything to die for. Her life was an ongoing torment; and she sought to end it. Instead of the care and comfort she needed, she was constrained, restrained and despised.

Considered a trouble-maker, no one seemed to care about her welfare. And now, the warden of the Grand Valley Institution where she died after successfully managing finally to strangle herself while her guards watched through a video connection, is testifying on behalf of his prison staff, that it is their right to privacy that will be invaded if the videos are exposed.

The prison staff feel that they behaved professionally in response to the situation they experienced time and again with this desperate young woman whose pleas for help were never addressed. They were simply doing their job as they were instructed to do it, and have nothing to answer for.

The concern in this tragic event is not that the prison guards were committed to this 19-year-old's well being and somehow failed to support and protect her. The issue is their right to privacy. That, if the videos of the events that occurred were made public, their lives would be complicated.

They might be held by their community to account for their responses that did not address the need of this young woman. "My family and I are actively involved in our small community and a stigma such as this is not easily forgotten in a small community."

But if they insist they acted to the best of their ability in discharging their professional obligations as correction workers, what is their concern? The optics of a young woman, a girl really, kept in a segregated cell, attempting repeatedly to tie a ligature about her neck to end the nightmare of her existence would not play well.

On the other hand, it is not the guards alone that should be answerable to the memory of Ashley Smith and to her family and to the public for the heartless, uncompassionate and destructive manner in which she was held and her incarceration drawn out interminably, leaving her no hope.

It is those entrusted to interact with such incarcerants, the social workers, the wardens, the judges, the law fraternity.

This dreadful failure to address the true circumstances resulting in the waste of a young life is what should be focused on and the situation rectified so it can never again happen to anyone else. The theft of a CD, the pelting of a postie with crabapples can hardly be justified as reason for imprisonment and the unconscionable torture and waste of a young life.

That's the 'trust' that was destroyed.

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New, Raw Talent

The new NDP Parliamentarians are doubtless still pinching themselves with disbelief. It is hard to believe, actually. That warm bodies and names allied with a political party meant to appear as a presence, with no thought within the party itself, much less those who agreed to lend their names as place-warmers actually rode a wave of voter discontent into Parliament does boggle the mind.

What it means is that those who did the voting cared not one whit who they were voting for, as long as the name and the party represented someone other than who they meant not to vote for, while still discharging their obligation, and sending a message of discontent at the same time. The NDP did, after all, promise Quebecois that it knew their pain and would address it.

So here they are, the NDP with more Members of Parliament in this newly elected government, sitting as the Official Opposition, than they ever dreamed possible. They're so astonished their feet have barely touched terra firma since election night. Smilin' Jack is so exuberant about the outcome for the NDP he may never frown again.

He's set to hold the Conservative government to account, to prod and to complain, to insist and to thwart ... oh wait, he can't do that any more. He can still complain and he can still insist, but he can no longer prod and thwart. It's a majority government. So what has he and his party gained other than higher visibility? And the opportunity, given the usual cant of the NDP to become truly irksome in the House?

The Budget that helped to bring down the 40th Parliament held a whole lot of goodies for the electorate, in an attempt to persuade the NDP to play along with the Conservatives, but it didn't work. No reason now why those courtesies to the NDP agenda now be included in the revised Budget, from the Children's Arts Tax Credit to the tax credit for caregivers for infirm family members.

While the NDP shadow cabinet and critics will carp and complain and pound their desks with exasperation that the government will no longer fund their favourite projects for the greater priority of bringing down the deficit and paying off the national debt, who will be listening? Jack will be busy keeping his 103 MPs busy and behaving professionally.

But they won't be complaining about their recompense, since they're sitting pretty there. As the Official Opposition they finally get to play with the big boys on the international scene, and chuckling all the way to the bank, with all those bonus entitlements and extra pay. Those newbies can be introduced to how government works by taking turns on Parliamentary committees.

Imagine: a socialist party with new, raw talent handily elected without exerting a finger to campaign, show up for all-candidate meetings, appear in their ridings, some just out of their teens, suddenly become lawmakers. Imagine, a socialist leader living in Stornoway, that's a leg up from living in Toronto in rent-geared-to-income social assistance properties, isn't it?

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Living Vicariously

There is something infinitely sad about the spectacle of countless people avidly watching, week after week, year after year, a personality of celebrity renown on television; imbibing a message, taking assurance, finding comfort in the thoughts and recommendations of a woman who has excelled at inspiring a wide audience.

It is dreadfully touching, that implicit message, that people have nowhere else to turn, no one else to turn to, to express their misgivings, and to take comfort from at a close and personal level.

Instead, they have formed a psychological bond with an individual whose image and whose voice is transmitted to them over the airwaves, arriving at their home like a trusted and familiar friend whose presence is soothing and eagerly awaited, and whom they feel they know intimately. These viewers and admirers of Oprah Winfrey are legion.

And they are hugely dependent on this woman. What she deems to be of value and of high priority becomes so to them, as well, for this is the way she has steered them.

If something has gone awry in their lives, if there is a bleak awareness that something vital is missing, they turn to her to be inspired by her words of common wisdom.

We are nothing if not pathetic when we cannot find other human beings at close proximity, to reach out to, to speak with one on one, to touch and find much in common with, even in a transitory manner, as neighbours if not reliable friends. Leaving us to look for someone who will fill the gap of companion.

Bereft of contact with others, people turn to that 'other' who has made herself so available. She is there to guide, to comfort, and to bring inspiration to those who avidly watch her and listen to her. And who claim that her influence upon their lives has been a godsend. That the dispiriting issues that they face could never have been transcended without the guidance and comfort they directly derived from indirect contact with Oprah Winfrey.

What is the matter with humankind that they cannot connect with those close at hand?

It's evident that it is not just the ordinary person on the street that has been consumed with the phenomenon of Oprah Winfrey's calming influence and seeming compassion for the whole wide world of her fan club. For other celebrities and well-known people in the world of entertainment and politics appear to have found her constant messages inordinately useful to them personally.

It is a sad thing for those who view her influence on their lives as important, in lieu of themselves finding the importance in their lives. But if people are so miserably vulnerable, perhaps it is just as well that someone like Oprah Winfrey is able to take the initiative to help them to help themselves.

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Biological Gender Politics

A Toronto couple has indicated to their friends and family that they are in the process of completing an experiment they began with their first two children, extending and finalizing the experiment with the birth of their third child. This couple, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, decided between them that they would not burden their young children with the understanding that they represent a gender. The idea being, one supposes, that the children, as they mature, will somehow decide for themselves which gender their body and their psychological orientation represents.

This open-minded couple is simply reprising a situation on another level, that some parents engage in, by not indoctrinating their children into any recognized religion, eschewing such identity for themselves and feeling that when their children are old enough to make their own decisions about such things, they will. Something like the latest engagement on the circumcision question that recently surfaced in the U.S.; to forgo infant circumcision and to allow instead, a teen-age boy to decide whether the avoidance of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is worth the sacrifice of a foreskin.

The couple is obviously possessed of a yearning to be 'different' than their peers. More authentic, bold and imaginative. Readily enough distinguished in their selection of first names for their offspring. The first two , 5 and 2, have been named Jazz and Kio, respectively, both male. The newborn's gender is unknown, not to be divulged, lest the child somehow be put on the wrong identity track; and its name is Storm. First names that are sufficiently 'different' to distinguish these children from their peers.

They are, however, already distinguished as being different from their peers. For most children undergo a subconscious patterning; boys somehow take their fathers as their guides, and girls their mothers; subtle indoctrination into the mysteries of biological identity. This is, after all, the role of parents, to guide their children through life, and one of the guideposts is to help them understand their gender; not gender roles, particularly.

Obviously, there are some girls who prefer boys' activities, and some boys who find traditional girls' activities attractive to them. There will always be personality differences and preferences; some boys are total klutzes as handymen, whereas some girls take to hammer-and-tong naturally. Which still does not differentiate them as this set of parents appear set to separate their three youngsters from the rest of society by abrogating their parental role.

The two young boys who are the older of the three children were given free rein by their parents to do as they wished, without being geared as is often done, to do 'boy' things. They could dress as they pleased and comport themselves in a manner that seemed to appeal to them. Nail polish and braids and pink clothing appears to appeal to the 5-year-old. Setting that child up for future problems with his school peers, as though the names weren't sufficient provocation.

Moreover, the five and two-year-old have been schooled not to divulge to anyone the gender of their new brother-or-sister. Practising to deceive. Depriving the two boys first of their firm gender identity by declining to give them the opportunity to see whether being a male feels comfortable, by emulating their father. Leaving the children with a clear bias against the firm acceptance of the biological attributes they were born with.

And leaving the parents free to feel themselves justified to play confusing psychological games with the minds of their children. Ensuring they will likely never feel fully confident with whatever gender identity they eventually end up with. It is as though these two parents are so egotistically involved with themselves that they will not conceive of a time in their children's lives when their confused identity will cause them the anguish of both rejection and failure.

Obviously, the parents are self-involved with their noble experiment to 'prove' something to the world that will in the end, prove nothing to their little experiments-grown-to-maturity who may bemoan their ill fortune in having been switched at the hospital nursery from their real parents to these pseudo-parents who have managed to confuse their lives in the process of a self-reverential choreography.

Which leaves the burning question: what of the parents' self-identity as per their genders? They must somehow have arrived at the distinction of male and female and practised the ritual of mating to produce their offspring. What, otherwise, is their role-playing as male and female in their intimate home relationship that their children cannot emulate? Is Daddy a cross-dresser and Mummy a balls-breaker?

Is their rude and crude reality the basis for manipulating their children and calling it free choice? Should they be charged with child neglect, and abandonment of their parental roles in raising well-adjusted children?

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Declaration of War"

"It's time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, 'I will accept a Jewish state'. Those six words will change history." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Enunciating that phrase would make history too, for the sentiment on Mahmoud Abbas's tombstone after his untimely death would read: "He sold out". After all, his predecessor was given guarantees that the PLO would be given their demands within reason, with Israel prepared to make conciliatory sacrifices toward a peace agreement. And that craftily corrupt PLO leader Arafat, knew that signing the agreement would be tantamount to signing his death warrant.

No agreement, but the First Intifada ensued. And the rest is history there, too. Same game, same result. Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority had ample time to come to the negotiating table when West Bank construction was suspended, but chose to dally until the last month of the suspension. Then moved away again from peace talks when the IDF entered Gaza to halt the bombardments over the border into Israel.

Timing is everything. Abbas and the PA need no longer make any pretense that peace is on to achieve their Palestinian State. Refusal to resume talks until and unless settlement construction is halted knowingly guaranteed to result in no obligation to join any talks. And preconditions such as right of return, division of Jerusalem and defined borders, some of which had been previously promised by Israel, yet rejected by the PA, are resolutely in place again.

The rock is the demands of the preconditions to even begin to talk, the hard place is the resolve to go directly and unilaterally to the United Nations for the ultimate declaration of a sovereign Palestinian State. The groundwork has been well laid through the careful pursuit of votes in the UN; Latin American states, Norway and many within the European Union are prepared to vote in favour.

Much is made of the Hamas charter, determined to push Israel out of the Middle East and reclaim all the land for one Palestinian state. Fatah is described as the 'moderate' faction representing Palestinian interests. But the Fatah charter, as made clear with the annual general meetings that reinvest in the concept, is very similar to the one articulated by Hamas. The difference is that Hamas is up-front, Fatah deceptive.
"You have to understand this: In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We're not the British in India. We're not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers."
That claim, and $50 will get you a ticket for the operetta titled "No peace with Palestinians while Hamas in". Which will still not answer the burning question: how do you make peace with an entity dedicated to your destruction?

And the insistence that West Bank construction will commence as a reflection of normal growth and expansion patterns, and that it is only reasonable for reasonable people to shift into bargaining mode with the intention of agreeably addressing the potential of 'swaps' that the PA will buy into is a delusion. The PA buys into one scenario only, clearly stated to their core audience, but shielded from international view.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's well-received address to a joint meeting of the American Congress where his words were roundly applauded and he was feted as a statesman and an intellectual warrior, was greeted as a "declaration of war against the Palestinians", by the PA. Clearly, what Israel is resolved to maintain for itself, is not what the PA envisions.

Israel looks toward the potential, while understanding the realities on the ground, of living side-by-side with a Palestinian state which will harbour ambitions to destroy it, to satisfy the demands of the international community, while the Palestinian Authority comprised of Fatah and Hamas looks with glee to the potential of completely eviscerating Israel, while the international community looks on.

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Quality of Life Rankings

We may be boringly predictable, but we enjoy being that way. It's so often been said that Canadians are blase and at the same time quietly humble about ourselves. We distinguish ourselves from our close geographical neighbours by being the opposite of what they are; Americans are brash and rash and Canadians are uncertain and courteous. Canadians take umbrage at the notion we might be too much like Americans.

Yet where do Canadian entertainers go to make the big time? And where do Canadian entrepreneurs and manufacturers hope to make their big break-through if not the American marketplace? Neat stuff usually happens in the U.S., and gradually makes its way through to Canada in a kind of slop-over effect. Whatever happens in America, echoes in Canada.

Canada has more secure social programs, including and high-lighting our foremost example of socially progressive national institutions, a public health-care insurance protocol that leaves no uninsured Canadian behind; universally accessible health care. Our education system is second to none. And Canadian entrepreneurial talent, and scientific findings are rated top-notch.

So little wonder that when the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development conducted their quality of life study among industrialized countries, Canada stood out as number 2. Outpaced by Australia, but not by much. And what differentiated the number one from the number two standing was voter turnout. Somewhat weighted in Australia's favour because there voting is mandated by law.

According to the Better Life Initiative survey by the OECD, Canada scored at or near the heights in areas like housing, education, health and life satisfaction. Among the 34 major industrialized countries that represent the membership of the OECD, Canada came in second, Australia first, Sweden third, the U.S. seventh, and Turkey right at the tail end.

Fully 78% of Canadians revealed their feeling that life is good in their country, that they are well satisfied with their lot in life. As opposed to the OECD average of 59%; a lower rating was given by Australians, at 75%. Average household income in 2008 Canada was $27,015 as compared to the OECD average of $22,284, with 72% of Canadians 15 to 64 gainfully employed, against 65% in the OECD.

Life expectancy? 80.7 years in Canada, compared to the average of 79% in most industrialized countries, with Australians coming in at 81.5 years, and Japan at 82.7 years. And then, the bad news, albeit from another source. Canada represents the sole G7 country whose enforcement of an international accord whose purpose it is to stop bribery of public officials, is absolutely nil.

No effort whatever expended in that area by the federal government. The OECD's Anti-Bribery Convention is taken seriously by most other industrialized countries and certainly within the G7. The United States, Britain, Italy and Germany, among seven jurisdictions are recognized by Transparency International as providing "active enforcement" of the convention.

France and Japan are represented among nine countries whose commitment is one of "moderate enforcement". Canada stands alone in its laissez-faire attitude of failing to prevent corporate interests from bribing government officials with a view to influencing decisions. Plenty of room for improvement there, from zip to getting on with it.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pakistan, Defending Itself

"It is not possible for people with no familiarity with the military establishment to be able to carry out such an attack. Like in Rawalpindi, the militants had inside facilitators who provided access" Kamran Bokhari, Middle East and South Asia director for global intelligence firm STRATFOR.
Or, for example, the precision-like and accurately premeditated attack by a handful of jihadis on the Indian city of Mumbai, successfully slaughtering 138 Indians, 28 foreigners and wounding 293. The dead were represented by civilians, Indian security personnel and nine of the ten terrorists. The well-laid plans included attacks at the harbour, an elite hotel, a popular cafe, the rail station, a cinema, hospital and synagogue.

In a currently ongoing trial in Chicago two men originally from Pakistan, one with American the other with Canadian citizenship, testified to having been involved in planning the attack by providing the initial surveillance work, identifying sites to be focused upon and drawing up maps to assist the work of the ten terrorists. The Lashkar-e-Taiba who trained the attackers had support from Pakistan's ISI and military officers.

Pakistan denied any involvement in the horrendous attack. So well organized that ten men were able to murder 166 people, including high-ranking Indian police. The jihadists were in constant contact with their mentors, exhorting them to kill as many innocent people as possible. Pakistan initially denied the attackers were Pakistani in origin, until the one captured attacker made further denials impossible.

Now Pakistan is experiencing huge embarrassment because al-Qaeda's famous founder has been proven to be sheltered by Pakistan just as claimed, for years. The Navy SEALs attack on a private compound dedicated to Osama bin Laden and his entourage, located right next door to the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad, is being treated as an unforgivable assault on Pakistan's sovereignty; denials of complicity in sheltering bin Laden are secondary.

And the Taliban, threatening to avenge the blood of their blessed martyr are striking back. Pakistan boasts its well-trained and -equipped military is second to none; in size perhaps, but effectiveness is questionable. Pakistan nonetheless assures the world, concerned about the inflamed presence of violent religious fanatics in the country and constantly breeding more, that its nuclear installations are safe.

They are contained within impenetrable confines, the mechanisms separated, with the military closely guarding the areas. Which came close to being over-run by a successful insurgency just a few years ago, eventually beaten back into the tribal areas by the military. But just yesterday a secure naval air force base was breached by a handful of well trained terrorists who simply cut through a wire and entered the confines.

The six well armed attackers, two of whom eventually escaped custody, successfully killed 12 security officers in a 17-hour gun battle. A process that saw them destroying a billion dollars' worth of U.S.-manufactured aircraft. This well-staged attack put the lie to Pakistan's boasts that its military is expertly capable of fending off attacks and controlling the extremists.

The problem is largely fuelled by the fact that the extremists are well entrenched within the military. Insider information is very useful in giving the terrorists huge advantages in timing and staging and executing their highly successful attacks.
"On the one hand, you've got elements within the security establishment that are helping the militants, and at the same time, the militants are attacking that same security establishment." Kamran Bokhari
But there is nothing particularly revelatory about any of this; it has been acknowledged and well known that the military and the intelligence services have sheltered elements of the extremists. Always denied, but generally accepted. And the military continues to play its role of controlling the government.

While urging the population to feast on its hatred for the U.S. whose predator drone attacks on leading Taliban militants are a matter of great concern. Of greater concern now that the U.S. has staged a coup of its own in destroying Osama bin Laden's home away from home, and taking him with it. Offending Pakistan and its military no end.

What is to stop the terrorists from availing themselves of some of the stock of nuclear warheads owned by Pakistan? They have the assurance of knowing that assistance will be forthcoming at the highest military levels to guide them unerringly to the source, and the knowledge that the military is not as alert, trained and capable as they claim themselves to be.

The world has good reason to shudder with grim anticipation.

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Crime Reform

There are the 'progressives' who claim that punishment does not work to remediate social deviants. That those who commit crimes should be given another chance, opportunities to redeem themselves. That the state should be in the business of monitoring with compassion those who have been found guilty of criminal offences against society. It is the Neanderthals who insist on subscribing to punishment that fits the crimes committed.

Somehow, the progressives seem to overlook the great trauma suffered by victims of crime, focusing their attention and sympathy on those who commit crimes, finding it in their hearts to have compassion for those who are being punished, not those who were punished for nothing they did.

So, that the new, majority Conservative government plans to forge ahead, as promised during the election campaign, with their 'tough on crime' agenda suits most Canadians very well. If not those who campaign unceasingly for lighter sentences for criminals.

In the event of property crimes, as opposed to violent crimes, perhaps the issue is not quite as stark, although even the victims of theft or embezzlement might feel just as aggrieved that their lives have been deleteriously impacted. With crimes of violence or those that violate children, another story. Violators must pay the social price of justice.

The government has moved thus far to enact tougher sentences for gun crimes, drive-by and reckless shootings, drug-impaired driving, included sex offenders in the National Sex Offender Registry, imposed tougher sentences for child traffickers, hired additional RCMP officers. And raised the age of sexual consent and also halted two-for-one credit for time served.

Good initiatives all, putting some teeth into the social protection and justice system. According to a law professor at University of Sherbrooke, legal counsel for a child advocacy group, "The judiciary is consistently handing out sentences that are far too low for the crimes. The only way to correct that - in the short term at least - is to impose mandatory minimums." To be done, via the Conservative omnibus bill.

Violent young offenders, true psychopaths in society who shun social normalcy and prey upon others have been protected under the current Youth Criminal Justice Act, which has failed to curb the vicious tendencies of some young criminals. Those aged 14 to 17 who are charged and convicted of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or aggravated sexual assault should be facing adult sentences.

Not so keen, however, on criminalizing those caught with modest amounts of marijuana. For their own use, not for sale, or to introduce young people to the use of mind-altering drugs. Finding someone in possession of five marijuana plants, to be jailed for at least six months on suspicion of trafficking seems a trifle excessive.

But most certainly changes should tighten up the capabilities of Canada's security agencies in apprehending terrorists through the Combating Terrorism Act. Preventive arrests and detention if deemed to be required, with or without charges until the case can be proved or disproved in a court of law. The defensible belief that arrest would disrupt terrorist activity should be its own reasonable explanation.

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Awaiting Further Clarification

Canada Rejects Obama “1967” Intervention
by Gil Ronen Canada Rejects Obama Statement

Canada refuses to join the United States in calling for Israel to return to 1949 Armistice borders, the Ottawa Globe and Mail reported Monday.

At a briefing ahead of the G8 summit that is about to begin in France, federal Canadian officials said the basis for the negotiations must be mutually agreed upon by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“What the government of Canada supports is basically a two-state solution that is negotiated,” a senior federal official said. “If it’s [the] border, if it’s other issues, it has to be negotiated, it cannot be unilateral action.”

When the officials were “pressed by reporters,” the Globe and Mail said, they explained that "both the Israelis and the Palestinians have to decide on their bottom lines, which the Israelis have said will not include a return to the 1967 border."

An official who spoke on condition of anonymity said: "If the two parties are of the view that this is a starting point, that is fine for them."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, added that Canada’s position continues to be the search for a two-state solution. “No solution, ultimately, is possible without both parties sitting down, negotiating and agreeing on what that final outcome will look like,” he said.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 24 May 2011

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F-35 Hiccoughs

U.S. may scrap F35, set to be Israel's fighter jet of the future

The warplane, with stealth capabilities, was slated to replace an entire generation of jet fighters in the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

By Anshel Pfeffer

Senior members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee last week instructed the Pentagon to come up with alternatives to the jet fighter of the future, the F-35, with the project facing massive cost overruns.

The plane has been selected as the future of the Israel Air Force, and for now there are no plans for an alternative if the American project is shelved.

Fighter jet

Fighter jet.

Photo by: Reuters

U.S. Defense Department officials presented the latest data last Thursday to the senate committee on the F-35s test flights and costs.

The plane, with stealth capabilities, is slated to replace an entire generation of jet fighters in the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

But after hearing the data, committee chairman Senator Carl Levin and committee member Senator John McCain said it seemed time to consider alternatives.

The remarks at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, a forum that has historically supported military spending, seems to be the most serious threat the F-35 has faced so far.

"We cannot sacrifice other important acquisitions in the Department of Defense investment portfolio to pay for this capability," Levin said.

The sense in Washington is that after years in which there was strong political backing for the American defense industries' banner project, senior politicians are having to scale back support in the face of a mounting budget deficit.

Last November, the bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform called for a complete halt in the purchase of one model of the F-35, slated for operation on aircraft carriers, and to halve the purchase of the rest of the models.

At the moment, a purchase of 2,443 planes is planned for the U.S. Air Force, the Navy and the Marines, with foreign countries, including Israel, purchasing another approximately 600 jets.

However, some of these countries are already cutting back on their orders. The cost of one F-35 was planned to have been $69 million, but according to the Pentagon's calculation, the cost has now risen to $103 million and according to Government Accountability Office calculations from last year, it could climb to $112 million.

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisitions Ashton Carter told the Senate panel that the costs are "unacceptable," but pledged to find ways to reduce them.

Some of the cost of the aircraft, manufactured by Lockheed-Martin, stems from significant delays in the test program, in integrating its advanced systems and in a structural problem discovered during testing.

The planes are planned to begin entering into service in the U.S. Air Force in 2013, but it is now believed that only in 2015 will the plane's final software package be fully integrated and only in 2016 will the "Block 3" series, with full technological capabilities, be ready for operational flights.

Israel's Defense Ministry has so far ordered 20 F-35s, but the Israel Air Force has plans to outfit three of its operational squadrons with the aircraft, a total of between 60 and 75 planes.

The Israel Defense Forces is now concerned over the expected delay in delivery of the planes. A senior member of the IDF General Staff raised the possibility that to release older planes from service, the IAF lease from the Americans a squadron of used F-15s. However, in an interview with Haaretz two weeks ago, Defense Ministry Director General Udi Shani rejected the idea.

"On the last visit of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in Israel a month ago, we were told that the delay would be less than what we had thought," he said.

Shani said the delay could allow Israel to outfit the planes with its own systems. "I am in favor of getting a plane with ... as many systems as possible made in Israel ... According to the original schedule we were told there was no time for that. We have teams in the United States now and after the holiday we'll hear their conclusions and I imagine dialogue will start with the Americans over a new schedule and changes."

As published online at Haaretz, 24 May 2011

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Pakistan At The Crossroads

Pakistan's official and unofficial outrage over the manner in which the world now views its complicity in sheltering and shielding Osama bin Laden from detection by U.S. forces ill becomes it. But on the other hand, this is what Pakistan has become. It is a terror state, to begin with. It has continued to agitate toward war with India, since partition. It foments unease and unrest in the geography of which it is a part. It aspires to control its neighbour Afghanistan, and for that purpose groomed the Afghanistan Taliban.

Yet it portrays itself as a bridge between militant Islam and moderate Islam. It conceives of itself as a 'friend' and an ally to the West and particularly to the United States. The U.S. has expended billions upon billions of its treasury to buy the co-operation of Pakistan. And Pakistan has been pleased to grasp that funding, pledging itself to the common cause of extirpating from its midst jihadists, and assisting the West in battling religious extremists.

Extremism, however, is deeply entrenched in Pakistan, it has invaded its military and it pervades its secret service. The ISI has made itself extremely useful to the religious fanatics that have formed their own Taliban in the North West Frontier Provinces where tribal chiefs have the option of assisting the Taliban or dying prematurely. This is the country that continues to provoke and attack India.

This is the country that conspires to assassinate any of its political leaders who tend to grasp the fundamental issue that democracy is far more than a word. Ironically, another great good friend of the United States, the Kingdom of Saud, exported its brand of Wahabbist Islam through the funding of madrassas all over Pakistan, to imbue a people already in full embrace of conspiracies and tribalism, with the full impact of the expectations of militant Islamism.

A better home, a more fitting and purposeful venue for generating ever newer generations of dedicated jihadis could scarcely be found. Training camps were the natural successor to the madrassas that cramped the lives of Pakistani youth and gave their lives purpose and meaning. Pakistan is terror central, the crucible of modern terror, sending out its tentacles wherever opportunity arises.

Outside of Pakistan millions of expatriate Pakistanis live in other countries of the world, accepting a Western outlook and orientation, while practising a more moderate brand of Islam. Finding it, however, difficult-to-impossible to believe that their country of origin has become what it currently represents as; a threat to world order and peace.

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, in generously enabling North Korea, Libya, Iran and Syria to achieve nuclear installations was simply being a good Muslim. The United States, in sending drones into Pakistan targeting the Taliban is deliberately slaughtering innocent Pakistanis. Osama bin Laden's whereabouts could not have been known and condoned by official Pakistan.

People of Pakistani origin have the same opportunity and free will as any others to open their minds and think creatively and clearly about what is occurring around them. Yet they steadfastly refuse the reality of psychopathic Muslims intent on overthrowing the current world order in favour of a universal, sharia-observing Islamist-controlled order for the Ummah and just incidentally for everyone else as well.

All that is ill with the world is the fault of the Zionist-controlled United States of America. Pakistan has no responsibility whatever for the chaos the Muslim world finds itself in. And when protests are planned, they are for insults to Islam and to the Prophet, never to disown and demand cessation of the violence that al-Qaeda and Islamist militias impose upon sectarian Muslims and Christians, for the prejudice against them has never abated.

Muslims see themselves embattled, blamed for the violence that has erupted in the world of violent jihad seeking to destroy the democratic Western world. They pounce upon the falsely-identified phenomenon of Islamophobia as a real threat to themselves, and as representing the source of the problems; the actions of violent jihad are simply pay-back, a response to insults against Islam.

Until and unless Muslims who see their faith as one of peace and conciliation toward others not of their faith, make an effort to retrieve the honour that resided in Islam and wrench their religion away from the grasp of the furious despisers committed to violence among themselves, they and the rest of the world will continue to reel under the vicious onslaught of brutal attacks.

It's long past time for decency and humanity to re-assert itself.

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