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, August 31, 2011

Splitting Libya

We hear of the brave exploits and battles for independence from tyranny of the Libyan rebels. Who are, in fact, clan cliques, various militias representing a number of tribal groups inhabiting that country. With far less in common with one another than their temporarily unifying mission to rid the country of Moammar Gadhafi's regime, along with his odious presence, an insult to decency and the world order.

Those who have been more or less as the occasion seemed to demand, in concert with one another striving to unseat their long-term tyrant and his loyal forces, may quickly begin to unravel despite the interim ruling council claiming to represent all Libyans. The country is now aflood with weapons of every description, some gifted from NATO, some looted from government weapons depots.

How to extract them from the possession of Libyans to ensure that what will follow the complete surrender of government troops and agencies to the Transition Council will not instead descend into a full-blown civil war of tribal interests seeking vengeance one against the other? Ah, and yes, there is the delicate issue too that among the tribal and regional conflicts were those where atrocities took place.

We hear only of government loyalist troops exacting their revenge of horrible atrocities against the rebels. The reverse of course, also takes place. Moreover, apart from the rebels destroying regime loyalists, also assaults of one tribe against another, where, for example, one tribe refused to join the rebellion and another indulged themselves in a massacre of the first.

The Salafists fighting for their vision of a new pan-Muslim emirate, refusing to acknowledge the presence of territorial lines and governments are there, waiting in the wings as al-Qaeda offshoots, lingering to seize their opportunity. When looting was taking place of government weapons depots they were there, too, availing themselves of invaluable, technologically-advanced weaponry.

Libya may yet split between east and west. The factional unity that exists may not stand the test of limited time. The rebel alliance of fractious clan and tribal interests may yet disintegrate. And it is precisely the presence of the Islamists in the background of the National Transitional Council, and Algeria's fear of their influence that explains its reluctance to recognize the NTC.

And its willingness to give safe haven to Moammar Gadhafi, his wife and his familial entourage.
"Algeria, with thousands of kilometres of border with Libya, must handle this issue with care and consider Algeria's security as a top priority", explained Abdelhamid si Afif of the country's foreign affairs committee.

Algeria, it seems, does not trust the interim National Transitional Council to keep a firm grip on al-Qaeda's North African wing. Should these possibilities not be something that NATO should be concerned with beyond acknowledging a distant potential?

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Bloodbaths and Martyrdom

Ramadan has ended and Eid al-Fitr has taken its place. Both profoundly important religious holidays in Islamic countries around the world. Piously and with huge respect recognized by Muslims no matter where they live to renew their covenant with Islam. The holiest of holidays in the Muslim calendar.

A time when Muslims struggle with their consciences and recognize their obligations to their maker.

In tradition, evidently, when great matters of huge moment can be accomplished. And more latterly, presenting occasions after Friday-night prayer solemnities of flooding the streets with protests against tyranny in the Middle East and the Islamic Maghreb. During these holiest of days in the Muslim calendar, the faithful are enjoined to re-dedicate themselves to their faith.

These, of course, are the Ummah, the vast population of Muslims of moderate mien and demeanour, temperament and faith. Those for whom their religion is a source of inspiration, aspiration and solace. Those for whom Islam points the way toward which those of faith aspire to become more refined, better individuals, accepting of others as people embracing a religion of peace.

On the other hand, there is the opposite element, those whose activities make the world sit up and take notice for it is hardly possible not to notice their embrace of bloodbaths and martyrdom. The young and the restless Muslim men and often women who satisfy their boredom with the world they inhabit by claiming to be doing the work of God through wholesale slaughter of the infidels.

And, of course, the greater slaughter of those who claim to be Muslims, but are truly apostates because they do not value the Salafist, the Wahaabist brand of Islam out of whose crucible was born al-Qaeda. These violently jubilant and jubilantly violent jihadists celebrate Ramadan and Eid al-fitre in their own, inimitable way, by the use of suicide vests and turbans and burkas, to invade mosques and mount memorable atrocities.

Even as al-Qaeda-linked militias in Africa and the Middle East, in Europe and Asia plot their psychopathic deadly assaults, the Syrian Arab Republic under its President, Bashar al-Assad takes up deadly fire to launch its defensive-offensive by the regime's security forces against the enemies of the state, those rebels whom al-Assad identifies as "armed criminal gangs", "Islamic terrorists", do the bidding of the United States and of Israel.

Doing his part as a responsible leader of an Arab state to protect his population from the predators among them, the foreign elements, the Zionists. In doing so, nobly helping to make the world a better place for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

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Bitter Enmities

This is what an inhuman regime can produce; men and women who prey on one another, and who are capable of performing the most savage acts of brutality against one another. There are Libyans living in Tripoli who claim that in their wildest nightmares they could never have envisaged people living in the same country, worshipping the same god, brutishly violating one another as has occurred in his country of late.

But one savage-minded tyrant who had succeeded in placing himself in the peoples' minds beyond criticism because he was the final and highest arbiter of human values to be respected under his regime, was capable of successfully draining humanity of its compassion and respect for each other. The human values that civilized societies consider to be immutable were overturned and to prey on one another overtook the social covenant.

How else explain that young Libyan women were proud to have been recruited as trainees in their country's militia, as sharp-shooters. Their families encouraged them to become an integral part of the state apparatus, without seeming to realize the extreme vulnerability of their daughters' positions once entrenched in the military, at the command of the regime.

Moammar Gadhafi had an obvious penchant for surrounding himself with female 'amazons'. Hand-picking women for their stature and physiques, recruiting women to undergo training to ensure they were capable of performing the kinds of protective services that a head of state requires. Enjoying the public spectacle of surrounding himself, particularly in foreign trips as a celebrated head of state, by 30 to 40 such Amazonian guards.

When the tide of events that began in Benghazi overtook Moammar Gadhafi's regime which has finally ended his 42-year reign as tyrant of Libya and Lion of Africa occurred, all of the regime's forces were brought into play to protect Gadhafi and restrain the efforts of the rebels, abetted by NATO forces. And the female branch of Gadhafi's Popular Guards underwent a protocol they may never have suspected would become an integral part of their training.

"All the girls in the Popular Guards were raped. The men sexually assault the female recruits and then train them in weapons. We have had four women in here as patients, all trained as snipers like Nisreen", explained a child psychologist, Dr. Rabia Gajum, who works at the Tripoli hospital where rebel forces are holding 19-year-old Nisreen Mansour al Forgani under guard. For her own protection, they say.

As well as to prevent her from escaping. There are many among the rebels who might wish to kill the young woman. For the simple reason that she was the instrument used to murder many young rebel men. She has herself helpfully described to her questioners that she used her AK-47 rifle to shoot ten or eleven rebels held by the regime's forces.
"I killed the first one, then they would bring another one up to the room. He would see the body on the floor and look shocked. Then I would shoot him too. I did it from about a metre away. They told me that if I didn't kill the prisoners then they would kill me. I tried not to kill them.... I turned and shot without looking. But if I hesitated, one of the soldiers would flick off the safety catch of his own rifle and point it at me. I killed 10, perhaps 11, over three days. I don't know what they had done."
She did, finally escape. She had witnessed the point-blank murder of a young friend and colleague, one of the thousand women who were trained as female Popular Guards, who out of curiosity at the entrance of Saif al-Islam when they were stationed at the 77 Brigade headquarters, got too close to Gadhafi's heir. "Faten went to have a closer look, and Saif's bodyguard shot her in the head. She had simply got too close."

Nisreen finally did manage to escape from Gadhafi's loyalists. She jumped, she explained, from the second floor of a building that the rebels had eventually taken. And they took her, as well. How, now, will young Libyans, those who represent the rebel side, and those who represent the loyalist side, manage to accept one another and set aside their bitter enmities and their roles during the uprising?

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Made In China

There was once a time when goods made in Japan or in China had the reputation, post WWII, of being inexpensive, but cheaply made, notorious for swift obsolescence. These were the first throwaways.

If you were looking for quality you looked to Switzerland, to Germany, to the United States, Czechoslovakia for quality goods. Japan and China eventually gained a reputation for producing cheap and reliable products, of decent and durable quality.

Under communism in Russia and China, art was notoriously produced by committee, whether it was the plastic arts, music, paintings architecture. Art, like any other kind of production was made by the people for the people and the result was impressively mediocre.

Until it was realized that special talent and unique creativity did not occur by committee. Which, unlike industrial or agricultural production required special appreciation of unique capability.

But because no one other than the entitled state elite was treated special and everyone was expected to contribute what they were capable of, and individual dedication and performance was never recognized nor adequately compensated since everyone's efforts, regardless of quality was similarly recompensed, the system failed, abysmally.

China and Russia both eventually adapted themselves to a form of capitalism that suited their cultural ideology, a more relaxed, less Soviet-style of communism. Which enabled them both to begin prospering.

And China in particular became a prosperous power-house of capitalist-socialist enterprise. Quality could be had, of workmanship and materials, but cheap production and short-cuts were what the world ordered of China.

And suddenly countries of the world began to realize they couldn't compete; their labour and material and energy costs were greater than China's, and their profit expectations were higher as well. China was prepared to sacrifice immediate profit for future gain.

The realization set in eventually that national governments were increasingly ordering from China items that could and should have been produced internally rather than imported. Say, for example, items that exemplified national iconic symbols.

Now comes the most absurd revelation of all. That a national monument to one of the social icons of America, the civil rights champion, Martin Luther King Jr., meant to sit in a place of honour in Washington, was produced by a Chinese artist well known for his work of sculpture reflecting the heroes of the Chinese Revolution.

The Chinese artist and sculptor Lei Yixin, was contracted to produce a Memorial to the great orator and pacifist and civil rights champion, and the finished product now stands proudly in Washington flanked by much earlier-produced (proudly American) monuments to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

The sculpture itself of Martin Luther King Jr. appearing like a blunt, sombre, unadorned piece of Soviet-era art. Doubtless Mr. King never had a dream that he would be celebrated by Americans flocking to see his image as produced by a Chinese artist as a national monument.

But perhaps, symbolically, it would have pleased him, as a symbol of transnational co-operation.

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Bit of a Puzzler

Now that Canadians held in custody in federal prisons to serve out their punishment for crimes they have committed are able to exercise their franchise as citizens of Canada, despite incarceration, they are increasingly doing so. Elections Canada has revealed that the fastest-growing vote came from among those behind bars.

Over 17,000 incarcerated inmates cast ballots in the last federal election in May. The votes for inmates were included among those collected from Canadians living outside the country, those in the military, on diplomatic postings. From researching the votes it became clear that this group of voters seemed to vote overwhelmingly Conservative.

Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand, while releasing some of the data crunched after the last election doesn't hazard an informed guess with respect to why more prisoners voted, other than to mention that a new elector registration tool assisted prison authorities to identify correct ridings for the inmates, making it easier to complete registration.

Given the fact that the Conservative government is on track to introduce tougher crime legislation that will most certainly impact on the prison population, and that more tax dollars will be evaporating in the process, primarily to build more prisons and extend capacity in existing prisons, it comes as somewhat of a mystery as to why prison inmates would vote Conservative.

But the increase in prison votes from the 2008 election represents the largest number of such votes recorded since the Supreme Court upheld the right of federal inmates to vote, in 2002. Can we construe these results to imagine that those who have committed crimes punishable by over 2 years' imprisonment in federal institutions agree that the punishment meted out is too soft?

That's a bit of a puzzler.

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Independent Status

They're lining up steadily to recognize the new "Palestine", the bulk of the countries comprising the United Nations. In South America every country but Colombia now recognizes the Palestinian Authority's legitimacy in approaching the United Nations unilaterally for sovereign recognition. Mahmoud Abbas is determined to proceed, bypassing the need to forge an agreement for peace with Israel. He has the tacit support of three-quarters of the General Assembly.

This is the same Mahmoud Abbas who has just assured Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, of his personal support, and that of Fatah. This is the very same Omar Hassan al-Bashir whom the International Criminal Court has charged with genocide in Darfur. Yet, Abbas wrote to the Sudanese president that he could be assured that he and those whom he represents "have complete faith in the wisdom of President Omar Al-Bashir."

Those crimes against humanity of which Al-Bashir is convicted include "murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape." There are international arrest warrants that have been issued for his arrest. A rather nasty inconvenience that Al-Bashir's colleagues in the Arab League choose to ignore, welcoming him as an honoured colleague at their conferences. And to whom Abbas wrote of his "complete willingness to stand with Sudan in everything it wants and in the way it wants."

For, according to a top PA functionary South Sudan's secession, which is to say its successful recognition by the UN body as an independent, separate state is representative of a dastardly plot launched by the United States and Israel in advance of their own interests in the region. The director of the PA bureau, Tayeb al-Rahim explained that the United States and Israel intend to profit from South Sudan's oil resources.

South Sudan comprised of mostly Black Christian and Animist Africans who have long suffered at the hands of mostly Muslim northern Sudanese, and after a long and life-costly civil war finally have achieved their independence. South Sudan voted in an orderly manner for separation. North Sudan had no wish to lose part of their territory, much less a wish to lose that particular part of a territory they claimed that was rich in petroleum resources.

The Palestinian Authority is confident that their approach to the United Nations in September will result in more than a declaration of an independent state. The PA's growing confidence with its growing support in the UN may translate into an attempt to re-occupy what it still claims to belong to it, and that is the entire footprint the State of Israel sits upon. It would be ill-fated.

It is not possible to look into the future, but the potential is there for that independent Palestinian state to launch a combined attack on its neighbour, garnering the enthusiastic support of Hamas in Gaza, of Hezbollah in Lebanon. And Syria cannot yet be entirely ruled out.

Nor, for that matter, any other Arab state in the Middle East which has never been capable of accommodating the indignity to Islam of the presence of the Zionist Entity in their midst.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Convinced, Conflicted, Unconvinced

Muslims are truly conflicted. About themselves, about their faith, about their place in the world. The majority of Muslims want nothing more than to live in peace, to be able to worship as their traditions have inclined them to. They do not wish to bring undue notice to themselves or to their religion. They chafe under the notice given them as a result of the damning work of their violent counterparts in their shared religion.

The result of violent jihad wreaking havoc the world over, and growing with the incorporation of various fundamentalist Islamist groups into the al-Qaeda doctrine of lashing out at the 'enemy', creating martyrs among themselves in the greater interest of serving Islam and in serving Allah by spreading the word of the Koran, has encouraged the Muslim community living in Europe to bemoan its beleaguered state as a result of "Islamophobia".

The violent jihadists do not represent them. They are law-abiding, respectful people more than willing to live in harmony with their non-Muslim neighbours. Most do not seem to be able to get their minds around, much less acknowledge, that the violent jihadists are busy preying on other Muslims. Simply because Muslims do not engage in brutal and atrocious acts of violence against other Muslims.

The conflicting emotions result from disbelief and pride. On one hand, it is not possible for Muslims to engage in violent acts because that would negate the reality of Islam as exemplifying the search for universal peace. Therefore, it is not at all true that Muslims were behind and involved in the 9/11 attacks. It is entirely feasible that the United States itself, aided by the Israeli Mossad planned and executed those attacks for the purpose of blaming and slandering Islam.

On the other hand, the September 11, 2001 attacks on Western capitalism and power represented a victory for Islam, and is a matter of justifiable pride in the Muslim world. Evidently 17% of British Muslims acknowledge Arab involvement in 9/11. And British Muslims have marched under posters celebrating the success of the "Magnificent Nineteen", responsible for carrying out 9/11.

Impressively contradictory.

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Handing Over Libyan Citizens

There was NATO, dedicated to aiding Libyan rebels in their determination to overthrow the Libyan government of Moammar Gadhafi. There is Canada, proud of its ability to "punch above its weight" and making a difference, as it were, with the number of its flights and bombing missions, even though NATO's air war has far more numerous and better-equipped members doing their bit, like France and England.

Canadian airmen flew quite a number of missions to attack the regime's tanks and military installations in protection of the rebels advancing slowly but surely on the towns and cities of Libya. Canadian fighter pilots aimed laser-guided bombs to hit their targets explosively. And then the no-fly zone - code for aiding a foreign civil war - became a campaign to assist the rebel army to unseat Moammar Gadhafi.

A Canadian warship aided in the blockade around Libya. Canadian CF-18s trolled for self-propelled artillery guns and tanks. And if they came across rebels being hard-pressed by government troops they moved in to bomb the troops and give the rebels a leg up. After their initial sea-to-land cruise missile bombing of the Libyan government air defences, U.S. forces withdrew to the sidelines.

Libya now has a new government, with the fall of the Gadhafi regime, and its principals' flight to Algeria. The National Transitional Council is asserting itself as the new, internationally-acknowledged government of Libya. Enquiries were being made of it with respect to a rather delicate topic: the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing who had served 8 years of a life sentence in Scotland, then was released on compassionate grounds and returned to Libya in 2009.

He had been tasked by Moammar Gadhafi to strike a blow at the West, and he had succeeded very well indeed. No one with the exception of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi had ever been revealed to have been involved in that terrorist atrocity. Gadhafi had surrendered al-Megrahi to Western justice after reaching an accord with the West, giving up his nuclear ambitions, declaring himself prepared to become an ally in the battle against 'terrorism'.

There's an absurdity, yet the Western governments fell all over themselves in praise of Gadhafi having found the road to Damascus at last. And therein lies another little irony. When al-Megrahi was released by Scotland which declared he had only three months left to live as a result of a rampant, deadly prostate cancer (and a covert deal BP made with Gadhafi) he was hailed countrywide as a returning hero.

Most of the 259 victims of Pan Am Flight 103 were American citizens. The prevailing fact is that this act of terrorism was, and still is seen as a victory for Libya over the West. And Abdel Basset al-Megrahi celebrated as a patriot, a Libyan hero. And the National Transitional Government has made it abundantly clear that they have no intention whatever of returning the man to Scotland. For Libyans do not surrender Libyans to the West.

Nor does Scotland have any intention itself of requesting his return. Never was it resolved who had joined al-Mehrahi in that atrocity, nor who authorized it, although the assumption is well entrenched that it was Gadhafi, needless to say. Al-Mehrahi was a loyal Libyan and will take his secrets with him in death. Libya celebrates him as a martyr.

What is the West celebrating Libya for? What has NATO, in fact, achieved in liberating Libya from Gadhafi and helping to ensconce another regime it knows nothing about? Libyan rebels were happy to use NATO. And, having done so, and having achieved their victory, not on their own, as they originally boasted they would, but with the considerable assistance of Western auspices, the contempt that Libyans have for the West appears to be seeping into view once again.

"Al-Megrahi has already been judged once and he will not be judged again. We do not hand over Libyan citizens. Gadhafi does." Thus advised Mohammed al-Alagi, a minister in the new National Transitional Council.

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Earning a Doctorate

Critics of an education system in the primary and secondary grades have complained that children have for too long been encouraged to think of themselves as 'special', as 'individuals', and as such deserving of self-esteem and confidence in themselves. Which isn't a bad thing altogether. Except when it diminishes children's sense of responsibility, of a recognition that with self-esteem and confidence comes the obligation to extend themselves, to make an effort on their own behalf.

Schools have, instead, somehow often missed the boat on that one. Which has caused universities to complain that incoming students often are unready to take up studies in higher learning. That too many students are incapable of thinking for themselves, of conducting basic research, of expressing themselves lucidly, and above all, of communicating adequately with a good command of language, through the written word. In which case, their schooling has failed them.

But it's when the universities themselves bend over backward and make special, forgiving contracts with students who can not 'prove' that they are worthy of being awarded the degrees they have studied to achieve - and which they have dedicated their university years to obtain, but opt to gain through individual covenants which overlook the usual method of audit - that they too are proving to be inadequate to the task of teaching, evaluating and rewarding.

A singular case in point: the University of Manitoba designating a doctoral student as "handicapped" because, after he had failed his courses due to "extreme exam anxiety". Making the decision not to encourage him to backtrack and try again, but to award him with the sought-after PhD regardless. The university defended its decision, and the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Justice Deborah McCawley upheld the university's right to award the doctorate.

A mathematics professor at the university, Gabor Lukacs, protested the awarding of the PhD, taking issue with the university, emphasizing that the mathematics student only revealed his "disability" after having failed the two exams. Pointing out that the university could have pursued other avenues, to encourage the student to make another effort.

The university's readiness to accommodate the student's desire to achieve his doctorate without properly earning it presents as a true problem.

Waiving the normal requirements for achievement of a degree in favour of accommodating a student who claims a "disability" seems a dubious way for an academic institution to advance knowledge and achievement. Professor Lukacs, on the other hand, was disciplined for having made a public issue of the matter and accusing the university of becoming a "diploma mill".

Not so strangely, his colleagues at the university, along with a multitude of other supporters from the international academic community, supported Professor Lukacs. Mathematicians from around the world signed a letter of support for his stance. The faculty association of the university took up his cause in support of his contentions and objecting to his having been disciplined.

The graduate students association, however, chose the alternate course and applauded his temporary suspension from the university. Predictable.

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Equality and Universality

That's a barrier to parents being able to get their children vaccinated, to parents being able to get their baby's well-baby checks done. It is highly important care that is paid for by our tax dollars. To require people to pay again for it is really inappropriate and unethical.... It is an insult to all of us who are paying taxes for equitable access to medically necessary health care. Dr. Danielle Martin, Canadian Doctors for Medicare
At one time in the not-too-distant past, there was no universality of medical care in Canada, much less the Province of Ontario. You had the wherewithal to pay a doctor's fees and a hospital stay or you did not. That was the bad old days. Now universality is guaranteed to Canadians through the funding of universal medicare that is paid for through federal tax dollars, doled out to the provinces.

In the not-so-distant past nuclear families did not exist. But extended families living in close proximity did. Where older family members who had experienced health problems, medical emergencies and the manner in which to react as a new mother to the demands of caring for a new baby advanced a helping hand or two, gave advice and encouragement.

Help was available from that source where it now no longer is.

A pediatrician in private practise who bills OHIP the normal fees for patients, also charges families a $1,000-plus "membership fee" which guarantees nervous parents that she will be available to them virtually around-the-clock. For that annual fee they can also be assured that through her version of (illegal) private health care, there is an informed, professional staff also on call to assist.

Dr. Karen Dockrill takes her profession seriously. She involves herself deeply with her patients' needs, and through her they are exposed to additional, allied health care professionals to aid them in their all-consuming and worrying work as new parents. She is accessible, personally, by telephone, and her patients claim her calm advice has stopped them from accessing hospital emergency units on occasion.

The confidence, practical advice and professional services they receive through their membership in Dr. Dockrill's Mom and Baby Depot located in Whitby, east of Toronto, has meant money well spent to these patients. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has laid disciplinary charges against Dr. Dockrill, and she has been warned she will have her license revoked should she refuse to stop charging extra fees.

Without those extra fees at her disposal, Dr. Dockrill will no longer be able to operate her clinic in the same way; discharging some of her office staff, and removing some of the intensive services she had previously offered. There are far more physicians charging mandatory additional fees to their patients in exchange for specialized services, than Dr. Dockrill alone.

She feels she is being made an example of, as a warning to all those others who have chosen to offer exemplary professional service beyond that given by most doctors on a tight schedule, living within OHIP rules and obeying the law by not imposing additional charges on their patients. Somehow, it doesn't seem quite as out of whack when voluntary fees are suggested for certain services.

But the "block fees" levied by some private clinics does create a two-tier system of medical care. Those who can afford the freight and who will not deny themselves the opportunity to be entitled to special care beyond the normal call of professional duty can take advantage of the significant add-ons. Obviously, a huge number of other people would find the mandatory "block fees" beyond their capacity to pay.

The existence of these clinics who charge for services beyond what medicare normally funds is not quite fair, argue its critics, and they're obviously right. On the other hand, we also have universal education, where taxes fund the primary and secondary education system. Despite which, increasingly, materials once considered the school boards' responsibility to supply to students as part of their normal tuition is now charged to parents.

Moreover, when a family has more than a single child enrolled in the school system and must pay for an ongoing array of school equipment, in addition to which there are trips and special events which children are encouraged to attend, but which must be paid for by the families themselves this creates a hardship for some families.

Those families who cannot afford to pay additional fees for their children see their children receiving not equality of exposure to opportunities and treatment, but becoming victims of a two-tier education system.

What is wrong for one social benefit to be wrenched away from universality toward specialized treatment for those who can pay doubly, is wrong for any other social benefit, equally.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Advantaging The Revolution

Now that the heavy lifting by NATO forces has been concluded, and the spectacle of rebel forces in Libya vying with the regime's military forces for exacting carnage on one another, perhaps it is time for NATO to sit back and seriously evaluate the relevance of its decision-making. Apart from the need seen to aid and protect the rebel factions of one country and not another in very similar circumstances.

There is the need to contemplate the reasons why one tyrannical dictator is considered to be more abhorrent than another. In the case of Libya and Syria, both regimes sponsored and encouraged terrorism. Both regimes manipulated and oppressed their people. Both regimes were grievous human-rights abusers. Both regimes posed as a potential danger to the international community.

Both regimes cultivated deliberate alliances with other like-minded, societally-destructive regimes. Both had attempted to build nuclear installations that would result in their ownership of nuclear weaponry. Both had a clearly disruptive effect within the world community. And both had launched surreptitious attacks on international targets. Both championed violent military action against a neighbour.

But it was rebels in Libya exclusively, not in Syria, that NATO chose to become involved with. With the blessing of the United Nations. In both Syria and Libya, as elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa, Islamist and Salafist jihadist groups were both allied with the government and attempted to overturn it to install a fully Sharia-based national infrastructure.

With the upheavals completed or at a standstill in each country, as has occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, with more minor protests occurring in Sudan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, and lurking in the background of each of those countries, Islamists awaiting their opportunity to reveal their agendas, like that of the Muslim Brotherhood. The area remains a tinder-box of political activity.

Western countries should ask themselves what, precisely, they are doing. The fact is those Western countries are held there, in contempt. There has been ample time for reflection with the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan in the background, and the illustrative effects of sectarian violence, tribal belligerence, and Islamist surges to inform that these are events that must be faced and solved by the countries involved themselves.

In Libya, the United States, France, Britain and Canada have played a major role within NATO, while other NATO members have held back, contributing little-to-nothing to the original pledge to ensure that slaughter did not ensue with the well-armed Libyan armed forces (who, just incidentally, procured their military hardware from the obliging West) mercilessly putting down the insurrection.

The result has been the U.S. withdrawing from its front-and-center-role after dispatching the original rocketry, leaving the airspace defense of Libya to France, Britain and Canada primarily. A leader who was once wined and dined, despite his defiantly anti-Western and pro-terror agenda, was now being hounded by the very same countries that had given him respect as his due.

And now that the regime of Moammar Gadhafi is finally well routed, the spectacle of the rebels torching, looting, murdering in the very same manner as government troops, is most instructive indeed. While waiting in the wings for their opportunity to bring themselves forward is possibly a contingent of al-Qaeda-associated groups prepared to mount their bid to form the next government.

Which is a problem in the Middle East and North Africa with majority-Muslim populations led by fundamentalist Islamists, is it not? It is the old question of making do with the devil you know, rather than inviting a devil far more devious and destructive to make his entrance.

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Civil Discourse...?

Well, that is asking a bit too much when goring the sacred ox of a newly-minted icon. All the more so with the effrontery of doing so when the singular object of the public's adoration is recently deceased. Gone to his maker with the hymnals of crowds of suddenly-converted faithful singing his praise to the heavens. We'll never know if he's as popular up there as he's suddenly become down here.

Smilin' Jack did all right for himself. An ebullient, energetic man who fantasized himself into Captain Canada, ready to leap at a moment's notice into 24 Sussex Drive, from at-long-last-achieved Stornoway. He had limitless ambition for his political future, and the public now idolizes his memory as one who had limitless ambition for their futures.

The public, would they ever have come to a pass when all of the NDP's promises might be realized, would be slow realizing that they would have to pay for all the largesse the party stood ready to dole out on their entitled behalf. They might not have recognized Canada of tomorrow in the Greece of today, but that's another story altogether.

This story, arrived at rather tangentially, is about the courage of a newspaperwoman to report events and their outcomes as she parsed them. And Christie Blatchford did a fairly good job of calling the hysteria around the death of Jack Layton - from a cause he could not affect and which is the dread of society - for the pathetic public spectacle that it represents.

Ms. Blatchford is rather good at doing that kind of thing, digging into the marrow of the bone of contention and coming up with a clear-eyed perspective. Things are so often what they appear to be, not what delusional people prefer them to be. She was hounded off a speaking stage at the University of Waterloo because she shocked the First-Nations-centric sensibilities of an audience dedicated to forgiving everything, including the violent crimes committed in Caledonia.

They, the audience, after all, doesn't live in Caledonia. They did not witness the depredations that took place there, did not interview the stunned residents of the non-native variety that suffered threats, violence, loss of property and the humiliation of witnessing one law applied to militant native 'warriors', and another entirely to them, as law-abiding citizens of the province.

That experience hadn't quite prepared Christie Blatchford for the avalanche of mail that poured hatefully down upon her self-esteem as a human being, characterized as stupid, hateful, 'old and worn', ugly, 'fat cow bitch', a 'troll', and other less publishable verbiage describing her as a living breathing piece of female anatomy best left unmentioned.

Oh, and the personal threats, the bombastic terminology that threatened to 'run you out of the city'. Interesting, but not quite of the calibre of the soberly menacing sentiment sent her way by someone whose name she recognizes as a 'fairly well-known playwright in Toronto', who wrote this zinger to her that he looked "forward to writing your obit."

So, these protectors of the reputation of the late, estimable, self-promoting Jack Layton have dedicated themselves to taking up his cudgel. A sinister one, calling into question their sanity as moderate, thinking individuals able to express themselves civilly to take issue with another thinking individual's message that has the weight of reality on its side, whereas theirs is born of hysterical reaction.

Someone who makes her living as a professional correspondent, parsing the issues of the day, and laying out facts and figures that are irrefutable simply because they have occurred publicly and cannot be denied. Her take on the issue of the public, the news media, the political elite having gone absolutely delusionally sentimental about someone who was, after all, a middling politician.

Their cretinous and viperous responses, delineating themselves as credulous fools. No contest.

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Violent Jihad

Without repeating ad infinitum that violent and vicious Islamists are not totally representative of those who worship Islam, the prevailing facts on the ground are that Islamists express many of Islam's inherent values, interpreting them to validate their attacks on non-Muslims as perfectly justifiable. And they do so, moreover, with the generally silent support of far too many other Muslims who believe that the lash-back from the international community against violent jihad is unfair to Islam.

The truly eerie thing about all of this is that it is Muslims themselves around the world, who are primarily targeted by jihadists. Muslims who practise a more tolerant version of Islam, who are obviously less at odds with the non-Muslim world and who accommodate themselves to those differences, and yet who cannot seem to bring themselves to believe that fellow Muslims mean them harm. Even when the evidence is close up and personal, they deny that Muslims could commit such heinous crimes against other Muslims.

And they continue to support the belief that violent jihad is a response to the phenomenon which they have named "Islamophobia". And this is the way that the cycle is recognized, that non-Muslims express a distrust and hatred of Islam for no reason whatever other than that they seek to degrade Islam and so so at every opportunity. The need to more closely examine the response to violence as a self-protective device, is shunted aside.

And it is not just 'moderate' Muslims in their huge numbers who are so likely to overlook the malevolent and deadly attacks that take place in an increasing number of countries both against them and non-Muslims. It is also the countries of the world which are attacked whose populations steadfastly also refuse to subscribe to the alienating idea that a religious group might wish them serious harm.

Those enlightened thinkers, the guilt-laden of former colonialist countries find reason why jihadists lash out at their perceived enemies. Choosing to believe that they have been pushed by events outside their control, by their poverty, by their lack of opportunities, of education, to struggle against their tormentors.

Overlooking the inconveniently-revealed reality that fierce Islamism was born and continues to be manifested and spread by the educated, and the wealthy looking for a cause. And finding it in the allure of violent jihad.

Jihadists cite the Koran permitting deceit as a useful device when it will service the purpose of jihad, and they practise what they preach. While inciting to violence against the West, they purport to pose as enlightened themselves, concerned with the struggle against terrorism. They inveigle themselves into the receiving non-Muslim society as scholars, interpreters, advisers, clerics, gaining the respect of those whom they deceive.

And while attacks are ongoing against Muslims who have no interest in practising a Salafist-style of Islam, and who reject the advances of the jihadist militias insistent on imposing Sharia law, stealth invasions of political office, academia, union posts, and any other useful positions of potential influence take place in Western, democratic countries, to gain the trust of those permitting themselves to be deceived.

A slow, but steady and exceedingly patient, cleverly-devised exercise in helping to erode Western democratic values, systems of law, societal standards and mores takes place, with those in the West assisting the Islamists in their efforts feeling proud of extending these entitlements in a generosity of spirit extended to equalize opportunities for immigrants, while diminishing those of the indigenous populations.

This twofold approach, of attacking both the Muslim aggregate who do not adequately adhere to fundamentalist Islam, and of subverting democratic ideals to more closely resemble Sharia-led Islam creates a creeping, inevitable alteration of cultural values, universal laws of protection of human rights, toward the eventual, hoped-for completion of a plan to create a global Caliphate.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

African Unity

Africa never fails to demonstrate time and again how troubled a continent it is. Justifying the by-now low expectations of the world community that African states will ever become fully self-reliant, responsibly governing, human-rights-observing, forward-looking communities. They are bloated with self-serving bureaucracies that espouse a mealy-mouthed equality, while holding out their sweaty palms to be greased by ever-greater hand-outs from international humanitarian sources.

Their populations have become heavily reliant on the ongoing goodwill and guilt of foreign countries outside their continent to provide fundamental essentials like health care, adequate food, educational opportunities, and small loans for individual start-up businesses to aid families to cope with the cost of life. Intra-country warfare, and civil wars pop up with regularity as tribal and clan conflicts erupt with bitterness and ferocity.

When drought situations occur, exacerbated by civil wars, creating populations fleeing violence and hunger it is the international community and humanitarian NGOs that fund a life-line for the refugees. Somehow, the African Union cannot seem to take its obligation to itself quite seriously enough.

African values have echoed too long to the primitive imperatives of taking care of No.1 above all; they balk at the prospect of being their brother's keeper.

Faced with the presence among them of a tyrant intent on enriching himself and his cronies at the expense of the livelihoods and health of millions of his people, through policies that ruined the country's agriculture and economy, they shuffle their collective feet, and do nothing. For no one wishes to invite a spotlight of enquiry to focus on their own pathetic activities.

The United Nations World Food Programme issues a dramatic warning of mass malnutrition, starvation and death in the Horn of Africa, pleading for funds from the international community. And that community responds, at the governmental level and at the private charitable level. The African Union calls a summit finally to raise funds to tackle the famine in Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.

Of the African leadership of the African Union's 54 members, a mere four heads of state show up to the summit: Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Equatorial Guinea. Those whose countries are facing starvation turn up to the conference, all other African leaders are too busy elsewhere. "Just 21 countries made pledges out of 54 and, of the $46-million, $20-million came from three states - Algeria, Angola, and Egypt."

Nigeria and South Africa, the two wealthiest nations on the continent pledged $2-million and $20-million respectively. An 11-year-old boy from Accra, Ghana, on his own raised $4,000 on donations from friends, family and sponsors, his contribution larger than that of Lesotho's at $2,500. The former president of Ghana, current AU representative for Somalia had "expected better" of the African Union response.

Meanwhile, the U.S. pledged $574,987,214, the U.K. $187,997,248, Japan $95,786,480, Australia $82,219,415, Canada $80,307,245, China $68,734,845, Sweden $58,744,337, Saudi Arabia $50,744,137, Germany $42,825,234, France $40,530,428.

As opposed to the 54 countries of the African Union's grand total of $46,000,000.

But there is no shame, because Africa is entitled to the world's guilt and charity.

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The Urgency of Security Restoration

The boast of the Libyan rebels that they would welcome NATO airstrikes on Moammar Gadhafi's troops battling their inexorable advances toward removing their tyrant from office, came with a partnering thrust that they would not accept foreign troops on the ground. They were determined to oust their tyrant on their own, and needed no foreign intervention beyond covering them from the air.

That was in the early, headily intoxicating days of the revolution to unseat the King of Africa, when the ragtag rebel militias made common cause with one another, and marched ill-equipped but certain of the success of their mission. It didn't take all that long before the militias got bogged down with problems inherent in facing off against a well-armed and -trained professional army.

And, despite the considerable assist from NATO bombing missions to destroy the regime's military assets: tanks, artillery and aircraft, the advance was agonizingly slow. And the retreats were most certainly sobering and no little bit humiliating. But the bombastic boasts, as is typical of such tribal societies, kept coming fast and furious from both sides.

No one in the West, nor did the rebel army and its commanders, anticipate that Moammar Gadhafi and his loyalists would hang on as tenaciously as they have. NATO members were becoming impatient with the rebels, and the rebels were defiantly critical of NATO strike crews, particularly when they were themselves inadvertently struck through mistaken identity.

The decision of NATO, against its better instincts, to throw in its lot with the rebels, despite concerns about the make-up of the rebels; the hints and rumours that among them were al-Qaeda affiliates and other Islamist groups, was initially heralded as a right and just decision, backed by the UN. There have been second, and third thoughts. Not, however, by NATO brass.

And now, as it seems the rebel army has finally routed Gadhafi and his sons and his supporters from Tripoli - with the considerable assistance of NATO bombers - British special forces, wearing Arab civilian garb, have been dispatched to assist in wiping up the remains of the loyalists, and discovering the whereabouts of the country's leader who continues to taunt his pursuers.

The rebels are triumphant, filling the air with shouts and celebratory ammunition fired at random. What remains is a mop-up operation. What remains is the need for NATO to collect weapons it distributed to the rebels. Good luck with that one; demobilization is a wonderful idea, but extracting those weapons from the rebels will not be easily accomplished.

Even if some of the weapons are handed back, there is no accounting for the plenitude of weapons seized from the regime's raided depots that ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda groups. NATO is still coordinating air strikes on key military targets, while the British SAS have been ordered to hunt down Col. Gadhafi. Foreign troops with their boots on the ground? Yes indeed.

This would be the very same British PM, now ordering his troops to discover Gadhafi's whereabouts, who had given his consent/order to Scottish authorities to effect the return to Libya of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, because a BP/Libya oil contract was so irresistibly appealing and enriching to Britain.

Al-Megrahi has joined his benefactor in escaping the potential of recapture and penalty.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day of Sadness

(Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail)

August 25, 2011: NDP MP Olivia Chow and family members watch as the casket of her husband Jack Layton is loaded into a hearse on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

August 25, 2011: Members of the <span class=

Perhaps if it were just one day, it might seem tolerable. But one day has stretched into another and yet another. With more such days on the way. The great keening public that brings us extended bouts of sincere mourning for public figures whom personal fortune and fate have destined for an unanticipated departure from the Land of the Living, now celebrates Jack Layton, deceased, as a genuine Canadian Hero.

The man is dead. He was a politician. No hero, he. But the urban legend of Jack Layton as a modern-day tilter-at-windmills for the common good, as a completely altruistic and authentic hero of our times is being written even as he lies in state. The proclamation of a state funeral for a life-long politician whose apogee achievement was to cannily take advantage of circumstances he did not create.

Leading Prime Minister Stephen Harper to read the way the wind is blowing and to do, as politicians do, indulge the electorate and thereby falter in his integrity to truth and reality. "This is a week to obviously honour his contributions and mourn his passing. This (NDP) is a party, it (sic) and its predecessor the CCF (that) had been waiting 80 years to achieve the status of Official Opposition and had never really come close and Mr. Layton managed to achieve that.

"So, I think that's obviously a tremendous achievement on his part, and I think it's obviously a tragedy and unfortunate that he's not able to survive to really enjoy that achievement, the way he should have." True, true. Life has a way of turning expectations into ashes, of turning one's aspirations toward the final departure and oblivion. Jack Layton exemplified that adage that "chance favours the prepared mind."

It was chance and coincidence, and the failure of a traditional political party and the timely near-destruction of another political party that offered the man his chance, and he was certainly prepared to pounce on it, being favoured by a peculiar response of the electorate toward someone who posed as their champion.

Jack Layton and Olivia Chow lived grandly on generous stipends and tax-paid entitlements. Theirs was no sacrifice on behalf of the common man, but an exercise in the joys of political life for those who like to be noticed and pampered by public esteem that they believe, and their supporters also, that they have earned and deserve.

No one deserves to die an early and painful death, but many do, and not being self-promoting public figures, they die unnoticed.

Breaking with tradition and protocol to extend the ultimate courtesy to a deceased politician of whom much is being made in the way of public grief and despair - at the loss of someone with "integrity" who saw himself doing nothing illegal by posting huge public expenditures far in excess of any other parliamentarian, seems rather absurd to the thinking, unhysterical, unsentimental mind.

That the brilliant posthumous award of a title is being earnestly considered to be endowed upon his name represents yet another absurdity. John Ralston Saul feels bestowing upon Jack Layton a "Right Honourable", reserved only for prime ministers, governors general and chief justices of the Supreme Court ordinarily, is justified as a way of "sending a message to history". Mr. Saul is entranced with sending messages to history.

Former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark avows that though "I'm not familiar with all the precedents, but I don't think there would be one that would hinder it", also believes that the current prime minister should consider conferring this honour upon the late, lamented Jack Layton: as in the Right Honourable Jack Layton; wonderful ring that has to it, hasn't it?

A Canadian expert on titular honours brings a breeze of needed relief into the heavily larded atmosphere with the information that the designation is unlikely: "the problem is you have to be alive". And Jack, decidedly, is not. Perhaps one should enquire of Joe Clark whether he might be willing to give his up, in favour of Jack's?

Not all is lost, however, as the CN Tower will be lighted with an orange glow to honour Jack Layton during his state lying-in, in Toronto. Another brilliant idea.

And in the 'timing is everything' category, the CBC has been embarrassed horribly by having aired an The Debaters segment taped before a live audience where the host of the show made a little heh-heh joke about the odds of Jack Layton's chances of becoming prime minister: "Don't worry Jack, even at a million to one, you still have a chance." Referential when he should have been reverential.

Thank the Ye Gods!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hope Springs Internal

There are altogether so many failed states in the world in which we live, that take our attention and impress upon us the need to do what we can to assist in whatever way we can. We embrace this collective attitude because in the Western democracies we like to think of ourselves as privileged - as indeed we are - and responsible to a larger world vision. We are enlightened and we have compassion for those who live elsewhere in the world, and whose opportunities in life simply do not exist.

We believe ourselves to be our brothers' keeper. And our sisters. And all their progeny. We are assailed by guilt, that we live well, and they do not. We are continually being bombarded by the advertisements of aid agencies exhorting us to be generous and become regular donors to all their humanitarian aid projects. It is our responsibility to help those who can nor or will not help themselves.

Living in developing countries whose governors are self-interested, and act as tyrants, violating their own peoples' human rights. Living in countries where tribal and clan-originated traditional antipathies ensure that unrest continues unabated. Living in countries where medical treatment is erratic at best, absent in the worst-case scenarios. Living where tropical diseases run rampant through the population.

International aid is a given as the advanced countries of the world are exhorted by the United Nations, by NGO humanitarian aid groups to advance the cause of improving life for the world's vast unfortunates by donating funds both through government auspices and private subscription. Humanitarian assistance is doled out and small advances are made with health clinics, education, small bank loans.

Slowly and steadily the world's billions who eke out their existence with subsistence farming, living in the edge of malnutrition, and whose children succumb to dread, easily treatable diseases with methods and medications unavailable to them unassisted, gradually improve. What does not improve is their condition relative to their governing bodies, the upper echelon of their society which has grown accustomed to siphoning off foreign aid to line their own pockets.

Because people naturally have compassion they are charitable and given to helping aid organizations. Those same aid organizations have become international corporations of power and repute whose focus is on the extraction of funding from sources that can be impelled to give, toward their own growing aid-corporate interests and the servicing of a clientele that has grown accustomed to aid.

In Africa, failed states whose maniacal, egotistical rulers milk the international community while failing to lift their people out of poverty, and where other states have completely lost control of government structure and all that is left is tribal, religious, ideological and criminal warfare, victimizing the most vulnerable, the women and the children; abducted, raped and mutilated.

We are exhorted to our duty to fund the aid agencies to lift the afflicted out of their miserable condition of squalid living conditions and starvation. We are told that if countries like Somalia where lawlessness and violent Islamism has run amok, are allowed to continue to fester, they will become a terror-producing cancer that will consume the free world. To save ourselves we must save Somalia.

And Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zimbabwe and so many other malfunctioning, malevolently-ruled countries. We must urge our governments to make those countries' futures our business, a foreign aid priority. While they, like the non-oil-profiting states in the Middle East are dependent on foreign aid, while deploring and detesting the hated democratic countries that prop them up, produce nothing of value for their populations.

When will it become time for these failed states intent on continuing to manipulate and to violate their own populations' human rights to be expected to be responsible to and for themselves? When will they be informed, unequivocally that if, like North Korea, the government continues to invest in nuclear arms and space projects their international aid will be cut off.

Why does it make sense for them to be willing to sacrifice their indigent populations to the oblivion of early and desperate deaths, but we must not be so cruel as to allow them to do this? Why is it that the United Nations eschews the whip and the cudgel, but gently chides these brutal regimes, while urging the democracies to maintain an open, understanding line of credit?

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Self Defense and Implacable Neglect

We do not, as a society, wish to sit in moral judgement upon others. And when others suffer dreadful calamities leading to loss of precious human lives where family members sit in stunned mourning at the loss of loved ones, no one in society takes it upon themselves to point out how avoidable those deaths are.

When news reportage reveals just how casually those who should be involved in securing the safety of those closest to them, it's as a good a time as any to remind people of their responsibilities. In the case of fire consuming a household and taking with it the lives of children, all too often it is discovered that the simplest method to protect that family has been ignored.

The purchase and installation of an inexpensive, common commodity like a smoke detector can work wonders in alerting residents to the danger they are in when fire breaks out. Yet family after family suffers the agony of lost lives because of failure to provide this most useful tool in alerting people how they may escape from harm.

Parents who simply ignore the continued pleas of civil authorities to install smoke detectors are actually guilty of failing to provide the necessities of life to their vulnerable children. It takes very little time and disposable income to install a detector and speak with children, to lay out an escape plan in the event of fire.

Children are exposed to the topic at their elementary school, where mock exercises in evacuation are carried out. This is the school administration carrying out its responsibility to its day-time charges should the school building become involved with a fire situation. The children are taught how to respond, calmly, and with safety in mind.

Those same children may go home oblivious to the fact that their parents have failed to provide warning of impending danger in the case of a fire. They likely do not feel any loss of confidence in their parents, since most children instinctively believe their parents will protect and shield them from harm.

The Ottawa area has just recently seen a funeral for a young mother and her three very young children, dead as a result of a home fire. It was discovered by the responding firemen that the home's smoke alarm had no working batteries rendering it utterly useless.

Worse, one supposes, was the fact that the two-story house the family lived in, had only a front entrance and none other. The home likely did not accord to current building codes. Since the fire began on the porch consuming the front of the house there was no rear or side exit, only windows, one from which the father leaped with a young son who later died of his trauma.

The extended family of those who died in the Alexandria fire are in mourning. The father, who suffered grave burns and is being treated in hospital, will eventually be released to resume his life. It will certainly be a far different life than he has known up until the present, with the absence of his partner and their three children.

Perhaps our fire and police departments, those whom we call upon in such desperate situations as house fires to render assistance, and who view the tragedies that unfold through human careless, should take the issue of violations of the law with respect to ignoring the need to install and maintain smoke alarms far more seriously. These simple-minded lapses of judgement should be fined, heavily.

Better to proceed with fining people to the extent that the law permits, if they disregard the need to protect themselves and their families, than deal with these ongoing and unnecessary tragedies.

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World-Guiding Moral Superiority

Can there be any question that Amnesty International no longer represents what its original founders set out to focus on: human rights abuses that run counter to all the values of free and democratic societies. The current version of Amnesty International makes a mockery of that original focus, and turns it inside out in the service of a corrupted, contorted view of the world, focusing on First World, human-rights respecting countries and just incidentally in the process demonstrating its not-too-subtle form of anti-Semitism.

Amnesty International Blind to Jewish Blood?

by Gil Ronen AI Blind to Jewish Blood?

The statement made by Amnesty International in response to the August 18 terrorist infiltration into Israel "demonstrates Amnesty's continued abuse of universal human rights principles," says Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor. Amnesty's statement, which was accompanied by an image of a wounded Palestinian, erases all details of the murderous attacks targeting Israeli civilians.

"Instead of issuing a strong condemnation of the August 18 Palestinian terror attacks, Amnesty International's statement draws a false equivalence between cold-blooded murder and self-defense that targeted those responsible," says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor.

"From Amnesty's statement, one has no idea that terrorists walked up to a car and brutally murdered the four passengers. Amnesty has immorally treated both the murders and the self-defense response as 'indiscriminate and disproportionate.' In obscuring the facts on the ground, Amnesty again makes a complete mockery of international law and human rights values."

According to eyewitnesses, terrorists who attacked buses, motorists, civilians, and soldiers were dressed in Egyptian military camouflage, in further violation of international humanitarian law. If the terrorists indeed originated from Gaza, they also violated the sovereignty of both Egypt and Israel, a detail that was also ignored by Amnesty.

"Without any evidence, Amnesty officials also imply that Israel is in violation of the prohibition of 'harming civilians,'" Steinberg added. "In fact, the evidence demonstrates that Israel's response was extremely precise - targeting the terrorists responsible for the murderous attacks. In the rush to condemn Israel, Amnesty distorts the events beyond recognition."

As of August 23, Amnesty has not issued an updated statement. In addition, Amnesty has not condemned the more than 100 rockets launched from Gaza into Israel over the weekend, killing one and injuring dozens, or acknowledged that ten of the 13 Palestinians killed were terrorists, and that the other three were with the terrorists at the time of their death.

NGO Monitor added: "We call on all members of Amnesty with a moral conscience, including the Israeli branch, to resign immediately in protest."

As published online at ArutzSheva, 24 August 2011

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The New And Improved Egypt

Lest there be any doubts in the minds of the naive about the direction the new and improved Egypt is taking ...

Islamist Cleric: Meet an Israeli? Kill Him

by Gil Ronen Egyptian Fatwa: Kill Israelis

A senior cleric in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has declared that ordinary Egyptians are obligated to kill 'Zionists' whom they encounter. According to Arutz Sheva Arab affairs expert Dalit Halevy, the pronouncement is part of a general wave of incitement that directly endangers Israelis who are currently in Egypt.

This follows Muslim Brotherhood calls to end the peace treaty with Egypt and threats to kill Israel's ambassador if he does not leave the country. Although there are many benefits for Egypt if it continues its relations with Israel, not the least of which is continued American aid, that is not always what counts in the MIddle East where hatred is often stronger than logic.

Dr. Salah Sultan, a lecturer on Islamic law in Cairo University and head of the Al Quds Committee in the World Federation of Islamic Scholars, declared Friday that an Egyptian citizen who encounters a "Zionist" should kill him. This should be done because Israel "killed" the Camp David Accord, he explained. Sultan said that Israel provokes Egypt by pointing its jet fighters at Egyptian soldiers.

Sultan spoke at a protest outside Israel's Cairo embassy, before about 200 members of the Freedom and Justice Party (a front for the Islamic Brotherhood), the Islamic Brotherhood movement, and other extreme groups.

In an April interview Sultan said that "the liberation of Palestine will come from Tahrir Square."

When the Crusaders invaded Jerusalem, the liberation began from Egypt, he said. Similarly, when Mongols reached Syria in the 13th century CE, Egyptians were the ones who organized and blocked them. "The next campaign [against Israel] will be launched from Egypt," he said.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 24 August 2011

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Will and Testament

Hearing notice that someone well known as a public figure has suddenly died comes as a personal shock. It is personal because of the fact that the individual was well known, simply because he was a public figure. Shock, but perhaps not total surprise, in the case of Jack Layton, since it was well enough known that he was in ill health, recovering from treatment for prostate cancer, and from an operation for a hip fracture.

He soldiered on, in pain and with stalwart determination despite his delicate health situation, when he should have been in recovery mode to be restored to full health, because he desperately wanted to be involved in the election campaign that resulted in a May sweep netting the NDP more seats than they had ever before had. Rewarding Jack Layton with the title of leader of the Official Opposition.

Clearly, a position he revelled in. During the campaign he often spoke of himself and his party as the next prime minister and party-in-power, defying the scoffers among the electorate, those who could not see the NDP as a viable alternative to any responsible, reputable political party gaining governance in Canada. The 'other' challenger to the Conservatives had declined to 'not-there' status.

Doesn't everyone gravitate to the affable, ebullient, confident and voluble among us? A politician who portrays himself as trustworthy and caring, and delivers his bombastic accusations against counterpart parties and their leaders with conviction and a smile? It's human nature to like the friendly ones, and take a step away from those who are entirely too grave in demeanor.

So people liked Jack Layton and voted him the most trustworthy of Canada's federal party leaders. He could do things that other leaders weren't allowed to get away with, because of his clear relish of what he enjoyed most in life; being a politician. He could live in assisted housing with his wife, he could spend far more tax-funded expenses than other parliamentarians, he could play footsie with Quebec separatists, he could place himself naked in a squalid massage parlour.

But that was Jack Layton, take it or leave it. His critics looked askance, and his adoring followers felt they were unfair detractors because they envied and feared the man's political skills, his welcome among the common voter, the working men and women whom he asserted he defended with all the political skills at his clever and witty call.

Jack Layton recommended that Nycole Turmel continue to replace him until a 'permanent' successor would be elected, and since Jack Layton's wishes are now hallowed, she might be elected. The moving letter - that this man suffused with enthusiasm and elan that so captivated voters whenever he raised his cane during the campaign - addressed as though it were his own alone, was not.

It was another campaign effort, co-written by Jack layton, the effervescent campaigner for whom politics was his life, along with others, a letter-by-committee. Who huddled in consultation with one another to produce a last will and testament of the irreplaceable Jack Layton to encourage his followers to stay the course and continue supporting his party of choice.

With that party of choice as the official opposition Canadians might think they have two parties; one of the left, the other of the right. But they're not quite there in that estimation, since the left party, under Jack Layton, who carefully assessed his party's chances of success to arrive at the conclusion he and it would have to move closer to the centre, did so.

And the ruling party, under its clever and principled leader also assessed his party's opportunities to succeed for a majority, coming to the conclusion that he would have to lead it too closer to the centre. Canada now has two centrist parties; one edging closer to the left, the other to the right, but not that extremely disengaged from one another.

Jack Layton: He did what he could with the talents he had, and they were many, for it is the Grim Reaper that is a formidable foe, not the leader of a different political party.

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Failure to Warn

Seems like a really good reason to bring a criminal suit against police. That those whose mission as professionals is to protect the public and when they so spectacularly failed to do just that, then they should be held to account, seems fair enough.

Laurie Massicotte suffered through a truly atrocious experience. A murderer, who is also a sexual pervert and a threat to women and girls had held her a fearful, threatened prisoner, forcing her to please his contorted sense of sexual tastes. While he is securely locked away in prison and will remain there for a long time to protect society against his demented fantasies being acted out in real time, she has been irremediably traumatized. Twice over.

When she was finally able to plea for help after the departure of Col. Russell Williams, and the Ontario Provincial Police arrived they failed to free her from the constraints that her attacker had used to immobilize her and victimize her. They, using their better judgement, felt she had somehow manufactured her explanation, that she victimized herself in a bid for notice and notoriety.

She would have to wait, she was informed, until a police photographer showed up. To document the condition she was found in, bound into a harness. The restraint would stay, and it did for an intolerable five hours. "Five hours, no medical attention. I was in total shock. I didn't know what the heck was going on."

Isn't the plight of women who have been sexually assaulted, lay charges against their attacker, then suffer the further indignity of being insinuatingly questioned by the defense in a court of law often cited as women suffering doubly? One an echo of the initial attack; the court presence and the probing and suggestive questioning laying seed to the idea that the woman somehow precipitated the attack by her demeanor, her suggestive mode of attire, culminating in a second attack; one physical, the second psychological.

"I was left for five hours, still in my harness, still tied up, naked, lying under a comforter."

In the early hours of the investigation she had suffered the dreadful indignity and physical discomfort of being treated like the offender, not the victim. She was informed by one officer that the impression they had was that she was attempting to 'copycat' what had occurred elsewhere. Had she been informed prior to her own attack that such an assault had occurred close by, she would surely have taken steps to protect herself, for forewarned is forearmed.

In 1998 a Toronto woman who had been raped in her apartment in 1986 by a serial rapist sued the Police Services for not having informed her and other vulnerable area women that a number of women had been raped and a serial rapist was suspected. Jane Doe won her civil suit and it was generally assumed afterward that most police forces would henceforth release information to the public warning of a repeat serial rapist on the loose.

Obviously, this security nod to the responsibility to protect women did not reach the notice of the OPP, for they failed to notify women in the area to empower them with the critical knowledge that might have them taking self-protective steps. Ms. Masicotte lived alone in a house three doors over from the one owned by Col. Williams and his wife, north of Belleville.

Russell Williams broke into her house, blindfolded and bound her, slashed her clothing loose from her body, and forced her to pose while he took souvenir photos to enjoy at his leisure. She suffered for three and a half hours until he finally left her in the straitjacket he had devised. She managed in any event, to dial 911. And when help finally arrived her torment continued for an additional five hours.

After the photographer finally arrived, she was forced to wait outside her home for another three hours while forensic detectives combed the interior for evidence of the crime that had been perpetrated. She was permitted to wear a bathrobe during this agonizing wait, and then underwent a lengthy interrogation before being informed that a similar situation had occurred nearby less than two weeks earlier.

"I'm basically now a prisoner in my own home. I'm afraid to go outside." This result is not what law-abiding, trusting people believe occurs with the intervention of a police force whose purpose is to serve and protect. Law suit? Seems self-evident.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Deadly Israeli Intransigence

The Arab League has condemned Israel for its air strikes on the Gaza Strip. There is no indication that the Arab League condemns the attacks by Palestinian terrorists on unarmed Israeli civilians. There is no hint given that the Arab League is remotely concerned that the IDF strikes result from ongoing mortar barrages from Gaza into Israel, nor that Israel cannot sit idly by while its citizens continue to be attacked.

The terrorists, representing the Popular Resistance Committee, entered Israel by way of the Egyptian Sinai border, entered from Gaza, to give them access to a highway close to Eilat where the atrocities took place. But it is intolerable to Jordan and to the Arab League and to Egypt that Israel has responded to these deadly provocations with deadly force.

As is usual, the Arab League has turned to the United Nations to 'deplore' Israel's aggressions, to force Israel to cease its military action. "We issued a statement condemning the Israeli offensive on Gaza ... and Egyptian land", the Arab League Secretary-General informed reporters in Cairo. "The United Nations has to take procedures to stop the Israeli offensive", he stated with the full force and dignity of his position.

Lebanon, holding sway in the United Nations as a member of the revolving 15-member temporary Security Council used its influence well, to prevent a condemnation of the terrorist attacks upon Israel. While Secretary General Ban Ki Moon saw fit to deplore the carnage in Israel with the death of eight Israelis at the hands of its neighbours, the United Nations was withheld from issuing a statement.

It's fairly ironic, in fact, that an Arab state, divided by sectarian antipathies and tribal animosities, and partially ruled by a terrorist organization whose mandate, like that of Hamas and its sister terrorist brigades, would have influence in the United Nations. Clearly demonstrating the value of that institution as a purveyor of universal values in its ongoing mission to support human rights and peace in the world.

India, the United States and Europe condemned the attempts by Lebanon to once again isolate Israel and hold it responsible for the attacks committed upon its soil and its people; to overlook the reality of constant vicious bombardments of Grad and Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip, and to focus on Israel as "occupier" of Arab land.

Lebanon claims it will support a motion to condemn the violence against Israel only if an equal condemnation is issued by the UN of Israel, for its response.

Not to be outdone, the Palestinian Authority issued its own scathing condemnation of Israel's defensive response to the terrorist attacks at Eilat. A senior Fatah official took pleasure in accusing Israel of the commission of 'war crimes', holding that Israel alone is responsible for an escalation of regional tensions.

And the other half of the PA equation in Gaza condemned the Israeli "massacre" that targeted the commander of the Popular Resistance Committee and four of his men who had planned and executed the series of deadly attacks within Israel.

As always, in the Middle East, the cards are stacked with the world riveted on the enticing slanders and accusations that paint one country as the progenitor of all that ails the world, including war.

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Justice, Iran Style

Iran continues to go out of its way to prove to the world at large how independent it is from universal values of human regard and decency. The Islamic Republic continues to be eager to represent itself as a persistently bad-tempered, human-rights-abusing state, entitled to treat people as nuisance objects to be disposed of as the state sees fit.

Those who have purportedly been claimed to have entered the country in an unauthorized manner are instantly charged with crimes against the country. As has been done with three Americans, young people with a sense of adventure and curiosity, along with an unfortunate lack of common sense, who ventured inadvertently over the border into Iran from Iraq.

The lack of rational judgement of three young adventurers, who felt free to wander as hikers and tourists through a country undergoing a widespread and violent change from life under a vicious tyrant which left sectarian violence in its wake, is more than evident. These three young people felt themselves immune to harm, and capable of looking after their interests, obviously.

It likely never occurred to them how vulnerable they were, to travel about either in Iraq or Iran. Perhaps the presence of foreign troops, their own country's military presence, gave them a sense of entitlement and presumed safety. The revolutionary court of Iran, however, chose to emphasize its belief in their presence in Iran as intent to spy, to do harm to the country.

One of their members, Sarah Shourd, was released last year on humanitarian grounds. No such grounds can be found for her companions, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, whose incarceration in the dread Evin prison in Tehran has lasted for 751 days. And whom an Iranian court, ignoring the pleas on behalf of the two young men emanating from international sources, has found them 'guilty' as charged.

Charged with espionage and illegal entry, the two men have been sentenced to eight years in continued confinement in Evin prison. No evidence was ever presented to 'prove' the state's 'case' against the two accidental intruders. Nor has their lawyer been permitted to see them.

This is justice, Iran-style.

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"The Strength of Faith"

Pope Benedict XVI deplores "the fashion of individualism". The God-fearing should seek to become a part of an holistic, organized representation of those who worship the Almighty. One does not worship in isolation.

One does so, formally, in the presence of other like-minded Christians. And the Holy Roman Catholic Order is the venue to which the faithful should turn. Toward its local chapters, as it were, wherever they exist, world-wide. Those venerable institutions of old whose presence allows strength and endurance and hope to reign in the hearts of men.

Catholic cathedrals are the preeminent place in which to worship God and His only-begotten son. "We cannot follow Jesus on our own. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith." This sharing is known as proselytizing. But among like-minded worshippers gathering in traditional, heritage monuments to faith, it represents spiritual communion with the Shepherd, becoming one of the flock.

One is not to take a message from the pontiff's address to the Catholic youth of the world - coming together just outside Madrid to celebrate World Youth Day with Pope Benedict's sermons and benedictions to the faithful - when, before Holy Communion could be accomplished the sacramental wafers had dissolved in the wake of a monumental storm.

A torrential downpour had washed out the Pope's speech in which he explained why traditional marriage and the right to life are the only solutions to humankind's dilemmas of existence. Spain - the venue of this 2011 annual re-visitation of World Youth Day - once the most Catholic of countries, now recognizes same-sex marriage, and supports abortion on demand.

Nature, as though to reprimand the manners of the Pope, chose to open the heavens to a thunderous, electrical downpour, with colossal winds and hail, drenching the pilgrims in their hundreds of thousands. The message conveyed from Almighty Nature to a defiant representative of God on Earth that she alone owns the power and the might to humble humankind.

The Vatican would have none of it, as is their right, however, insisting that "The storm was a parable of Christian life in which moments of difficulty are overcome by the strength of faith".

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