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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Elementary Diagnosis

Omani police fired rubber bullets at stone-throwing protesters demanding political reform on Sunday, killing two people, and demonstrators set government buildings and cars ablaze, witnesses said. Hours after the violence, Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos, gave an order to create 50,000 jobs for citizens in the Gulf Arab state of 2.7 million people. Witnesses said more than 2,000 protesters had gathered for a second day in a square in Sohar demanding political reforms, more jobs and better pay before police tried to disperse them, first with tear gas and batons and then rubber bullets. Reuters
The monumental struggle for regimes in the Middle East and North Africa to contain their citizens' unrest has emerged front-and-center as the single most momentous, precedent-shattering series of events in modern Islamic history. Islam, which exerts such an especial covenant with its worshippers, exhorting them to submit in prayer five times daily, and which delineates every aspect of the lives of the faithful, has failed to teach its political leaders due respect for their populations.

While the mullahs, the clerics, the ayatollahs pound the lessons of the Koran into the malleable minds of Islam's faithful, further influencing them to obey and to submit to the prevailing order in each of their countries governed by dictators, theocratic despots, benevolent monarchs, oil-rich sheiks, and monstrous tyrants, the fundamental needs of those vast numbers who are unschooled, indigent and yet produce new mouths to feed year upon year, go ignored.

From Algeria to Yemen, Bahrain to Sudan, Qatar to Morocco, the average of each of those regimes' appearance on the human development index as judged by all civil, health, education and income indices are miserably low. On the consumer price index, the availability to these people of basic consumer goods, gives a result on average reflecting another failure. On the corruption score, most of these countries with rare exceptions have an unfortunately dismal rating.

On the index of freedoms for the people inhabiting countries like Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, among others, the result is intolerably low. But modern technology has impinged on all of these countries, from use of the Internet enabling access to social network sites, to cellphone use. As a result, it has become impossible for autocratic rulers to keep their populations ignorant of the freedoms available to people elsewhere in the world.

Freedom to vote in fair elections, freedom to join political parties other than the dominant one, freedom to dress as they wish, to consume music, to dance; freedom to purchase goods and services because they are available in societies where trade is seen as a positive element in the growth of a country's GDP. They also become aware that other countries' populations live under far fewer religious and political strictures.

Above all, they see that although unemployment exists universally, it does not exist to the degree that it does in Africa and the Middle East where the economy is far more stagnant and resistant to positive change, than elsewhere. The unemployment rate among educated and lesser-educated rural youth in Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, among others, is staggeringly high. And young people become restless.

They begin to agitate for their rights, not seeming to understand that their rights are totally dependent upon the whims of those who govern, and happenstance of their countries' economic performance. And there is just so many government jobs to go around in any country, before it begins to collapse in upon itself through the weight of poorly-functioning, non-producing jobs that do nothing to further the financial security of the country.

If there is a lack of enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit and opportunity, if industry and investment in production other than the extraction of naturally-endowed fossil fuels are not present nor encouraged, there is a limit to the number of jobs that can be made available. If people are not employed they cannot purchase even those foods that are available. And when there is a global food shortage bringing up the price of basic food and energy, it is highly concerning.

The very elemental formula for dissent and complaint, for protest and insurrection, for demands and resorting to violent rhetoric, descending into violent action is there: a bulging unemployed youth demographic, food scarcity, lack of fundamental civil freedoms.

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Refugee Claims

It is hard to turn people down. People who plead for the opportunities to start a new life. Because where they have come from they have been persecuted, their rights have been violated, they fear for their lives and those whom they love, and they have a wish to begin again, elsewhere, in a country that protects human rights. And which is well known for its generosity. Which would include its relaxed and compassionate social services.

In countries which neglect to protect, or even care about legally protecting their citizens' basic human rights, it is unlikely that a universal and easily-accessed hospitalization and medical system exists. It is also highly unlikely that there are well organized and taxpayer-funded social services available, from subsidized housing to paid dental care; an altogether enviable social welfare system to assist the unfortunate. Canada has these ingredients for decency because it is a socially advanced and wealthy country.

These benefits have wide appeal. And like all good things they are well known to exist, even among those outside the borders of the country. Who would dearly appreciate having the opportunity to take advantage of them. And so, Canada, a vast country with a relatively small indigenous population, made wealthy by its naturally-endowed riches becomes a target for immigrants eager to improve their aspirational opportunities, and refugees fleeing poverty.

A relatively new category of refugee claimants came into view in the past ten years or so. Women presenting with claims for refugee status on the basis that they have been sexually abused in their countries of origin and they are fleeing those violations of the human spirit. Many of these women come from the Caribbean. Where there is a cultural tradition of single mothers, of absent fathers, of physical abuse of women, and of wayward boys lacking discipline.

A handful of claims that were rejected by the Refugee Board or the officers of Citizenship and Immigration Canada were brought on appeal before the Federal Court. Which court has now seen fit to overturn those decisions, ordering new hearings into the women's application for refugee status. Four of the women claim spousal abuse; one, a Guyanese woman fled her country after having been raped in the presence of her children during a home invasion.

One of the women was Brazilian the other Mexican, and two were from St.Vincent. These are culturally and traditionally male-dominated societies, but even in Canada where women's rights are protected by law and violations taken seriously, there are brutal incidents of wife beatings and spousal murders. And there are unfortunate incidents of home invasions, and more than sufficient-to-despair incidents of brutal rape.

Women attempting to escape as refugees collapsed and corrupt regimes like Republic of Congo where rape of girls and women is used as a weapon of war would constitute legitimate refugees with legitimate gender-abuse fears. Women and girls who lived in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan had legitimate fears because of institutionalized gender abuse. As one of the IRB officers noted, state protection was available in the countries these five women fled.

And of one it was commented upon that while awaiting deliberation on her refugee claim, she had failed to demonstrate steady employment or financial independence throughout the eight years she had already spent in Canada. Canada, it hardly needs repeating, has an expensive and extensive health-care system and network of social support systems. The economy is strained enough to ensure that everyone is adequately covered.

Although Canada was the first country in the world to enact formal guidelines for assessing refugee claims by women facing gender-based persecution, it does not follow that all such claims have merit, that the women claiming persecution are honest. It seems likely, however, that the end game is to ensconce themselves in a generous welfare community with no obligation on their part to find independent employment.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

The New Generation of Revolutionaries

Saudi Arabia has known for a very long time that it has a problem on its hands. One it shares with all its neighbours, for the most part. Too many shiftless young people. It is not the women, who are strictured not to be seen in public unless clad in all-encasing garments and even then escorted by male family members who are of concern. It is the young men with too much idle time on their hands because there are not enough jobs to employ them gainfully.

What Saudi Arabia has been aware of is that without gainful employment for all these young men, marriage is not quite possible. Marriage softens the rough edges of virile young men, it keeps them out of trouble. The responsibilities that come with marriage, and raising a family ensures that young men will not become restless, will not agitate for change, will not become likely recruits for Islamism and jihad.

Which is paradoxical given that Saudi Arabia's very fundamentalist style of Islam, Wahhabi-style, has been responsible throughout other parts of the world in training young men who become susceptible to the allure of wild adventure in religiously-motivated, violent jihad, through their investment in madrassas. But then, it is one thing to export fundamentalist Islam, and another to welcome a threatening variant of it into one's homeland.

The aging royalty of the House of Saud recognizes its problem. But it has hundreds of billions of dollars in profit from its kingdom's fossil fuel extraction, and in that country money really is no problem. King Abdullah can return home from recovery from surgery and in celebration magnanimously hand out tens of billions of dollars to continue to buy the loyalty of his subjects. Which subjects, with rare exceptions, it seems, are more than happy to continue living under his rule.

Not for King Abdullah the migraine-inducing pain suffered by Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, and the unspeakable Libya. All government employees will be enjoying a 15% pay raise. Social welfare programs, housing and education will receive stiff infusions of cash. There will be financial aid for an entire year for the unemployed, including presumably, those steaming youth who cannot find employment thus cannot purchase a home and a car, and go looking for a wife.

Of the 19 million citizens populating Saudi Arabia, 47% are age 18 or younger. And roughly 40% of all Saudis who are between 20 and 24 years of age are unemployed. So oops! There are activists in the country calling for economic reform and the creation of more jobs. They're also assuming that their combined voices may be instrumental in leading to freedom for women, free elections and political reforms.

But Saudi Arabia is a quietly efficient place where dissent is not brooked nor anticipated. And people really are fond of their benevolent monarchy. So it would be a real eye-opener if the social activists hoping for a better future for themselves and their youthful countrymen could amass enough support even from within their own demographic to mount a meaningful campaign.

Still, as one Middle East expert mused: "The new generation of revolution is surrounding them from everywhere."

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It's The Youth, Stupid

Those who have invested their faith in religious fundamentalism know well that they are directed to "go forth and multiply". Not necessarily through indoctrinating others in the fine points of their religious beliefs. But by having babies, lots of them. In religious communities women are invariably kept fairly confined; their job is to bear the young and raise them. The greater the number of children the prouder they can be that they have heeded the covenant obeying God's will.

Woman's value is seen in her breeding capacity. In Islam, as in any other fundamentalist form of religion, women are urged to understand their respected place within the community. As a faithful adherent to her religious belief, as a dutiful and fecund wife, as a nurturing mother. The perfect formula to ensure that the world will not run out of a youth demographic. Which goes a long way to explaining just how and why it is that in those countries of the world that are majority Muslim there's a lot of kids.

In a country like Canada, a wealthy democracy with a population of 33.8-million, women are forgetting about the fundamentals of child-bearing. The population is barely replacing itself. Population growth is highly dependent on immigration to ensure a large enough workforce exists to fill all the employment needs of that vast country. And, in Canada, the under-30 population stands at 36% of the entire population. Conversely, there is unemployment, but it is still manageable.

In contrast, in countries of the Middle East and North Africa which are majority-Muslim, that percentage of the population in each country representing the under-30s demographic ranges from a relative low of 48% to 73%. Egypt's youth, that is, those under 30 years of age stands at 61%. Egypt absorbs as many of its educated youth as it can manage into its bureaucracy. Leaving a whole whack of other, unemployed youth to fidget and worry about their future.

It was that large group of unemployed youth that formed the backbone of their still-simmering revolutionary protest against the status quo. In Tunisia, a country with a population one-eighth of Egypt's 80.5-million, there exists 51% under-30. It has a higher literacy rate, and a better-educated population. And large unemployment. Fuelling much discontent among the youth; fuelling one to protest in the only way he knew how, by becoming a human fireball.

That unemployed young man's self-sacrifice in protest against a heartless bureaucracy and utter lack of opportunity to make a decent living to support his family, caused a firestorm of protest that has lit up the Middle East and North Africa.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Adaptability to Canadian Values

Any day of the week a newspaper reader can see accounts relating to the court roster of any Canadian city. Invariably, a substantial proportion of cases involving murder, illegal possession of arms, drug dealing, break-and-enters, violent physical attacks, domestic abuse, have names linked to them that are readily identifiable with Muslims. With people who came to Canada as immigrants or whose parents did, from countries in Africa and the Middle East where Islam is the majority religion.

Because of the rise of militant Islam and the threat to world stability from international jihad, non-Muslims have become increasingly aware of the growing Muslim community within Western society. Defenders of Islam always point out, defensively, that Islam is a religion of peace, charity love and tolerance. And without doubt it represents all those emotion-grabbing superlatives in human relations for most of its adherents.

But it is never the majority of people who represent as normal, moderate and interested in making the most of their lives in advancing social well-being and individual aspirations toward success that represent society's problems. It is the minority who declare themselves through their actions and their values to be variants who cling to an ethos that rejects what we think of as the social contract, and who bring conflict and chaos to order and justice.

The readily-identifiable Muslim names that speak of geographic origin, heritage, tradition and religious adherence and which present as disproportionate in the incidence of criminal activities and apprehension by lawful authorities inform the interested that there is a problem with the religion of peace and the migrants to Canada who bring with them elements of an alien culture that does not transplant well within the welcoming country's values and priorities.

Some comparison can be made with large communities from the West Indies that have settled in the Toronto area, where single mothers traditionally raise their abundant young on their own, bereft of a male figure. These are families that live on welfare or who represent the working poor needful of extra social services. Theirs are communities deprived of male authority figures upon whom boys can focus and who can have a guiding influence.

Women raising large numbers of children, living in poverty-stricken areas with their own special culture of welfare and dependency where children run amok because their mothers are too busy either trying to earn a living for their brood, or unable to maintain discipline because they are continually distracted with life's burdens, seem unable to instill in their boys a grounding in law-abiding virtues.

The boys, the teens, the young men, become embroiled in gangs, in drugs, in violence. A similar situation exists in the Somali community of which there is an estimated ten thousand in the city of Ottawa alone. The mothers of young Somalis who have seen trouble with the law because of their involvement in crime - from mayhem to murder - have formed a self-help group, the Canadian Somali Mothers Association.

This activist group of mothers thought to organize themselves as spokeswomen for their community, after having become aware themselves of the reality that their sons represent a major portion of criminal malefactors, out of proportion to their statistical presence in the community. But rather than looking within their community to try to understand what they may be doing wrong in raising their young, they look at the wider community to blame it for low expectations of their sons, and the labelling of them as social misfits.

If they are social misfits it is because they have placed themselves in that category, refusing to fully integrate, to accept the prevailing social values and verities, clinging instead to the very tribal and social customs that they fled when they left their country of origin, mired in incessant violent struggles for dominance. These mothers insist their sons need support not condemnation.

But the community does offer support in many ways through many agencies, inclusive of the education system. Their sons have not been encouraged to view education as a means of striving toward a future. Social services agencies and some Somali community groups themselves have come to the realization that additional support is needed to steer young people toward acceptance of the effort to self-actualize, to commit to being educated, to aspire toward success.

It is one thing to collectively advocate on behalf of their children, it is another entirely to abrogate their own responsibility to imbue in their children respect for authority and for hard work to advantage themselves and their community. That they act as interlocutors to influence and educate the police and social service agencies about their culture has its limits. It is incumbent upon them and their offspring to merge their values with that of the prevailing society.

These are women who are courageous enough to come together for the purpose of representing their children's interests. But they are directing their energies in the wrong direction by seeking to alter perceptions and behaviours and outcomes of others, while ignoring the need to do so for themselves and influence their children in more positive modes of behaviour.

These mothers appear to have rejected outreach programs by other members of the Somali community anxious to counteract the appeal to young Somali men of global jihad. To teach them to resist the recruiters for Islamist jihad that targets vulnerable young men who find themselves attracted to the message of hatred, revenge, dominance and violence toward others.

Ignoring the very real problem of youth radicalization will not result in its defeat. Ignoring their personal responsibilities in teaching their children to respect the law and the need for those young people to acquire an education while immersing themselves in the values and social mores of the greater society of which they have become an integral portion helps guide their children toward the continuing path of legal difficulties.

One of the Somali mothers instrumental in organizing the mothers' group insists she left her native Somalia to spare her children from the "endless horror of fighting in Somalia." She has not found the safe harbour she insists she was looking for: "...here there is another kind of war, where they are marginalized and they have to fight so many labels."

That 'marginalization' stems from the situation they have placed themselves in. The family unit is as vital in Islam as it is in any religion; as important to any culture to sustain a society where the needs of children are ideally seen to by two responsible adults, as parents. Single parents always face an economic and social struggle, as society attempts to pick up the slack. People living in poverty can live in as much dignity and self-respect as any others.

With a failure to adapt to the welcoming society, its culture and socialization and mores through the influence of a concerned parent whose responsibility it is to encourage children to adopt those values, a social aversion to them results in a greater acceptance of outlawed behaviour. Parents have an especial obligation to steer their children on to the pathways of social normalcy, and receiving an education is the first of those paths.

The labels, of social deviance and criminal records, of divorce from the values that speak of Canadian social imperatives and respect for the law, are a matter to be confronted first by the mothers raising impressionable children, to steer them in the right direction, to support their decent futures as equally endowed members of Canadian society.

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Saving Libya

"The international community must send a very clear message: the killing of innocent civilians - the citizens of its own country - constitutes a gross violation of human rights and must carry serious consequences." Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Citizens of countries other than Libya are also at grave risk. Their governments are hastily assembling means and methods of delivering them to safety, away from strife-torn Libya. But there are citizens of African countries whose governments are not so well organized, have not the wherewithal to come to the aid of their citizens, and perhaps would not even if they could.

Col. Moammar Gadhafi has engaged thousands of Africans to come to Libya to work as labourers. He has, more latterly, brought in additional thousands of Africans soldiers as mercenaries, arming and instructing them to violently assist in putting down the insurrection that has broken out across the country.

Unlike Libyan soldiers who might hesitate to murder Libyans, the African mercenaries harbour no humanitarian scruples.

They have paid dearly for the reputation they swiftly gained by the use of extraordinary violence against Libyan protesters. Any that have been separated from their units have been summarily dispatched by angry Libyan mobs. But the larger fall-out for Africans in Libya is that innocent black African workers are being wrongly identified as mercenaries and they now fear for their lives.

On a larger, country-wide scale, anti-regime forces are meeting against pro-regime forces, but it can be assured that the former represent the majority. It is assumed that several thousand Libyans have already given up their lives in battling for the cause of their country's freedom from the tyrannical rule of Moammar Gadhafi, the King of Kings, their great revolutionary hero, a much-misunderstood figure of benevolent love for his people.

He has addressed his countrymen declaring his love for them and his bellicose determination to settle with blood the criminal acts of defiance on the part of regime protesters. He has urged Libyans to: "Feel at ease in the squares and the streets. Live the life of dignity. Moammar Gadhafi is one of you. Dance, sing, rejoice!".

They would dearly love to do all of these things, but without Moammar Gadhafi. Currently they are unable to dance, sing and rejoice, nor do they have much dignity in their desperate search for security from the threats imposed on their longevity by the helicopter gunships, warplanes and other similar threats mounted against them by their great benefactor.

Moreover, because the country is in a dreadful turmoil and chaos itself reigns comfortably along with the delusional Gadhafi, transportation has been hobbled. Desperate people willing to become refugees fleeing their country are finding it difficult to find refuge elsewhere. Worse, those undertaking the dangerous and arduous migration out of country are being set upon and robbed of their meager possessions.

And the UN's World Food Program is warning that the country's food supply chain has been disrupted and is "at risk of collapsing". Aid agencies fear that many Libyans are trapped, unable to travel, and unable to find sources of available food in a country that is a net food importer. People are fast running out of what little food they have, but fear exposing themselves to harm should they exit their homes.

All eyes have turned to the American President Barack Obama and his careful announcements. Registering that caution against the recent situation in Egypt which resolved relatively peacefully with a minimum of lives lost, and when the U.S. turned against a long-time ally, urging President Hosni Mubarak to leave office and depart his country.

Toward a long-time adversary, a known supporter of international terrorism, a human-rights abusing megalomaniac, the U.S. administration has made nothing resembling a direct call for the relinquishing of power by Moammar Gadhafi, even while Libya's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed Shalgham, addressed that body, imploring of them "Please UN, save Libya.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

The World Watches

The vicious rogue regimes of Africa and the Middle East that prey on their people and from time to time run amok destroying lives, are routinely condemned by the United Nations, the Security Council, Ban Ki-moon who theatrically wrings his hands in despair, and world leaders. The institution of the United Nations is geared and dedicated to upholding the rights of people to live decent and free lives under just administrations.

This they do through the many pronouncements that issue from that august body. When issues arise in places like Serbia-Croatia-Bosnia, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea and Libya, the United Nations condemns the violence and issues a call to immediate cessation of that violence and restoration of order and good government. The United Nations Human Rights Commission sits in judgement.

Overlooking the distracting events taking place in Sudan, Georgia, Belarus, Pakistan, Iran, and dedicating themselves to covering the backsides of those among them whose human rights violations are never to be impolitely mentioned, directing attention rather to the singular world state deserving of condemnation and the issuance of resolutions denouncing the human rights violations committed by Israel.

The African Union and those that represent North, South, West and East African regions do nothing to intervene when chaos and mass destruction ensues due to internal unrest in one country after another. The Arab League takes steps to temporarily expel one of its member-states when, for example, the Bad Boy of the Arab League bombs and strafes his people in Libya.

It is, in these circumstances, left to the members of the developed world community to step in. If they dare. If they dare do more than fulminate and denounce. Kuwait's invasion by Iraq represented a true anomaly in the organized response led by the United States, its Western supporters and members of the Arab League.

Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, whose defenders are now isolated to the regimes in South America whose socialist ethos they all share, has been rejected by most of the world, and Britain wrings its conscience over having sold Libya the riot-control ammunition it now uses to shatter the lives of its people. Russia may also be slightly perturbed at its huge munitions sales in arms to Libya, but then perhaps not.

NATO, the European Union, the United States and Canada fret about their verbal responses to the carnage being played out in Libya as forces still loyal to Gadhafi slaughter those civilians still continuing their vocal opposition to his brutally tyrannical rule. What can they do other than that? Consider an invasion?

So that Africa and the Middle East can surmise that it is the country's oil resources they wish to capture and to colonize and enslave Libyans under European rule? Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain; in all those countries it is the people who have spoken and their rulers paid the price.

Libya's tyrant is not quite as obliging, intent on dredging the last drop of blood on the field of battle, intent on his lunatic will prevailing.

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Life is so Unfair

"As I am satisfied that extradition is compatible with the defendant's (European) Convention rights, I must order that Mr. Assange be extradited to Sweden." British Judge Howard Riddle
Julian Assange has a mission in life, a sacred one, to use whatever means are open to him, including the unauthorized receipt of stolen documents from government sources, to ensure that the world at large is given all the information that he personally feels should be in the public sphere.

Those governments whose purloined documents have been the subject of WikiLeaks' arranged publications revealing state secrets they would prefer to keep out of the public eye have a problem with his mission. None have yet, however, taken serious measures to silence him.

For truth is, although the revelations may be diplomatically awkward, none of them truly represent any truths or realities that have hitherto been unknown to members of the news media and those of the public who have an interest in knowing about them. Their publication as new revelations have had the impact of affirmation, confirming what was suspected or previously leaked in more modest proportions.

But Mr. Assange views himself rather pompously as a hero, and he has an adulating public who view him likewise. And as a hero, reviled by politicians for his revelatory escapades, he feels himself embattled, certain that sinister forces plan to demolish his illicit news-gathering and -distribution empire, and to visit physical harm upon his illustrious self.

To that end, Sweden has obviously made an evil pact with the United States to discredit him and ultimately to spirit him away to America. Their dastardly plan is to take possession of his poor body to control his brilliant mind.

To bring a halt to his exploitation of the public's hunger to know all the unnerving and revelatory details of how their governments manipulate their positions on the world stage. Including the cover-ups of unforgivingly unfortunate situations they may have blundered into on their way to fashioning a world order of co-operative calm. Visiting misfortune upon some, sparing others.

Breach of his human rights! claims Mr. Assange, stage-managing one public announcement after another, bravely struggling to maintain his equilibrium and his courage under fire. "It is a result of the European Arrest Warrant system run amok. There was no consideration during this entire process as to the merits of the allegations against me", he plaintively mewled to throngs of journalists.

International journalists eager to make copy relating the details known to them and complemented by the hero's own testimony against the unfairness of it all. Could the irony of the situation be lost on many? Documents meant for no eyes but those of the court, somehow leaked to the press - foul, we say foul!!!

The master manipulator of illicitly-gained documents, the super-journalist scooping all those hacks, playing to their sympathies.

The two women whom he is accused of having violated were WikiLeaks volunteers who thought an evening with the Maestro would just put the froth on their cappuccino treats. The man, however, is rather sexually brutish, not the merest bit of a courtly lover whatever, taking unfair advantage of unaware partners.

Under the circumstances, more of a dodgy troglodyte than a rapist.

He most certainly did sexually molest the women who consented initially then did not. After which it was a case of taking illicit liberties, and Mr. Assange is known for taking illicit liberties; that is his shtick, after all. Under Swedish law protecting women from predatory men he committed a crime. The punishment for which he prefers to evade.

Has anyone heard him express a modicum of regret for his swinish behaviour?

He will fight to the last breath in his body... All the way to the Supreme Court, if need be. And he very much resents bail set for the bank account of a tycoon. He is not yet there. It is an evil conspiracy to silence Assange and WikiLeaks. Worse, governments and the corporate interests behind them are interested in severing Mr. Assange's most intimate ties with life.

There are plans afoot to spirit him to America and from there to Guantanamo Bay. Where a truly unfortunate accident will take place, claiming the poor man's life. Rail, rail against the dark night of misfortune!

Back to the dismal life swanning around a mansion.

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The "Clumsy Don Juan"

Queen's Bench Justice Robert Dewar of Manitoba revealed his antediluvian biases more than adequately in the thought processes behind his judgement that no jail time was warranted for a rapist because, according to the judge's reckoning, Kenneth Rhodes who received signals that the woman whom he decided to violate gave off signals that she "wanted to party".

Those signals more than adequately demonstrated in their speech, their enthusiasm, their manner of dress. The raped woman and her accompanying girlfriend were wearing tube tops with no bra, high heels and makeup. Tube tops are made to be worn without bras. Women mostly wear high heels when they're out for the night - or at any other time. Most women also wear makeup.

These mark the currently prevailing dress code of most young women who live in a free society. One that has laws to protect the innocent from criminal acts directed against them. And which has long ago abandoned the old myths that served for far too long to victimize women. In contrast to many male-dominated cultures that blame women for irresistibly luring men to violate them.

The judge felt the the women's makeup was excessive, their bra-less tube tops signalling they were prepared to indulge in intimate relations, their high heels provocative. And of course, men being men they are helpless, hapless creatures, nastily manipulated by women who have the devil in them. Making those women undeserving of respect, and ripe for rape.

Too bad about Kenneth Rhodes, the judge moaned, empathy obvious for his dilemma; the clear incapacity to control his virile energies that obviously escalated into undeniable priapic urgency thanks to the provocations of the 26-year-old woman he had paired with for the evening. A getting-to-know-you evening, where two young women met two young men on a night out.

"They made their intention publicly known that they wanted to party", the judge concluded. 'Party' obviously denoting that they were signalling they were prepared to have sex with the men. That was obvious because of the manner of their dress, their social exuberance, their chattering of swimming in a nearby lake that night "notwithstanding the fact neither of them had a bathing suit".

Damn, damn, damning!

They left the bar parking lot and made their way into a wooded area, after meeting outside a bar in "inviting circumstances". Invitation to abuse was written all over these women's faces, their gestures, their open friendliness. Hostility to the young men's interest in them would have represented a far more socially acceptable device, according to the judge's way of thinking.

"This is a different case than one where there is no perceived invitation", claimed the judge. "This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behaviour." Rape is a criminal offence, it does not quality as "inconsiderate behaviour" to excuse its violent contempt of a woman's right to retain ownership of her body.

The defence lawyer brought in another mitigating circumstance, that alcohol was involved, obviously impacting on the judgement of both the rapist and his unwilling victim. His client did not threaten the woman, had no weapon, was simply "insensitive to the fact (she) was not a willing participant." Adducing mere lack of civility in this matter is ludicrous.

"Protection of society is not advanced one iota by putting Mr. Rhodes in jail", explained Judge Dewar in his great good wisdom.

How he arrives at that comfortable conclusion is beyond the understanding of most men and women who understand quite well that predatory men who claim that they have been provoked beyond endurance, and that their act of rape was not deliberate, and find their claims of innocence well received, with the penalty helpfully eased, will encourage other such events and claims.

This is the kind of inexcusable, obnoxious precedent-setting finding in law that sets back decades of acknowledgement that rape is a violent and vicious tool of sociopaths, social deviants and misogynists. The blame is placed squarely on the victim, extenuating reasons are found for the aggressor.

Yes, punishment for his crime was handed down in the form of a year-long curfew, the man's name placed on the national sex-offender registry. He will be ordered to write a letter of apology to his victim. She will doubtless have learned a life-lesson.

It's doubtful that her rapist will have.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Beware Greeks Bearing Grudges

Europe is not a happy place, lately. Austerity measures are no more popular there than anywhere else in the world. There have been protests against belt-tightening everywhere in the world; strikes and protests and union demands, from Israel to the United States, Europe to the Middle East. People are angry as they see food and energy prices rise while their incomes do not.

And they don't want to take it anymore.

There's a big difference, however, between angry strikes and anarchic protests. Between civil disobedience and violent disorder. Once again Greeks have gone on a rampage to let their government know they have no intention of quietly submitting to the austerity measures it wishes to impose upon them at the demand of the International Monetary Fund.

The European Union and the IMF have extended a $150-billion rescue loan to Greece, after all, and understandably they would appreciate the assurance that Greece is serious about undertaking financial reforms, for they would like to be repaid eventually, thank you very much. The IMF is pressing George Papandreou to speed up structural reforms.

And the Greek populace is responding by raging against the recession and the imposition being placed on the normalcy of their lives and their expectations. Tens of thousands of workers, pensioners and students marched in protests, the hell with the debt crisis. Riot police were out in force at Athens' central Syntagma Square letting loose tear gas.

Bahrain has its Pearl Square, Libya its Green Square, Tunisia its Mohammad Bouazizi Square, Egypt its Tahrir Square, and Greece has its Syntagma Square. Where protesters marched to express their disgust over the prices of food and goods not matching their ability to purchase, and where they expressed their unwillingness to be governed by those who ignored their fundamental needs.

In Wisconsin, the Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives fled the state to deprive the Republican majority from a quorum required to pass a bill restricting worker's rights to collective bargaining, in an effort to bring the state's finances under control. In Greece protesters are out in force flinging stones and firebombs, vandalizing transit stops, and setting fire to trash bins.

A wholesale rejection of the government's economic policies in the wake of the country's near bankruptcy. In attempting to reduce its debt of over $400-billion, the government thought to lease state assets: "We want the government to drop all these measures, to abandon plans to sell property!"

The union-led strikes paralyzed maritime traffic and train services, disrupted the capital's urban transport and flights and resulted in a news black-out. Hospitals and schools were affected, and public administration offices and banks shut down. The population generously assisting its government in coming to grips with the country's debt crisis.

Very civilized.

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Giving Us A Break

Canadians have no wish to go to the polls. We would vastly prefer not to. Right now. Or anytime soon, for that matter. This is a well-known fact. It has been delivered loud and clear through poll after poll where voters are encouraged to state their opinion on the subject. Very few have jumped for joy at the prospect of hauling themselves out to the voting booths again.

The leaders of Canada's political parties are very well aware of this fact.

The purpose of political parties is to make every conceivable effort to persuade the voting public that their party, and theirs alone, is singularly capable of administering the affairs of the country. If they happen not to be the dominant governing party at any given time they will spare no effort to degrade the governing abilities of the reigning party, and to pick apart their decision-making, and to offer themselves as the only reasonable alternative.

At one time in the history of Canadian politics all of this took place through reasonable debate and to a muted degree, mutual respect. Those are civil ingredients no longer much in evidence in the political parties of today. Nor does there appear to be much willingness on the part of the parties; the governing party and its opposition, to co-operate for the higher purpose of doing justice to their combined potential in representing the public weal.

The Conservative-led government is prepared to bring down their latest budget. While the country is beginning to recover from the deleterious effects of the global financial downturn. It is fairly well agreed by a good proportion of the electorate that the Conservative-led government has performed very well in steering Canada into the current balancing act. Our recovery remains in a somewhat frail state, edging toward robust hopefulness.

But we do have a very substantial deficit and we most definitely own far too onerous a debt. Which has led the Government of Canada to conclude that some measure of belt-tightening in government spending itself must now proceed until such time as the deficit has been conquered.

The Liberal Party and the Bloc Quebecois have let it be known they have no intention of supporting the government's soon-t0-be-released budget. But the New Democratic Party could be persuaded to do so.

This is a scenario that has played itself out many times before. Usually it is the NDP supporting a Liberal-led government. But accommodation has been made between the NDP and the Conservatives also. And Jack Layton doesn't feel obscurity is compatible with his vision for himself or his party.

He has therefore offered to side with the Conservatives should they in their electoral wisdom deem it feasible and needful to agree with his very specific and costly proposals to remove federal tax from home heating bills, restore the home-retrofit program; improve GIS for seniors, substantially increase the numbers of doctors and nurses in the country.

All cost-intensive, which appears to run counter to the government's intentions bordering on a bit of austerity. Although the Conservatives haven't shirked from spending to pull the country out of recession, now that the pulling has succeeded, the spending should too. But not if the NDP has anything to say about it. Besides, all of its suggestions are good ones, giving us all a break.

The Conservatives must be hugging themselves with glee. They're up in the polls, flirting with the edge of a potential majority. Having an election foisted on their unwilling heads, with an irate public hauling out to the polls is guaranteed not to boost NDP fortunes, and may just elevate the Conservatives.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Libyan Slaughter, No Problem

Libyans, having mustered the determination and the courage to shed their fear of their tyrannical overlord, are demanding their country be returned to them. They have an overwhelming need to see their country become a fair and just and free one, with their futures assured as free and proud citizens of a decent country under a respectable administration.

To attain that dream they are sacrificing themselves in a crucible of fire.

Ably administered by their great Revolutionary Leader of long standing who has never brooked a hint of opposition to his position as the only possible head of Libya, visualizing himself as he is now in perpetuity. And he has vowed passionately to bring down the wrath of the powers he is capable of assembling upon the bared heads of those who no longer act as supplicants but rather deserving recipients of respect.

What began with truncheons and tear gas is continuing with helicopter gunships and mercenaries well armed and paid and encouraged to shoot to kill, often and accurately. And as the merciless and most deliberate slaughter of Libya's civilian population in towns and cities that have discovered their revolutionary power continues, the world watches, aghast.

The Secretary General of the United Nations lets it be known that he has himself, personally, spoken with Col. Gadhafi and implored (sorry, that should be ordered) him to cease, immediately, the onslaught on his people. The United States, following the far more immediate lead of members of the European Union and the Arab States, has finally, tentatively, spoken of how "outrageous and unacceptable" the situation is.

And the United Nations Security Council, while being somewhat exercised over the unfortunate turn of events which sees the human rights of ordinary Libyans being trampled into the dust of eternity with death after death, finds it difficult to muster the required quorum of condemnation to give meaning to such a statement. For China and Russia have no interest in outright condemnation of a sovereign nation.

Not to be outdone, the United Nations Human Rights Commission, of which (!)Libya(!) is an outstanding member, along with (!)China, (!)Cuba, (!)Nigeria, (!)Saudi Arabia(!), (!)Pakistan(!), Russia(!) and other assorted Islamic states sees no particular reason to issue a statement of befuddlement at the very least, that one of its integral members is busy slaughtering its citizens.

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Gadhafi's Iron Grip

It is not yet a jubilant revolution, but will become one. The question is at what cost to human life?

Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi, in his raving rants has stated that he has not yet ordered his armed forces to deploy for the greatest effect in putting down the popular insurrection. A blasphemous one, in his regard. His gruesome disregard for the lives of his subjects mark him as the monster he is. But then he has always been known as a 'mad dog' of a revolutionary dictator.

His history of training, arming and sending out terrorists abroad branded with the holy fire of Islam is well enough known. He was long since identified as the Globe's single most significant supplier of world-wide terror. His exploits recognized and he held in abhorrence as a megalomaniac lunatic. Yet this did not stop world leaders from ingratiating themselves with him in the name of acquiring rights to fossil fuel extraction.

His sly and crafty recognition that he could parlay the world's greed for energy into a general pardon for all the violent ills he has ever committed in the deliberate murder of thousands of human beings speaks volumes about the principles and character invested in those whom the free world elect to represent their best interests in executive, administration, lawmaking capacity.

Nor did the greed and the felonies start and stop with oil extraction, since the sale of advanced weaponry to this madman, and the helpful training of his Revolutionary Guard by foreign powers also represented a chapter in the long story of his acceptance as a world leader of a respectable country. His feral cunning stood him in good stead; others saw him as unique, complex, unpredictable.

He was all of that, and absolutely starkly without conscience, as the ultimate representative of what nature can produce in the form of a hugely damaged psychopathic personality. It is amazing that the country's best minds, those individuals whose abilities led them into the professions of law, medicine, science and business accustomed themselves to bend to the will of this soldier.

Finally, they rose en masse with courage overtaking the fear in their hearts, and demanded justice. Finally, they followed the lead of the youth of Libya who truly were fearless in their insistence on being recognized and deserving of opportunities and respect. The wealth of their country's resources used to obtain weapons, no thought to governmental and civil infrastructure.

The brutal tyrant declaring himself to be his nation's father and that all who valued their lives must view him as their deity. Just as the Almighty permits events to reveal themselves in all their raw and primal fervour, never intervening as some elements of civilization unravel civilization and resort to primitive carnage on their fellow humans, so too does Gadhafi reign.
"We want the international media to drive in with their cameras and see for themselves what they have done to Benghazi. They were burning people alive. When the army refused to fire at their brothers, the mercenaries set them on fire."

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Events, Unfolding As They Will

Strange how things have worked out. George W. Bush was considered to be a bit of a roughneck, an anti-intellectual, not too bright as evidenced presumably by his mangled syntax. The current President of the United States represents the polar opposite; a smoothly cosmopolitan academic whose lyrical rhetoric transfixed his audience who worshiped him into the White House.

When the fearfully dramatic, horribly destructive 9-11 attacks occurred, the American administration was swift to arrange for flights from the United States to the Middle East - in skies that went into immediate lock-down - to spirit Saudi royals out of the U.S. With the knowledge that most of the attackers were Saudi nationals, as was Osama bin Laden. American corporate ties with Saudi Arabia overrode all other considerations.

The Bushes, father and son, both in the oil business doing work on behalf of corporate tycoons and Saudi royals whose close personal relationship with the Bush clan was semi-public knowledge, made their accommodation somehow with the fact that those two things intersected; lucrative oil transactions, and a Wahhabist ruling class that generously funded jihad.

In the new administration, with a president who felt it was his mission to mend relationships with the Muslim world, Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world on a trip to Cairo, offering a hand of friendship to Iran. Predictably, Iran shunned any offers of conciliation. American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan did not endear the U.S. to the Arab/Muslim world, though this was a situation President Obama inherited from his predecessor.

As an American, as an American President, Barack Obama could not but be committed to the wars that were handed over to him. Just as he had of necessity to take responsibility for the financial collapse that was inherited thanks in large part to the previous administrations' (including a Democratic one) laissez faire attitude toward accountability and responsibility.

What is telling at this point is the reaction of the diplomatic/academic/statesman/world leader to the events that have suddenly exploded on the world stage, with the meltdown of long-time Arab and Muslim, Middle East and North African traditional politics, from dictatorships to tyrannies, theocracies to monarchies - and they are not all quite the same thing.

Just as the situations in each of those countries; Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Algeria, Libya, Jordan, Syria and Iran is somewhat different by degree, by their discrete populations' levels of education, wealth and expectations. And by their regimes' level of permissible openness in accountability, the news media, religious dictates.

Barack Obama's - and by extension, America's - lacklustre reaction to situations they hardly know how to parse and react to, vacillating, attempting to bide time, ending up failing the test of reliability if not outright extension of loyalty to past long-time allies in the geography has vexed and dismayed Saudi Arabia. For it now understands that should finally its own population become sufficiently fed up with the status quo, its American ally would decamp.

All the trust and support emanating from the West toward the autocratic regimes of the Middle East have suddenly gushed down the drainpipe of events washing away the despotic and fear-driven restraints of the socially and politically oppressed. Wobbling on the edge of collapse are both the moderately autocratic regimes and the savagely repressive ones.

Europe is now concerned with the prospect not only of losing a goodly portion of its energy supplies, but also of becoming overrun by migrants desperate to escape the turmoil being unleashed in their countries of origin. The United States is facing the prospect of energy shortages reminiscent of what occurred in the mid-to-late 1970s when rationing became a near reality.

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I Am Here in Tripoli

Not, however, for very much longer, to the absolute amazement of the world at large. The madly megalomaniacal monster that former U.S. President Ronald Regan dubbed a "mad dog" is on track to joining the only country in the world that will have him; Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez in 2009, standing alongside his historical soulmate declared: "we are writing new pages of history, we are here to change history, and create a new socialism, a new world."

Moammar Gadhafi may have videoed his presence in Tripoli, defying a sadly premature rumour he had fled his country, but it is yet early days in a swift-moving upheaval in a country that has been burdened for too many decades under his criminally eccentric rule. No country in the Middle East or Africa would be interested in giving him haven. The word has gone out for a complete repudiation of the mad man of Libya.

The head of the International Union of Islamic Scholars has issued a fatwa against the ravening lunatic still in control of Libya's armed forces. That religious edict called for action: "Whoever in the Libyan army is able to shoot a bullet at Mr. Gadhafi should do so". The Egyptian Islamic theologian Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi also urged military personnel in Libya "not to obey orders to strike at your own people".

Gadhafi cunningly played Europe for fossil-fuelled favours to overlook his terrorist plagues. He has now declared his intention to put down the rebellion that young 'drug-addled Libyan men, whose services have been bought by mendacious Western interests to destabilize the country' have caused. He has declared protests of his rule are regarded as a capital offence, and all those involved would be punished by execution.

He has sent warplanes into the air to strafe protesters, and helicopter gunships to demonstrate just how serious he is about putting down the rebellion. He has brought in African mercenaries to do his bidding, to slaughter those who dare resist his ironclad rule. The mercenaries have no loyalty or compassion for the Libyan population, firing into crowds, funeral processions, peoples' homes.
Homes that are beginning to run low on food, potable water and medicine.

The Arab League has condemned Gadhafi's harsh crackdown, and taken steps to suspend Libya from the League. Col. Gadhafi's foreign ambassadors have begun to desert his leaking ship of state. "We are sure that what is going on now in Libya is crimes against humanity and crimes of war", Libya's deputy permanent representative to the UN declared before reporters in New York as his colleagues looked on tensely.

Libya's UN representative, Ibrahim O. Dabbashi, issued this statement: "We warn all African countries who are sending their soldiers to fight, to fight with Gadhafi, that they will not see their soldiers coming back". And interestingly enough there are reports that those despised African mercenaries whom protest groups have been able to capture and confine have been summarily dispatched by the mobs, to meet their maker.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, in Cairo to offer his country's effusive willingness to assist the new regime-in-the-making has characterized the events unfolding in Libya as "quite appalling". He informed the media that he has tasked his officials to investigate whether any British-made weapons were being used in the "vicious repression".

Well, likely, Mr. Prime Minister, since Britain had undertaken to train Libyan police in 2008/2009, providing them with crowd control ammunition and tear gas.

Has he such a short memory that he cannot recall Britain's humanitarian transfer of Lockerbie bomber mastermind Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in exchange for a lucrative oil deal with Libya to favour BP? Which, along with other British corporate interests in the country, inclusive of GlaxoSmithKline, KPMG, Shell and Standard Chartered enjoy business dealings in the country. Has he thought of halting investments until such time as Gadhafi decamps?

For surely there is more to come, as promised by Saif al-Islam, the Libyan reformer, who has threatened that his father's regime is prepared to "fight to the last bullet", warning of a bloody civil war should the protest groups not be prepared to back down, for his father will not. But when he does, because he will be forced to ultimately, what will there be in his stead?

With the vast riches that the state (Gadhafi) acquired through fossil fuel production and export, where is the state infrastructure and the executive administration, the knowledgeable civilian technocrats, to run the country? The Islamist groups that Gadhafi was so anxious to send out over the world to wreak their mischief on his behalf now stand ready to pounce within Libya.

This inchoate anarchy is the legacy of a mad man who was recognized as such, even as he was being courted by Western business interests and their governments, and by his collegial co-rulers and -tyrants in the Middle East.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

The Dilemma of Incendiary Pakistan

Pakistan, the world's leading tinderbox. The eyes and ears of the world are riveted upon the Middle East, and the upheavals of mass protests in Arab, Muslim and North African countries. The drama that is unfolding, the violence and the misery of the people transfixes the international community. The world of the West feels an especial responsibility, wringing hands and hoping to be able to maintain a degree of reasonability in their relationships.

Whom to support, and to promise future funding, trade and investment with? Concerns that with Libya falling into brief anarchy until the unseating of Colonel Ghaddafi an interruption in critical oil exports will imperil the fragile global economy still teetering on the brink of a relapse. But as inchoate as is the situation in the region at the present time, it is as nothing in comparison to the volcanic social, political, religious upheavals in Pakistan.

The country's cities have become a battleground as gunfire echoes on their streets and areas considered to be safe zones prove to be otherwise. Fanatical Islamist militants otherwise known as fascist jihadists determined to bring strict shariah and Islamist rule first to Pakistan, then spread throughout the area and finally the world at large, are grasping their opportunities and they are many.

Suicide bombers explode their bombs, and foreign investment is evaporating; even wealthy Pakistanis will not invest in their critically insecure country. Millions of people are on the verge of starvation, unable to return to the security of their rural areas after the epic monsoon floods that drove them from their homes, their fields, their livelihoods. Regional tensions are aflame.

Corruption is, as always, rampant. The once proud judiciary is at a standstill of indecision and trepidation for the future. The new reality is that no one is safe from the threat of assassination. The government of President Asif Ali Zardari stands teetering on the edge of collapse, with his own awareness that he might, at any time be toppled by his own army chiefs who might simply choose death for him.

The country has been unable to fully seize the day in battling its internal threat of terrorism, leaving the country destabilized and a threat to the geography. Jihad against India is never far from the agenda of the Islamists who are still supported by Pakistan's military. The potential for a conflict with the engagement of nuclear weapons is always a possibility on the dread horizon.

The country's economy, dependent on loans from the International Monetary Fund, is in dire condition, with growth rates at a creep and unemployment estimated at 34% even while the price of basic goods and foods are steeply rising. Fully 37% of the country's population is under age 14, leaving Pakistan to become the world's most populous - and indigent - Muslim state by 2030.

Sectarian violence is growing with Sunni and Shiite assassinating one another through routine drive-by shootings. Tribal animosities and religious party contests are part of the misery. Targeted killings are ongoing. Kashmir remains a tinder box. Human rights abuses are endemic. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas and North West Frontier Province are now in the hands of the fundamentalists.

And this is the sole Muslim country to date with a full arsenal of nuclear weapons. That arsenal is growing. Balancing it is the fact that the country hosts more terrorists than any other; it is a breeding ground for training jihadists who then fan out over the world. This is a doomsday scenario.

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Collective Memory

"And there is nothing we can do about that. They are the winners and we are the losers; we are dominated and they are dominant."
It truly is hard to credit that intelligent people can permit themselves to feel the corrosive resentment of history still boiling away wreaking havoc with their sensibilities so they cannot perceive that what they resent is simply not worthy of a second thought. Yet throughout the world there are ethnic, religious, tribal groups whose ancient handed-down memories of assaults on their honour, on their integrity, on their possessions, on their geography, remain resonant to this very day.

How intelligent is it, however, to allow one's every waking thoughts to linger on ancient grievances, never quite moving on from there, simply nursing resentment after resentment? Nothing is ever accomplished by it, those who represented the aggressors, the despoilers, the victors, have little wish to admit to what they are accused of, or they view those historical events in the context of the times, not the present.

There is little satisfaction to be had for the simmering resentment, even if those whom they accuse will express regret long after the fact. For the fact is, it was another world, another time, with far different values. And imperial conquests where one country battled another for hegemonic or settlement rights belong in the distant past, the results of those events expressing the consequences that everyone should have learned to live with.

Which hasn't stopped Quebecois from nursing their aggrievement over a battlefield where their 'side' succumbed to the superior battle strategy of the 'other side' in a struggle for supremacy. And despite that the 'other side' was surprisingly magnanimous in their recognition of the merits of permitting the vanquished to have their culture and their language protected with the enactment of new laws, this has never been accepted as satisfactory.

The 18th Century Conquest of New France bridles and infuriates pure laine Quebecois. Imagine, a history teacher bitterly admitting "I am very much aware, even today in 2008, that they won and we lost the war". Imagine another teacher of impressionable young French students admitting that he discusses the situation as a signal case study of the historical message that to the victor go the spoils.

As though Quebec and its population of still-resentful francophones cannot yet bring themselves to feel any kind of meaningful relationship with Canada because they have been blinded by a rage that will not dwindle; that of a conquered people having to submit to the superior might of an alien culture, language and politics. Let alone religion, even though said religion has long since been relegated to heritage status.

These are insecure, immature and juvenile maunderings of a people wilfully allowing themselves to be traumatized by events they had no part in, the memory of which is sufficient to send them into lugubrious doldrums upon recall. The indulgence in the bathos of having been cheated of their rightful place in history, their resentment of the reality that the province of Quebec is but one of many provinces to make a coherent nation is pathetic.

Quebec was not built solely by the French. There were many other ethnic, religious and cultural groups who invested generations of lives in its formation to present as what it is today. Those 'other' provincial occupants of the province saw it as theirs, too, though they never thought to wrest it from the French. Quebec's response to all of this is continued anger over the unfairness of it all.

The enactment of draconian language laws, the rejection of overtures by the rest of Canada, a deliberate need to cut themselves off culturally and linguistically from the rest of Canada has been the result. A nation unto itself, it struggles to proudly present itself as coherently other than what obtains elsewhere in the country. When it teaches its young their proud history it is as a long-suffering population ill done by.

The English-speaking component, the ethnic minorities who immigrated to the province to help it become itself, are seen as no legitimate and deserving part of that history. They remain incidental, ignored and despised. In part that is understandable because of the traditional Anglo superiority over the ignorant, church-obsessed 19th and early 20th Century French fact.

But since the Quiet Revolution and the rejection and overturning of Anglo manipulation and tamping down of francophone rights, there has been no excuse for the French fact not to accommodate itself in a far more mature manner toward the rest of the country.

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Live Ammunition!

So civilized, exhibiting the traditional Muslim courtesy toward others, and concern for their well-being. These are the Arab world's boasts of themselves, exemplifying Islam's pacifying and brotherly concepts of worship of a peaceful deity. The deep malaise that affected Egypt and caused its youth to rise up in a final paroxysm of defiance against authority that seemed to take its army by complete surprise, is now playing itself out in far more rigid and tyrannical regimes.

Where Egyptian protesters, detesting the brutality of their police, railed against their obedience to the regime in initiating a violent crackdown in the initial stages of their protests, the army presented itself as one with the people. An illusion, to be sure, but not entirely. Enough so that the protesters saw in the representatives of their armed forces, a concern for the welfare of the people, even though the commanding officers would brook no threat to their authority and power.

Far different is the situation now unfolding with methodical and brutal thoroughness in Bahrain, where King Hamad did indeed, as was done also in Egypt, initiate some reforms that he felt his people were prepared for. Never dreaming that there would be an event on the near horizon that would incite his people to rail against his rule. For 'his people' included those who were enraged that they were not included amongst his people; he a Sunni, they Shiites.

The first protests garnered attention, and placatory statements issuing from the halls of power. King Hamad sent his son to smooth things over, to assure the protesters that their demands were heard and would be given due consideration. This mollified no one and the protests continued and continued to grow. And then reason was lost to hysteria in the threat being posed and the lethal hand of the rulers was ungloved.

First tear gas, and when that crowd-management device proved insufficiently effective, live ammunition. Troops brought in during the night hours while protesters slept, to fire upon them. And direct assaults during the following daytime hours. Desperate to escape the carnage, people attempted to flee the terror that they could not believe was being visited upon them, and screams were heard: "They are killing our people! They are killing our people!"

Not all fled. Some dauntlessly stood their ground defiantly determined to face their tormentors rather than turn their backs, to be fired upon. Holding their arms up, hands to the sky as though imploring a divine will to rescue them, they shouted their intent: "Peaceful, Peaceful!" Around them, others knelt on the ground to feverishly pray for divine intervention.

Anti-aircraft guns terrified them, tear gas blinded them, and people fled in a panic of survival as helicopter gunships sprayed the area and paramedics left their ambulances to try to retrieve the wounded. And they too became victims. The regime sealing its own doomed casket that will be buried deep in the ground of historical misfortune.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Humanity's Advance

Thoughtful people have without a doubt noticed this phenomenon; that educated, talented, intelligent people tend to have fewer children than people who live in ignorance and poverty. And in a world where we have learned to share, and to care and to assist others, more children born to poverty than ever are growing to adulthood. Some, if not most, destined to remain mired in poverty, where lack of exposure to educational and employment opportunities have not restrained them from having more children.

The intellectual elite plan their families. Those who will have none because they feel the world already struggles far too much to accommodate too many people. Those who relent, and have one or two, to whose physical and intellectual welfare they dedicate themselves to ensure they receive a good upbringing and education, prepared to take their responsible place in society. Theirs is a dwindling society; they barely replace themselves. So the pool of the genetically intellectually endowed is not growing apace, but stagnating.

On the other side of the equation is the immensely larger pool of the ordinary, non-cerebral drudges who perform menial duties or none at all if they live off social welfare. Amazingly, these are the people who manage to breed without a thought to the future. They are simply doing 'what comes naturally', and the outcome of what comes naturally is not necessarily a happy family with parents nourishing the bodily and mental/social needs of children. All too often the result is children growing up in a less than supportive environment, never realizing their potential.

We do have, within society, the example of a specific group of people of an ethnic, cultural, social and religious/historical background forced by a peculiar reality eliciting hostility from the greater community around them, to distinguish themselves as a matter of survival. Treated as inferiors by the commanding majority and unable to apply themselves to the usual course of employment available to others they sought alternate means by which they could support themselves.

The result was in a manner the survival of the fittest. Peoople who became by necessity more intellectually nimble, seeking out alternate means of livelihood. In the process another reality; Ashkenazi Jews who managed to distinguish themselves by their superior contribution to intellectual life, where that ethnic group representing a mere one-600th of the world's population has been enabled by their determination and DNA profile, to amass a quarter of the Nobel Prizes awarded to outstanding exemplars of human accomplishment and achievement.

Fascist Germany took the outsider status of habitually mistrusted and detested Jews to a greater more existential threat level than their predecessor anti-Semites who only slaughtered Jews in fits and starts through progroms. The Nazi regime sought to eradicate them en masse as inferior pests, portraying them as caricatures of decent human beings. The ultimate revenge upon a world that could not persuade itself to care enough, was to endure, and survive the onslaught.

And throughout human history there has always been, within any given human population those ordinary people of the masses, and among them a handful with superior mental endowments. It is not all that surprising, given the numbers then, that the majority will go on producing replicas of themselves, while the scant minority will look beyond themselves. Human advancement in the arts and sciences owes all to the few.

And they are becoming fewer.

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The Shoemaker's Son

The shoemaker's son famously went unshod. His poor old Daddy was just too busy, too tired, too poor to do anything but focus his attention on the needs of his customers. Thus no time left nor materials to produce boots for his child. That's a hoary old tale, but it's also a maxim. It almost fits the scenario of equalization transfer payments that have ensured poverty of services for the 'have' provinces of Confederation, and richness of service choices for the 'have-not' provinces.

And while the original idea might have had some merit in concept, the practise has proven to be somewhat inferior in outcome. Because it just is not fair. That taxpayers in provinces that have been able to parlay their human intelligence and their natural resources into a good, solid financial performance in employment and trade, sending their tax dollars to the federal government for re-distribution, as good citizens of the country are getting short shrift.

While taxpayers who live in provinces that have found it comfortable to settle in with far less internal expectations, incapable through inertia or lack of enterprise or disinterest in being independently responsible - or all combined, are able to access the kind of services that the others can not. It's like the welfare recipients who weigh the balance between receiving social assistance against that of a working wage, and go for the welfare option.

Less stress and strain and far more generous for far too many. The productively responsible provinces - not too many of them; traditionally three in fact, balancing out the remainder. (Saskatchewan and Newfoundland are now capable of taking Ontario's traditional seat on the giving triumvirate.) Competitive, enterprising Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia have 24% fewer nurses than New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Manitoba.

Ditto nursing home beds per capita, and hospital beds per 100,000 population; 42% higher in the take provinces than the give provinces. In B.C., Alberta and Ontario average university tuition is over $5,000 and averages $2,000 less in Manitoba, Quebec and P.E.I. Regulated childcare spaces for children under five sees Manitoba, Quebec, P.E.I. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with 1 space for every 4 children, compared to 1 space for every 5 elsewhere in Canada.

The Atlantic provinces have 20 publicly funded universities and colleges; 3 less than Ontario, which has over five times the population. Subsidized electrical power in Manitoba comes at the expense of the provinces who support Manitoba's program, but cannot afford to do the same for their taxpayers. In recipient provinces public sector comprises between 50% and 70% of the economy; 1 in 4 workers there employed by the public sector.

Ontario is scheduled this year to pay $6-billion into equalization, and humbly, for the second year, will receive $1-billion in transfer aid. This is a half-century formula that has proven to be an absolute failure, helping, on a macro level - seen amply on the municipal level to discourage those who can to help themselves, rather than rely on public subscription - to create absurd disparities.

Absurd, because the equalization program was meant to ensure that all provinces would be capable of providing for their populations equal services to begin with. By any measurement of accomplishment this one is an abject failure.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

National Contrasts

China must surely be one of the few countries of the world that encourages its citizens to smoke. The national revenues acquired through taxation of tobacco and the fact that the government itself is inextricably involved in tobacco production as a revenue-retrieving renewable crop seems to be paramount. Incentives are given generously to farmers who grow tobacco. Farmers are able, in China, to make a better living growing food crops than tobacco, but they are encouraged to grow tobacco crops by government agencies.

At times of drought, precious water for irrigation of tobacco leaf growth will be made available through government auspices for tobacco growers, but will be withheld from farmers growing food crops. China is the largest tobacco producer in the world, producing approximately one-third of world output. Most of which is processed into cigarettes meant strictly for domestic consumption. Of a population of roughly 1.3-billion, it is estimated that over 320-million Chinese are smokers, and another half-billion suffer from second-hand effects as 'passive smokers'.

All the dreaded health hazards associated with smoking are visited upon Chinese smokers no less than elsewhere in the world. Elsewhere in the world, however, national governments, in recognition of the deadly effects of tobacco on human health, have taken strenuous efforts to warn their populations of the cumulative and deadly morbidity rates in long-term smoking. Whereas in China that national conscience has yet to emerge.

Reason: representing less than 1% of sown agricultural land, tobacco growing and manufacturing processes, generated about 95 billion in tax and profit a decade ago for the government. Contrasted with less than half that, at 40 billion to tax revenues through the entire agricultural sector. Taxes and profit from tobacco production result in 15% of net income for the government.
Compelling reason for the state to hold back on warning consumers of deleterious health effects.

And in Canada, the government has launched through Health Canada, a new set of impressively graphic health warnings to be printed both on the exterior and interior of cigarette packages. "Canada is the only country in the world that actually takes over the inside of the package as well as the outside", explained Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. "This is really innovative."

Under the draft legislation Tobacco companies will be compelled to use four toxic emission messages to be included on the side panels of cigarette packages, along with a choice of 12 new images meant to cover 75% of the outside panels of packages. To be effective and in place by year's end. And the eight new health messages which will be appearing, in full colour,on the inside of packages.

Effectively resulting in Canada's newest efforts to emphatically get the damaged-health message across to the smoking public. To take full effect at the distributor and retail levels by 2012.

In Canada, taxes on tobacco sales were increased years ago, in an effort to make smoking less affordable, to encourage smokers to reduce their smoking habit. And to encourage adolescents to understand that this is an expensive habit, one that will hit their disposable income as well as their future health. Because of the politics involved in dealing with illegal production and sale of unauthorized contraband cigarettes in the aboriginal community, Canada has a severe hiccough in its meaningful attacks on cigarette consumption.

Aboriginal, First Nations communities that advertise themselves as 'sovereign', under their own laws and recognizance, oppose federal government interference in their production and sale of illicit tobacco. The new packaging rules will not, as a result, apply to contraband cigarettes produced on aboriginal reserves, despite their accounting for 20% of the Canadian market. And aimed in large part, at consumption by young people for whom the far lower cost is critical.

The First Nations reserves, in other words, acting in moral compliance and ethical agreement with the Government of China - intent on enhancing their incomes - considering as irrelevant to their larger purpose the impact on peoples' health, well enough recognized through scientific enquiry and medical research.

Impartial, non-subjective values. Submission to the overriding concern of revenue enhancement. Responsible governance. Seen otherwise: people do have the privilege of invoking personal choice, responsibility, pride in the useful virtue of intelligent choices.

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Problematic But Admissible

Dreadfully, no doubt bitterly disappointed . But the extradition defence team working for justice on behalf of former (part-time) university lecturer Hassan Diab, will not let matters rest there. There will be appeals. And plans to take the matter all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Which august body, given the nature of the appeal; an extradition hearing, a rather routine matter, will likely refuse to entertain.

It does strike one as odd that France, confident in issuing to signatory countries extradition requests, will not herself accede to such requests from external sources. On the other hand, in this instance an exceptional case of sinister outside sources intent on conducting an assault on France's security of its citizens with a view to committing mass murder has impinged on the country's honour and respect of its citizens' rights to liberty, equality and above all, life.

The case against Mr. Diab may seem to his defenders to be a tenuous one. In which case the prosecutor has his work cut out for him. No one could honestly argue that a country like France which takes justice seriously and its reputation for meting out justice far more seriously, will not conduct a fair trial. If there exists, when the prosecution has completed his evidential work, a hint of doubt, one trusts there will be an acquittal.

It is horribly inconvenient and dauntingly disturbing for anyone to have their life upended to such a degree. Honest and innocent people are often enough accused of crimes whose commission they had no part in. In Canada, just as in other countries, justice has on occasion gone astray. Which is one very good reason why the death penalty is no longer used in most civilized countries.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger did perceive the French handwriting evidence as "very problematic" and "very confusing", after having been subjected to the arguments of the defence and the opinions of their three hand-writing experts, despite a claim of prior collusion by government prosecutors.

However, as a judge he has very little option but to honour and respect Canadian law. To do otherwise in this case would have been tantamount to violating the Extradition Act. If Mr. Diab is, as he claims, innocent of all charges brought against him by the French justice authorities, he will have ample opportunity to express that innocence in a French court of law.

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University Politics

"We didn't know if it was safe to leave. We were basically trapped in the room until Campus Safety sent more officers, who then made sure that students inside (the council chambers) could get to the elevators." Emile Scheffel, Ottawa Israel Awareness Committee.
Carleton University's student council has been deservedly commended for standing their ground, for refusing to submit to, and abandon their principles at the demand of a radical student group. The group determined to influence the student council's decision-making over a profoundly controversial and socially troubling political stance brought forward by the group, determined to de-legitimize a democratic society.

"I was very pleased with CUSA council. They were under a lot of pressure and they handled it well", Carleton's director of student affairs said, at the conclusion of the meeting which he was witness to. He is under some scrutiny for being somewhat slow in recognizing the oppressive state of safety perceived by those under verbal attack, fearing violence to follow.

At the conclusion to their meeting, Carleton University's student council had chosen not to emulate the ostracizing politics of the United Nations Human Rights Council in their decision, despite raucous intimidating pressure from the radical student group calling themselves Students Against Israeli Apartheid to indulge in a process of social sequestering of a single country held by them to be outside the pale of social acceptance.

This can only be construed as a truly refreshing turn of events, given the outsize success on previous occasions by the vociferous, bombastic, self-righteous anti-Israel group that has allied itself with national and international Jew-baiting groups seeking to disenfranchise Israel from its place of honour among civilized societies.

The motion before the Carleton University Students' Association council was to urge the university to divest its faculty pension plan from identifiable companies doing business with Israel. Thus placing financial pressure on those companies resolved to treat Israel no differently than any other investment opportunity; ultimately to force them in self-interest to fracture business ties.

Witnesses describe seeing a rowdy crowd numbering between 80 and 100, milling about in a hallway outside the Dunton Tower council chambers, awaiting the decision of the council deliberating the issue. Upon hearing of the decision reflecting the council deliberations, those in the crowd outside the chamber joined the handful inside by shouting and banging their outrage on walls.

Additional Campus Safety officers were finally called to protective duty so the chamber could be vacated and council members could leave in safety. The student council members had chosen to reject the motion, installing in its stead one that urged Carleton University to recognize ethically responsible investment opportunities; finding it unnecessary to single out any one country for condemnation.
"My personal safety was threatened repeatedly" one CUSA councillor, Hashem Hamdy, said. "Those opposing the motion were subject to intimidation, physical confrontation, and homophobic slurs inside and outside the council chamber. They don't seem to recognize that in a democracy, you don't have a licence to riot just because someone opposes what you say."

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Friday, February 18, 2011

In An Uncommonly Common Spirit

"These movements are emboldening everybody who has grievances, whether they are a minority that wants to have equal rights or a majority that wants a functioning democracy. There is a feeling of people being empowered by these movements, that we are powerful." Ebrahim Sharif, leader, Bahrain National Democratic Action Society
Hear them roar. They are empowered. They express a collective rage of denial of oppression. They insist they deserve a decent, well functioning society, with a reliable judiciary, security, freedom of assembly and association, and above all, ample employment and the opportunity to live free and secure lives. Along with the wherewithal to procure shelter, food, education, medical treatment.

In Iran the people were encouraged to go out in droves into the streets for a "day of hate". With the blessing of their infallible, divinely-led Supreme Leader and their irrepressibly jolly president, they were to register for the consumption of the international community their solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia, in revolt against the secular rulers that insulted Islamic precepts of honour.

In Libya, the King of Kings, the Imam of the Muslims, the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Libyan Revolution, suddenly understood that traditional repression was to be superseded by the will to alter tradition, that 40 years of uncompromising rule by an addled tyrant was enough for any self-respecting people aspiring to achieve personal autonomy.

The Arab and Muslim world, the Middle East and North Africa have suddenly gone berserk with anger that their countries remain socially static and politically mired in the Middle Ages. Well, in fact, they're fed up with endemic poverty. They are rebelling against rising food prices, energy prices, strictures against the kind of gracious living they have yet to experience.

So in Tehran Iranians flooded the streets to rally for their expression of "hatred" against the opposition to their leaders' dominance. "The noble people of Tehran will take to Enghelab Square after Friday prayers with their solid and informed presence", proclaimed the Islamic Propagation Coordination Council; now isn't that impossibly quaint?

Those rallying will act as one, to "scream out their hatred, wrath and disgust against the savage crimes and evil movements of sedition leaders, their Monafeghin (hypocrites) and their monarchist allies". To do otherwise would be the kind of ignoble defiance that would rightfully lead to arrest, incarceration, torture and deserved death. Isn't that impressive?

In Libya, security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons. Somehow, people died. Truly unfortunate, but the legitimate regime of the people for the people, whose great leader has immense sympathy for their plight for he himself has little faith in those who govern, laments with them. The government, but not he, has blocked the Internet, shut down electrical power.

And Muammar Gaddafi sincerely hopes that the protesters understand he is not to blame; he seeks only to protect those who blame him for he knows there will be retaliation against them. The media access has been severely restricted, including al-Jazeera Arabic, but they are Zionist tools, stirring up trouble where none exists.

In Bahrain, the benevolent King who has instituted so many reforms on behalf of his people is bemused and dreadfully upset at the unfortunate turn that has taken place. A grave misunderstanding. But then, order must be maintained, and troops were somehow given the order to fire, and people were wounded and many, unfortunately and alas, were killed.

One also, come to think of it - and one must - does not like to offend the sensibilities of one's close Western ally. For when that powerful entity - the world's super-power, come to think of it - frowns with dismay and disgust it is not a good thing. But then, there's that prodding from one's neighbour, too; Saudi Arabia does not appreciate unrest, revolts must be extinguished.

Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco - all are facing the revolting situation of ungrateful citizens demanding what they claim is their due. What? Nothing in Lebanon? Nor yet Saudi Arabia? All are moving with great alacrity to lower the prices of basic foods, to raise efforts for job creation - to please the people and graciously accede to their (unreasonable) demands.

Egypt's former president, Hosni Mubarak, will surely feel somewhat consoled to learn that his supporters have declared a march on his behalf, as an apology for his summary dismissal, to express regret for insufficient appreciation for all that he has done on behalf of his country and his countrymen. People are such unbelievable ingrates. Brutishly so, unfortunately.

Ah, the great world religion of Islam. Brotherhood and goodwill. Is it possible that senior members of Iran's Republican Guard are seeking assurances that they will not be ordered to shoot at their Iranian brethren for-this-is-not-permitted-in-Islam. But Islam does permit raging hatred of others, particularly the detested, revolting Jews.

Who, truth be known - and one must respect the truth - all of this unrest, this unmitigated nuisance and concern and worry and irritation, takes place at the behest of Islam's enemies. It represents a truly nefarious, but entirely explicable plot that emerged from the demonic minds of the Zionists, the deranged and demented Jews and their State of Israel.

Where, in Tunisia, demonstrators in front of the main synagogue in Tunis shouted: "Jews wait, the army of Mohammed is coming back. We'll redo the battle of Khaybar", referencing the slaughter of Jews in the geography of what is now Saudi Arabia, led by Mohammed and his nascent dynasty's army of newly-born Muslims.

Where in Cairo, Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi addressed the faithful in Tahrir Square; the same Muslim Brotherhood spiritual head who has called upon Allah to "take this oppressive, tyrannical band of people ... take this oppressive Jewish Zionist band of people ... do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers and kill them, down to the very last one."

Where in Jordan, King Abdullah's newly-appointed Justice Minister in an interview with the country's Al-Arab Al-Yom newspaper characterized Israel as a "terrorist state that will be destroyed". This was a man who had joined a protest for the release of a terrorist who had been imprisoned in Jordan for killing seven Israeli schoolchildren in 1997.

Where in London, a non-Jew, elected to the Knesset, Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara, a Druze, spoke at a conference: "I am not a Jew and my loyalty to the State of Israel derives from the faith in its right to exist as the state of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. I do not see myself under a regime or entity other than Israel, which is the sole island of sanity in the Middle East, where democracy exists for all citizens, and where citizens' rights are respected more than in any other place."

There were also protests in Israel, by trade unionists, protesting at rising food prices, and for higher wages. Just like their neighbours elsewhere in the Middle East. There was no call in Israel for the government to step aside.

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