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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This Is A Solution? By Whose Standards?

A community already in dire straits, mired deep in its own exhausted attempts to satisfy the needs of its community, attempting to cope with disastrous discontent, failures in family life, inadequate oversight with respect to community needs, a dramatic and danger-fraught lack of attention to the vital importance of monitoring water quality, attempts to patch up the fragile self-destructive trajectory of its vulnerable, abandoned young has opted for more of the same.

Not a rescue from their current plight, but a band-aid effort to gloss over the dangers inherent in living in a geography not meant for human habitation, a geography assured to continue the syndromes of failure currently assailing the Cree community of Kashechewan. Well-intentioned offers, with well constructed arguments in favour of moving the entire community alongside an established urban area where help could be sought when needed, were turned down.

The allure of remaining on the precincts of the tribal landscape proved too compelling. Residents would be amenable to a wholesale move with new, reliable and costly infrastructure costed out at roughly a half-billion dollars in support of its nineteen-hundred-strong population, with all manner of amenities required by post-modern society; a staffed hospital, schools, fire station, theatres, social centres, sports arenas, public swimming pools.

This option, rejected as too costly in support of an unrealistic lifestyle, which would simply collapse in upon itself once the gloss was removed from its newness, simply wasn't on, it represented a wish-list, nothing more. The newly-built homes fitted out with all the conveniences that residents anywhere would expect in a civilized urban setting, because there is no personal investment, would suffer the eventual fate of most such public buildings within reserves.

Discontent would arise once more as bored individuals would clamour for more enhancements to their way of life. A truly artificial way of life, given the setting. The setting, a traditional one of First Nations, but absent the lifestyle of traditional First Nations, however much the residents of Kashechewan mourn after their fabled past. They would not, could not, live as they once did, on the land and off the resources provided to them by the land.

Chief Solomon, who earlier claimed his community was fully prepared to relocate, claims now that the majority of residents had a change of heart, after much public discussion. Chief Solomon did admit that only 50 people showed up from the community to challenge his authority at a public meeting about his leadership, and most of those were his supporters.

"People change and the more you think about it, you have to live in the community to be able to appreciate the community around you and the people around you. It's who I am, it's where I come from and it's my home."

Traditions, heritage, love of the land all precious memories conspire to make people weep, to make them pledge enduring and undying adherence to that which once was. It is a poignant appeal to the sentimental zeitgeist in everyone. Everyone can relate to the emotional lure of memory, history, antecedents, social adhesion. The enduring value of love of the land and one's place on the land is uncommonly appealing.

But is it practical? Can several thousand committed people be self-sufficient, satisfied and determined to live life to its fullest in a remote community situated on a flood-plain which has already, along with a contaminated water supply, caused the community to be evacuated three times in the past?

What about such significant issues as health, education, employment opportunities? All social/civic elements of a successful community.

Now here is the Government of Canada (oops, sorry: should be Canada's New Government; one forgets from time to time) acquiescing to the community's demand that they stay where they are, but that more money - to the tune of $200-million - be invested in their current placement, to rebuild infrastructure, sewage and water systems, along with a new dike. Throw in another $45-million to build 200 new houses.

How long will the fleeting content of the good people of Kashechewan last once the building frenzy has come and gone? Will their lives truly be any more secure, safe, practical; meet the needs of the residents? Their desire is to live like anyone else, living in a modern urban environment. But this artificial construct in a traditional setting is unsettlingly inadequate in such a remote location.

This is just another stop-gap, another temporary 'solution' to an intractable problem that will only see a just and practical solution when the Cree of Kashechewan finally come to the conclusion that they've had enough of this artificially inadequate lifestyle, and yearn to become independent and responsible for their own well being.

And when the government finally reaches the point where it assumes the responsibility and the courage required to conduct meaningful and deliberate discussions with Native leaders to convince them that the needs of Canada's aboriginals are not being met under the current system of reserves and tribal chiefs making decisions for their charges which too often seem to benefit the chiefs and their families and friends rather than the communities at large.

When that time comes a more equitable situation may arise where Status and non-Status Indians living outside reserves have as much claim to assistance as their less independent members. It's even possible that Canadians, should land claims and other foot-dragging impediments to justice finally be settled, may finally feel some pride in their acceptance of the role of First Nations in this country.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Pride Assuaged

The magical elixir of victory. Nothing like it, to bring people together in an excited excess of celebration. Excitement that elicits pride in one's collective excellence in producing prime athletes reflecting the entire country's love of a particular sport.

Excitement sufficient to temporarily expunge the grief and the misery visited upon that country by internecine warfare, and viciously jihadist interlopers determined to wreak further disruption in a country gone beyond its ability to endure tragedy.

The intensity of games played by athletes representing their countries of origin can restore pride that has been washed away in a sea of unrelenting bloodshed. The elite athletes and sport professionals express to these beleaguered people an outlet for their emotions.

Such sport events between competing countries, after all, can confer great status and repute on a country. If any country needed that kind of uplift at this particular time, surely it is Iraq. Sport events like this can be likened to proxy wars.

Iraq has been spectacularly unsuccessful in joining its sects in a common purpose to rescue the country from collapse in the face of Islamic jihadists whose sole purpose in infiltrating the country is to further destabilize it beyond the redemption of a country intent on saving itself.

Yet here, a sport team whose members comprise those very solitudes at war with one another; its Kurdish and Christian minorities, its Sunni and Shia Muslims have demonstrated the ability to leave differences behind and to muster their collective skills and strengths to achieve victory.

Isn't that the kind of inspiration the country needs? It's only a game, after all, not to be confused with rescuing the country from the oblivion of total disintegration. But if a team of dedicated athletes can achieve an agreement to work together for a common purpose, it's possible their example could infuse the population as a whole with the realization that such a thing is possible on behalf of the country's existence and future.

"Now we are facing all this terror and violence - Iraq is bleeding", according to a policeman in the southern city of Hilla. The police and army recruits have been particularly singled out for violence and mass suicide bombings by Islamists. But then both Sunni and Shia militias have excelled in night-time raiding-and-hunting expeditions through the hushed and frightened streets of Baghdad and elsewhere, visiting death on one another.

This is reflective of a kind of Arab culture of tribalism, of a historical disruption in belief in the hierarchy of descent and authority of the Last Messenger, the Prophet Mohammad. This is human nature at its rawest, most primitive, most unforgiving, most dementedly righteous. This is a reflection of a culture and a tradition and a society that sees nothing amiss in the ownership and public use of firearms and the exercise of short fuses.

While patriotic music played over radio and television, and neighbourhoods celebrated, families planning feasts and children painting their faces with the nation's and the team's colours, other young celebrants fired off their firearms in their excess of joy. Accidentally and most unfortunately killing at least two people, and injuring more than 40, according to police.

Yet: "The win is a bandage, healing those wounds. It's a lesson to politicians that Iraqis can be one. We were all supporting our team, none of us was saying this player is a Sunni, a Shiite or Kurd." according to one Iraqi. "People are chanting and shouting" said another. "I heard them yelling, 'No, no to terrorism!"

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Brave New World?

Perhaps not quite the way Orwell foresaw it, but a new world order appears to be in the making. This is not an overweening situation of a singular government gone amok, but rather a scenario whereby governments formerly in the ascendancy, along with their respective countries, will be taking a back seat to the growing potency and strengths of emerging economies and political strengths owing their position to their huge populations and surging GDP.

And we thought we were straining the capacity of the world to absorb our collective populations before. Worrying whether these populations could be sustained and fed and then wringing our collective hands about the undeniable damage our economic growths were doing to the environment. In first-world economies virtually everyone is well fed and content, able to satisfy their cravings for ever-greater material acquisitions.

Including, needless to say, personal vehicles of every description. And the immense fleets of transport trucks to convey food products and hard goods to eager consumers. Manufacturers working diligently to produce greater numbers of non-essentials and poorly designed, badly manufactured goods, deliberately fashioned to last as long as their questionable warranties; built-in obsolescence. Garbage, we've got lots of it.

And the steadily-catching-up third world wants the opportunity to live the same wasteful lifestyles. Why wouldn't they? It's seen as an ideal. Luxuries become commonplace. After all, it's from the third-world countries that most of these goods now emanate, manufacturers having cleverly understood that to maintain low prices and increase distribution that was the source for cheap labour. While the underprivileged and underpaid workers only produce these goods for markets abroad, they too aspire to ownership, and their turn will come.

It's already started, in fact. China's growing middle-class can attest to that. The World Bank estimates that these developing countries are set to double their share of world production and consumption to 40% by 2050. In a world that is facing shortages of fresh water, depletion of fossil fuels, emerging biofuel sources placing further strains on food staples like grain all over the world, along with increased prices for prepared foods.

We're not in shortage mode yet. And the world's population - more specifically the populations of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East - is growing apace; future population growth statistics will represent population growth in those countries. Europe and North America, Japan and Russia represent ageing societies, incapable of reproducing to balance their geriatric populations, other than by immigration.

It is still the West and the developed countries where the world's wealth continues to grow. In the steadily-growing populations of the Middle East, Latin America, Mexico, Africa, jobs remain scarce, education elusive, resulting in youth unable to find employment. Deprived existences with insufficient food and shelter, and a growing sense of anger at their plight. A certain formula for discontent, anger, poverty and conflict.

The avoidance of conflict, of shortages of fundamental human requirements has to become a priority for all countries of the world, to achieve a reasonable balance, to offer opportunities, to give up a little, to give a little.

The pain of it all.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Assuming Responsibility - a Communal Task?

Toronto the bad, the very bad. It was not always like this. But as a population grows, becomes more diverse, picks up traditions prevalent in countries where some of its immigrants come from which can be problematical in any society, situations arise which transform the original cultural mores detrimentally, or enhance them. In the case of immigrants from Caribbean countries the baggage that’s brought along to the new country sometimes causes a type of disruption far in excess of the weight of the people who have introduced these socially-inimical constructs.

There exists a certain lack of maturity in a country where men are, and remain unwilling, to assume responsibility for the actions they take. There appears to be an absence in the Caribbean tradition of men folk willing to take on the social persona of what in European terms is thought of as the paterfamilias, the gender balance to the mothering role, so urgently required when raising children, particularly male children when they reach their teen years.

Women appear to have accepted that situation, foisted on them by the culture they’ve been most familiar with. And, unfortunately, it’s a popular culture that is seen mostly among Blacks. For that matter, among Blacks who live also in North America; in the United States and in Canada.

Women raise their children as best they can, unassisted by the men who fathered their children. Who, presumably, find those ties too binding, too presumptuous of society, too stifling of their manly initiatives to do anything else rather than assist in teaching children how to behave responsibly, how to become an integral part of their society.

Little wonder they cannot, when they’ve long been familiar with a tradition that appears to accept absent fathers in truncated familial situations.

The young boys assume the culture of their absent fathers and will not themselves take responsibility, or wish to enter society as normally functioning, accepting and accepted members. They are enthralled with the concept of gangs, of inner-city gang wars, dealing in drugs, jealous of their territories, engaging in illegal activities and viewing policing agents as merely another enemy in their socially-alienated world of shadows.

And the latest fall-out from gang violence has seen the death of a young boy, only 11 years old. There’s a predictable pattern for all of this, from women raising their children unassisted by partners, but with the full assistance of the state. They live in subsidized housing, embrace a culture brought over with them from a different, more culturally care-free society accepting of men’s unwillingness to grow their personas beyond rootless breeding machines, macho men arrested in egotistical adolescence, unwilling to let anyone pin them down.

The women are complicit in this dysfunction. They’ve accepted breeding partners incapable of satisfying the basic function of full partners in raising their young, in working to provide a living wage in support of their families. The women themselves provide the companionship and emotional and practical support they require among themselves, absent the men. They have children and they and their children become dependent on tax dollars to support their lifestyles.

And the women themselves throw up their hands, seemingly unwilling to extract discipline from their male children who are permitted to run amok, and emulate their absent fathers.

If this is racist, so be it, but I don't think so. There comes a time and a place when individuals and groups must self-discipline, must realize how their own behaviours harm themselves and their offspring. Permissiveness sounds kindly, but without the disciplined structure of a familial situation where children are exposed to responsible commitment and manners of behaviour in a normally functioning family, readying themselves through the education system and community support groups if required, to become a functioning part of society, the result is failure.

Not failure to conform, necessarily, but failure to find their rightfully responsible place in the society they inhabit. This represents a societally harmful acculturation, men preying on women, and women allowing them to. Denying the emotional patterning needs of the young, abandoning maturity and responsibility.

Everyone loves their children, this is what mothers do, and fathers also. But with love comes responsibility and those parents who are unprepared to demonstrate through their own values and choices and judgements that they view their roles as parents seriously, have simply brought into the world further charges on society. Children in the city-owned Toronto Community Housing Corp., community at Sheppard Avenue and Jane Street in Toronto, called Yatecastle, a decent neighbourhood with nice housing, enjoy full community relations among people with whom they feel comfortable and relaxed.

Extended families live there, the children among them having the great good fortune to live among aunts and cousins and likely few ‘uncles’. A community birthday party set up to celebrate the birthdays of three of its residents, with many people volunteering to contribute their help, and everyone is excited and happy to be there, to enjoy good company, music, food and the joy of being alive in the summer.

This 11-year-old boy with his new MP3 player, with friends and relatives, enjoying the party in the wee hours of the morning, shot to death. An accident, caught in the cross-fire of older boys playing rival gang deadly enmities. It is from among these social-housing communities, with single mothers raising father-absent children, incapable of instilling discipline and responsibility in the mindsets of their boys, where drug use is rampant and gun ownership too common, that Toronto’s many killings erupt.

When these tragedies occur, members of the community often know who is involved. But they hesitate to come forward and inform the police. Whether through fear for their own safety or an unwillingness to give up one of their own. In this manner too, they contribute to the lack of social responsibility inherent in this particular social culture. The violence that occurs in these communities is grossly disproportionate to the density of this particular demographic. This cannot have escaped the realization of the people involved and living in the community.

At the funeral of the little boy mothers of children complain of the violence being visited upon their community, and they seek to shift blame from the community itself to the authorities. “I don’t want to come back here and bury another child”, said one of the mourners. “Too many people have suffered. Too many lives have been lost. Something has got to be done”, said the Pastor officiating at the funeral, addressing the congregation.

But it is to outer sources that they all look for a solution to the problem they have brought into existence. The police, whom the community distrusts, must do something to alleviate the problem. The government which supports their lifestyle must enact legislation to ensure their children do not get their hands on guns. What of their responsibility to teach their children at a vulnerable and receptive age?

Police have said the party grew to an “unmanageable” size, and their numbers included some individuals who had not been invited. In fact, one of the young women whose birthday was being celebrated herself invited a young man known to belong to one of these socially-maladjusted hostile gangs, and he took it upon himself, as is likely their practise, to invite a few of his friends.

Her action led indirectly to the death of her young cousin. Lack of oversight on the part of the parents present led directly to the tragedy.

A young mother in the community dropped by the party to pick up her 5-year-old son; who leaves such a young child unattended at a party like this? Police were called due to a noise complaint at 4:00 p.m., returned again at 9:30, when the 5-year-old was picked up by his mother. By that time older teens and adults had arrived and the guests were imbibing alcohol, and by the admission of one of the guests, the atmosphere had changed.

“All they were doing was standing there looking at each other. Everybody had their hoodies on”, said this guest.

Following the murder of this child, three young men were arrested, ages 20, (charged with first-degree murder), 21 and 22. One of these malefactors had been arrested in a previous case a few years earlier on suspicion of having shot a four-year-old, but released for lack of evidence.

This ongoing situation of violence and death represents a community in denial of responsibility.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Consider Your Friends

There is a true love/hate relationship between Canadians and Americans. Or perhaps that's a trifle harsh. Suspicion, perhaps, a little bit of hostility, the certainty one has of its superiority over the other. We are neighbours, we travel across friendly borders to visit with one another. We bargain and trade with one another, advantaging ourselves enormously by our geographic proximity and our valuation of goods captured through eager markets.

But Canadians complain incessantly that Americans are too controlling, too obsessed with calling the shots, too dismissive of Canadian autonomy, too overbearing with their ubiquitous culture symbols and aggressive trade tactics. And Americans are unfailingly surprised that this country next door of which they know very little and have no intention of becoming better informed, might have anything at all to complain about with respect to their relationship.

On the other hand, we tend to relieve the situation when we meet, as we happen to often enough, one on one, through travel and exchange, and we realize that we share more in common than what it is that sets us apart. Isn't that always the way, after all? Go to just about anywhere in the world, and you will encounter other people whose aspirations and goals fairly well reflect your own.

Here's a very tender, good news story about neighbours. A Canadian steamship given the name of
SS Queen Victoria, built in a shipyard in Scotland, and used in 1860 to transport the Prince of Wales about Canada, later used by the British colony's governor general, and later still, in 1864, outfitted to convey Canada's founders, John A. Macdonald, George-Etienne Cartier and George Brown to a Charlottetown meeting to negotiate the colonies of British North America to nationhood, sank in a storm off the U.S. coast in 1866.

This historic vessel of grand provenance and great historical value to Canada, later re-named "the Confederate Cruiser", was sunk by a hurricane in 1866 on a charter run to pick up cargo from Cuba, off the U.S. coast. The American captain of a U.S. ship rushed into action to assist in rescuing the Canadian sailors, who in gratitude, presented the captain with the ship's bell to honour his heroic act.

Now, over one hundred and forty years later, a small New England fishing town where the bell has been kept as a heritage symbol of the maritime history of the people of Prospect Harbor, Maine - had made an exact replica of the historic Canadian bell for presentation to the people of Charlottetown, in honour of a shared maritime heritage, and in friendship between neighbours.

The mayor of Charlottetown, at the unveiling of the bell's recovery to his city, said that the city was "honoured and indebted" to the people of Maine for their "very generous act of kindness".

Fact is, Canadians luuuv Americans. It's just their government we kind of hesitate about. And its aspirations with respect to Canada's natural resources, our endowment by nature of all those fundamental and internationally desirous goodies, like our natural gas, our oil, our water, minerals, that kind of solid stuff.

And our Arctic sovereignty....



Friday, July 27, 2007

The Obesity Syndrom

Scientists, especially medical scientists, are too funny for words. Everyone has a theory, a hypothesis, an educated guess, and they have an odd propensity to adjust findings to somehow correlate to and corroborate what they assume to be true. And then, the proud announcement of their findings. And the headlines that ensue. The brief moment of fame. A taste of celebrity.


Aha, sure it is. And so is stupidity. Stick around stupid friends long enough and you soon discover there's no point wracking your brain, trying to be witty and informed, just not worth the bother. They're dull-witted, so you might as well fit right in, and be an integral, accepted part of the group. People do tend, after all, to wish to be inclusive and included.

Fat happens. Over-indulgence will do it. Lack of self control, of discipline, a propensity to greedy gobbling has that result. And familial situations where children are daily exposed to over-consumption sets the unfortunate stage. Along with living in a society where everyone wants to nibble constantly. The availability of junk foods, fat- and sugar-laden and nutrient deficient will help considerably. Sedentary habits another assist.

If one is grossly overweight, one tends to gather with people likewise blessed. Its a kind of wicked validation; all my friends are fat, so among them I'm not at all abnormal. Just about right, in fact. You are with friends who enjoy eating to excess, and feel comfortable in their presence. After all, you're all absorbed by the same need to consume, frequently and unwholesomely.

Your mother is fat, and she's your mother, so she's acceptable and normal. You become patterned through exposure while young, through expectations of what the family considers to be normal routines. Food is comforting, and so is family togetherness. A powerful bond. A familiar and normal-for-you patterning, the expected offshoot of which is the entire family is overweight and patterned to over-eat.

Yet these researchers, tracking 12,000 subjects over a 32-year span have come to the conclusion that obesity can spread through familiarity of contact, not necessarily proximity, but some arcane influence extracted through friendship and, ostensibly, the influence of affirmation. As one of the researchers put it: "this is about sharing ideas about what healthy behaviours are".

Is this a scientifically silly conceit? It's a novel presentation, at any rate. No fuss, no muss. No disappointments.

Mind over matter. No matter.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Canada, That Hotbed Of Terrorist Refuge

Getting kind of tired of this. One group after another in our great multicultural experiment to bring people together in peace and harmony, in freedom and justice for each and all, in living proof that communitarianism exists and we are the proud example, flames out. This vast land of great natural resources, outstanding natural beauty, emergent opportunities for all who seek them, a land of comfort and freedoms, egalitarian and appreciative of our combined societies.

We harbour this belief that all whom we take into the warm embrace of our communities, the refugees fleeing war and oppression, limitless numbers of immigrants who seek a better life for themselves and their children, will love this country and all it offers. They will settle happily into the new atmosphere of acceptance and belonging, and practise their cultural traditions, while accepting Canadian values and social mores.

Why then, oh please do tell us why, do we harbour so many malcontents, individuals who accept what this country has to offer, but still chafe with violent head-banging anger over political and social and cultural situations left behind which appear to have irremediably stained psyches who find themselves completely incapable of adjusting to life in this new land?

Has Canada become a breeding ground for terrorists, an Islamofascist swamp turning out dedicated jihadists? The rhetoric of puzzlement, that's all it is.

Still, the facts are there. We have now home-grown jihadists, bored and angry young men who have been persuaded by incendiary mullahs interpreting the Koran in battle-useful ways who seek to destroy the peace and freedoms their families have been offered. We have also immigrants who simply cannot settle down to build new lives, and are drawn back into the fray left behind in the homes they were so desperate to leave.

We read now that an al-Qaeda-backed group battling it out in Somalia is partly comprised of Canadians, according to a declassified intelligence report. Some of these "insurgents" have been killed in the effort, others have joined the ongoing struggle, and still others seek to make their way back to the country that had given them refuge. These are Canadian citizens become Somali-Canadian Islamist extremists. The mind boggles.

Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs estimates the actual numbers of Canadians of Somali birth are between one and five thousand-strong. The Council of Islamic Courts has been waging a terror war to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in Somalia. Government troops, assisted by Ethiopia, the United States and African Union peacekeepers are fighting a rearguard action.

"Kenyan, Ethiopian and Somali Federal Transitional Government officials have stated Islamist extremists with Canadian identity documents were among those killed and captured as a result of fighting between TFG-Ethiopian troops and the CIC", according to a CSIS report released under an Access to Information request.

Canada, it would appear, hosts the largest ethnic Somali population outside of Africa. CSIS is actively investigating a suspected flow of recruits and funding to the Somali extremists, as well as possible links to domestic terror cells. Two Somali-Canadians were among the 17 idiots arrested last summer in Toronto for their part in a home-grown terror plot to place bombs in Toronto and Ottawa.

Bloody ingrates.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Whoops! There They Go Again...

Well, they mean business. And there's big business to be had, eventually, in mining and dredging under the ocean floor to bring up the mother lodes of primary resources surely nestling there, under the deep blue sea. And Russia means to inherit as much of it as they can conceivably manage to. Thus have they conceived a novel idea by which to ensure they can claim sovereignty of this much-contested geography.

"The Arctic is Russian" proclaimed parliamentary deputy Artur Chilingarov over Russian TV. "We are going to be the first to put a flag there, a Russian flag, at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, at the very point of the North Pole." They plan to smash through the Arctic sea ice with a nuclear-powered icebreaker to access the seabed, to leave a titanium Russian flag. These guys don't fool around. They're serious.

Actually, so is Canada. Um, for that matter, the United States, Norway and Denmark. All of whom have a geographic stake within the Arctic Circle, all of whom, with their vested interests, hold out hope to be able to haul in as much of the swag as they can, to enrich their own countries' prospects in a solution toward energy self-sufficiency, and precious metals garnering.

Through International law the five countries holding territory inside the Arctic Circle are limited to a 320-kilometre economic zone, radiating out from their respective coastlines. Russia is ambitious, all the more so with its newfound fossil-fuels-funded economy, its new place in the power hierarchy, taking up where it left off before the dissolution of the USSR.

And then there's always the substantial heads-up in ocean voyaging and the passage of goods through a newly opened shortcut for ships sailing between Asia and North America. It's in the near future, it would appear, as the sea ice slowly (not so slowly, according to scientists) recedes and opens a clearer, less ice-impassible passageway. Canada claims ownership of that area, that soon-to-be-realized passageway.

Knock-knock, who's there? It's me, the U.S., and Russia, and Norway, and Sweden...can we come through?

That politesse will permit passage, since with the enquiry comes the face-saving acknowledgement that one is trespassing, without permission. The United States is in the process of challenging Canada's sovereignty, and Russia is right up there too, claiming its scientists have evidence supporting Russia's claim to 1.2 million square kilometres of the Arctic seafloor through an underwater shelf jutting out from the main land mass, extending into the ocean.

"Canadian and Russian officials have discussed our respective continental-shelf research programs and Canada was made aware of plans for a Russian expedition. Canada will continue to assert its sovereignty in the Arctic, including our internal waters." So there, you doubters. Let there be no lingering doubts, Canada fully intends to insist on her historic title to the challenged area.

"Canada's sovereignty over the lands and waters of the Canadian Arctic is long-standing, well-established and based on historic title," sniffs Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs. We have our presence, it's just not all that visible. Absent high-powered ice breakers we have our doughty and reliable first Canadians, our proud Inuit Rangers who patrol the territory, knowing it well traditionally.

"I think we will be the first submarines to travel along the ocean floor under the north Pole; we will raise Russia's prestige" said one of the team members. Not the first, since the USS Nautilus was, in 1958, during an uninterrupted sea floor voyage. "We will be the first to see the seabed under the North Pole, and we will plant a Russian flag" asserts the expedition's Anatoly Sagalevich.

Not wishing to ant-up anyone's picnic, but Russia's submariners have had quite a quixotic time of untoward events in the past, including a true tragedy with the loss of 7 lives in the near past. And in this particular instance the plan is for the submarine to be launched through the ice, coast along the bottom, plant the flag, and re-surface.

Let us sincerely hope they will not be trapped under the ice. It might prove to be a mean trick of underwater navigation to resurface just at the very same entry-space where they entered. You know that old adage about the best laid plans of Russians and submarines, don't you?

Besides, Canada will be extremely piqued.

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Whoa! Not Bloody Likely...

Canada's notorious first family of jihad-bent terror's very presence in this country is sufficiently problematical, offensive and embarrassing in the light of current world events to cause us to wonder why on earth we would tolerate their ongoing residence here, as citizens. Khadr pere, posing as a social worker, a indefatigable raiser-of-funds for philanthropic measures to assist the poor and the underprivileged in the Middle East surprised us all with his revealed allegiance to and close association with al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Canadians are such push-overs, so intent on doing the right thing, so given to anguished self-examination, so geared, it would seem, to shooting ourselves in the forehead when it comes to a choice between proceeding with caution in possession of full disclosure, and opting generously to take any opportunity to believe implicitly in the good intent of those who claim to be what they are not, that we even pressured our then-prime minister, Jean Chretien, to plead on behalf of Khadr when he was imprisoned in a Pakistani jail, accused of that which he was truly guilty.

When the Khadr family decamped to parts geographical better suited to their rigid religious ideology morally virtuous servitude expressed through jihad, it was with the intent of fully immersing their children in the cult of Islamic military superiority, for the purpose of the great struggle; to bring fundamentalist Islam forward to begin to replace the corrupt ideology of democratic capitalism. That they lived with their wider family, in peace and prosperity with freedom to pursue their futures meant little to this family.

They despised and decried what they saw as Western religious decrepitude, moral collapse, socially-ethical lapses, capitalist-triumphant injury of the role of God and the life-enhancing obeisance to the strictures laid down by sacred scriptures; in total of societal values inured against the path of righteousness. There would be, they felt, nothing lost, and everything to be gained by guiding the world, by any means at all, including bloody violence, toward Allah.

As he sowed, so did he reap, and the father died in holy battle. This family, so utterly, subliminally and outwardly steeped in their beliefs, so indebted to the bold initiatives of their friend, neighbour and mentor, Osama bin Laden, that they were completely intent in seeing their young boys taught the precepts of jihadist Islam, sent them to military training camps, prepared to sacrifice their lives and those of their children to the greater determination and dream of a global caliphate, have not altered their allegiance one iota.

With the father dead, the older sons implicated in terrorist activities, the youngest incarcerated as an enemy-combatant by the U.S. military for his witnessed grenade-tossed killing of a U.S. medic, the mother and daughter were permitted to return to Canada, as citizens of Canada, all the while publicly and proudly asserting that they were fervent supporters of al-Qaeda and its larger aims. Then we allowed the two older sons to return, one of whom claims to have left his jihadist roots behind.

Now the youngest of the tribe, still held at Guantanamo Bay prison, where the government of Canada has no part in his defense, instructs his lawyers to obtain a court order to force the federal government (Canadian tax payers) to fund his legal team representing his interests before a military commission. To order the Department of Foreign Affairs to pay "a reasonable level of costs" to enable Mr. Khadr to retain counsel of his choice. Is this justice unbalanced, or have we all simply gone mad?

Pay a known enemy combatant - however youthful in his act of militant murder - to launch a defense, when his pursuit and that of his family was to assist in the re-ordering of world politics, religion, society, geography by violent means. Someone who acted with free will to destabilize Western society, kill those he perceived as the enemy. In the process violently and with full intent representing an alien religion, a foreign and aggressively-militant ideology meant to be forced upon an unwilling world.

To begin with, this is not an instance of aggression meeting aggression, in the first degree. The situation is that of a larger community of communities, the world of Western democratic polity, of secular governance, of a free and enlightened society having their security compromised very directly by the hostile and murderous intent of a dangerously fundamentalist segment of a recognized world religion.

It is not as though the West had the option of ignoring the febrile demands of the Islamists for the foaming-at-the-mouth Islamists brought carnage and terror to the West.

And for someone who willingly engaged in this onslaught on Western culture, tradition, politics, religion, social structure, we, the Canadian people are to countenance a move by a handful of "socially responsible and responsive" lawyers to fund the defense of such a one?

To say that this family and its activities and its mind-set are not much admired by Canadians is to mealy-mouthed social-correctness an understatement of monumental proportions. This is not a matter of Canadian citizens wishing for fair and appropriate treatment in an obviously unfair and unappropriate venue and situation.

The fundamental flaw in the argument of the lawyers pushing for funding for Omar Khadr is blatant and unacceptable. The man, young though he is, is an instrument of Islamofascism, a quasi-religious fundamentalist jihad-bent group of psychopath-malcontents. He neither needs nor requires a defense, for his purpose was to achieve martyrdom in the cause of Islam. Let him speak eloquently in his own defense.

Much as his actions have already done.

There is such a thing as free will. We are all given opportunities throughout our lives to make measured, or alternately, bad choices. To even entertain the faintest thought of funding Mr. Khadr's defense would represent an egregious Charter violation. That of Canadian citizens to live in freedom from oppression and violence.

Should Mr. Khadr and his larger cadre of terrorists have been successful in their avowed and demonstrated purpose, the guarantee implicit in our Charter rights would be beyond imperilled.

Nathan Whitling, et al, go away - find refuge and opportunity for your politically driven, celebrity-notorious, wealth-acquiring ambitions rummaging through another garbage can of human detritus.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Wasted Opportunity

Well damn, there certainly are times when one would like to offer one's government a collective kick in the arse. "Canada's New Government" should shed its silly title, but that's a trifling complaint. Canada's new Conservative-led government should have recognized the fairness and utility of re-writing federal criminal laws which punish prostitutes and give little recognition to the place of their customers in the order of things.

Prostitution is said to be the oldest profession in the world, but I'd question that, and say it rates a tie with politics. Prostitutes don't really play politics, but so often politicians prostitute values and ethics to the expedient, in the name of politics. Prostitutes ply their trade for many reasons, in large part in some areas of the world through the need to sustain themselves, to haul themselves from endemic poverty.

Politicians ply their trade through a wish sometimes to do public duty, that often becomes subverted to the ego, to the need of some people to dominate, to rule, to obtain power. The prostitute is powerless, she earns her livelihood by providing a service the rest of society, the genteel among us, abhors and denigrates. The politician gains power and through it renders others powerless.

In this particular instance the Government of Canada had the opportunity to change legislation in favour of shifting the burden of punishment off the shoulders of prostitutes and over to the responsibility - at the very least shared responsibility - of their clients, men who prey on women, men who use women as commodities. Sex between consenting adults yes: a trade, body for cash.

Trafficking in human sex slaves, channelling women who have no one to protect them, often illegal immigrants, under-aged, and vulnerable into strip clubs and body rub parlours, into bogus "adult" entertainment brothels are part of the industry. Sociopaths who prey on street walkers, on young boys and girls, homeless and turning tricks to survive.

It's past time to modernize Canada's prostitution laws and take them out of the criminal arena. It's past time to offer protection under the law to women who choose for whatever reason to ply their trade, rather than drive them underground and from place to place, increasing their vulnerability to danger. Time to legalize brothels, to tax proceeds and provide health care and security.

It's time to see prostitution as yet another failure in human relationships, a failure in providing support and the necessities of human endurance, emotion and security to a sad demographic in our society.

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Moral Dementia

What else might this conceivably be a symptom of, other than utterly bankrupt morals for a Canadian television channel to apologize for previously broadcasting what could only be construed as a call to fundamentalist militant Islamists to take up arms against the "enemy", and to issue a solemn declaration of intent to higher vigilance in future, but yet to once again broadcast another lecture the following week-end by the self-same preacher of hatred.

If Vision TV has set out to confound its viewers and to manipulate its critics, while at the same time clinging to the notion that it performs a vital public function in bringing to its audience a message that anyone living in Canada needs to hear, it is criminally delusional. While on the one hand it had issued an expression of regret for its broadcast of a previous week-end's lecture by a Pakistani-based imam who advocates violent holy war and "extermination" of Jews, it has somehow recanted and managed to re-offend.

The issue has garnered outraged letters to the editor from people who simply cannot believe that such incendiary and hateful messages from an ostensible cleric, could be introduced over a Canadian television station. Among the letters are some from Muslims who are aghast that such an event could conceivably take place in Canada. "I was outraged to hear that Vision TV would carry a program that calls for violence in the name of Islam", wrote one man.

"This program must be shut down as it propagates jihadi violence against non-Muslims. We Canadian Muslims must learn from the British experience and start the crucial task of waking up from the state of denial and realize there is no shame in confronting extremism within our communities. If our beloved Canada is going to confront radicals and violent extremists, we simply cannot afford to tolerate individuals who take advantage of our liberty and democracy to harm fellow Canadians", according to writer Adam Benni.

Yet VisionTV sees nothing amiss evidently, in airing another lecture by this hate-monger from Pakistan, a man who takes pleasure in labelling Jews "parasites", who considers the Holocaust to be "divine punishment" for "condemned" Jews. B'nai Brith Canada's Frank Diamant sees this as "...a complete abdication of their responsibility to knowingly give a platform to this individual whose calls for jihad can clearly be interpreted by his supporters as a call to engage in terrorism".

Despite VisionTV's code of ethics forbidding broadcast of programmes to incite violence overseas or at home, or strife between religions, they have seen fit to go about their business
as though a previous airing hadn't resulted in outraged protests at their weak self-defence and their seeming lack of interest in audience reaction, but much worse, the practical harm their acquiescence to this imam's message can inflict on signal portions of their audience.

This man is recognized for what he represents in North America, where his presence is not permitted. He heads a self-described "revolutionary organization called Tanzeem-e Islam whose intent it is to transform Pakistan into a fundamentalist Islamist state. As the first of many such states meant to launch a global mission for Islam to dominate the political agenda internationally. No mean ambition, that, one he shares with many other psychopathic minds.

As though official Canada and our security agents are not sufficiently engaged in identifying under-cover agents of Islamic terrorism, we've got a cable station broadcasting in a manner that would undermine all efforts meant to isolate, detain and defang the serpents of violence in our midst.

It's amazing just where you can find poisonous vipers' nests, in the seemingly most unlikely places that purport to be a voice for reason and freedom but which nonetheless seem incapable of concealing their fondness for the possibilities of destabilizing the very society that offers them freedom to celebrate diversity.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bloody Silly, Isn't It!

Aw, give me a break. The government of Chile hasn't anything better to do with itself than to lodge a formal complaint about the perceived treatment of some of its nationals visiting Canada for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup event in Toronto?

Hey, we're talking age-of-consent here; young men aged 18 to 21. Thugs-in-training. Teams competing from around the world, all of them determined to play the best soccer, the best game they possibly can manage, pride in their country of origin uppermost, certainty that they represent the most skilled and talented players and they'll bring home plaudits and wins.

There were some very good teams. They all competed. They qualified to go on, or they were disqualified by dint of losing the game. You win, or you don't win. One thing North American and specifically Canadian audiences quickly ascertained watching these much-ballyhooed but entertaining sports events.

Two things: Canada cannot complete, hasn't the talent; and South American teams tend to be 'poor losers'.

It is from among that contingent that abuse erupts, that physical abuse is visited upon their opponents. Very thin-skinned. Cannot manage the emotions related to disappointment. Engage in disruptive behaviour, in accusatory claims. Young men and runaway expectations. Young men and aggressive behaviour linked to too much testosterone, too little civil restraint.

Social acceptance and conventions differ, after all, from society to society. What is acceptable in one place may be a matter of great consternation in another. Competitive sports are like war games. One gets embroiled in a conflict, a competitive advantage or disadvantage. Egos become conflated, deflated. Life goes on, as it will.

Some would have it that competitive sports, most particularly between countries replace the actual belligerence of physical combat. And there is much to be said for this apprehension. Given the instances of riots post-games in many countries of the world. These things are taken more seriously than rational minds would have one believe.

But then, there's nothing rational about emotions run amok.

Take the accusations that Chile is levelling against the City of Toronto, specifically its police department, and by extension, Canada. Chilean players, badly disappointed at their loss in the game against rival Argentina, began a tussle that got out of hand and turned into a general melee, which the Toronto police were duty bound to apprehend. And they did.

In the process man-handling some of the more vigorously boisterous young disappointees.

Rather than accepting that a civilized society cannot accept violent behaviour from young men whose anger at their loss in a game of sports leads them to degenerate into thugs, Chile demands an apology from a "police state" gone amok.

Rather than behave responsibly and chastise its country's representatives for bringing shame upon their country, not by losing a game, but by demonstrating poor international relations, Chile chooses to huff itself into a tizzy.

These are not children who have been abused by representatives of an oppressive police state. These are young men lacking emotional restraint and good judgement.

Case closed.

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The Symbolism of Education as Threat

The feared and universally detested Taliban - other than for the respect accorded them by other fundamentalist Islamists - denied education to girls and women when they were the ruling power in Afghanistan. Educators who attempted to defy the Taliban prohibition against educating girls were targeted for execution.

As were women who attempted to gain an education, or to make themselves a place in the workforce, or elect to abstain from wearing full burkas and niqabs, or to refuse multi-marriages to elderly strangers approved by mullahs, or those who might exercise the effrontery to religious dogma to engage in singing or dancing or listening to music in public places.

There is a new government in Afghanistan, albeit a struggling and troubled one, fighting its own internal and external corruption among its members. But dedicated withal to a new kind of country and a more responsively responsible government more aligned with a type of democracy than the former theocratic dictatorship.

The Taliban, although ousted from power, is resurgent and continues to have support from hard-line, traditional Muslims in the provinces, particularly Kandahar.

A world away lived a child of Slovakian refugees to Canada, a man who trained and worked as an expert carpenter, in Vancouver. This man, Mike Frastacky, was a world traveller who visited countries as remote as the Western Sahara, Yemen and Madagascar, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. But he always came back to Vancouver, to Canada, where his home was, although he was particularly taken with the mountainous regions around Afghanistan.

He was aghast at the endemic poverty he saw in Afghanistan, a country that needed all manner of civic infrastructure, a country mired in a deeply conservative religious tradition, suspicious of foreigners, prey to foreign-funded Islamist groups, and where resistance to change, to any alteration in the traditional way of life was as fierce as their violently antagonistic response to interlopers.

But he decided to dedicate himself to helping out as much as he could in one small corner of that benighted country, to help the children who could not help themselves. He decided he would be directly instrumental in furthering the futures of Afghan children by providing them with the means for an education. He raised money, hired local people and began to build the galvanized steel structures that would become the Maktab Hazrat Osman School in northern Afghanistan's Baghlan province.

He used the skills of his trade and money he himself contributed and also collected from friends and supporters, some US$80,000 in all. He built classrooms, a well and a library stocked with books. He organized seminars for teachers, as well as an adult women's education class. He continued to work in Vancouver as a cabinetmaker and finishing carpenter, and returned to Nahrin, Afghanistan each year for several months at a time.

At the school there are 20 instructors teaching math, science, English, history and geography, along with Pashto, Dari, Arabic, the Koran, poetry and physical education. The school teaches grades 1 to 6, with an additional grade scheduled to come on line with each succeeding year. The students come from ten nearby villages; some 600 in number. Needless to say, Mr. Frastacky is held in the highest esteem in the area.

The school is thriving, children are happy to be able to learn, many have aspirations to go on to higher learning, some set their sights on medicine, the law, teaching; one child suggests she would like to become president of her country. "All of Nahrin knew and loved Mr. Mike," said Abdul Qadir, who runs the local pharmacy. "What a good man, and God bless him."

In this volatile area, programmes meant to disarm militant groups have been poorly implemented, and warlords busy with illegal poppy crops, and crimes taking place on a daily basis. The province began slowly descending into lawlessness. The police were not to be trusted; underpaid, poorly trained and bribe-prone, close to warlords, gangs and insurgents.

On June 23, 2006, Mike Frastacky was murdered by intruders into his home, situated close by the school he loved. His bodyguard wasn't able to protect him, nor his many friends. The villagers, alerted to his plight, came too late to apprehend the black-headscarved attackers. Mr. Frastacky knew he might be in danger as a foreigner, but he thought he might be safe in the village where he was known and respected.

Alas, fundamentalist Islamists do not respect nor acknowledge the humanity of other people, of foreigners, and most particularly teachers, or those who conspire to enable the teaching of Afghan girls.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Truly Embattled

Pakistan is now finally facing the collective wrath of the fundamentalist Islamists among its rural and far-flung population. Their existence was known, recognized, tolerated, despite the realization they would always represent a challenge and a danger to the aspirations of moderate Islam, to a secular-oriented government wishing to live in peace within its jurisdiction, and with its neighbours.

Pakistan teeters on the edge of disintegration. Much as does Lebanon. Such as is Iraq of this day. It is but one Muslim country for whom the spectre of militant Islamism portends the end of their aspirations toward becoming a free and just society, while still practising their historic faith in Islam. As does Turkey, a sterling model of the possible.

Since the standoff at and eventual destruction of the Red Mosque and its ferocious dissenters by government troops, there has been a collectively-determined insurrection among fanatic, tribal Pakistanis, resulting in one retaliatory attack after another, aimed mostly at the military or its recruits, but taking also the lives of many civilians.

"The bomber blew himself up when evening prayers were in progress... Fourteen bodies have been collected, most of them are mutilated. Pieces of flesh and blood are inside the mosque." Effectively putting the lie to the pious statements of the mullahs that their brand of Islam is one of kind generosity and honourable intent. Obviously seeing nothing amiss in staining the sacred atmosphere of a mosque with bloody carnage.

Fully 270 individuals have died in Pakistan during this half-month of July. The nation is facing a true crisis, one that their president struggled hard to avoid, but in the end was powerless to prevent. The poison of extremism is abroad in the land in a manner more purposeful, direct and determinedly up-front than ever before.

The tribal elders on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan with whom General Pervez Musharraf settled an non-aggression agreement have furiously discarded that detente. They find common cause with the intent of the Taliban whose fundamentalist view of Islam they share. And with the fervent ideology of al-Qaeda determined to re-establish the Islamic caliphate in a triumphant return of Islam to its tribal roots.

But General Musharraf is above all, a practical man who prefers to remain in the land of the living, and to continue to execute his rule over Pakistan. He has stated he will brook no challenges from extremists and perhaps when push comes to shove he will not. Push has taken place and a little bit of shove, but the show isn't over, not yet.

He will negotiate, he will make his peace with the tribal elders, even with the extremists. Allowing them to remain in their strongholds rather than challenge them militarily and risk losing more than he would care to.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chinese Face-Saving

With such a vast population what, after all, is the value of a thousand or so - or more, perhaps - lives lost? A cynical but practical political overview by a country's administration beset with a myriad of problems. Avarice, greed, can close collective minds to the needs of a humane administration. A newborn respect for the profits of unfettered capitalism has dimmed the vision of a ruling elite intent on hauling China into first-place standing in a longed-for new world order.

But oh, the embarrassments visited upon them of late. Resulting, needless to say, from a laissez fair attitude that recognizes no bounds beyond which it will reproach itself. The end game is unfettered trade, increased prosperity, a growing acquiescent middle class, the recognition throughout the world of China as an influential world power. Alas, a world power so wedded to its agenda of prosperity that it ignores its responsibilities at home and abroad.

The allegiances of an energy-hungry nation eager to do business, trading on its newfound wealth with egregious human-rights abusers in Africa and elsewhere, neglecting the need to explain to its eager partners that a little bit of abuse can be countenanced, but overt government-encouraged paramilitaries who assault, rape, murder and displace hundreds of thousands of one's own population is quite simply not on.

But why expect this of China, after all, a country that sees nothing amiss in "re-settling" millions of its own hapless citizens in the name of 'progress', in the building of the world's largest dams, flooding historical agrarian lands and making hopeless migrants of countless thousands of farmers. A China that will turn a blind official eye to the dreadful contamination of water from the manufacture of chemicals, resulting in unpotable water for millions of people.

When sufficient numbers of Chinese become disillusioned and sufficiently outraged at government neglect for the health and well-being of its people, and word gets out to the international community, itself reeling at the effects of contaminated pharmaceuticals and food products emanating from China, its administration suddenly realizes it has a huge problem which may require resolution.

Ah, and the final straw that breaks the camel's back of inaction. That thousands of frantic parents searching for the whereabouts of lost children discover that their children of all ages, along with adults have somehow managed to get themselves kidnapped and retained to be used as slaves in the production of bricks to satisfy an internal economy that cannot keep pace with the demands of 'progress'.

The news that thousands of indigents, farmers, teenagers and younger children had been forced to work in brick kilns, enduring confinement, dreadful beatings, starvation, sickness, fatal accidents, and deliberate murder was arresting in its manifestations of emaciated bodies and festering wounds; defeated, blank stares of incomprehension from those relatively few rescued from the prison-like confines of the kilns.

As social phenomenons go, this illustration of official disinterest and neglect in duty to a country's citizens is unparalleled for an industrious, proud country with a historical past of grand dimensions; a tradition in philosophy and civil service, of medicine and the arts and sciences. Yet modern Chinese history tells us of a societal upheaval of tremendous proportions meant to nullify its ancient past and bring it into a new social order.

One which sacrificed without heed to the consequences, a truly significant proportion of its professionals, academics, artists to a new ideological vision of people-subjugation overseen by an elite of party cadres who cold-bloodily instituted a culture of state enslavement. The new China, enamoured of recalling its brilliant past and hoping to forge itself into an amalgam of the old and its newest incarnation does now care what the world outside thinks of it.

Enough to carefully select a few handy persons said to be responsible for the travesty of sacrifice of human beings to commerce, but not quite enough to implicate others responsible for the heedlessly cruel enslavement of children and adults for the advancement of the state economy, because party membership still counts and protection is still afforded Communist loyalty.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Isn't Fair Fair?

Why would it not be assumed that Russians view their state and existential security as essential to their well being as does the U.S. theirs? Little wonder they blow hot and cold. Europe and the United States are once again viewing Russia with contempt, as though it simply is not possible to render that country equal in value and trust to that of any other, including Russia's former allies.

It's kind of hard to think cuddly thoughts about Vladimir Putin. But then who thinks kindly about George W. Bush? They're equally autocratic, equally prone to errors in judgement. One is given to bombast, the other to serene pronouncements of assured decision-making. While President Bush is certain of his destiny and that of his country as the world's sole policing agency for good, President Putin remains aggrieved at the lack of respect and recognition due his influential and powerful country.

It just isn't fair. Welcome to the real world.

It's possible that President Bush has instigated and directly ordered state assassinations against his accusers, but it's also highly doubtful. It's quite likely that President Putin has ordered that his detractors be silenced, by whatever means. They have much in common, these two men, but the latter adheres to a different code of allowable behaviour than the former.

Yet it is without question that President Bush has ordered his country into the invasion of autonomous countries geographically removed from his own, and in the doing has caused the deaths of countless human beings. More than equalling the responsibility of President Putin inspiring death and destruction in Chechnya. Both men and both countries enjoy the status of super-bullies in the world at large. They have indeed much in common.

Still, the European Union, NATO and the United States appear to enjoy thumbing their noses at Russia. The United States is adamant it will proceed with the installation of anti-missile shields in central Europe, former Russian (USSR) territory. Instilling understandable fear of intent in the heart of Russia and her president. A seemingly-reasonable resolution was offered in the geographic placement of those missile shields, a move that had it been accepted, would have been guaranteed to pacify Russia.

The United States has never been accustomed to having its actions criticized and alternatives dictated to it by any outside body, particularly that of a potential rival once again for super-power status. And then there's the matter of NATO failing to ratify an updated version of the original 1990 treaty of the Conventional Forces in Europe, signed at the conclusion of the Cold War, when everyone felt fairly relaxed and triumphant at the fall of official Communism.

"It would have been completely incomprehensible if Russia was to continue fulfilling the treaty when the other sides had not even ratified it," according to none other than former president Mikhail Gorbachev, architect of the fall of Communism and the United Soviet Socialist Republic. We may not respect Mr. Putin for his dark and questionable spirit and decision-making, but there is little dispute that Mr. Gorbachev's opinion holds great weight universally.

It's all very well to say that the CFE treaty was fundamental to arms control and the maintenance of European stability, but if one of the major partners in the agreement is left, through the deliberate machinations of the others, and their 'benign' neglect to feelings of vulnerable exposure, then it is understandable that Russia feels the deal is off, and has withdrawn.

It's as though Russia and Europe and the United States somehow revel in the strains and conspiracies inherent in their distrust and dislike for one another. Mr. Putin's decree set out his position based on "extraordinary circumstances affecting the security of the Russian Federation", a situation that requires immediate measures to make it amenable once again to Russian co-operation.

Is that unreasonable?

But isn't it creepy to be dealing with a head of state who, without much doubt, has been instrumental in directly and violently causing the deaths of reporters critical of his regime, of former KGB operatives who have turned away from Russia, exposing its deep and dark secrets to the world at large?

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Justice, You Say?

No doubt about it, the Conrad Black et al trial just wrapped up with a conviction on four of the fourteen counts against Lord Black was a peculiar event resonating 'gotcha!' more than justice. It did seem a bit of a set-up for a double purpose; to point out yet again to the American public that corporate leaders are not above the law and that the safety of their investments are taken seriously - and to curry the career of an ambitious U.S. Attorney and his young, career-aggressive hot-shot team.

The rather self-aggrandizing pronouncements as the trial commenced labelling the machinations of Conrad Black and his associates as "corporate kleptocrats" busy looting hundreds of millions of dollars from Hollinger, money that was owing to the company's shareholders, and backed up by no fewer than 14 charges ranging from mail fraud to obstruction of justice, to malicious racketeering, set the stage for a confounding display of something that began to look suspiciously like setting an example and anyone would do.

The witnesses brought forward by the prosecution, including Conrad Black's former colleague, David Radler, had, it would certainly appear, been bullied into fearing for their personal well-being, and from there into accepting their roles, however reluctantly, as witnesses for the prosecution. Threatened with severe penalties that could be alleviated by co-operation, who might not succumb in their own self-preservation?

Well, Hollinger lawyer Mark Kipnis, for one, someone who never received any of the fraudulently-obtained non-compete payments, and whom even the judge felt might have been unfairly implicated through a lack of evidence, and who yet refused to give false testimony under duress. For his ethical fortitude and display of moral character he now faces the potential of 15 years in jail for his perceived part in the fiasco. Odd justice.

Odd too that the U.S. State Attorneys would lay charges against Conrad Black for Obstruction of Justice when the 'obstruction' attempt took place in Canada, when Lord Black defied an Ontario injunction against the removal of any potentially incriminating evidence. Which doesn't excuse by any means the late-night surreptitious attempt to spirit boxes of 'personal papers' out of Lord Black's vacated office.

Odd in the extreme, and not even remotely smacking of justice that personages of the elevated position of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and Illinois governor Jim Thompson were not held responsible for the very non-compete payments held to be illegal, but which were approved by both of them. Mr. Thompson, after all, had been the chairman of Hollinger's audit committee.

One supposes that to bring charges against either of these two high-powered men would not have succeeded in adding lustre to the career-padding intentions of the prosecutors. Their ongoing attempts to get the jury members onside in their prosecutorial determination to hang guilt on the quartet had them playing on the lavish lifestyles of Lord and Lady Black in an obvious attempt to manipulate the jurors' opinions in the wake of previous prosecutions like that of Enron Corporation.

Resentment of wealthy corporate America that saw nothing wrong in defying ethics to further feather their already lavish lifestyles didn't work in this instance. Of the 140 prospective jurors interviewed most were found to have 'lost every dime' in the WorldCom collapse, with pensions evaporated on the stock market. The jury selection process winnowed out those with a grudge and the jury did their duty outstandingly well.

Compared to the previous scandals of Enron and WorldCom and others, the Hollinger affair with its non-compete payments, illegally depriving wealthy stock holders of additional profit, unlike the countless middle-class Americans who lost everything targeted small fry in relative terms. But the courtroom drama played out in the Black trial was all about white-collar crime at the very highest levels in the U.S.

And Black and associates just got caught up in the general fray, as a a result of their greed. Do the deed, pay the piper. Truly - so sad, too bad.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

In Defence of Beauty and Intelligence

Nice combination, that; beauty and intelligence. Add talent and an indomitable spirit. Oh, a little minus in there for really dogged conservatism. She made a name for herself in journalism and she did it on the basis of her own intelligence and ability. Her second marriage to George Jonas had her co-writing a chilling account of a truly nasty event that caused a scandal in Alberta, the scion of an old political family brutally murdered his wife.

This woman had what it took to make her way in the rough world of journalism, to make a resounding success of it, as a journalist, editor, woman-about-town, critic, and defender of the State of Israel. All from a decidedly conservative point of view, but her critical insights into world affairs as well as internal Canadian events made her someone to be reckoned with. Like her current husband, she was accused of arrogance and of bitchiness, which she happily relates to.

But she also grew up with full knowledge of the tenuous place of women in the world of men, and all the more so as a Jewish woman. As one whose keen interest in world affairs had her commenting in her own inimitable way revealing her point of view, her words made for interesting and informative reading. As a Jewish woman whose formative years and thoughts were never far from the horrors of the Holocaust, she was always defiantly Jewish.

That does tend to stick with one, to help shape one's apprehension of the world and one's place in it. Through that early trauma it's easy enough to understand the genesis of a personal history-weary world view. A cynicism born of experience as a Jew, married to a Czech whose family escaped the Holocaust, but not the shock of the displacement, the realization of just how vulnerable is world Jewry.

She flaunted her femininity, her journalistic skills, her contacts with influential people. And she was considered a femme fatale for good reason. She caught the eye of Conrad Black, sharing with him a passion for journalism, a right-wing apprehension of the world, and a shared love of social climbing. She became his diamond stick-pin, and helped him to appreciate just how much fun living ostentatiously could be. He, heavy-jowled, portly, with hooded eyes and a grimly forced smile. She, the sylphlike beauty.

Is this digression? Yes, most certainly, but it is also helpful background, for as Lady Black herself has described herself: "I am a north London Jew who has read a bit of history. This means I know this: In a century that has seen the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian, British and Soviet empires, reversal of fortune is the rich bitch's reality. One might as well keep working and have the family's Vuitton suitcases packed."

Reminds me of that pithy, half-humorous, sweetly-bitter explanation for the presence of so many violin virtuosi among Jews. Certainly there were also ample brilliantly-capable Jewish pianists, but it was oh so much easier and more practical to escape politically-instigated spur-of-the-moment pogroms with a valued violin strapped to one's back, rather than a piano.

So Barbara Amiel was an aspiring socialite, an avid shopper, one who revelled in an elite lifestyle, surrounding herself with sumptuous appointments, elegant households and a coterie of servants in each, thanks to the largess of her wealthy husband. Like her husband she was capable of seeming haughty, overbearing, self-consciously entitled. And so what? It's her life, to live as she will. She is entitled to that.

Like him, she was a talented writer, actually a working girl, as a newspaper reporter, and a columnist with a decidedly right-wing bent. She had flair and presence; one attribute she could share with him - she would become his flair. There are many who declare her to have been his downfall, that prior to their marriage his lifestyle was monied elegance, not monied flamboyance.

Nonsense, pure and simple. Conrad Black aspired to titled positions all on his very own; she merely provided wifely encouragement. He was accustomed to being chauffeur-driven as a child, and if that's not a vital element of social extravagance, what is? She was not, in my opinion, as is claimed, a corrupting influence on the man; he was born corrupted in the sense that he felt he could do no wrong, although others, emulating his very actions, could, would and did.

His was the privileged background. It was he who was accustomed to flaunting his wealth and it was his dedication to increase it exponentially by any means possible or improbable that led to their current downfall. To his credit he recognized in her a likely partner for himself, rather than looking as so many emotionally-socially-immature men do, for a too-young inanely-lissome young beauty. They were a nicely matched pair.

She was a mature, experienced, still-lovely woman whose political outlook matched his own, a woman who had lived an enthusiastic half-century when they married. They took pleasure in sharing an extravagant leisure; she scintillated for his pleasure in a broad but very selective social-political atmosphere in the company of international elite; diplomats, heads of state, corporate heads; society's aristocracy.

She can stand proudly on her own, although she demonstrates at this low turn loyalty to a man of great ambition and greater aspirations to the acquisition of increasing wealth who doted on her and never hesitated to lavish costly gems, occasions and households on her. Of women like Barbara Amiel who prove themselves accomplished professionals, proudly feminine beauties the equal of any man, I say good on her.

Excess is an unfortunate tendency of unbridled human greed. It all too often leads to our downfall. The woman has been through turmoil in her life; upsets bookending the grand lifestyle she led in the mushy middle. She has withdrawn subtly from the front-and-centre stage she always revelled in. This is an interregnum. Life will resume. Her health, it would appear, is compromised; the stress of the trial and the ignominy associated with it won't have improved her frail condition.

One doubts she has gone 'barmy'. Just fed up, as sophisticated and self-centred people often are, with an unfortunate unmasking leading to the disruption of a comfortable life. She will survive. She deserves to.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

This Gets Pretty Personal

Well, it would; anything that affects the health of individuals relating to workplace hazards certainly is personal. How much more personal can you get than granting extraction and usage approval to a process and a substance that has proven itself to be a deadly carcinogen? Years after exposure to something like asbestos, for example, the deadly disease of cancer reveals itself.

In Canada, when you're in the process of selling a house, the real estate agent's first question is whether there is asbestos somewhere in the ceiling, under the roof. It's required by law to divulge the presence of such health-deleterious substances. Furthermore, although asbestos is still being mined in Canada, it is no longer approved for use in the country.

Countless millions of dollars have been spent in renovating older buildings and homes to remove asbestos from existing structures to render them safe and usable. In other instances, where it is known that asbestos exists in a building, but there are structural assurances that the asbestos is contained and is incapable of contaminating the atmosphere it is left to moulder.

Which doesn't stop Canada from allowing asbestos to be sold abroad, as though is of no consequence that this harmful substance is used elsewhere. Out of sight, out of mind, and ring up that cash register. Is that the behaviour of a responsible government? Well, although asbestos mining-and-production has been shut down pretty well everywhere in Canada, it's still an ongoing concern in Quebec.

Quebec has a substantial social conscience, but it does not bother to extend its responsibility much past its provincial citizens. Without much of a thought to its extended responsibility, asbestos is an income-generating business, its extraction and sale abroad ensures that the hundreds of workers employed thereby in the province remain gainfully employed. This bespeaks a hypocritical half-measure of social conscience.

I had a telephone call from one of my cousins yesterday evening. I haven't seen her in about 45 years, but she's still my cousin. One doesn't think of the blue collar workers whose employment, aside from actual miners, places them in contact with such deadly substances. But her husband, in the early 1960s, was exposed to asbestos. Thirty years later he was diagnosed with a melanoma, operated on, underwent chemotherapy, given a 10% chance of survival.

Survive he did, another thirteen years, as the treatment was successful in leading to a remission. But when it finally returned, it did so with a vengeance, and his condition was such that he was beyond medical remediation. He lived in pain and agony for one long excruciating year, my cousin somehow managing his care with the assistance of professional health care givers whom she expresses unending gratefulness to in enabling them both to cope.

Yesterday's call was to inform me that he had died, in his bed at home, under medical supervision, in the early hours of the morning. A 2006 report issued by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards reveals that 30% of total workplace fatalities in 2004 within Canada were related to the use of asbestos.

In 2004 the fatality rate from asbestos was 1.8 per 100,000 workers, up from 0.4 in 1996. NDP MP Pat Martin (again, one of those rare politicians of integrity), a former asbestos mineworker, terms asbestos "the greatest industrial killer" the world has seen. It's his opinion that the federal government, fully cognizant of all the data, is reluctant to risk alienating Quebec by pressuring that province to cease and desist.

Quebec, reputedly the most socially-responsive and progressive of all the provinces. Quebec, long held hostage by its various militant unions who resent government interference and which have become a law unto themselves. Quebec, the only place in Canada to mine and export asbestos. Quebec, who will admit to no wrong-doing in selling this deadly substance to mostly under-developed countries.

Now the Canadian Cancer Society has weighed in on the matter, and none too soon. It summarily rejects the federal government's policy on asbestos, that the type mined in Quebec, - chrysotile asbestos - is "safe when properly used". The very same federal government which saw fit to oppose listing chrysotile asbestos on an international list of the most toxic of substances.

The Canadian Cancer Society calls that characterization of chrysotile asbestos a myth. In its publicly-issued statement the Society calls it the most commonly used form of asbestos, a known substance inextricably linked to lung cancers, asbestosis, along with a host of other implacable diseases.

The Green Party's Elizabeth May offers her opinion that "Canada's efforts to block an international asbestos ban is a disgrace and a smear on our reputation. Asbestos is toxic to the environment and human health - no level is safe". From her long-time environmental perspective and involvement in such issues, she would certainly know.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Still-Simmering Debate

Well, is Canadian citizenship something to be valued and cherished, or is it a handy spot to hang one's hat from time to time, depending on mood, world situation, the value of the Canadian dollar, and the functioning of the social welfare and health-care system? Those who feel themselves to be truly Canadian, who would not trade their place as Canadian citizens for any other situations on offer, might agree there's no trade off.

But then it was brought home to Canadians just a year ago, during the Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon, just how many people consider Canada a safe haven in times of duress, a kind of insurance packet against unfortunate circumstances. Of course we've had other like situations where people from Hong Kong, wracked with uncertainty as a result of Britain's handing off of that thriving island metropolis back to China, flooded into Canada to take up Canadian citizenship.

In that instance dual citizenship has stood them well, many also establishing dual residencies. And many more returning to Hong Kong permanently, Canadian citizenship still in hand, once it became clear that the status quo, at least for the short term, under a newly-capitalist-conscious China would remain in place. Canada's generosity has led to its citizenship being devalued, being considered a safe port in times of stress, and little more.

Surprisingly enough, many Canadians of Lebanese descent are themselves critical of those Lebanese-Canadian dual-citizenship holders having returned to Lebanon once the crisis passed. The cost to the Canadian government or the Canadian taxpayer, of $100-million to rescue 15,000 Lebanese-Canadians, many of whom were not on vacation in Lebanon, but long-term residents there, paying no taxes to Canada stuck in the craw of these Canadians.

All the more so that a reputed 4,000 to 7,000 Lebanese saw fit to return to Lebanon. "If you are on vacation and you are a taxpayer, you are entitled to get all the help that your government could afford" according to Elias Bejjani, chairman of the Lebanese-Canadian Co-ordinating Council. As for those who accepted the taxpayer-paid rescue, and promptly returned to take up residence in Lebanon again, they should have been billed for the rescue, according to Mr. Bejjani.

Omar Alghbra, Liberal immigration critic is of the opinion that government should undertake a study of how citizenship is acquired; whether indeed some individuals exploit citizenship to gain access to Canada's social safety net and additional benefits. Trouble is, the waters get rather muddied when all dual-citizenship holders' intents are held up to scrutiny because of the exploitative behaviour of a minority.

On the other hand, if Canada saw fit to abolish dual-citizenship and recognize sole Canadian citizenship - which is the right of the country to determine as to whether it is in the best interests of Canadians - the problem would be readily solved.

When taxpayers urge their country to come to the assistance of Canadian citizens at times of need, we would also like to be assured that there is a real and legitimate need to rescue Canadian citizens.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Really Serious Recycling

Wasn't it just a matter of time before some brilliant ecologically-minded inventor would come up with a winning scheme for the ultimate recycling project? Well, yes, one supposes so. Not for the faint of heart, to tackle a project of this dimension, to visualize a way in which to dispose of the remains of, well, let's face it, everyone on earth eventually, as we come and go on this mortal coil.

No longer is it to be deemed providential to think of filling up all these cemeteries with lead-lined boxes that take forever and a millennium to decay, when the living are filling up all available land masses. And just think, as decay sets in and all those nasty flesh-gobbling creepy crawlies do their darndest to return the quick to the dust from which they came, an off-set is the contamination of underground watercourses.

Ugh, really. Cremation, which seems a suitable alternative to the conventional embalming and six-foot-below burials in countless cemeteries all over the world, so beloved by grieving family as a memorial to the dearly departed and a solid place where one can visit to speak in faint tones to those long gone but not forgotten, is not, after all, so environmentally friendly.

For cremation, the act of burning the deceased, creates its own dioxin and mercury emissions, with carbon particulates belching out all over the atmosphere. Gotta be a better solution, right? Well, it might appear there is, as an inventor from Sweden has developed a prototype corpse freezer-dryer, termed a Promotorium, meant to - what else - demonstrate a carbon-neutral burial.

Countries as diverse as South Korea, Britain, South Africa and a few cities in the United States have demonstrated initial interest in the process. The Swedish government is itself on board, as is the Lutheran Church. What more could an enterprising inventor wish for? Well, perhaps a bit more alacrity on the part of the bureaucrats upon whom one depends for the go-ahead.

Biologist Susanne Wiigh-Maesak, she of the brilliant Swedish enterprise is understandably frustrated at the delays. Only 51 years old herself, she is yet anticipating her invention as a means by which her own body can be disposed of, ecologically, in the hopes that she will eventually become the means by which a white rhododendron bush might be fertilized.

For the freeze-dried remains are to be pulverized and bundled into a potato jacket, under which conditions the bundle will swiftly decompose into usable compost.

Who even know there were such wonders as white rhododendrons?

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Religious Orthodox Offend Social Orthodoxy

But can it be construed as anti-Semitic? A society seeks to be inclusive, a welcoming social atmosphere where people can be relatively relaxed among their various groupings, trustful and accepting that the values and social mores that are found to be fairly universal in that community are reflective of the larger community and held in general esteem.

In comes a group of people hostile to the general values and accepted mores, insensitive to the needs of the larger community and determined to abide by their personal constricted values, to uphold their version of fundamentalist religion, intent on remaining apart from the mainstream in observation, habit, behaviours and through a sequestered physical presence.

A recipe for concern. A normal reaction by the larger community toward a very different smaller community whose choice it is to settle within the larger community, but determined to cultivate its apartness, to completely ignore as though it does not exist - as indeed it does not for them - the presence of others, with their offending lifestyles.

Apart from the normal concern of socialized communities at hostile intruders in their midst, there is the additional affront when the smaller group takes action to ensure they are in no way confused with the members of the larger community. Encircling one's enclave with wire fencing will certainly do it, as an offensive reminder of the intent at exclusivity.

Hasidic Jews are fundamental in their religious belief, and they cleave to a medieval mode of attire, observe religious and social strictures while viewing those not sharing their belief as being beneath their notice. Their presence is sobering to onlookers, spreading a large net of social dampness. Their complete and utter disinterest in the world around them, and other humans who share that world is legendary.

In Quebec, an empty and unused holiday resort located nearby the small town of Saint-Adolphe with its established community in the Laurentians was recently purchased by a Montreal Hasidic group as a summertime vacation property for its members. Their reputation preceded their settling into the area, with local townspeople expressing some discomfiture at their presence.

Anti-Semitism raising its ugly head again? Not so. Once a religious society, Quebec is quite simply no longer so, and the fervent religious flavour of Hasidic Jews with their bizarre clothing and fundamentalist adherence to the most basic of religious tenets at odds with a modern world, simply aren't seen as "quaint", a plus for the neighbours. Normal human reaction.

The president of the Coalition of Outremont Hasidic Organizations has pointed out that the Orthodox Jews of his community are often exposed to ridicule as a result of their peculiar appearance. No doubt stares of disbelief that people would deliberately clothe themselves in such a fashion, but universal ridicule in a fairly tolerant society: one doubts that.

On the other hand, there is history in Saint-Adolphe and a physical presence of a former religious community that might be thought of as equally abhorrent to the incoming Hasidism. The old Catholic church with its blue steeple - hard to miss. The gilded statue of Jesus located in a lakefront park, with outstretched arms and the inscription: "Sacred heart of Jesus, I have confidence in you."

On the other hand, Hasids are not only cold toward Christians, or those of other faiths. They are, in addition, completely disinterested in other Jews, be they secular or moderate observers of Judaism, or those belonging to other Orthodox sects, all of whom mingle well in the larger society in which they live, and are truly integrated into the larger community.

To each his/her own, after all. "I don't judge anyone", said a local owner of a cottage located a few properties away from the Miramont Resort, the newly-sold property. "They have their religion. The way they dress is their business. Respect my rights, and I will respect theirs." The prevailing opinion, I'd venture to say, of most local residents.

On the other hand, it's hard to feel welcoming to a group so profoundly self-involved, so rigorously rejecting of others. One's religion is most often a discreet affair, albeit very often an integral part of many peoples' lives. It somehow goes against the grain to witness such blatant excesses of affiliation; religion as an addiction to exclusivity, in itself a highly intolerant symptom of a theist-obsessed society.

Social obsessions are disquieting to the onlooker. Fundamentalism bordering on the fanatic is troubling. No question that these Hasidism mean no harm to anyone, but a proclivity to simply stare past outsiders, consigning them to the status of invisibility is also highly insulting. These believers pose no menace, offer no physical harm to anyone, wishing only to be permitted to live their lives in full measure of their beliefs.

"We are ready to integrate but not to assimilate. We're going to keep our beliefs and our customs and our kosher butcher and what have you", said Alex Werzberger, one of the leaders of the Hasidic community. No one would suggest otherwise; this is a country that guarantees such freedoms.

The Hasids will eventually settle in to their new vacation property, and enjoy the beauty of the landscape, as is their right. The townspeople will eventually determine that the presence of the Hasidim will offer no injury to the larger population. Each will avoid the other. A truce will result, absent understanding and good relations.

And more's the pity.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Uneven Expectations, Predictable Results

How is it that the world has come to express such unrealistic expectations of Israel? Why is it that the world anticipates that Israel will act and react with tact and patience, observing humane values and behaving in a moral manner when it anticipates no such behaviours from those countries whom Israel faces from a dire and ongoing existential menace, to protect itself and its citizens.

Peculiar that it strikes no one that the very people whose malignant values, clan morals and acts of violence, who are given unending 'free passes' from an observing world to go on to bigger and more successful acts of violence against Israel, cannot reason through to the idea that they're held to a primitive standard of social behaviour on the world stage because no one expects any better of them.

This inherently scornful characterization of a group of people, defended by platitudes relating to defensive arguments that a poverty-stricken, defenceless and set-upon group cannot be expected to observe the niceties of civilized behaviour sits well with aggrieved Palestinians who interpret this group-character-insulting expectation as affirmation of their aggrieved right-to-strike.

Each and every move Israel makes in an attempt to forestall imminent danger by pro-actively seeking solutions to benefit her longevity brings howls of anger from the world at large. A people once hounded, despised, belittled, hunted and incarcerated preparatory to extermination; well acquainted with the worst excesses that human beings can wreak upon others and sensitive to their unwanted place in history, are now accused of like behaviour toward others.

There are no parallels between fascist Germany's plans to exterminate a historical and cultural, religious and ethnic community and the attempts of the sole democratic, non-Muslim country in the Middle East to preserve itself and its people from destruction from surrounding implacably hostile forces. Yet those who criticize Israel use words like 'apartheid', and 'fascist' and 'racist' to describe an uneven struggle to exist in the face of deadly extremism.

Ironically enough, much of the criticism comes from that very part of the world that itself faces terrorist strikes, both internal and externally-mounted; from the very same mind-sets of jihadist-bent Islamists who see very little difference between Israel and all other Western, democratic countries. It's both a matter of degree and one of proximity

On the one hand, a direct geographic insult to Islam whose sacred writings forbid land once Muslim from being turned over to infidels. And once having been done, a sacred duty to restore that land to Muslim rule. And on the other hand, a burning religious-ideological mission to once again launch the tide of Muslim conquest, held in abeyance for far too long.

The corruption of the West, exemplified by seemingly loose moral standards, the freedom for people to live their lives as they see fit without injuring others, is anathema to true believers, followers of Islam. The very existence of cultures, societies, and governments whose permissiveness in permitting their populations to pursue personal satisfaction and economic success is an assault on the rigid traditions of Islamic culture.

The fact that within the State of Israel such abominations exist which run directly counter to Koranic teachings, encouraged by the state, expected by its citizens, and demonstrating the obscene excesses of capitalistic democracy is a fear and an affront to Islamists. The expunging of Israel from the area is the focus of these terrorists, God's messengers.

The brutal, conscienceless manner in which they plan and execute murder is merely an extension of the old tribal culture of hatred and suspicion and vengeance they have long lived with and find comfort in. Their subliminal selves know nothing else than to threaten, inveigh against, rattle arms, confront and attack. There are no sensitive, empathetic facets to their psyches. The hatred and competition between Fatah and Hamas a case in point.

Anything is permissible, indeed is required to attain the end, to elevate Allah to His proper place in the world, to bring honour to their enterprise by serving Mohammad as a sacrifice to the code of jihad. This is an implacable design for domination. A non-questioning need to extinguish as many infidel lives as expedient and required to accomplish the divine purpose.

How to reason with this theocratic ideology? Yet patience is cautioned, good will is anticipated; Israel must, because the world expects it, turn the other cheek, wait, then again.

Wait, but never defend itself too vigorously, too clumsily disproportionately.

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