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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Masculine Men

They're the ones who seek power, and powerfully oppress others. The men with energy to spare, a relentless search for self-serving opportunities to further enhance their positions of strength, of empowerment, of governorship over others. Whether through wealth or political position, they seek the personal egotistical fulfillment of exercising power.

And the likeliest subject of power, either social or political just happens to be the opposite gender. Women are themselves not entirely immune to the enticements of power, willingly allying themselves to men toward whom the only compelling attachment is the power they possess. Truth to tell, it isn't just powerful men who manipulate and use women, is it?

Society as a whole has a tendency to do that, to objectify women, to generalize, to symbolically recognize them as the parts of their whole, their entirety of no significance, only their sexual promise. From the oppressive manipulation of young girls, enticing and sometimes forcing them into prostitution, to the pornography trade for whom all females, irrespective of age, from infants to women, are fair game.

Respected and admired pillars of society, representing every profession imaginable; politicians, lawyers, physicians, engineers, labourers, clerks, dock workers, share an obsession in common; the lure of sex for money. They prowl night-time avenues for the seduction of the night. Paid for but a conquest for all of that. Paid for and therefore no chance of being spurned, nor refused for twisted sex.

Women's rights activists have succeeded in shaming advertisers and public relations companies and corporations into a cessation of using the female body to sell things. Newspapers that publish daily shots of barely-clothed women have a stench of rubbish-publishing about them; they're tabloids of uncertain value in the news they purvey.

Men like France's Nicholas Sarkozy, hyper-energized, self-absorbed, ambitious and capable, select from an array of available beauties. Men like Italy's Silvio Berlusconi know no shame in their unbridled admiration for the female form, reflective of the Latin propensity to baldly and oafishly present themselves for available stud-work.

And the respectably reliable news media go out of their way to relinquish their position as staid and impartial purveyors of the news of the world and community, to highlight time and again the undeniable beauty and physical lushness of particular women of the world of celebrities. No one really wants to see demure photographs of brightly intelligent, accomplished women on the world stage.

In a man's world.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Peoples' Agony

Tamils living in Europe and North America continue to march, to demonstrate, to agonize over the fate of their compatriot Tamils trapped in a last-stand between the military of Sri Lanka and the Tamils' stout defenders, the Tamil Tigers. Sri Lanka sees the opportunity to finally rid itself of the pestilential presence of a guerrilla army that has plagued the country for far too long, in its violent determination to bend the will of the Sinhalese government to cede territory for a Tamil homeland.

Spokespeople for Tamils demonstrating abroad speak of a genocide, of the horrors being visited upon their brethren, trapped in a narrow strip of land in rebel-held territory. The Sri Lankan army firing heavily munitions, while well aware that civilians are being held in great numbers, used by the Tamil Tigers as living shields. Neither the Sri Lankan military nor the defenders of the Sri Lankan Tamils give much care to the well-being and security of Tamil civilians.

The Tamils have become a pawn between the government and a terror force whose own availment is its end game. Like cruel ideologies that erupt from time to time the Tiger leadership appears long ago to have accepted the need to casually accept casualties, irrespective of the numbers, in the greater need to attain their end purpose. The vicious determination of Tamil Tiger guerrillas is legendary, and admiringly emulated by other terrorist groups.

Cornered, on the very edge of extinction finally, the Tamil Tigers have now lost two former high-placed officials who have seen fit to desert the cause. That is the Tiger cause, not the cause of the Tamil population of Sri Lanka. They are disgusted with the bloodshed, the utter lack of concern for civilians, for the ongoing cost of human life. Including the fact that the LTTE took to firing on their own people, seeking to flee the carnage.

Expatriate Tamils in North America feel compelled to march in protest, desperately attempting to alert greater numbers of people far beyond the shores of Sri Lanka to the plight of their families back in their home country. For them the fears of tribal obliteration are real. Their support for the Tigers is not universal among themselves, but it is evident, with the presence of the Tigers flag ubiquitous at the demonstrations.

The funds that Tamils were entreated and often blackmailed into raising to be sent back to Sri Lanka were used to equip the Tigers with guns and ammunition to further their disruptive campaign against the government and the Sinhalese majority of Sri Lanka, resulting in more deaths, more strife, more misery. Legitimate defenders of the Tamils were seen as opponents by the Tigers and they were summarily dispatched, as bloodily as their enemies.

There are now several hundred thousand displaced Tamils in internal refugee camps, desperate for assistance from NGOs. Up to 20,000 Tamil civilians are being kept prisoner in the 10-square-kilometre strip of jungle and sand, the last defensive refuge of the Tigers. Their fate is in the hands of the Sri Lankan military, just as much as they depend on the Tigers to protect them.

Each will treat the remaining Tamil civilians as best suits their purpose; the military to achieve their final goal to eliminate the Tigers, the Tigers to continue using the civilians as shields to defend themselves. Each, in the end, will be guilty of war crimes.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Uncompromising Morality

Canada, under a succession of Liberal governments, had accustomed itself to the middle way. Not quite taking a moral stand, but not exactly denying it either, just kind of muddying things around; a little bit here, a little bit there. It's called fence-sitting, and it's engaged in by countries uncertain of their own moral code, unwilling to rock the boat, reluctant to make enemies of those who might matter, as opposed to neglecting those who don't, all that much.

And then along came the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Who did things his way. Trenchantly, with moral integrity in full view. Calling a terror group what it truly is, and outlawing it. Honestly regretting past events that sullied the conscience of the country in retrospect, and offering heartfelt apologies. Making common cause with an embattled, far-off democracy whose values reflected Canada's own.

And refusing outright to allow Canada's presence at a horrendously flawed spectacle like Durban II to give aid and comfort to those countries of the world whose high-jacking of the principles of genuine liberal democracies, of the United Nation's own Declaration of Human Rights made a mockery of human compassion and anti-racism. Canada was the first, and for over a year, the only country of the world to refuse attendance at Durban II.

Obvious enough that countries like Libya, Iran and Cuba - all three acknowledged human-rights abusers - choreographed a repeat of the unspeakable events of the first Durban Conference on Human Rights, yet the United Nations' executive and the member-states were quiescent, accepting. The pact within the Arab League and other Muslim countries of the world to isolate and slander Israel as the world's single racist, apartheid regime would proceed through lack of interest in denying it for the absurd charade in values that it represented.

Canada's other political parties did their best to insist that the government of Canada reverse its decision, but the prime minister stood firm on his resolve to protect Canada from involvement in that sordid debacle. Fitly, and quite obviously, Israel was the second country to absolve itself from contamination. And it was only at the last possible moment that other countries with stricken consciences joined Canada and Israel.

To the United States, Poland, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Germany, Israel and Canada said 'welcome, and come right in' in recognition of the collective of the righteous defenders of liberty and truth. To those countries of the world, notably many members of the European Union, Morocco and Jordan, who walked away from Iran's president's vicious spew of hatred; about time.

What took so long? And why so tenuously? Where is the courage of your convictions? Have you any deep-seated and valuable convictions? Will you now plan to build on this symptom of emerging conscience?

Labels: , ,

Buying Casual, Short-Term Loyalty

No end to it, the ways and means by which the federal government - all shades of government - go out of their way to court the Quebec vote. There are no taxpayer-funded sacrifices too great to bring Quebec into the larger community, to entice Quebecois to accept Canada as their nation; Canada first, Quebec second.

It has never worked, and never will. To Quebecois the province has first dibs on loyalty, with the country coming in a dismal, far-off-the-horizon second.

Quebec is incapable of viewing its sister-provinces as equals. Traditionally there have always been barriers put up between Quebec and the other provinces when it comes to trade and access to services and cross-border labour opportunities.

The lack of the common French heritage one part of the problem, the division of languages the other, leading to French agnosticism when it comes to the partnership of provincial equality.

But Quebec is more than amenable to signing on to a bilateral agreement with France, to increase labour mobility. That agreement is inclusive of professions and trades such as accountants, social workers, engineers and architects and those in the field of construction. "These arrangements will remove obstacles in order to facilitate and accelerate the recognition of professional qualifications."

Both France and Quebec have higher unemployment rates than the rest of Canada, but no matter. They will trade between themselves in offering job opportunities to those of their populations interested in trading geographies.

Whereas traditionally trade unions in Quebec have always been fiercely protectionist against the incursion of, say, Ontario workers seeking casual employment in Quebec, while Quebec workers face no opposition to picking up work in Ontario, at their leisure. Ontario construction workers targeted by Quebec union members on the prowl of unlawful presence on a job site can anticipate hefty fines.

So it's a little galling to read yet again of yet another bow-and-scrape to La Belle Province. A full 85% of available funding for organizing committees in 2008 to celebrate Canada Day was allocated to Quebec. Where, in fact, Canada Day is generally not celebrated, but rather St.Jean Baptiste Day is; John the Baptist, the venerated patron saint of the province.

Yet an organizing committee in Quebec received $3.2 million, leaving $100,000 for Ontario and $55,000 for British Columbia, while Alberta and Saskatchewan each received the princely sum of $50,000 for their Canada Day celebrations. Something's obviously rank in this State of Affairs.

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 27, 2009

Raring To Go!

The tired old tabby, set aside to regain its health has become a tiger again. Hear him roar! Up and ready, here we come!

It's the Liberal Party of Canada, presumptively prepared to resume its rightful place at the helm of the country. The inept, unreliable, shady Conservatives have had their chance, and enough is quite enough, thank you very much. What is it about that smile of Michael Ignatieff that is so bloody off-putting? A combination of the cat licking the cream, and strained ingenuousness.

Well, the cream has clotted and it's tantalizingly beckoning the happy heir of Liberal entitlement. Since ascending the throne un-opposed to lead the Liberals out of their miserable vale of tearful recriminations, he has travelled hither and yon, scribbled and published, mouthed rubber chicken and made his views and platform (wot?) known, and the public seems to have warmed to this stranger in a strange land.

New surveys indicate that 8 in ten Canadians can identify him!

What is the Liberal platform, come to think of it? Oops, it's the platform and the style that those nasty Conservatives pulled like a rug out from under the self-availing Liberals' wobbly legs. Which adequately explains how it is and why it is that the Liberals were constrained to vote for the Conservative budget, inclusive of a whopping stimulus-led deficit come to raging life.

No real differences in public policy? Um, not really, Liberals are liberals, after all, while Conservatives are, well just, kind of conservative; how can they be trusted? Besides which, Michael Ignatieff wants to prove himself in this arena of accomplishment having excelled at those others, a truly superior man of letters, academic, intellectual, just what the country needs, we just don't know it.

There was some homework to get done, and it got done: pay the bills; play down the scandals; pacify and re-align the membership; done, done, done. "The party has rallied pretty magnificently", crows Mr. Ignatieff in pleased self-congratulation. "Stephen Harper set in train a set of consequences he never envisaged, never expected,and I think he underestimated the party's capacity to come together in a moment of crisis."

Doubt it.

Think big, Canadian voters, think of true patriot love, and if and when you do, think of expatriate Canadians comfortable living and working abroad for let's see, 30 years, identifying deeply, as citizens of their adopted countries, finally deciding to return to their country of origin to put their personal stamp on the country, set things right.

Labels: , ,

The Pain Of It!

Growling and snarling their disaffection with the process they could no longer avoid the Canadian Auto Workers' membership voted ratification of a tentative agreement that would bring Fiat aboard on its mission to help rescue Chrysler - and ensure that the Government of Ontario and the Federal Government would be persuaded to release taxpayer funding to help them survive, at least in the short term.

Chrysler had demanded concessions to total $240-million, in line with government demands as a demonstration of good faith and reliable intentions for the future of the company. The agreement doesn't touch existing base wages and pensions, but does represent an unwilling but necessary compromise, relinquishing what the union terms 'hard won' concessions for its members over the years.

"We did what we had to just to survive", Local 444 president Rick Laporte gloomily reported. This agreement ensures that workers can now anticipate no cost-of-living increases, and no expectation of their $1,700 Christmas bonus. Nor their one-time $3,500 vacation buy-out. How sweet that was...! How painful to give it all up. But wait, that is by no means all that has been relinquished.

To bring costs at Chrysler in line with that paid to un-unionized Honda and Toyota workers, requiring a reduction of $19 an hour, the workers also had to agree to contribute $30 per month toward their health coverage, and an increase by $20 per year for drug co-payments. They will also, in the process lose their semi-private coverage. Nothing said about lawyer fees for home acquisition being subsidized.

Is that about it for the perks? Not quite; the employee car purchase and tuition rebate programs have also become fabled history. Base wages will remain at about $36 an hour. A very good wage for any line of work, come to think of it, even without the additional benefits. And then there's the trifling matter of their pensions - which workers did not themselves pay a dime toward.

But which they now insist that the Government of Ontario and the Federal Government fully guarantee through tax-payer funding. These well-remunerated and previously cossetted workers have rather high expectations. That taxes collected from a huge portion of the population whose wages don't come anywhere close to the CAW's, many of whom never had the security of workplace-sponsored pensions, should happily support theirs.

Dalton McGuilty (sic) bemoans the end of an era, remarking that "the great Canadian dream" of expectations that each succeeding generation of workers would earn substantially more than their parents, had come to an end. He's guilty of feeding a frenzy of regret over an unsustainable wage packet that did more than its bit to ensure that a vehicle manufacturer incapable of producing a reliable product was doubly-bled; by its workforce, by purchaser-rejection of its product-design ineptitude.

Ken Lewenza, CAW president, now lashes out at any entity that he can, in the heat of his anger at circumstances he could no longer control; facing up to reality is difficult for the swaggering union boss who was obviously once convinced that the sky was the limit - and beyond. Now the province's dentists, with their high professional fees, which auto workers must now be prepared to pay themselves for services, are under attack.

"The CAW has made every dentist rich", he growls. And since reimbursement for prescription drug dispensing fees will be slightly lower, he targets pharmacists as well: "Do you think it's coincidental that there's a pharmacy [in Windsor] every two blocks? Drop your fees or we'll put a not-for-profit pharmacy office in our plants", he warned. It's all right for CAW workers to demand high wages and benefits; no one else need apply.

Now bargaining will have to be undertaken to satisfy Ford's and General Motors' stability into the near future. One sad hit after another, this pampered, overpaid workforce having to face the reality it so long denied existed. Until that other reality intrudes; plant closures and employee layoffs; inevitable, sadly enough.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Crisis-Slumber

How is it possible that a society priding itself on its secular democracy within an Islamic state could be immune to recognizing the rabidly creeping corruption within, the descent into political anarchy? The Taliban within Pakistan give shelter to the leaders of al-Qaeda, just as the Taliban within Afghanistan once did, before American intervention. Pakistan's Northwest Frontier tribal areas have now been completely destabilized; conventional control has slipped from tribal elders to Taliban terrorists.

Who have felt sufficiently free of government control to institute terrorist training camps for international conscripts, to wage lightning-strike bomb attacks and suicide missions and assassinations anywhere within the country they feel inspired to demonstrate their dedication to Islamist mayhem. The government of Pakistan, through all of this, waged an inadvertent, lackadaisical response, hardly worth the effort of managing a growing insurgency.

Culminating in another 'peace-agreement' between the government and the Taliban; in trade for a cessation of attacks against police stations and government troops, the Taliban would have official sanction to impose Sharia Law. The government handily overlooking their obligation to protect and secure the lives of those unwilling to live under the Taliban. Who had already imposed their will through beheadings of opponents, destruction of hundreds of schools, and threats of more.

Occasioning as a result the hasty migration of thousands of fearful Pakistanis, loathe to leave their homes, but prizing their lives and those of their dependents more highly. Now the Taliban, al-Qaeda operatives in their wake, are establishing themselves a trifle further afield. To the point where they not only threaten Islamabad, but critical infrastructures like the largest earth-filled dam in the world. Providing central Pakistan with its electricity, farmers with irrigation.

Not far from there also, the Wah Cantonment containing an army ordinance complex of 14 massive factories employing some 40,000 people churning out Pakistan's weapons and military supplies, inclusive of nuclear weapons; chief storage area of the country's nuclear arsenal. The Wah Cantonment was breached by two suicide bombers last year. The death toll from that was 70; wounded 1,000.

Pakistani newspapers now report that security personnel at the Tarbela Dam have been placed on alert; Taliban had installed themselves at nearby Buner. And a month earlier a similar alert had gone out in India, for two of their dams. The head of the pro-Islamist Islamic Party of Religious Leaders complained in parliament the country risks completely being submerged in terror - resulting from its support of the United States.

As for other interpretations of the country's trajectory into complete failure and the fount of critical enablement of the world's most dangerous terrorist groups, a South Asian specialist with the Council on Foreign Relations reveals his opinion: "If present trends persist, the next generation of the world's most sophisticated terrorists will be born, indoctrinated and trained in a nuclear-armed Pakistan."

Bringing joy and comfort not only to those within Pakistan who fervently wish for the means by which they can extricate themselves from this growing disaster, and the world at large for whom the emerging disaster may equal potential catastrophe.

Labels: , , ,

Another Dear Leader, The Sun God

A quiet, determined man of no singular physical characteristics, but great personal devotion to the well-being of those whom he represents. His passion for their needs reciprocated by their adoration of his steadfast and sacrificial homage to their need. The stuff of which national heroes are constructed. In this case another humbug politician by any other classification; say a liberating hero, supreme commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Wholly dedicated to his personal ideology of eradicating an enemy standing in the way of his peoples' national entitlement. While there may be no denying that Sri Lankan Tamils have been oppressed, their needs overlooked, their aspirations and human rights repressed by a Sinhalese-majority government, there is also no denying that the Tamil Tigers' fearless leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is a villain of the first order.

From a humble background, reminiscent of Iraq's Saddam Hussein who rose to power and never hesitated in corruption of the human rights' obligations of any government, creating fear and terror wherever he trod, Mr. Prabhakaran also strove to form his own government. In the process, over a 37-year-period of inspiring pride in Tamils and striking fear in his opponents, murdering them to mark himself as their sole champion, he has been responsible for waging a vile and bloody guerrilla war.

In the end, a war that benefited no one, but did serve as a vehicle to satisfy his ambitions of warlord, however unlikely a proponent he may have seemed. Like North Korea's Kim Jong II, beatified by his people as a supernatural presence, a Sun God upon whom all their hopes and aspirations have been placed to deliver them from the misery that fate had placed them in. a beleaguered people in need of salvation from tyrrany.

The Tamil Tigers murdered not only Tamils opposed to their ruthless techniques of suicide bombing and assassinations, but they extended their bloody tentacles into India as well, where Tamils also live in the greater population. India had attempted to intervene with a peacekeeping force to oppose the Tigers and for their trouble a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber took India's Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi with her to the Other Side.

One negotiated cease-fire after another failed. Understandably, since Prabhakaran had dedicated his life (and that of countless others not today living to contemplate the wreckage), his aspirations and methodology toward the final and irrevocable goal; full independence. The cease-fires served their purpose, a model upon which the terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas took full notice; for respite, rest and re-supplying his forces.

The Sun God is on the verge of reaching the horizon of last hope. His ruthless power is on the wane, his fabled and honourable campaign on behalf of his people will be mourned by them who truly do consider his campaign to have been an honourable one. But will the movement, the inspiration, the dire need of a people to have their own homeland die with the final routing of the Tigers?

Labels: , , ,

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pushing Back

Jewish groups learned a great deal from the original 2001 Durban Conference against Racism. Once they got over the shock of witnessing and experiencing first-hand the bitter renaissance of anti-Semitism, that is. And got beyond the stunned disbelief that a United Nations-sponsored conference mounted for the purpose of battling the scourge of racism turned against the very people who have historically suffered the greatest from its existence.

After being pushed around, verbally and physically assaulted by NGO participants under the auspices of the UN, Jewish participants in the original Durban vowed there would be no repeat without adequate preparation to respond effectively, assertively, honourably. One of the assurances Jewish groups received from the UN was that the successor, the Durban Review Conference, would be held in a venue other than a third-world environment where control might be better assured.

In Geneva, Swiss authorities were prepared to deal with violent and vile protests of the type that visited physical abuse on Jews, assaulted their sensibilities with banners equating Zionism with Fascism, with piles of literature that vilified Israel, and slandered Jews as sub-human vectors of pathological pandemics. This time around, such protesters were forcefully removed before they could deliver their abuse and distribute their pamphlets.

Jewish, Israeli and pro-Israel activists represented by dozens of Jewish groups converged on Geneva to prevent a repeat of the original Durban conference which was, in reality a conference to celebrate the dehumanization of world Jewry, and the demonization of Israel to wild acclaim from the greater audience. The presence of NGOs whose sole purpose was to slur Israel as a racist society were far less in evidence in Geneva.

In the audience, in fact, were two Arabs, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, who just also happened to be elected Knesset members. They were inspired to loudly applaud Iran's mild-mannered, personable, and peace-loving President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, forced by his ideals of honesty and religious conviction to do honour to all of humankind, to regretfully label Israel a racist state.

And in later proceedings, it was fascinating to become aware that Libya, one of the principal countries on the organizing committee of the conference, was forced by the misfortune of unanticipated consequences to have its representative, Libyan Chair Najat Al-hajjaji, be somewhat embarrassed when faced with a stubborn witness, none other than the Palestinian doctor who, along with five Bulgarian nurses was arrested, tortured and sentenced to death in Libya.

Dr. Ashraf Ahmed El-Hojouj and the nurses were made scapegoats as a result of an HIV epidemic at Bengazi Hospital in 1999, where they were practising. They were accused of deliberately infecting patients, and were tortured, convicted of the charges against them, and sentenced to death. As foreigners they were considered dispensable, a sop to the pride of the country whose unheigenic hospital and poor medical practices led to the HIV outbreak.

The Libyan Chair objected to the witness testimony of Dr. El-Hojouj, insisting that he was deviating from "the principles and objectives of the conference", in opening his remarks by describing his incarceration, torture and death sentence in Libya. On the resumption of his testimony, Dr. El-Hojouj continued: "Section 1 of the draft declaration for this conference speaks about victims of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.

"Based on my own suffering, I wish to offer some proposals. Starting in 1999, as you know, the five nurses and I were falsely arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned, brutally tortured, convicted and sentenced to death." At which point Madam Al-hajjaji, once again intervened to call the witness to order: "...either you commit yourself to the subject matter of racism, racial discrimination, intolerance, xenophobia and I will give you a chance and an opportunity to take the floor..."

Whereupon the witness, Dr. El-Hojouj continued: "All of this, which lasted for nearly a decade, was for only one reason: because the Libyan government was looking to scapegoat foreigners. Madame Chair, if that is not discrimination, then what is? On the basis of my personal experience, I would like to propose the following amendments regarding remedies, redress and compensatory measures: One: the United Nations should condemn countries that scapegoat, falsely arrest and torture vulnerable minorities.

"Two: countries that have committed such crimes must recognize their past, and issue an official, public and unequivocal apology to the victims. Three: In accordance with Article 2, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such countries must provide victims of discrimination with an appropriate remedy, including adequate compensation for material and immaterial damage.

"Madame chair, Libya told this conference that it practises no inequality or discrimination. But then how do you account for what was done to me, to my colleagues and to my family, who gave over 30 years serving your country, only to be kicked out from their home, threatened with death and subjected to state terrorism?"

Supreme irony, and a quite wonderful comeuppance; reality finally meets reality, rather than malicious fantasy. A human-rights abusing country that has found satisfaction in falsely accusing another UN member-country of racism and human-rights abuse has finally been brought to task in the very body and the very mechanism it devised for criminally defaming others.

Labels: , ,

Intellectual Scoundrels

There are those who get carried away with the passion of their own rhetoric, almost believing what they say, or write, as though driven to benefit society by the meticulous meritocracy of their wisdom. And believing their standing in the public eye to be enhanced by their generosity of vision, inviting participation of the great unwashed into the greater conspiracy of the social compact, they glow with self-admiration and satisfaction.

There is a glut of self-congratulatory prose expressed in the excerpts published in Canada's newspapers of Michael Ignatieff's recently-released True Patriot Love. One needn't be cynically disposed to groan under the weight of its flights of fancy, poetically descriptive of love of country.

What is patriotism, after all, but comfort with what we know and believe we see great value in? We are creatures of habit, we find endearing that which is familiar to us. It is what we know, and what we share with the greater community; man is a gregarious animal, needing to be surrounded by others, affirming his status as an integral member of a tribe or social compact.

People don't take lightly the presence of those who are different, who eschew what the majority value. So when Mr. Ignatieff writes: "Loving a country is an act of the imagination", that cloyingly patronizing tone simply leads one to doubt the sincerity of the effort.

When he writes of the familiarity of what we know, our experiences as we grow and mature, our comfort in the presence of those sharing the general atmosphere of society, he speaks of social comforts, but expresses them as true patriot love. And when he writes of symbols and anthems as totems of our pluralistic togetherness, as providing us with the feeling "that we share a life in common with the strangers we call fellow citizens", he's appealing to our 'better selves', blathering nonsense.

He is intent on taking the pedestrian reality of citizenship into the realm of the imaginable sublime. And that is his prerogative. But it demonstrates an appalling proclivity toward bathos, one difficult to take seriously coming from an intellectual, but completely understandable coming from a politician. Whose business it is to move potential voters to an embrace of patriotic fervour, moving one also closer to alliance with the emotional manipulator.

He plays with words to instill in the reader the sense that this is a noble personage, a man who enunciates for us all life's true needs and values ennobling us all when we cleave to the notion of nationhood, bringing us closer to the stranger who becomes no stranger when we recognize him as a fellow Canadian.

"Love of country is an emotion shared in the imagination across time, shared with the dead, the living and the yet to be born." Gagging sentimentality. Will it work? Entirely possible.

Already the Liberal Party, shed of the inestimable and pathetic Stephane Dion, having anointed his successor to his rightful place in the political hierarchy, appears to have overtaken the presiding Conservatives in public opinion polls. The electorate is such an unreliable beast. Cosset it verbally, favour and congratulate it for its ability to discern integrity and faithful adherence to Canadian scruples and values, and it's yours.

Govern responsibly, sternly oblivious to the push-pull of discrete interests and self-interested lobbies, with the greater interest of the good of the country in mind - inclusive of respect for traditions and priorities - and you've wounded a good proportion of the electorate who think not nationally but regionally, not pluralistically, but ethnically, not for the greater good, but the greatest comfort.

The vision is a fleeting one, that which is presented. It isn't addressed, in this book, to the hordes that any society is inclusive of, representing the social misfits, societal outcasts, sociopaths and psychopaths who inhabit every stage of civil life, the professions, and academic life under the guise of being removed from the fray and ordinariness of the banal, but toward the impressionable and readily enticed. Hey, that's you and me!

Who have a habit of forgetting that politicians have no compunction about appealing to the lowest common denominator, that flattery will get them everywhere, that people like to hear high-flown but meaningless phrases like "Love of country, being imagined, is not a natural feeling like hunger". Perhaps Mr. Ignatieff is right in believing that passing off his heartfelt feelings of true patriot love is the way to the hearts of voting Canadians.

Imagining them to be as clueless and as incapable of original thought and expression as he has proved himself to be. One would truly like to believe he is more intelligent than his writing betrays him not to be. Anything, it would appear, is fair in politics; intellectual skulduggery in particular. Unabashed manipulation of love of country, of sensibilities of those uncertain how to express that faith.

Being led by the words of a charlatan, one whose own love of country kept him at a distance for half of his life, choosing to live his adulthood, his career, his interests in countries other than that which he now purports to care so deeply for. Other countries with which his identification was sufficiently deep that he claimed them for his own.

His newfound commitment to the Canada we now share so profound that he must step forward and lead the nation forward toward its destiny. In the process convincing the electorate that he alone represents their best availment of opportunities. Hawking nationalism to evoke the sacred totem of patriotism; transparently self-availing.

Labels: , ,

Magesterially Presiding

Now an elder statesman, not so long ago the ultimate diplomat-statesman as Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan has many lessons yet to honour humanity with from the depths of his acquired wisdom. His experiences at the United Nations, presiding over the collective of countries large and small, the democracies and the kingdoms, the dictatorships and the autocracies, the tribal authorities and the theocracies; he balanced them all on a tightrope of authoritative inaction.

Plenty of rhetoric, though, putting them all in their place. Almost all; much simpler to do with the advanced societies, those that put human rights on a pedestal and suffered the anguish of guilt over past indiscretions in an age when imperialism ruled the seas and the natural resources of countries too incapable of recognizing their hidden wealth, too impoverished to develop opportunities even if they did, too backwards to maintain a firm stewardship.

Those are the countries who now, at the Durban conferences, insist that the West owes them an enormous debt of recompense; for enslavement, for mining their countries of their wealth of resources, for forestalling development, for diminishing their self-regard and prospects for future enablement. Despite the colonialists have long relinquished their hold, despite the opportunities and the funding since obtained, handed over to corrupt governments.

In a courtly bow to the experience and intelligence residing within Mr. Annan, an invitation was extended from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, representing a former colonialist power of the first order, to address the Adam Smith College, delivering its annual lecture at Kircaldy college. The courtly Mr. Annan did not disappoint, appearing before the gathering to scold and cajole, to impress upon the wealthy countries of the world their obligations of noblesse oblige to the impoverished ones.

Handily reproached over our niggardliness in providing third-world countries with ever-larger shares of the largesse representing the wealth of the world, amassed in the coffers of too-few countries which could make hand-outs available more generously, gloom descends. This is, after all, a period of international financial uncertainty, where the certainties of the marketplace and the stock markets have collapsed, with their renaissance somewhere in the dim future of hope.

Kofi Annan, who, dedicating himself to changing the structure, not the purpose of the United Nations, and in the process installing justness, fair-mindedness, and anti-corruption verities - having accomplished none of these, still lectures. Incapable of solving any of the world's outstanding issues, from Serbia to Sudan, to the Palestinian Territories, in all of which areas vicious terror reigned, he still recommends processes by which the world can be a better place.

Although his son benefited from the corruption endemic in the economic isolation of Baghdad post Desert Storm, through the oil-for-food program, no stench of ill-gotten gains blemished his record of bumbling inefficiency. When it was revealed that United Nations troops engaged in rape and plunder, this reflected not on his stewardship of the honoured institution of the United Nations, but the frailties of humankind. When Durban descended into the odious chaos of Israel-bashing, he was blameless.

"Mortgage defaults in Florida ... are linked to health services in Tanzania and Togo", he flagellated the gathering of earnest and hushed listeners. Stimulus packages enacted in a desperate move to bring countries' finances out of their dudgeon of depression, should have been matched by others meant to haul African countries out of their perennial want. "I wonder what Adam Smith would make of all this? he mused. "Maybe he would see the crisis as the consequence of failure to put economics at the service of the common good."

Oh. And then maybe not. Since commerce and particularly ruthless capitalism rarely considers the common good, focusing as it does on the bottom line. No doubt about it, the common good should be the bottom line. Ideally. Idealists are rarely industrialists nor financiers, although they do adhere to the quaint notion that wealth should be shared...generally by others, not themselves particularly.

Adam Smith himself might have put it differently, actually did do just that: "Little else is required to carry a state to the highest degree of affluence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things". Maybe, maybe not. Worth a try. Human nature being what it is, if people don't have to strive, make an effort to help themselves, just keep being given hand-outs, where's the incentive?

Especially galling to those doing the handing-out is the enrichment of NGOs, and far more so, the endless pocket-lining of corrupt governments. The tedious reality of barbaric tribalism still holding sway in Africa and the Middle East, where barbaric human-rights abuses are simply the way it is. Where peace is tenuous and often absent, and justice is on permanent vacation. That appears to be the 'natural course' of things in those areas of the world.

And has Mr. Annan, private citizen, returned to his country of birth, to aid and assist it into the 21st Century? Actually, his foundation dedicated to "global leadership, mediation and conflict resolution, advocacy and partnerships" is located in Geneva. And he, missing in action, though never reluctant to impart his learned versions of solutions to social maladies.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Causing Untold Suffering

There is an incredible disconnect of mind and memory over reality and responsibility when diplomats of one country take it upon themselves to lecture another country on human rights and national responsibilities when those taking the others to task are more guilty of neglecting human compassion and restraint in prosecuting war than their criticized targets. So when one reads that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saw fit to criticize the Sri Lankan government's military campaign against the Tamil Tigers because of the very real problem of civilians falling prey to the military, it somewhat rankles.

There are unavoidable conflicts and there are those which simply cannot be avoided, in the final analysis. When the United States invaded Afghanistan in retaliation for the assault by al-Qaeda within the very heart of America, it was an understandable and needful response. Afghanistan was host to the very terrorist group responsible for that epoch-shattering assault on 9-11, giving them succour, finding common cause between the Islamist Taliban government and the Islamist jihadists; two of a kind; one enslaving a people, the other determined to conquer another.

There was far less reason to invade Iraq, a country that had no connection to al-Qaeda, irrespective of its horrendously vicious government and its vile human rights abuses. This was quite simply a vengeful ploy on the part of the Bush administration to somehow 'get back' at a country that he felt dishonoured the elder Bush, who, in defending Kuwait against the Iraqi invasion, decided on his own initiative that American troops and their allies would not march on to Baghdad.

In invading Iraq, Bush junior and his administration were responsible for the loss of far more lives than now is the case in Sri Lanka, with the government's determined final show-down with the Tamil Tigers and their disinterest in the fate of hapless innocent Tamil civilians caught in the cross-fire. Most certainly if the world were not looking on in alarm, the Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka would exercise far less caution than it now does, in protecting the lives of Tamils.

This conflict is one where there are no heroes; both the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tiger terrorists are villains. The government of Sri Lanka for its tradition of oppressing and victimizing its Tamil population, and the Tamil Tigers for violently assaulting those who they claim are the enemies of Tamils. Apart from the fact that the Tigers themselves are responsible for civilian Tamil deaths, using them as human shields, and threatening them with death as they attempt to flee the combat zone.

Because of world pressure, and because expatriate Tamils living in Canada, the United States and Europe have engaged in loud and desperate public displays of outrage over world inaction in putting diplomatic pressure on the Sri Lankan government, that same government has been forced to exercise a modicum of care in sparing civilian Tamils; a care they would otherwise not undertake to perform, given their traditional hostility toward the Tamil minority.

As a result, it is now estimated that some 100,000 Tamil civilians, men, women and children desperate to flee the area, have managed to escape. Not without great human cost, as it happens, since among them are many who have been severely injured in the fighting, some of whom have expired on the way to freedom, more of whom are being treated in inadequate hospital facilities.

Though the government of Sri Lanka is responsible for the plight of the Tamils who felt, understandably, only a homeland of their own would bring them safety, security and justice, and for whose sake the Tamil Tigers were originally organized in an effort to obtain that end, no country can suffer a 25-year-long conflict within its borders without finally determining to end it, regardless of the blood shed.

The other options available to combatants, one a duly constituted government, the other a vicious terrorist group, would be to engage diplomatically. Success in arriving at peace between the protagonists would only be available through the Sri Lankan government capitulating to the demands of the Tamil Tigers. That necessitate that the Sri Lankan government willingly surrender a portion of its territory.

And that, quite simply, is a solution that few governments would agree to; surrendering their territorial imperative, the national integrity of their geography to a violent army of psychopathic heroes of a disadvantaged minority. Not only would this be precedent-setting, but it would be no guarantee of peace between the two, even with separation and the eventuality of side-by-side nations.

We have only to look at examples like India and Pakistan, and then Bangladesh - more latterly, Serbia and Bosnia, to view, in retrospect, the proof that antagonisms of religion, ethnicity, politics and traditions do not evaporate so readily.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Right Honourable Parliamentarians

Here we go again. Another Israel-bashing gabfest, a celebration of critiquing Israel the state, having nothing whatever to do with anti-Semitism. And anyone who claims otherwise is a slanderous cretin. The current Conservative-led Government of Canada finds it odiously offensive that anti-Semitism is on the rise. That same government is sturdily supportive of the State of Israel and its government decisions in its zeitgeist of ongoing violent adversity.

Canada was the first, and originally, only member of the United Nations that decisively determined that its attendance at the scheduled Durban II, United Nations conference on racism would blemish its own battles against racism. Recognizing, as it did, that the 'conference on racism' was, in actual fact, a conference celebrating and practising racism, along with anti-Semitism. This is the country that most Canadians should be proud of.

Evidently, however, not all Canadians, not by a long shot. Cue some Members of Parliament, where the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Association has extended a most peculiar invitation to a Canadian academic who is not at all shy about his stance in naming Israel an "illegitimate state", and who went out of his way to support a fledgling boycott of Israeli academics by the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Here we have elected members of the Canadian Parliament, not leftist student bodies, not socialist union members infiltrated by Canadian Arabs incensed by the Israel-Palestinian conflict, deciding in the interests of free speech their entitlement to bring into the House of Commons a radical academic speaker who slanders another democracy. One who equates the Israeli 'occupation' of the Palestinians with a "kinder, gentler genocide" than that perpetrated on the Jews by the Nazis.

Professor Michael Neumann, who teaches philosophy at Trent University, claims personal knowledge that Israel plans the eradication of the Palestinians from the geography of the Middle East. Eerily similar to the claims by Iranian President Ahmadinejad of his country's plans for the State of Israel. This supremely knowledgeable academic has posted his opinions regarding Zionist influence on the Internet.

"If it means encouraging vicious racist anti-Semitism or the destruction of the state of Israel, I don't care", Professor Neumann wrote on the web site. Although he does not appear to be averse to destroying either Israel or the United States, he claims, in his publication The Case Against Israel: "In practice, wiping out a powerful state like Israel or the U.S. would cause even more suffering than letting it survive."

Effectively proving his humanity. Which may explain why Real Menard, the Bloc Quebecois MP co-chairing the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Association who invited the good professor to address all those parliamentarians interested in hearing the whole truth, the real truth and nothing else, is eager to have him make his presentation.

Canada; morally, intellectually, politically conflicted. Just kind of flirting with anti-Semitism, nothing serious, mind.

Labels: , , ,

Ranting and Raving at the UN

In the wake of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's racist rant at the United Nations conference against racism, Canada's Prime Minister warned against being "blind to the realities" of The Islamic Republic of Iran's agenda. "We are very concerned that, around the world, anti-Semitism is growing in volume and acceptance, justified ... by opposition to Israel itself", warned Stephen Harper. "Canada will not lend its name to an international conference that promotes these kinds of things."

In fact, Canada, as the first country to declare its non-attendance at Durban II, has seen its concerns - that this conference, like the original in Durban descending to a West- and Israel-bashing free-for all, leading to Canada's boycott - validated by the opening scenario. One where a country known as abusive of human rights, appearing before other human-rights abusers, could open the conference with a scathing denunciation of a human-rights respecting democracy.

Spurring a walk-out by 23 members of the European Union, and an additional other 17 countries in all. Quite aside from the nine Western countries that had decided on the record of the original conference and its current shaping of the same old agenda to reflect the original, that they too would prefer to boycott the proceedings than to attend, effectively granting it a legitimacy it doesn't deserve.

And while Ban Ki-Moon expressed his agitated disappointment at the 'divisiveness' of Iran's Ahmadinejad's speech, no censure was brought forward by the United Nations itself. Yet the United Nations saw fit to remove the credentials of a number of Jewish NGOs, some 46 badges in total. Revoked, ostensibly as a result of the delegates' 'disruptive behaviour'. Disruptive in that they identified the conference, its organizers and Mr. Ahmadinejad specifically as hypocritical racists.

Some of those who lost their credentials, representing EU Jewish student groups, did so on the basis of their having rushed the podium during Ahmadinejad's speech. Others were barred having been found to be in possession of clown paraphernalia, ostensibly planning yet another disruption. The UN is still considering pulling accreditation of entire groups if investigation indicates a co-ordinated disruption of events, though no charges will be filed.

"I don't think that throwing a nose is a criminal offence" remarked one UN official. Two Iranians were expelled for distributing "offensive materials", representing a departure from the original Durban conference, when such offensive materials were treated as authentically useful propaganda proving a world-wide Zionist conspiracy, and supporting delegates' inspired views of Israel as a demonic inhumane entity with an agenda to rule the world and slaughter innocent Arabs.

There was a victory for the UN's Secretary General, however, in that he was successful in persuading Ahmadinejad to tone down his accusatory rhetoric against Israel to a degree. The key phrase: "on the pretext of Jewish sufferings and the abuse of the question of the Holocaust", was merely inferred, when speaking of the Allies' creation of the State of Israel, to assuage world guilt, and disenfranchise the Palestinians.

Hard to swallow, that a seasoned diplomat like Mr. Ban couldn't foresee the outcome of welcoming the bombastic Mr. Ahmadinejad as an 'honoured guest' speaker. But this is the United Nations, a creation that sees itself other than what it actually presents to the world; not a successful moral body, representing fully the interests of all its members equally; campaigning against abusive regimes, but one that clasps them to its bosom.

Israel gained much by that willingness on the part of Mr. Ahmadinejad to forego his usual Holocaust-denial. On this occasion he trod lightly on Israel's reputation, speaking of it only as a "cruel and racist regime". Just a bit of light-hearted, triumphalist slander.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Old Canards Die Hard

As the United States would have it, Canada's leaky border threatens American security. It is from the Canadian border that criminals, and worse - terrorists - seek entry to the United States. And so successfully, at that. The Canadian border, and Canada itself, represents the single greatest threat to American security. The answer to that dilemma is to eradicate the border. Won't work, sorry about that; Canadians treasure their sovereignty; no wish to become part of the U.S.

Well, then the border that has always been celebrated as a relatively friendly, open one, is too porous, and it must be turned from a sieve into a stone wall. Something like, ideally, the one that the State of Israel has erected to separate it from the Palestinian territories which did indeed constitute a threat to the safety and security of Israeli citizens. Something like, but not quite as solidly present.

More guard towers, electronic monitoring, more stringent perusals of official personal identification papers; passports, please. And be prepared to present them on order, and even before you're ordered to. The free flow of commerce from one country to the other now impeded, thanks to the dire need to protect Americans from Canadians - or from the incursion of unfriendlies who have infiltrated Canadian space.

Although the apprehension that the 9-11 attackers had breached the border from Canada to the United States to plan their unprecedentedly bold and brutal attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania was prevalent, a proper investigation post-attack revealed convincingly, unequivocally, that this was not so. The Islamist terrorists had entered the United States legally, by means of temporary visas.

They had enrolled themselves in flight schools, training within the United States to prepare themselves to execute their audaciously ambitious and successfully violent assault on the country they despised. Canadians died too in the World Trade Towers. Canada rushed to assist through NATO, in monitoring the skies over the U.S. Canadians embraced and took in Americans in flight, unable to land in their country.

Canada held commemoration vigils, attended ceremonies to honour the dead, declared itself as one with its partner on the continent. Its closest political, social and trade partner. Since September 11, 2001 things have never been the same. Suddenly Canada was viewed with suspicion.

Cleared of entry-guilt over the border, yet during the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton once again raised that canard of the porous border between Canada and the United States, where the 9-11 terrorists gained entry.

The Obama administration's new homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, during an interview this week repeated that canard, that terrorists routinely enter the United States through Canada. And that included, of course, the perpetrators of the aerial attacks on the United States in 2001.

Necessitating a gentle reprimand from Canada's Ambassador to the United States, to set the record straight. It never will be, unfortunately.

And there is senior U.S. security official Jane Lute repeating that the U.S. remains suspicious of Canada, of its leaky border, of the potential for terrorists to make their way through Canada to the United States. The crackdown on border security will continue, despite its cost to bilateral trade and tourism. Yet analyses of arrest and court records since 9/11 by U.S. sources indicate the absurdity of it all.

"...despite a massive injection of resources and staff to guard against terrorists crossing the Canadian border, is mostly catching ordinary illegal immigrants, creating a backlog of court cases and a flurry of protest from the public about random highway stops and bus or train inspections..." the security initiative is demonstrably non-workable and imposes an unnecessary irritant.

Border patrol agents from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, responsible for border and immigration enforcement have quadrupled in number. Yet a U.S. public-interest research group (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse) clearly found that only three national security and terrorism charges were filed in federal district courts along the border since 2001.

"In other words, there is scant record of northern border enforcement catching terrorists", according to the report. Still, there is a grim-faced Jane Lute, informing Ottawa that there would be no easing of border security under the new Obama administration.

Some things just never change, mostly because those who can make informed judgements cannot be bothered to admit the truth, and see no reason whatever to be reasonable when they can be offensively unreasonable.

They do it because they can.

Labels: ,

The Inextinguishable Pathology

Events converge to encourage and produce the pathology of anti-Semitism, the most palpable evidence of which is the growing institutionalization of anti-Semitism under the 'forgivable' guise of legitimate criticism of a state found wanting, as at Durban II, the anti-racism conference presented with the blessing of the United Nations.

There, the organizers whose unblemished national dedication to racist and inhumane practises, felt quite comfortable isolating the State of Israel for opprobrium-by-consensus.

Over the past few years there has been a steady rise in incidents of anti-Semitism, aided and abetted by a campaign of citing Israeli human-rights abuses, labelling the country an Apartheid regime, led by two sources; the liberal-left and the Muslim right.

Natural partners, in fact, a conundrum of happenstance noted by Osama bin Laden himself with some satisfaction. Now, the European Jewish Congress and Tel Aviv University have released new survey statistics on the rise of anti-Semitism.

Revealing that that singular scourge rose relentlessly, even in countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Lithuania, Switzerland, Hungary and Italy. The incidents ranging from threats, insults, graffiti, and racist slogans.

A number of events spurred the latest rise; one the international financial melt-down, with countries finding themselves in stringent economic straits, the other
Israel's assault on Hamas jihadists in Gaza, in an attempt to halt ongoing rocket attacks.

Events began to percolate in eastern Europe and the Arab world, then spread outward. Resulting in 560 violent attacks, arsons, vandalizing of properties such as synagogues, schools, cemeteries, community centres, monuments and private property.

Classicial stereotyping of Jews as intent on world domination has been overtaken by Holocaust-denial, and criticism of Israel; the Magen David symbol equated with a swastika. Zionism in the same league as fascism; as the world annihilated Nazis, so should it Zionists.

Jews as evil, malevolent succubi on society gain a renaissance in public opinion, not only from the grimly unwashed, but from the ivory towers that disdain the uneducated. Radical Islamist propaganda has successfully encouraged Western leftists to take up the cause of the Palestinians against the oppressive Jews.

Islamist propaganda has successfully pictured the ugly Jew as a blood-lusting child-killer. And those criticizing Israel embrace their claims that critiques of Israel do not represent anti-Semitism.

In Britain particularly, the incidence of anti-Semitism, while on the rise, was never really excised from public perceptions. There has always been a prevalent, simmering anti-Semitism; it has merely become more boldly vocal, not merely insinuated, but stated clearly in the general acceptance that Israel, deliberately held to a standard no other country must struggle with, represents the ultimate in brutal imperialism, oppressing the Palestinians.

Slogans like "kill the Jews" are pasted on walls and bus shelters, not just anywhere, but in Jewish-dominated neighbourhoods. Verbal and physical abuse of Jewish children occurs on school playgrounds. Synagogues are torched, and assaults on Jews advertising their religion by the wearing of yarmulkes are more frequent.

When Jewish complaints are made about racist allusions to Jews, the response invariably is "I am sick of being accused of anti-Semitism, when what I'm doing is criticizing Israel". Israel's "Cast Lead" assault on the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza was seized upon as a "massacre" and "slaughter" of innocents, Israel being condemned as a racist regime intent on "genocide".

These charges are well received in Britain, finding a ready and enthusiastic audience eager to join the chorus of condemnation. It is in Britain that a high-ranking IDF general was forced to abandon plans to exit an airplane for fear of arrest, charged with 'war crimes'.

It is in Britain that trade unions and academics initiated boycotts of Israeli goods, investment in the country, and a campaign to boycott Israeli academics from entry to the country.

It is in Britain, that bastion of democracy and freedoms and fair-mindedness and justice that the publication of a book by a U.S. author, critical of Islamism was suppressed, as a result of a law suit brought by a well-heeled Muslim who was not even a resident of the country.

It was Britain who refused entry to the Dutch Parliamentarian, Geert Wilders, who produced the short 2008 film 'Fitna', and who had been invited by British parliamentarians to address a committee of interested viewers. Much to the annoyance of the Netherlands, who felt the insult of exclusion of one of their own

While other members of the European Union, boycotted Durban II, Britain, along with France, attended. Effectively validating the process by their respected presence. Canada led the world in announcing early on its intention to boycott the conference on racism. Joined by Israel, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Poland, Germany, Netherlands.

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: "We are very concerned that around the world anti-Semitism is growing in volume and acceptance, justified ... by opposition to Israel itself."

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Incomparable Nelson Mandela

He has attained the ripe old age of ninety years. This elder statesman. This highly respected man of peace, of conscience, and of history. He is an avid supporter of human rights, of the freedom of humankind, of respect between nations and between individuals. He celebrates colour-blindedness, and diversity, and equality.

Truly an esteemed figure, one who fought the good fight and lived to tell about it, despite long years of vile incarceration for his human-rights beliefs.

Co-Founder of the African National Congress, and beloved Father of his nation.

What has happened to his conscience on the way to achieving ninety years of grace? Little said of Zimbabwe, of Darfur, of Somalia, of Democratic Republic of Congo. Where is his voice? It was heard in support of the Palestinians, in denunciation of the State of Israel, however.

Where is his sense of proportionality, of urgency to meet the temper of the times, the violation of human rights, the dire straits of indigent, disease-threatened Africans?

Bishop Desmond Tutu, so large a presence in Apartheid and post-Apartheid South Africa, a mentor to past-President Mandela, a partner in peace, good fellowship and forgiveness is heard on occasion. He has not forgotten his mandate to speak on behalf of his fellow sufferers.

And he has somehow conceived an antipathy to the new ANC, comprised of a different set of values and determinations. Above all, led now by a politician whose history of corruption, accused of having committed rape, ignorant of HIV/AIDS prevention, has sullied that party. No, not really. The old stalwarts of the NAC have formed their own party.

What is obvious to Bishop Tutu has somehow managed to escape the notice of Mr. Mandela. His former wife, an accomplice to murder, a treacherous self-enabler and self-promoter who sought to amass wealth while encouraging her supporters to 'necklace' those political adversaries to whom she took a dislike, is now front and centre in supporting Jacob Zuma.

And she has brought along for that very same purpose, her former husband. To sit in the bleachers, beaming, giving his cheerful assent to the assumptions of Mr. Zuma.

All is forgiven, Mr. Zuma. There were no sins against your fellows committed that might conceivably place you in a position unfit for highest public office. The ANC remains committed to honour, honesty, justness, above all to focus on the 'primary task' of ending poverty, to ensure improved lives for all South Africans.

Labels: , ,

Geneva: Conference on Racism - A Resounding Success!

The much-debated and anticipated United Nations-sponsored World Conference Against Racism has finally begun. Already it can be pronounced a success, for none other than Iran's most honourable and highly respected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking on the opening day as "guest of honour" has unveiled the true nature of the State of Israel, and that, incidentally, of Jews in general, revealing them for the racists that they have always been suspected of being.

The gravity of the conference and the hushed attention to the speaker was momentarily diverted by the insulting appearance of two unconscionable protesters dressed in rainbow wigs, who had the unspeakable temerity to toss red clown noses at the honoured guest as he initiated his speech with a Muslim prayer. The malefactors were revealed to represent a French Jewish student group determined to label the conference a hypocritical masquerade of anti-racism. They chorused 'racist, racist' as they tossed the noses at the honoured guest, having obviously forgotten his name.

They were summarily disposed of. This is no laughing matter. This mischief so enraged many diplomats that they rose from their seats and vacated the hall in Geneva. Oh, sorry. It seems the diplomats who left the conference in protest did so to avoid hearing the honoured guest launch a tirade against the government of Israel, that racist Zionist entity. They may not have entirely appreciated the honoured guest's inclusion for censure of the United States.

Another trouble-maker, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz had already been escorted from the Geneva hotel which President Ahmadinejad graced with his presence. He had the effrontery to wish to consult their honoured guest about his views on the Holocaust and Israel. So much for graciousness, for free speech and civil discourse. Honoured guests are not to be irritated by unwanted truth-seekers, nor belittled by their controversial stances in questioning those of honoured guests.

As the hall emptied of those delegates who appeared morally affronted by Mr. Ahmadinejad's generous sharing of his feelings and view of history, those who remained applauded heartily, encouraging the honoured guest to continue to enlighten them. Those diplomats left to eagerly imbibe the opinions and denunciations did not represent Germany, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, United States, Czechoslovakia, Australia, New Zealand, or Poland.

The representatives to the conference from France and England remained steadfastly seated. Although France's delegate ungraciously characterized what emanated from the mouth of the honoured guest as a 'hate speech'. Nevertheless, of the 30 countries' representatives who walked out - not, obviously, those who boycotted the proceedings entirely - most would return to participate in the balance of the conference.

As matters transpired, Mr. Ahmadinejad appeared to be the sole major leader of a country to attend the conference. His interesting conclusion that Jewish migrants from Europe and the United States - most certainly not refugees who managed to survive the Holocaust, since it most certainly never did occur - had been purposefully sent to the Middle East to illegally oust the Palestinians to enable the squatters "in order to establish a racist government in the occupied Palestine."

How very fitting that this United Nations event, calling together the world body to discuss the vile scourge of racism takes place on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. "And in fact", lectured the honoured guest ... "in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine." Who, if they only tried, could emulate Iran's humane treatment of the dregs of Islamist society represented by gays, Baha'i, the irreligious, and protesters.

Post-speech the honoured guest pointed out the obvious, that those countries who confoundingly chose to boycott the forum were demonstrating their 'arrogance and selfishness'. Once again in evidence as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, speaking from headquarters in New York added: "We call on the Iranian leadership to show much measured, moderate, honest and constructive rhetoric when dealing with issues in the region, and not this type of vile, hateful, inciteful speech."

In response to which Mr. Ahmadinejad must most surely have wondered what on earth the problem was, since he most certainly did demonstrate measured moderation, honest and constructive rhetoric, and, come to think of it, he most certainly did take umbrage at the vile, hateful and inciteful response on the part of the U.S. Ambassador. For the honoured guest's speech was insightful, not inciteful; don't those cretins know the difference?

And French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, speaking afterward unburdened himself: "The defence of human rights and the fight against all types of racism are too important for the United Nations not to unite against all forms of hate speech, against all perversion of this message." To which, surely, the honoured guest must have murmured his deep appreciation. At last, someone of keen intellect, who understood the message properly; for that indeed was what the speech intended.

As for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, expressing his dismay over the unfortunate boycotts, the walk-outs, and the speech by the honoured guest, one can only scratch one's proverbial head. And empathize with the honoured guest over the perversity of human nature, the utter incomprehension of Mr. Ban claiming that the honoured guest had taken advantage of his opportunity to address the gathering "to accuse, divide and even incite".

Wot! Say that again? Slowly, please. I can feel myself, in sympathy with Mr. Ahmadinejad, taking offence. On the other hand, he's also considering the source...

Labels: , ,

Holocaust Commemoration

They came first for the communists
And I didn’t speak up because I
Wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade
And I didn’t speak up because I
wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews,
And I didn’t speak up because I
wasn’t a Jew;
And then … they came for me …
And by that time there was no one
left to speak up.

That poem expresses a universal conscience. Unfortunately, the universality of the poem did not evoke determination and the will to act by those around Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoeller, perhaps in part because he had a limited audience. Since the Holocaust, his immortal words of conscience denied and regretted has been widely distributed, and people have had the opportunity, in hindsight, to ponder on this age-old dilemma of “what would I have done?”

The tragedy of that time was that people in the immediate vicinity of the atrocities, while knowing what was occurring, thought little of it, because of an advance campaign of dehumanization of Europe’s Jews, that very community representing the universal, historical scapegoat. The reasons might be many, among the most compelling the fact that most of the death camps were located in areas of Europe where traditionally Jews held a despised place in the social contract, and where the local populations were themselves persecuted by the occupying Nazi oppression.

Still, like Pastor Niemoeller, there were individuals and families whose humanitarianism and courageous determination to assist Jews set them apart from the mass of those to whom death marches, concentration camps, Zyklon B and crematoria with their great chimneys belching human souls were ‘nothing to do with them’. Those courageous, charitable souls have been recognized as ‘righteous among the nations’. And they were represented by individuals as various as poor peasants, middle-class businesspeople, diplomats, clergy and nuns, who set for themselves the task of rescuing those whom they could from the torments of enslavement, torture, disease and extermination.

Nazi Germany distinguished itself in the annals of man’s cruelty to man by its dedication to the annihilation of world Jews, its determination to reach its goal despite being involved in a wide-ranging military battle to dominate the world. Its ambitions were boundless; to see the Third Reich ascend the world stage as the over-controller of all other countries of the world. The Nordic ideal of the perfect male; physical perfection mated with cerebral acuteness. The Axis countries never did quite reach the level of enthusiasm of Nazi Germany in its quest for not only world domination, but a world free of the presence of Jews, but they were granted the status of inclusiveness.

There are many Holocaust memorials in the world today, throughout Europe and North America, commemorating that awful event of vile madness. Where, while a dominant military nation reached the decision that it would commit itself to exterminating a nuisance ethnic-religious group for the greater good of humankind. Considering Jews a pestilence, a tribe of sub-humans whose hierarchy had as its goal - why, world domination; in politics, finances, media, religion and culture. Absent the ‘religion’, a mirror image of Nazi German’s aspirations. It is interesting that fascist Germany also planned a museum dedicated to Jews and all things Jewish, as a curiosity reflecting the arcane lifestyle and aspirations of a ‘disappeared’ race.

And it is also instructive to understand that once the Allies - those combined countries of the world who made a military pact to battle to a successful conclusion those allied Axis countries aligned with fascist Germany - became knowledgeable about the plight of the Jews, not one, with the notable exception of tiny Denmark, made an official attempt to rescue Jews, even when it was in their power to do so. The pathetic exculpatory reasons proffered after the fact simply pointed out that inaction was a result of latent or overt racism, a simmering anti-Semitism that pervaded Europe and North America, Latin America and Asia, but for a few amazing exceptions.

Inaction to rescue even orphans from death was a result of supreme indifference to the fate of Jews.

Modern history recorded the horror of the Irish famine and the Ukrainian famine, both dreadful mass starvation events that could have been avoided, but for the deliberate disinterest of the British and the Russians in forestalling those disaster; instead they instituted them. The Armenian massacre by a worn-torn Turkey another instance of humanity’s failures, even before the Holocaust. And then after the Holocaust the world turned its shamefaced attention on the appalling mass murder of helpless victims representing an insane vendetta against a specific group - and the League of Nations vowed that such an abomination would never stain the annals of world history again.

We now have, to add to the earlier litany of mass atrocities against humanity, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur. And now, we also have the United Nations, heir to the League of Nations, doing its utmost to wipe the scourge of racism out of human destiny, and for that singular purpose it encourages all nations to bear witness to their internal social compact, in honour of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

And for that reason, we have such vital bodies as the United Nations' sponsored Human Rights Council, whose appointed leading lights represent repressive dictatorships, sitting in judgement of liberal democracies who need no lessons in the observance of human rights and freedoms. And we also have the spectacularly dysfunctional event named The Durban Review Conference, the 2009 United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Durban II, held in the United Nations headquarters in Switzerland.

To which the world's foremost Holocaust-denier, fervent anti-Semite, human right- abusing racist, issuing existential threats against a UN member-country, insistent on the attainment of prohibited nuclear-defence/offence technology, is invited to speak as the 'honoured guest'. So he may ventilate at this most public of forums his, and his country's and his supporting countries' racist tirades against Jews.

And thus does the world unfold ... not necessarily as it must ... but as it tends to do.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cause and Action = Crisis

Hard to even begin imagining what it might be like to live within societal chaos, political anarchy, a country whose nationhood and national infrastructures have completely collapsed. No social structure remaining but those of clan and tribe, no governmental presence, no security, no real economy, nor trade, no educational system, no medical system, no freedoms but the freedom to desperately subsist.

With the breakdown of government agencies, society does not regulate itself well. There is a breakdown in societal mores, as the advantaged seek further advantage and the disadvantaged see little value in observing normal ethical and moral codes. Resentment and aggrievement, and power wherever it can be found, is brought to bear exploiting the truly ineffectual, weak and powerless.

Since the civil war in Somalia, the country has been in a state of collapse, with no effective central government, no security and safety, no useful means of livelihood, and much desperation, alongside a continuing political stalemate between a Western-installed and -supported government incapable of asserting itself, and an insurgent Islamist, al-Qaeda-affiliated group of thugs.

With no government there has been no instruments of government to protect the country's sovereignty. With the longest oceanic coastline in Africa, fishing that traditionally provided support for the now-indigent Somalians living in coastal Puntland collapsed as foreign-owned ships; French, Spanish, North Korean, Pakistani, Saudi Arabian, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese and Yemeni among others, overfished the seabed.

And then it became illegally, immorally customary for foreign vessels to dump their toxic wastes along the coast as well. A UN report found that as a result of nuclear waste dumping off the coast of Somalia, residents suffered "acute respiratory infections, heavy coughing, bleeding gums and mouth, abdominal haemorrhages, unusual skin rashes, and even death".

What population wouldn't feel resentful and aggrieved over this state of affairs? If responsible foreign governments ceased and desisted from depopulating the seabed, permitting Somalians to once again fish in their own coastal waters, their traditional livelihoods could be restored - along with a clean-up of the waste; uranium radioactive, lead, cadmium and mercury, along with industrial and hospital wastes.

In the absence of that intolerably irritating mediation, anarchy has turned itself to profit. Responding to the illegality of foreign nations' swooping their livelihoods and trashing their health, Somali youth have turned to what they consider to be a logical response; exacting their own revenge upon the international community that despoiled their coast and their livelihood.

Coastal Somalis have successfully and irritatingly created their new economy. An exacting, exciting, and very remunerative one. And suddenly, a very dangerous one. Not only to the hijackers, but now also to those whom they take into their custody. Knowing that their own lives will now increasingly be forfeit as a hugely angry shipping community begins to fend for itself with the assistance of international warships.

Particularly those from France and the United States who see nothing amiss in furnishing instant capital offence solutions to the infuriatingly frequent assaults on international shipping. As it becomes more common for youthful Somali pirates to anticipate they may lose their lives in the process of taking foreign ships into their custody to be redeemed for huge cash profits, they may become more liable to indulge in killing of their own.

The very act of boarding a vessel with the intent to violently compel the crew to submission, and bring the captured vessel into port at Eyl for ransom, represents an international crime. That the pirates are becoming increasingly aware that they have become targets for deadly assaults in retaliation, will only encourage them to hold the lives of their hostages somewhat less dear.

Particularly as they now have an eagerness to target French and American vessels to extract revenge in memory of their pirate compatriots who received the final 'lesson' in a casual interpretation of a latter-day Law of the Sea.

Labels: , , ,

Sacrifice of the Powerless

The powerful may do as they like. Who will apprehend them, successfully chasten them? Might does make right, if not quite rightly moral or ethical.

The powerless can do little to defend themselves against the power of those who wield it, for better or for ill. The defenceless, and that is most of us, have few skills and fewer yet of any mechanisms apart from protest, civil disobedience, defiance of authority, to bring attention to their plight or distress, or unease with the decisions of the powerful.

They do have the option of offering the ultimate sacrifice. It's a sacrifice quite unlike that espoused by Islamist jihadists for whom sacrifice equates with blessed martyrdom, eliciting from He on High plaudits and a place in Paradise, embellished by the presence of willing virgins. Those jihadists sacrificing their lives do it in a state of exalted purpose, submitting to the demands of the Divine Maker, in anticipation of His blessing and their rewards.

They are acting in a powerful way. They are subsumed by the passion of hatred, eager to deliver death as a means of proving their honour, their courage, their commitment to jihad, a holy war that consecrates their actions as one with the glory of God. They act from a position of strength, encouraged by their mullahs, their ayatollahs, their learned clerics who probe the scriptures to define and isolate commandments to go forth and murder in cause of the one True Faith.

The powerless use another instrument altogether. Their sacrifice is a purely personal one. They have no intention of sacrificing other, innocent lives alongside their own. Their protest is one of submission to a moral and ethical code not quite recognized by the greater society, but which impassions them to the point of personal extinction, as a personal protest.

Hunger strikers devote their passive protest, the inertia of losing their bodily functions to pain and starvation to prove their devotion to a cause held dear to their hearts. This is the instrument of protest taken by the weak, those without power, the disenfranchised, in a last desperate appeal for attention to their ignored cause. They offer themselves as hostage to the cause. Unassuaged, they forfeit their claim to life.

This is the ultimate political act of protest. With nothing left to barter for attention, help, commitment, they offer no resistance, merely the unconscionable realization by the onlookers that by their inaction they have condemned a living human being to death. Hunger striking is the ultimate form of blackmail, imposing upon the onlooker the mantle of reluctant enabler in a death pact.

The process, if not halted, is inexorable, as the body breaks down along with the spirit and the will to live. The striker becomes progressively weaker, unable to use all his faculties. He may no longer be able to walk on his own, use his vision or hearing as normal. Pain begins to evince itself as the central and peripheral nervous systems begin to fail, along with the heart, the kidneys and even that largest organ, the skin.

Physical failure, and mental incompetency results. A steely resolve, a hard and righteous belief in one's cause, leading to the ultimate commitment; to cease existing in a common cause with those who are suffering, are oppressed, for whom the striker mounts his protest. The message is a powerful one; the weak transcending his weakness.

Despite the power of the message to move us all to compassion and caring, the protest will not necessarily result in vindication of the decision to hunger-strike. But it does represent the ultimate, and last resort of the desperate.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Freely Enterprising

A 35-year-old Iranian-Canadian, Mahmoud Yadegari, has been charged with violating the Customs Act and a United Nations embargo on nuclear-related exports to Iran. Canada is in the throes of discovering there are increasing attempts to illegally spirit nuclear technology out of the country by enterprising souls wishing to ingratiate themselves with what are considered to be rogue states, or to line their pockets with ill-gotten gains from this illicit transport of nuclear-related items, forbidden to regimes such as Iran.

Mahmoud Yadegari stands accused, and appeared in a Toronto courtroom briefly on Friday, of attempting to export "pressure transducers" used to produce weapons-grade uranium, according to Inspector Greg Johnson, head of the RCMP customs and excise section in the region around Toronto. Police had spend the morning, afternoon and evening of the previous day methodically, meticulously searching Mr. Yagedari's home and backyard shed, cataloging found items of interest.

This investigation marks the first of its kind to result in charges in Canada, while representing only one of a steadily increasing number of such suspected and revealed incidents occurring of late. Over two dozen nuclear-related components have been sized by Customs officials in the past year, according to the manager of the counter-proliferation section of the Canada Border Services Agency.

Most of the intercepted materials are shipped by air, described as innocent-enough objects, bearing no relation to what they actually are, to forestall searches. "They don't describe the commodity as being for a nuclear centrifuge. They declare it is 'household effects', they declare it as 'auto parts' they declare it as 'scrap iron'. And once we even pull their freight aside for examination, they change their names", according to the CBSA manager.

The pressure transducers are considered to be a 'key component' of centrifuges used to enrich uranium. They are costly to obtain and it's more than likely this risky enterprise was undertaken by Mr. Yadegari as much to enrich himself personally, as to demonstrate his devotion to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a country with which Canada remains on edgy relations of mistrust and anger about its human-rights record.

Canada has a good many expatriate Iranians, now happily established as Canadian citizens, with no allegiance whatever to the fundamentalist Islamist regime in Iran.
The Islamist Republic has gone out of its way to abrade relations with any Western country, and the international community is alarmed at the country's steady course of nuclear development, particularly its enrichment of weapons-grade uranium.

That Iran has spread its acquisitive tentacles into Canada to obtain illicit centrifuge components to further enable its advance toward nuclear weaponry is an alarming turn of events. Although the country steadfastly insists its nuclear plants are meant for domestic use entirely, it's no secret that the agenda is inclusive of the attainment of nuclear weapons; warheads and the missiles to fire them. The ultimate power objects, the ultimate control mechanisms: fear and misgivings.

While the United Nations Security Council led by the United States insists that Iran cease in its weapons-grade refinement, and permit IAEA inspectors free access to all its nuclear emplacements, Iran refuses and mimics the demands by presenting those of its own: that Western forces withdraw from the near proximity of the country, and that the West collectively be prepared to destroy its entire nuclear arsenal - while respecting Iran's sovereign and religious right to acquire its own.

The issue of desisting in uranium enrichment by Iran is a non-starter, for the country. It will not engage in any discussions that include pre-conditions, such as enrichment cessation. Iran insists it has a divine right to achieve its mission of nuclear proficiency. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mocks the West, claiming its 'rhetoric' and 'lack of respect' toward countries like Iran are unjustified, intolerable and unjust.

"Iran will respond to anyone who wants to talk with the Iranian nation from a position of egocentrism just like it responded to Mr. Bush..."

In its recently-unveiled 'package' meant to solve the world's ills in one fell swoop of magnanimous justifications evincing its concern for peace and good fellowship, Tehran "...'guarantees' peace, justice, respect for the nations, and the participation of all of them in resolving world problems. We are a people of dialogue and reason, and we say to you [the West] that today the world is run with respect and justice ... and those who want to use [the tool] of forcing [a policy on others] are backwards."

Presenting as a lavishly self-congratulating show of concern for reasonableness in world affairs, a pledge that the Republic of Iran is concerned with justice, respect and observes human rights, while the West, those stalwart proponents of reason, human rights and justice represent the very position that they insist Iran exemplifies. As sarcastic wit, this is no tour de force. As a mockery of decency and values, it descends a hellish pit.

No one can speak logically and reasonably with a regime that remains aggressively totalitarian, that threatens the peace and very existence of a neighbour, that thumbs its nose at world opinion, that insists it has a divine right to threaten co-existence with its neighbours through the attainment of nuclear weapons - and still presents itself as peaceful, freedom-loving and just.

Just what Canada needs; some of its citizens conspiring to take advantage of Canadian expertise and technology to aid and assist this exemplar of national lunacy on a scale hitherto only imagined as a nightmare potential.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, April 17, 2009

CAW Taking A Fit

A week ago Fiat warned that it would not be prepared to join with Chrysler without major concessions by the Canadian Auto Workers Union. Now federal Industry Minister Tony Clement, correctly reading the writing on the wall states that taxpayer funding to be allocated to Chrysler LLC and General Motors Corp., to enable them to remain in Canada, employing Canadian workers, will have to come up with a more sensibly workable agreement with the CAW.

Ken Lewenza has long railed against the unfairness of expectations that his union members will relent, through him, and make further sacrifices to assist the two embattled car makers meet their obligations, to enable them to receive taxpayer-funded assistance. He and his union feel, in addition, that the public purse should guarantee auto workers' pensions in the event of a collapse. He isn't amenable to doing much to help prevent that collapse.

The world is such an unfair place, according to Ken Lewenza. Unfairly targeting his union members, trying to force them to capitulate to the horrible demands that their wages be at least equal to that of other, un-unionized Canadian auto workers. He is fixated on the idea that sacrifices must be made - by the executives of the auto manufacturers, by the federal and provincial governments, by the taxpayers, but not auto workers, his union members.

But the ultimatum has been delivered, that without the union agreeing to a deep cut in worker compensation, there will be no bail-out and the auto workers will then face the very real and dire consequences of industry bankruptcy with all that entails. Why waste 'public money', taxpayer funding on an industry certain to fail because inadequate moves were made to resuscitate it?

There are ten thousand non-unionized workers in Canada at Toyota and Honda factories. Their wages are not commensurate with those of the unionized workers, yet their wages are fair compensation for the work accomplished. Unionized auto workers' compensation has long been recognized as too expensive, and their additional perks a drag on the companies' bottom line.

There isn't much time left for sufficiently significant moves to take effect in the hopes of saving the two auto manufacturers from bankruptcy protection. Chrysler would very much like the CAW to accept a pay slide from $76 to $57 an hour, reflective of what Toyota Motor Corp. pays its Canadian workers. Holy Jumping Jupiter! $76 an hour and all those benefits on top? For factory work?

The CAW is balking, hoping for alternate resolutions that won't diminish the handsome paycheques auto workers have been enjoying. The Canadian and Ontario governments are now playing hardball with taxpayer funds, giving Chrysler until April 30 to strike a new labour deal and finalize its commercial partnership with Fiat SpA. General Motors too has to renegotiate its union contract for the funding on offer.

So what's the CAW doing? Pleading with workers at car assembly plants owned by Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. for their support, stressing the necessity for all auto workers to stand together. Honda workers were understandably disinterested in being cajoled to come to the support of their GM and Chrysler counterparts, the poor boys being urged to rescue the rich guys.

Long past time for Ken Lewenza and the CAW to face realities.

Labels: , , ,

Lethal Trade

The World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization, along with the world scientific community are in unanimous agreement that chrysotile asbestos - the type of asbestos mining that the Province of Quebec is famous for, famously refusing to admit it is carcinogenic, and famously dependent upon a complicit federal government to support their mining and trade - represents a clear and present danger to human health.

It is a deadly carcinogen that should be banned.

Ah, but the The Chrysotile Institute begs to differ. And the Government of Canada appears to support The Chrysotile Institute's line that this type of asbestos is perfectly safe if 'used as directed'. That, when mixed with cement as is done in developing countries to make roofing for schools and houses, the asbestos miraculously 'disappears', and thus presents no danger to human health.

The Government of Canada hands over $250,000 in its latest budget to support the invaluable work of the Institute.

That's tax dollars taken from Canadian taxpayers to support the raving lies of a conscienceless industry insistent on saving its itself and the jobs of its Quebec workers, despite unassailable evidence its product is a carcinogen. And isn't it truly peculiar that Ottawa is itself busy earmarking millions of dollars in remedial work, removing that harmless asbestos from the Parliament buildings, mindful of the health of Members of Parliament and their staff?

The industry jobs being protected number about 550 in the community of Thetford Mines, long the centre of the country's asbestos mining industry. Asbestos use, long recognized as harmful to human health, has been banned in Europe and Australia; most uses also banned in Canada. While at the very same time Canada represents the world's largest exporter of chrysotile, exporting it to India, Indonesia, Thailand and other developing countries.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 125-million workers globally are exposed occupationally to the effects of asbestos, resulting in approximately 90,000 deaths each year. The Canadian Medical Association Journal terms Canada's insistence on mining and exportation of chrysotile as a perfectly viable and useful material "shameful, political manipulation of science".

The Lancet recently refers to Canada's "singularly malevolent role in promoting asbestos use in the developing world" in a recent review. One can only wonder how all these scientific journals and medical associations could be wrong, and the industry and its Chrysotile Institute, pledged "to foster the international implementation of the safe and responsible use of chrysotile asbestos" is self-interestedly right.

The industry whose value is about $100-million in export dollars, should be put to rest. It's abundantly clear from all respectable scientific sources that there simply is no "safe use" for asbestos. A report by a panel of international experts now in the hands of Health Canada (for the past year, they've forgotten its presence) finds, in the words of one panellist "My opinion, really, is safe use is a canard.

"We can't really believe that shipping these asbestos fibres to countries like India, that they're going to somehow magically use chrysotile in a way that is safer than we have in the West. If you look at our history here in Canada, the United States or Europe, we're currently still experiencing an epidemic of asbestos-related diseases that mostly happened 20 to 30 years ago.

"It does not really seem logical to argue that somehow these countries are going to have the kind of engineering that will allow them to avoid the hazards that we've experienced", according to Leslie Stayner, director of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois School of Public Health.

Canada can't afford the kind of stupidity in refusing to face up to the truth that causes us to appear uncaring about the welfare of people living in far-off countries for the sake of a few hundred jobs, an industry impervious to criticism, and a waning reputation for responsible action. Asbestos should be given a proper and permanent burial.

Labels: , , ,

() Follow @rheytah Tweet