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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Colossal Deception

Can it be attributed to inexplicable greed, that one man can enjoy the confidence of a huge number of trusting people and deliberately, utterly without conscience betray that trust? To such an unimaginable extent, that he was able, over a period of decades, to convince people who trusted him that he had safely 'invested' their savings on their behalf, to ensure the principal would be safeguarded, and would render a nice tidy profit through his knowledgeable and professional investment techniques.

Gross malfeasance of unprecedented proportions, that one man, a respected financier with a reputation for trustworthiness, backed by a professional CV that included a stint as non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange, admitted to defrauding thousands of investors of billions of dollars. The extent of his breach of trust, of the money lost represents the largest investor fraud in American history. Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty to an eleven-count criminal complaint and was found guilty.

He was found guilty of massive fraud, and sentenced to the maximum allowable penalty, a penalty never before exacted for a white collar crime. The one hundred, fifty years in prison could never conceivably be served, but it will most certainly serve as a caution for any other fraud-oriented entrepreneurs who might want to replicate his success. At age 71, the man's balance of life will be spent as a detested convicted felon, incarcerated in the U.S. prison system, able to spend as much time as he likes thinking about his former celebrated lifestyle.

And the retirees, friends and acquaintances, charities and university endowments, royalty and celebrities whose wealth he spirited away.

Mr. Madoff was the founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. Until his arrest on December 11, 2008 he was its chairman. His company was considered one of the top market businesses on Wall Street. No one would ever have suspected he was a vulture disguised as a dove. The prevailing legend is that he 'confessed' to his sons that his company's asset management division was a collapsed criminal failure. The money he received from investors simply melted away. Earlier investors who requested their money were given later investors' funding.

There was no substance to his firm's money management, no magic technique and insider knowledge that enabled him to safeguard and grow the investments that friends, colleagues, the wealthy and the famous entrusted him with. It is estimated that he defrauded charitable groups, businesses, individuals, trusts, of the equivalent of $65-billion, an unbelievable sum. Mr. Madoff pleaded guilty to charges including securities fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. In his defence he had no defence. He characterized his defrauding adventure as an error in judgement.

When he stood before the judge to await judgement on June 29, he faced those of his victims who were present to deliver their victim impact statements and said "I know this will not help. I'm sorry." Most certainly it did nothing whatever to help the newly impoverished to face their uncertain future. He cannot take anything more away from them. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that his wife, who declares herself to have been entirely innocent of any criminal involvement, may be sued for the paltry (relatively speaking) $2.5 million she has remaining, having agreed to surrender $85-million in assets.

How believable it is that Mr. Madoff's siblings, his wife, his sons, had no idea of his criminal finagling is another story altogether. Of course federal government financial regulators also have some responsibility to own up to in this dreary tale of human failure.

Labels: , ,

Non-Stop Greed

In a word, (cupidity) that seems to describe former Hydro One CEO Eleanor Clitheroe. Her sense of personal worth and entitlement appears to know no bounds. Even while, in more recent history she has been ordained by the Anglican Church, and those associated with that church speak of her as a really lovely person. Which she well may be, if you're not paying her salary. When the people of Ontario paid her salary they most certainly did not think fondly of her.

That old saying about a leopard not being able to change its spots applies perfectly well to this woman. She had sued to have her original (beyond gold-plated) pension agreement honoured by the Government of Ontario which thought otherwise. Now Ontario Superior Court Justice Ruth Mesbur has ruled that Ms. Clitheroe's Charter Rights were not violated when then-Premier Ernie Eves introduced Bill 80 legislation clamping down on exorbitant pensions and salaries at Hydro One.

Talk about a sweetheart deal. It wasn't enough for this woman that she brought home a whopping salary of $2.2 million in the year she was fired (2002) by the new interim board of directors over "an issue of corporate governance and inappropriate behaviour at the most senior level of the company". Her salary at that time was $1.6 million, with a $214,000 car allowance, another $330,000 in limousine fees, and including membership in seven "ultra-exclusive" private clubs (entrance fees of up to $60,000). Oh yes, more than $172,000 cashed out representing unused vacation credits.

She thought it would be a nifty idea if Hydro One paid for an expensive new yacht for her husband to captain in competitive yacht-sporting events. She felt that it was reasonable to bill the taxpayer for limousine trips for her two children and their nanny; hence the $330,000 in limousine fees. And, not to be overlooked, a new Mercedes annually. She had been appointed by Conservative Premier Mike Harris, he of the famous "Common Sense Revolution", who gutted social services to save provincial taxpayer revenues.

Following hard on the heels of a NDP government headed by Bob Rae who had hired Maurice Strong to head the predecessor of Hydro One, Ontario Hydro. Mr. Strong, as CEO of Ontario Hydro tried to cut costs, lamented the dreadful money hole Ontario Hydro had collapsed into, and offered to cut his own, by comparison, modest salary. What a contrast in character and style. Mr. Strong thought it would be a good idea for Ontario Hydro to spread its wealth around - in other, undeveloped economies. Ms. Clitheroe felt Hydro One needed to develop her economic bottom line.

When Hydro One paid for renovations to Ms. Clitheroe's Toronto home to the tune of $40,000 she was complacent with that until it became public knowledge, along with the extent of her other entitlements. She speedily repaid that sum. And was then fired. Ms. Clitheroe challenged the provincial government for the amount of her pension. Feeling she was entitled to receive $33,644 a month (gasp!), and not the $25,637 a month (gasp!) she will be entitled to when she turns 65.

Guess the very nice woman who is now an Anglican clergywoman will have to learn to live on $25,637 a month in her disappointed elderly years. Pity that things don't always work out as people feel so passionately they should.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 29, 2009

Perplexing International Reaction

It's puzzling to the casual onlooker reading the news why UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the European Union and U.S. President Barack Obama would give voice to a condemnation of events that took place in Honduras over the week-end, where the country's Supreme Court advised that it had authorized the country's military to remove its president, Manual Zelaya.

For the simple reason that President Zelaya, despite warning from the Supreme Court that what he planned to undertake was illegal, proceeded with it nonetheless. Former Honduran President Zelaya insisted on holding a referendum to change the country's constitution. Because he would have it so, despite being warned by the Supreme Court of its illegality.

The country's armed forces did just what the Supreme Court ordered them to do; arrested the president and ushered him out of the country. Whereupon the Honduran deputies unanimously elected Congress head Robert Micheletti as interim president. Mr. Micheletti is a member of Mr. Zelaya's Liberal party.

Despite international condemnation, and that the U.S. the UN and the EU have stated their backing for the ousted president, Hondura's new President Robert Micheletti rejects their position. "What we have done here is an act of democracy, because our army has complied with the order of the court, prosecutors and judges. Our national army ... complied with the constitution.

The Supreme Court contending it had so acted to protect law and order.

Former President Zelaya was removed from office for "repeated violations of the constitution and the law and disregard of orders and judgements of the institutions", while newly appointed President Micheletti promised to govern with "transparency and honesty" and to "work tirelessly to restore peace and tranquility that we have lost".

In the interim remaining in office until just past the turn of the new year when the new president who was elected in November 2009 is slated to take office. These are non-renewable four-year terms under the country's constitution.

Manuel Zelaya, taking inspiration from and encouraged by his great good friend Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, aspired to change the constitution to enable him to run again for election, and possibly, like Chavez, remain president for life. While Venezuelans, in the end, submitted to their president's will, Hondurans would not.

Public support for Mr. Zelaya had fallen to 30%. "Our country has been without a route and rudderless for quite some time, and agitated politically", according to opposition deputy Antonio Cesar Rivera. It would appear from all the data coming out of the country that the peoples' will has been done, and the country's constitution upheld by its judicial guardians.

U.S. President Obama, calling for calm stated "Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference". That appears to have been done. Why then, does he then go on to state through a senior official in his office that Washington recognizes only Zelaya as president?

Gross interference, yet again, in another nation's internal concerns.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, June 28, 2009

And Now, Will Reality Please Step Forward...?

The Palestinian Authority, led by Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas, as the 'moderate' among the Palestinian factions dealing with Israel, has the confidence of the West, as a likely partner for peace with its neighbour. Hamas is deemed to be too militant, unwilling to relieve itself of its constitutional pledge to cause the destruction of the State of Israel. As the moderate faction of the two, much trust is placed in Fatah's public attestations of goodwill and determination to succeed in formulating an agreement that would lead to a two-state solution.

Oddly enough, perhaps it is the honesty of Hamas in refusing to acknowledge Israel's legitimacy and continuing to resort to up-front attacks on the state that should be recognized for a certain type of probity, and Fatah unveiled for its untrustworthiness, saying one thing for public digestion, acting and encouraging its followers to invest in terror that equally matches that of Hamas. Demonstrated by a videotaped performance shown on Fatah TV, controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Present at the event were former heads of PA security and foreign affairs. Fatah and Hamas students were televised arguing between themselves in a question-and-response forum over which of the two factions represented the best interests of the Palestinians, which presented as heroic and inspired defenders of Palestinian interests through their dedication to wreaking havoc and bloody revenge on their Jewish neighbours. Pro-Fatah students criticized Hamas for their intermittent attacks on Israel from Gaza.

The Fatah students hectored and taunted the Hamas students, extolling the militant virtues of the PLO, as being the first to advance terror attacks on Israel. "The first shot was fired by the PLO, the first jihad was carried out by the PLO with all the other factions - but Hamas always opposed." The audience whistled their approval, and the pro-Fatah students went on to boast about the murders of Israelis in Ramallah where two reservists were arrested by PA police, then lynched by a mob that beat them to death, mutilated their bodies and dragged them through the street.

In the new Obama administration in the U.S., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated unequivocally that there were no prior agreements between the United States and Israel with respect to enforceable agreements: "In looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no formal or oral enforceable agreements. That has been verified by the official record of the administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility." This, in defence of the U.S. position that there be no further West Bank settlements.

Yet pursuant to the Bush 2003 "Road Map for Peace", a letter forwarded to Ariel Sharon, then-Israeli Prime Minister, dated 2004, stated: "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centres, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." And, "A solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel."

According to Elliot Abrams, then in charge of Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, and a negotiator at the time, "Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation - the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank." And we know where that got Israel.

Without assured security there can be no movement toward consolidating a move toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The West Bank settlements are an issue that could be discussed and ultimately settled between the Palestinians and Israel, even resulting in a conclusion that land could be swapped, giving the Palestinians part of Israel's geography that hosts mostly Palestinians in exchange for Palestinian land hosting Israelis, which is reasonable.

The trouble with this is that although Palestinian Israelis - living under the aegis of the State, and benefiting from a whole host of civil benefits accruing to them as citizens - are anxious to see a Palestinian state come to fruition; they are not themselves interested in being hived off to be included in that nascent state. This is a problem that could be overcome, however. The much larger problem that has never been adequately faced is that the Palestinian Authority was tasked, under that same road plan, with the urgent need to still terror.

This is something they have not honoured, appear to have no intention of so doing, and until and unless the Palestinian Authority recognizes a need to halt terror attacks on Israel, setting the stage for a potential state-by-state reality, nothing can be accomplished. And therein lies the rub, because it is not clear, not at all apparent, that this is the end aspiration for the PA. Their actions up to now appear to indicate that the search for a two-state solution is a ploy, a sop to the West.

The simple fact being that nothing appears to salve the wounds of an infuriated Palestinian administration that will always view Israel's presence as a disaster, and still harbours an intent to somehow witness or be party to its overthrow, enabling Palestinians to once more take ownership of a geography they deem their own. And here is where the Group of Eight and the The Quartet come in, identifying Israel and Israel alone as the critically intransigent element in the proposed two-state partnership.

It is all very well to call "on both parties to fulfill their obligations under the roadmap, including a freeze on settlement activity", but why not go a little further to the understanding that without security, nothing else quite matters. Urge Israel if they must, to halt settlements, but recognize and urge, demand of the Palestinians to cease and desist in their hatred for and planned attacks on their Jewish neighbour.

First things first. Reasonableness will lead to required responses.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 26, 2009

"Absolute Superstar"

There, the world has suffered yet another societally destabilizing tragedy. We are one in an agony of suffering at the unsustainable loss of one beloved by millions. A mass entertainer of immense talent and prodigious proportions. A self-styled regent who sired princely beings who may in due time inherit the talents that their fabulous father unleashed on an adoring public.

A man whose electric presence, divine voice and singular physical being transfixed his vast audiences of music lovers, entertainment devotees. Princess Diana's death and the grief that followed it had no counterpart in the popular imagination until now, this moment when people fondly recall their first encounter with the Prince of Pop.

Whose legendary abilities and performances electrified audiences the world over. If nothing else, no social construct, no religion, no ideology, no communal needs, were able to unite the world as one; it can be said with truth, that the inestimable talents and showmanship of Michael Jackson performed that function.

He sang, and the world was one. This white black man who defiled his inheritance with one cosmetic operation after another in a desperate bid to vanquish his birth colour, the shapes of his defining facial features, his very bodily covering, the largest human organ, skin, transformed him into an androgynous mess.

His gender confusion, his chronological dysfunction, his denial of time and age and meaningful human relations marked him as a pathetic relic of denial gone awry.

The Reverend Al Sharpton mawkishly eulogized him as a social revolutionary, a seeker-after-justice, a black man insisting on equality for all races, when he was, in fact, an abject failure as a proud black man, a near-miss as a man, a mewling infant whose elusive search for the fantasy of Everland and Lollipops ended in a delusional sense of self as victim.

One social charlaton giving voice to another. Each of these men lived in a world of their own making. For the Reverend Sharpton it is a world of discriminatory misery; one inflicted on his race, and one he is happy to lob back at those he claims are his tormentors. For Michael Jackson, whom the best can be said of is that he was a lost soul, the eternal search for the authentic Disneyland.

When in fact, he victimized himself, succumbing to drug dependency, finding that all the money in the world could not buy him contentment with himself and with his place in the world. He spoke of love and revelled in self-hate, in sad delusion and sociopathic habituation. For him nothing quite succeeded like excess.

If there is anything to mourn, it is the failure of a promising human being to become more than a failure as a human being. To elevate this failure as an icon of culture, even pop culture, speaks to the sorry state of our own social mediocrity.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Our Daily Bread

And we think that food prices are high now? And the United Nations is warning of the stress that under-developed countries are experiencing given the global down-turn and the rising price of food? And we're informed that refugees' plight requiring attention from the developed world to ensure that mass starvation doesn't overtake good intentions means that more funding will be required to deliver basic food to those masses?

The most basic, elemental and fundamental type of food, bread, may soon become unavailable to larger segments of society than ever before. Simply due to scarcity. Unless food scientists, chemists and biologists somehow discover a fail-proof way of ensuring that crop-destructive fungi don't destroy our ability to provision ourselves with the wheat the world needs. It's like the worst-case scenario of limiting ourselves to mono-crops.

Where, with heritage types of fruits and vegetables having been whittled down in importance to certain single crops and specialized crops that have been genetically altered to make them more impervious to insect predation and infestations, suddenly have the potential to fatally succumb to another of nature's unpredictable scourges. And without diversity, other crops that might be impervious to that ravaging scourge, we're left without any.

Now, news of an air-borne fungus named Ug99 that has begun to devastate wheat crops in eastern Africa, on its way into the Middle East and Central Asia. It has, thus far, proven unstoppable. A destructive fungus that begins as a 'rust' presence on the stem of plants and saps the life-cycle, destroying the properties that make wheat able to mature to a human-digestible form of food.

Scientists are genuinely worried that without a breakthrough enabling them to successfully combat the onslaught of the fungus, it will make its way to the wheat-fecund, breadbasket regions of North America, Russia and China. The United Nations has identified Ug99 as "a major threat" to world food security. This stem rust disease is proving to be universally devastating.

Fungus spores attach to the stalk of a wheat plant emitting a reddish-brown rust colour pustule that grows, taking over the plant's nutrient and water system for its own growth, instead of enabling the plant to mature to become a human-edible grain. The problem of 'rust' is not new, but this is a new strain, one that is expected to mutate enabling it to attack all wheat types; spring, winter and durum.

Traditionally food scientists have taken to developing new wheat strains when new rust-causing fungi develop by introducing resistant genes into wheat plants. The process, however, can take a dozen years to develop new pest-resistant wheat variants. And the spread of this Ug99 rust has advanced exponentially, to the point where scientists don't have the leisure of time.

"Resource-poor farmers are particularly vulnerable to wheat-stem disease, which has the potential to wipe out entire crops", according to the director of agricultural development for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has set up the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project at Cornell University.

According to the executive director of the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission there is little or no research money poured into wheat. "This is one of the concerns that a lot of grower groups have. Cereals haven't had research dollars spent on them because there's more of an attractive pull into corn and soybeans, just because of the return on investment."

It's been left to governments to fund research in North America, to develop new wheat strains. Here's hoping governments become sufficiently infused with the sense of urgency that food scientists are themselves reeling under. Much depends on it.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Challenging Institutional Orthodoxy

A London woman has turned attention on herself through her bouts of unrestrained enthusiasm for intimate relationships cemented by marriage vows, without taking advantage of the need to ceremonially and lawfully rid herself of previous marriages before taking on the challenges of new ones. Only 31 years of age, and already embroiled in five marriages, all but the first, at age 18, representing serial bigamy.

She is not, evidently, entirely unaware of the institution of marriage requiring by law, a formal and legal divorce before embarking on a new alliance of marriage. It's just that, it would appear, she is easily distracted, and given to pluralist-tasking. Judges before whom she has appeared have described her as a "very predatory female". She most certainly has her counterpart in the other gender, and represents as a somewhat unusual female counterpart.

Society does not necessarily look askance at famous women like the film beauty Elizabeth Taylor who indulged in one marriage after another, occasionally on multiple occasions to the same man. Her decisions to leave one marriage for another, then another, and another, left her with a reputation for fastidious fickleness and unbridled sexual enthusiasm, but she was never besmirched legally as a serial bigamist, merely a serial opportunist seeking constant gratification.

And there are more than enough men who indulge in this kind of thing, as well, both legally and illegally. On the part of the young woman, Emily Horne, a former model - a social position and a trade where women are viewed as commodities representative of female beauty, poise and accessibility on the model of Playboy 'bunnies'; cuddly and fetchingly nubile - one could posit she has a short attention span and is simply eager to confront new intimacy challenges.

Look, on the other hand, at Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a robustly enthusiastic womanizer. True, he hasn't wedded one woman after another to gratify his sexual urges, but he does engage in rather questionable practises seeking the company of beautiful young women, models, hostesses, prostitutes, to excite his libido and entertain his friends at his various villas, as well as himself.

He isn't going to prison to serve sentences for bigamous relationships, because society has set up legal social conventions that will permit it to look the other way as long as one conforms to certain legalities, morality aside. Emily Horne is simply more spontaneous, down to earth about her carnal desires and romantic impulses. And she does express regret: "I genuinely regret causing any hurt to the men I married but I am trying to put it all behind me now."

Prime Minister Berlusconi, on the other hand, denies he has offended his wife, damaged his relationship with their children, and created an unnecessarily questionable spectacle for the Italian public and the reputation of their government. Not, on the evidence, that the electorate particularly cares. He is a man, after all, and men do these things. Particularly in ethnic societies where machismo is such a valued male attribute.

And look here; while Emily Horne stands before a chiding judge and serves jail time, Silvio Berlusconi grins and gloats and wins increasing political victories in provincial elections.

Labels: , ,

Basic Nurturing, Basic Sociopathy

Young people appear to be increasingly turning to sociopathic defiance of society's laws as though they have never been ingrained in a familial setting with a set of basic values. The social contract of law-abiding citizens appear to have by-passed too many young people. Their parents, or parent, as the case may be, somehow neglecting the most elemental nurturing of the young. And in the doing, failing to impress on them, through the yardstick of their own performance as parents, the worth of their value to society.

Women who for one reason or another appear to value their relationships with men - sometimes abusive men, sometimes men who haven't fathered the children they bring along to their serial relationships - over their parental responsibilities to their children. To ensure the children feel valued, emotionally supported, and given opportunities to become educated and socialized. People don't want to feel lonely, they look for companionship and it's all too human to make unfortunate decisions with long-term consequences.

Too often single mothers raise children whose upbringing has been neglected. The reason can be as simple as the mother needing to earn a living and as a result being incapable of fully attending to her children's needs. Single women raising children are at a distinct disadvantage in life. Their task is difficult and frustrating. But even in intact families with both parents in evidence, the current situation where both parents work to sustain their family economically leaves children without someone responsibly looking out for their welfare.

Young people left to their own devices, whose patterning as social beings has been neglected, for whom values are those they pick up where they may - even values and priorities shared by their parents which are completely acquisitive-oriented - aren't guaranteed to make healthy life-choices for themselves. These young people whose lack of discipline and direction make them vulnerable to life on the street, to drug and alcohol use, out of a sense of aimlessness, become society's problems.

A 16-year-old ward of the province of Alberta charged with second-degree murder after stabbing an older man repeatedly in a parking lot. Previous to that a 14-year-old runaway in the province was charged with the killing of two older people with whom he had no relationship; they were simply there, in his way, tempting him to kill them. In Ontario three teens charged with robbery, two of them 14, one 15. One of these 14-year-olds charged with possession of a dangerous weapon and carrying a concealed weapon.

Two 17-year-olds from Ottawa charged with robbery, conspiracy, wearing a disguise, intimidation, possession of a weapon and of stolen property. One charged also with pointing a firearm, and breaches of recognizance. A 16-year-old Ontario boy charged with aggravated assault and robbery. A 13-year-old boy charged with robbery. A 17-year-old charged with respect to four bank robberies. A 16-year-old charged with robbery, uttering threats, obstructing police and two counts of breach of recognizance.

Another two 13-year-olds arrested for their participation in three bank robberies in Ottawa; charged with two counts of robbery, one of attempted robbery, three counts of conspiracy, weapons and obstruction charges. Along with two 18-year-olds and a 16-year-old. The country's Youth Criminal Justice Act protects these very young people from being identified. And also protects their parents by not naming them, as well.

These maladaptive and abandoned young people become scourges on society, ready to move on to increased law-breaking and social mischief. It's when the social mischief goes beyond the mere nuisance of apprehension for robbery into murder that sociopathy moves into the sphere of psychopathy and someone is certainly responsible for these situations where under-age youth wreak havoc and their neglectful parents shrug them away.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

From Her Mouoth To God's Ear

Violent, vicious coercion works. As dedicated as people are to freedom, independence, human rights and just needs acknowledged, they are not collectively suicide-prone.

As it is the young and the restless in Iran have more than adequately placed their theocratic government on notice that they will no longer tolerate the conditions under which they are forced to live. Without dignity, and the right to choose for themselves how they wish to comport themselves and the values they want to adopt for themselves and the achievement of their futures.

The Guardian Council has admitted that there were voting irregularities. Simply that. And that despite those irregularities which they claim are of no signal moment, the outcome of the election will not be affected. The will of the Supreme Leader is not to be denied for he has the ear and is the mouthpiece of the Supreme Spirit.

And those who demonstrated, those who fulminated against the legitimacy of the election, those who have brought the social order of the country into chaos, will be held responsible.
Being held responsible they will be arrested, incarcerated, tortured and then may or may not be allowed to live.

Little wonder that this threat, following hard on the brutal assaults by the Basij, the Revolutionary Guard, the Iranian police with their batons, their tear gas, water cannons, and lethal weapons, sending some to the morgue, many others to hospitals, and others yet to the notorious prisons of the country, have finally succeeded in stilling the protests.

Even the curious suffer. Even those taking no part in the rebellion, simply there as onlookers, witness to their country's history.

Security forces and government agencies now threaten the family of Neda Agha-Soltan, not to hold memorial services for her, not speak about her death, to remove black mourning banners from their home. Grief and anguish are to be stifled, for the greater good and glory of the Iranian Republic.

She was cautioned of the danger should she attend the protest on Saturday. Ayatollah Khamanei had, after all, warned demonstrators that they and they alone would be responsible for violence.

The young woman was curious, she wanted to see for herself events unfolding. She never really seriously believed she would be the main event to unfold that early evening. "Don't worry. It's just one bullet and it's over", she quipped.

And so, those who came out to protest, the women of Iran, no longer willing to be manipulated and their basic human rights taken from them, the students who insist on greater civil and civic freedoms, they are in their aggregate, responsible for the death of a vital and beautiful young woman whose philosophy in life was to live it to the fullest.

That's all it took, after all. Just one bullet.

The mass protest dissolved into nothingness. The symbol first, then the substance; beaten into submission.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bitter, Angry, Unjust

"I think part of [my motivation] is that there's a lot of guilt. I mean, if I had known the way things were at Sick Kids, we wouldn't have [pursued life-saving treatment]. I've got some pretty terrible memories of her suffering", said the mother of nine children, whose tenth child had been diagnosed in uterus with Trisomony 13, an often-fatal condition.

Doctors had informed her and her husband that the baby would either die pre-natally or shortly after birth. They were given the option of abortion, but refused. It wasn't, she explained, anything to do with their Catholicism, it was their respect for life.

She was 45, her husband 49, when they were expecting their tenth child. The baby was born with the often fatal genetic abnormality, Trisomony 13, which required a deep level of hospital care, treatment meant to prolong the baby's tenuous hold on life. There were two doctors involved in the care of their baby, a pediatrician and a critical care specialist.

Both of whom deny the mother's accusations that they had issued a "do not resuscitate" order, and had administered a lethal dose of painkillers to the baby, without their consent, consonant with the hospital's "policy not to provide life-saving treatment to infants with genetic disorders". The hospital denies the allegations brought against their profession reputation.

They insist that the baby's hospital and nursing care was "reasonable ... and pursuant to the direction of the independent physicians responsible for her care". The mother, Barbara Farlow, lodged her claim of medical malpractise in Small Claims Court, in Toronto, an action to recover $10,000 in damages over her baby's 2005 death.

The doctors and the hospital would like the Small Claims Court judge to refer the case to the Ontario Superior Court, where rules of evidence and procedural safeguards would permit them to defend themselves against the parents' allegations of malpractise with a full defence. The parents, if that was the decision, would choose to drop the case, unwilling to commit to lawyers' fees and a trial.

The mother of nine, grieving the death of her tenth child, insists her motivation is altruistic, wishing to expose systemic problems within the medical and health-care community in dealing with genetically impaired babies. She insists the doctors and the hospital behaved illegally, criminally, and insists on exposing them.

Perhaps the question should be why two people with a family of nine children felt they should have another, and when that tenth child turned out to have a genetic flaw that would endanger its life, their anger turned not upon happenstance and biology, but on the medical community instead.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Aphrodisiac of Power

Isn't it amazing how people relate to one another, view one another, weigh one another's attributes, and respond to one another as a result of those personal and sometimes very intimate ingredients, seasoned with exterior realizations? Political wives often have reason to feel left behind, neglected, their needs overlooked. And the revelations that surface all too frequently of powerful national legislators consumed with their own sense of power, turning to illicit and immoral sexual gratification as an entitlement are revelatory.

The grossness of Italian President Berlusconi's antics as a womanizer, causing no end of amusement to the Italian public which has twice elected him to power, while causing no end of anguish to his wife, another case in point. And how many lawmakers have stood on their high horse of moral condemnation over the sexual indiscretions of others in high public office, pontificating on family values, who are then unmasked for being sexual predators themselves?

But then there's the other facet, that of a couple whose mutual respect and admiration for one another leads them to value one another even more highly when one has attained to high office and the other stands in the supporting role of helpmate. As a refreshing alternative to the scenarios of values gone amok and marriage betrayals there is the example of the new American president and his wife, a devoted couple setting a valuable yardstick.

The seemingly unflappable Barack Obama, who appears to have mastered the ability to remain calm while all about him is in chaos a case in point. His political ambitions have, it would appear, not always been appreciated by his wife. This is a woman who demands notice, and demands above all, that her husband devote unstinting notice to her. As his wife and mother of his children and an intellectually accomplished person in her own right.

His ascent to the ultimate station of the power elite, as president of the United States has accented their relationship with an acuteness of self-awarness. He is demonstrating that she is his escape valve in the pressure cooker of politically incendiary events beyond the control of any man however politically adept and humanly philosophically aware, to manipulate to useful advantage. Michelle Obama feels her mate selection to have been vindicated in his ascent to power.

It demonstrated poor political and diplomatic form to turn away from a shared dinner with President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, in favour of a discreetly romantic dinner for two, but neither President Obama nor his wife appear to have suffered in public opinion as a result. How Carla Sarkozy may view Michelle Obama is another matter altogether. But not dining together spared President Obama's wife the potential agony of pique in the presence of the dashing Nicolas and his confident wife.

That President Obama gallantly whisked his wife to a posh New York dinner and Broadway show in a demonstration of faithfully uxorious dedication to his marriage and the woman of his shared destiny is certain to entrance those who have invested so much in their future as Americans with him at the helm. That it cost taxpayers a reputed $73,000 to have the lovebirds helicoptered, planed and limousined to the love nest is a bit of a splurge.

The model husband, father and successful politician who has the undying support and admiration of his wife who just happens to be enjoying herself in the national and international spotlight, is himself managing to have a good time while juggling the imperatives of presidential decision-making at such an inconveniently difficult time on the international stage.

Nothing exceeds like success, it would seem. And it's for the simple-minded to celebrate the perfection of the ultimate political-social-personal success story as representing what it appears to be, un-nuanced by any troubling, too-human stumbles.

Labels: , ,

The Power Of Labour

Labour unions, that is. And they are powerful indeed. Society is indebted to them, for the salubrious effect their strident determination to uphold the rights of the working class man and woman has had on most Western societies, ensuring that men and women made a fair working wage. And that their diligence in applying themselves to their jobs resulted in an appreciation for their hard work, expressed in union contracts that benefited workers in every conceivable way.

Not merely stopping at a decent working wage, but ensuring that sick days, vacation time, retirement benefits, and reasonable working hours would be guaranteed. Helping to haul a major proportion of the working class out of working penury and workplace misery. But isn't it typical of human nature that whatever strides are made, once become accustomed to, never seem enough, and more demands are always there, in the future, with ongoing demands.

For even greater assurances, better benefits, dependable annual wage increases. Unions as moral arbiters of society and business, laying it on for the working man and woman. Plenty of reason to be grateful that health and safety in the workplace would be assured. And from there to bargain successfully for health insurance, sick-day credits, and a completely comfortable and assured work environment.

Of course it took more than compelling business to observe certain ethical requirements in dealing with their workers. There was always the cudgel of work stoppages, walk-outs, strikes, paralyzing business and impairing the bottom line. And unions became relentless at that kind of threat issuance. The more unrelenting their demands from the employer to enhance working conditions and wages for the employed, the more powerful the union.

And there's a thin line now that separates need from greed. Years of collective bargaining have ensured that employers, particularly public-sector employers, have agreed over time to very hefty worker benefits. Benefits, assurances and pay-schedules that far outweigh such workplace attributes that the majority of workers are able to take advantage of, particularly in the private sector.

And when a recessionary environment raises its troublesome head, as has now occurred just about everywhere in the world, one might think that well-waged and -benefited employees whose union has dealt so well for them in the past, might think twice about new demands. Only 30% of Canada's working population is represented by union might. That greater majority does not enjoy the perks of unionized workers.

Their jobs are less secure, particularly in the present downturn. Yet this has not stopped municipal workers, school board workers, hospital workers, transit workers, even federal government union workers from demanding increased benefits and wage increases. Somewhat like the excessively remunerated auto industry workers represented by the Big-3 with their retirement benefits they themselves paid not one dime into.

And which the Government of Canada has come to the rescue for, through taxpayer funded rescue funding. It's past time for unions to step back, they've over-reached themselves. The workers they represent may require representation, but they are too entitled at the present time. Time for a change, for a reasonable discourse, for an evening out of the employment situation to benefit the entire working population. Reasonably.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 19, 2009

Moral Check-Mate

Interesting revelations, these. The former inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service who had brought forward an investigation into alleged misuse of federal grants by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has found himself out of a job. Mr. Johnson has been a staunch supporter of President Obama. And Mr. Walpin's findings evidently ran afoul of what the administration felt it could support.

And so, Mr. Walpin was fired from his position. Not, ostensibly, for his having fingered Mr. Johnson, but evidently because Mr. Walpin was found to be incapable of performing his job adequately. Mr. Obama evidently tasked his special counsel to write an explanatory letter to Senate leaders critical of the firing of Mr. Walpin without even the courtesy (let alone that it is required by law) of a 30-day notification period.

In which letter Mr. Eisen, special counsel to the president, claimed Mr. Walpin presented himself in a "confused, disoriented" state, "unable to answer questions, and exhibited other behaviour that led the board to question his capacity to serve". Oh, and it was divulged that Mr. Walpin had committed the offence of working from home, despite that Mr. Walpin insisted he had an agreement with the corporation's board that would allow him to work from home.

Mr. Walpin believes he was targeted for political reasons. The government watchdog was, evidently, too good at his job. Alas, the diligent watchdog dug himself into a hole. "I am now the target of the most powerful man in this country, with an army of aides whose major responsibility today seems to be to attack me and get rid of me", Mr. Walpin complained.

And he also claims that the charge against him that he evidenced a "lack of candor" in the provision of information to decision-makers, constituted an outright falsification - all right: lie. Someone has made an unlawful U-turn somewhere in the deep confines of accountability. And it doesn't really sound as though it's the unfortunate Mr. Walpin.

And it doesn't appear as though heads others than his will roll. And isn't that so often the way the cookie crumbles?

Labels: ,

Health Care Made in America

One would imagine that the wealthiest, most powerful country on this Planet would be sufficiently invested in the well-being of its entire population to ensure that the most basic of health assurances be available to its most needy. Yet the fact is there are 45 million Americans with no health insurance, reliant on themselves to somehow stop-gap their needs for health care.

When at any time a family could be hit with a catastrophic health concern for which there is little help other than to beggar themselves in a desperate attempt to aid themselves.

The U.S. Congress, the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services have long studied the issue of universal availability to adequate health care for the American populace. But the health care industry in the United States and their insurers have too powerful a lobby to enable the lawmakers to make much headway.

And so public hospitals are hard put to provide a level of fundamental care for the ill and the health-struck, inadequately funded and fumbling.

And families without workplace health insurance pay exorbitant health-care insurance if they can afford it, to ensure that their vulnerable family members can have basic health care when required.

The World Health organization ranks the United States 37th in the world's health systems. As for avoidable mortality, the United States ranks 15th in the Commonwealth Fund's assessment of 19 industrialized countries. Not an enviable record for a wealthy country.

But the United States scorns universal health care programs and entitlements other than their own "uniquely American" dysfunction. They look at the plans in countries around the world, and disdain them for one reason or another. Canada's national health insurance program where the government pays private doctors isn't quite what the U.S. feels it wants.

And for certain American health professionals would never agree to a Scandinavian type plan where doctors are mostly salaried government employees, hospitals are government-operated and costs are carried by the federal government. That simply is not consonant with the free market system, the capitalist system that the United States' economy exemplifies.

Yet health care represents 16% of the GDP in the United States, far higher than most other industrialized democracies. The American system is costly, inefficient, ineffective, but it is "uniquely American".

Americans should think long and hard about the fact that populations in other developed industrial nations have longer life expectancies. And Americans deserve to have a health plan that would give them the comfort of knowing that should a medical emergency arise, it would not lead to their financial ruin.

Labels: , ,

Useful Idiots

The world is full of them, people who believe they have something to add to the debate, who feel their reasonable approach to entrenched problems refusing to yield to reason can be resolved through their intervention. And when they approach a party responsible for setting back the possibilities of conciliation and peace, allowing themselves to be used as a lever for enabling an aggressor to be witnessed as a player in the scheme for peace, they are simply playing the useful idiot.

Former American president Jimmy Carter, who views Israel as an 'apartheid' state, and who has never yet met a terrorist that he couldn't claim to pacify with his smiling reasonableness, insists that it is time the Obama administration remove Hamas from its terror-list designation. As a guest of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, he feels entitled to speak compassionately about the Palestinian Gazans, as being victimized by Israel, and not by Hamas.

He claims to have attempted persuasion with Hamas to recognize Israel's right of existence, but regardless of Hamas's obduracy, and its charter calling for Israel's destruction, and a new Palestinian State to be established encompassing the very land Israel sits upon, Mr. Carter insists he will push for American recognition of Hamas as a legal political entity, not the Islamist jihadist group that is its hallmark.

He is himself content with the doublespeak whereby he has been assured by Haniyeh that Hamas is merely a humble tool of the Gazan Palestinians, reaching out to the West Bank Palestinians. "Hamas leaders want peace and they want to have reconciliation not only with their Fatah brothers but also eventually with Israelis to live side by side, with two nations, both sovereign nations recognized by each other and living in peace", according to Carter.

It's puzzling that he could come to this conclusion and accept it as reality, when no one has ever, and likely will never, hear any top representative of Hamas utter such words of conciliation and hope for the future. What Haniyeh said to Carter was that he was in support of any plan that would preserve Arab rights leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state, including a capital in Jerusalem.

The manner in which Mr. Carter transcribed what Mr. Haniyeh said to him is a matter for his own delusional conscience. Should Mr. Carter feel personally indebted to Hamas now that they claim to have saved his life from a plotted assassination by an al-Qaeda affiliate? Ingratiating themselves further into the embrace of this peace-loving political superannuate?

Yes indeed, Mr. Carter has now been instructed to use the auspices of his reputation and connections to high office to influence Israel on lifting its self-protective security blockade. And then Hamas will have further reason to celebrate, given free reign to import as many munitions and weapons as they wish, unimpeded by a country intent on preserving its security and the safety of its citizens.

Labels: , ,

Yappily Disgruntled

"Pessimism and crap" are not attributes that Newfoundland's premier, Danny Williams admires. All the less so when he perceives anyone raining on his parade. And he celebrates quite the parade. The Rock is no longer a disadvantaged province of Canada. No longer requiring the handouts it has traditionally received through transfer payments from the federal government representing funding acquired through taxation of other, traditionally wealthier provinces.

Yet despite the province's good fortune with the development of the Hibernia oilfields and the riches that have come its way through oil, Danny Williams took great umbrage at the nerve of the federal government pointing out that as a wealthy province it no longer qualified for those great tax breaks, let alone the transfer payments it had so long accustomed itself to enjoying. And he did his very best to scupper the electoral fortunes of the Conservative-led government, as a result.

Now his dander has been raised by some provocative questions raised by a open-line host on a provincial radio station. Having been apprised by a proud premier that a deal is proceeding to developing the Hibernia South oilfield, the host had the temerity to raise the issue of the province's sad state of its traditional fishery. The radio show host, one Randy Simms, merely posed a question that had to be asked.

Newfoundlanders who made their living in forestry and fishing are invested and interested in the futures of those resources. So the host invited listeners to call in with their take on the situation.

And then fielded a number of responses from call-in respondents, all of whom have a very deep and vested interest in the furtherance of oil revenues, along with the collapsed state of the province's traditional natural resources industries. And then, an hour into his show, who but the premier called to express his indignation over the host's supposed attitude toward the province's good fortune.

"I can't understand for the life of me why when we've now negotiated another deal here this morning that is going to put twice as much money and royalties in the province's hands as we collected in 12 years on all three projects and you got to find something wrong with it", fulminated that perennially irritable scold. But, countered the host, what about the fishery, the logging industry.

"We don't need that kind of pessimism and crap coming out of your mouth in the mornings, I can tell you right now" said the premier, over-riding the perfectly logical enquiry. "You're the reason that I keep going in this job because it's the skeptics and the negative people in this province that have kept us, those lobsters clawed back in the pot year after year after year, but I refuse to listen to pessimists like you - and we're going to move forward and we're going to do it despite you".

So there. The old crab had his say, and that's that. His to dispose, theirs never to oppose. As for the traditional way of life on the Rock, that's past and gone evidently, as far as he's concerned. Of course fossil fuel extraction also has a finite life.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Depraved Deception

Iran's dissidents are tortured and meet their untimely deaths in the country's prisons and torture chambers. The numbers of dissidents have been steadily increasing in the past several days, post-election; almost a week of unruly dissent. Its primarily the university students, a hard core of young people struggling against the repressive totalitarian government they want no part of, who are targeted by the Revolutionary Guard.

That segment of the Iranian population under 30 years of age represents a full 70% of the population, and that's staggering in and of itself. A young population ruled by a brutally repressive theocratic dictatorship. And since 48% of the voting-age population is female, and it is women who have increasingly borne the brunt of bitter cultural and social backwardness their vote too has been irremediably compromised.

Phalanxes of baton-wielding police have been deployed to beat protesters. Mostly silent protesters, joining their peers in a determined offence against their religiously-fanatic government. Raids on university campuses and dormitories have emptied those halls of academia of students, their professors calling for a halt to the atrocities and their students' incarcerations.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 62.63% of the popular vote make him a popular and much-valued president in that country indeed. But a foreign reporter, still in Iran, reports having met with someone from the Interior Ministry who claims that the votes never actually were counted; instead numbers were allocated to each candidate as those who oversaw the election process saw fit. And they saw fit to acclaim President Ahmadinejad.

How might Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have imagined that such clumsy machinations would have gone unnoticed and not have provoked a backlash? Is his contempt for the people of Iran so utterly complete? Or is his blase self-assurance so out of proportion to the 'love' of Iranians for their Supreme Leader?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Appeasement with a soupcon of Contempt

For a presumed intellectual Michael Ignatieff doesn't appear to be using his grey matter to good effect. Or is this an indication of his incapacities? Can he really believe in his silly little conceits that his harrumphing and shrill demands reflect on him as leadership material? Is it possible that he somehow began to pattern himself after the febrile mannerisms and maladroit methods of his predecessor?

What exactly does he hope to persuade Canadians with in these futile and adolescent attempts at social-political blackmail? Isn't it more useful for a leader of the official opposition to position himself as one who is capable of measured and intelligent responses to situations rather than hysterical outbursts and absurd posturing as though his persona as a leader-in-waiting is sufficient to carry the day?

When the country has undergone the weary exercise of going to the polls no fewer than four times in five years, the last time a mere eight months earlier, can anyone take this man seriously when he coyly hints at having the righteous inclination to bring the country to another election? And when he's reminded of the absurdity of such a proposition at this time, he hurriedly reassures all that he has no such intention.

So which is it? And why, during this time of national duress when the country is staggering under the weight of the stimulus package, when unemployment is high and growing ever higher, when uncertainty looms large with the manufacturing sector hit hard and impacting on all of the country, has he chosen to put pressure on a government doings its best to cope?

The Liberal tinkering with unemployment insurance which brought us a far lesser employment insurance package, and which the Liberal government looted of its excess for general purposes is the one that the Liberal leader now blames the Conservative government for not updating, but doing so in a manner that would please Liberal demands.

The unfortunate contretemps with medical isotopes and Canada's ageing reactors cannot be solved overnight. The $22.7-billion stimulus package is being disbursed, but if the money were handed out without adequate safeguards for its legitimacy of use, the Liberals would be screeching bloody murder. The Conservative government is granting millions to nuclear upgrading; planning to make EI more inclusive; all of which takes time.

At a time when Prime Minister Stephen Harper is tackling the misery of a floundering economy, attempting to be responsive to the needs of Canadians at this signal time of financial duress, does the country really need him to be diverted by the silly antics of a man whose enthusiasm for himself as prime minister impels him to juvenile tactics?

We have, on the one hand, a prime minister imbued with a steely resolve to stay on course, and bring the country out of its temporary financial blight, and on the other a lip-pursed egotist who believes he should be in the driver's seat. Mr. Harper has been forced to treat with Mr. Ignatieff as one would a whining child; with patience and forbearance.

Several meetings one-on-one, a few concessions and pacification of the pouting child, and what, precisely, has been gained? Mr. Ignatieff has pontificated and strutted the stage, and in the process has managed to once again diminish himself.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 08, 2009

No Children's Cries

Over one hundred and forty children, from babies to infants to six-year-olds in a neighbourhood day-care for impoverished families, housed in an old warehouse. In northern Mexico, on a town called Hermosillo.

Warehousing children. As though they are expendable, and no greater care in the choice of their protective housing was required by the municipality. A government daycare centre. In an old warehouse lacking adequate safety, existing next to a used-tire shop. Two doors, one always kept locked. Five windows, placed high on warehouse walls.

The facility, claims state authorities had passed a safety inspection only a month earlier. What are the standards, the yardstick for safety, for security of young children?

"It was a terrifying experience" a neighbour said, who had been among those who rushed to the scene, attempting desperately to save the lives of children inside the burning building. "There was a lot of smoke, but there were no children's cries. They were all unconscious or dead."

Nearby residents, responding to the calamity long before the arrival of official emergency services, smashed their vehicles through the centre's cement walls in a desperate attempt to reach the children.

Forty-one of whom died, most under two years of age. Some of asphyxiation, some of dreadful burns. Another twenty two children are hospitalized, with a dozen of those listed in serious condition. Six adults, care givers at the centre are also hospitalized, mostly for the effects of smoke inhalation.

Parents are preparing themselves to identify the little corpses, many of whom are so badly burned they are beyond recognition. Those parents whose children are receiving medical care sit waiting, distraught, incapable of functioning.

Many of the infants died - taking their afternoon nap - when the roof in the crib room collapsed upon them. Mexico mourns.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Damn Right, He Bugs Us Still

He has a mendacious air about him; that, at least, is how people who detest the man decipher his facade. The outward manifestation of his bonhomie, his geniality, his easy confidence, his egocentricity, his oleaginous smirk and self-congratulatory manner goes beyond irksome to infuriating. The conundrum in all of this is that when he was Prime Minister of Canada he held that position because he twice obtained majority votes. Despite that so many Canadians detested his pretentiously overbearing smarminess.

And then there is the matter of his governance. He took some bold steps for the country, hauling it, kicking and screaming into a free trade agreement with the United States. He introduced a new method of taxation with the Goods & Services Tax. He fought a good environmental battle against the then-bugbear of the environmental movement, acid rain, prevailing upon the Americans, successfully, to join that battle. He exerted the moral authority of anti-racism in the international battle against South African apartheid.

All that to his credit. He attempted, through Meech Lake, to mend fences between the ever-aggrieved Quebec and the rest of Canada. He declared, in condemning the pig-troughing of the previous Liberal government that 'there is no whore like an old whore', then proceeded to gain a reputation of his own for snuggling deep into the nasty business of self-availment, and shrugged off the criticism that his Conservative MPs gained through shady contracting.

He was well on his way to rehabilitation in the public mind - out of sight, out of mind equals a great relief - leaving intact a fairly reasonable legacy of political balance, when past misdemeanors finally caught up with him. The Liberal government of Jean Chretien's RCMP investigation on suspicion of underhanded dealings related to the Air Canada acquisition of Airbus aircraft was found to have no foundation because simply, it could not be proven, despite fairly resonant clues and witness accounts incriminating Brian Mulroney.

And along came Karlheinz Schreiber again to cast aspersions on the honesty and honour of a man he had suborned through an enticement to avail himself of a 'business opportunity' as an arms dealer by any other description, to exert his authority to ensure that the country agree to a German military vehicle manufacturer setting up shop in Canada. There remains a discrepancy between Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney, each skilled in their own inimitable interpretive abilities, about the sum in cash taken by Mr. Mulroney.

Mr. Mulroney claims he availed himself of only $225,000, while Mr. Schreiber's transaction records indicate that sum was $300,000. Mr. Mulroney, swearing on a bible, originally denied any business dealings with Mr. Schreiber; that he had no contacts with him aside from a casual shared coffee. At the Oliphant Enquiry, Mr. Mulroney's former chief of staff, Norman Spector, testified otherwise, to the unusual entree of Mr. Schreiber to the ex-prime minister's inner sanctum.

MacLean's magazine's national editor Andrew Coyne put it rather well when he wrote recently of Mr. Mulroney's testimony before the enquiry: "His story is improbable, implausible, inconsistent, unsupported by a single document, almost entirely uncorroborated - and contradicted on point after point by people in a position to know the facts." It is exceedingly likely that, despite his protestations to the contrary, Mr. Mulroney did meet with Mr. Schreiber to work out a commitment for payment while still prime minister.

What is particularly galling to Canadians is that the taxpayer shelled out $1.2 million to settle a suit that Mr. Mulroney brought against the government that unsuccessfully attempted to "smear" his reputation. That this man who has so disgraced himself; a saint who tarnished his halo with the gusto of self availment; despite declaring having, albeit tardily, "paid full tax" on the $225,00, obtained a special dispensation to pay taxes on half of that amount.

And now, he has arranged - all completely legal - to have the taxpayer pick up the $2.1 tab for his legal fees defending his honour as a former prime minister of the country. A paucity of honour, an embarrassing and infuriating waste of public funds.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Assault and Retreat

President Barack Obama is in a very hard place. He must be seen to be doing something. Apart from grandiloquent speeches and his offering of himself, his personal prestige and power as president of the United States as a guarantor of success in establishing understanding between the world of Islam and that of Christianity, he really is merely a single voice. Those who believe in him and respect him as a man of goodwill are ready to accept his sincerity and his commitment to peace.

Those who disdain the office he represents, hate the country he is head of, and who have no regard for him personally, are more than prepared to condemn him for interference in affairs of the Muslim world. Just as Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the very cleric of highest standing in the world of Shia Islam supportive of Iran's Holocaust-denying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad complacently responds to Mr. Obama's overtures that Muslims detest the United States and always will.

Mr. Obama stood forthrightly clear-minded (only minimally sacrificing himself ethically on the matter of Israeli intransigence and Palestinian innocent-needfulness) in Cairo - once the major influence of the Islamic world - to place his influence before his listeners heralding the potential for a new opportunity for Islam and Christianity to recognize one another. As someone whose heritage crosses over into both worlds his assertions have resonance. But only for those willing to give him the balance of trust.

It some ways when he addressed his world-wide audience through the closer Egyptian audience he appeared prepared to sacrifice Israel's future by demanding of it what it had already proffered in the search for peace, without acknowledging that those with whom Israel bargains represent the deliberately failed partnership. He did his best to appear fair and balanced in his presentation. He appears almost messianic, as though he half believes in a divine mission, himself an expositor of faith divine.

And then he transformed himself into a penitent, grieving for the universal sin of humankind's racism. Appearing in Germany, the most powerful man on Earth whose own forbears knew the indelible savagery of racial discrimination and violence against mass humanity paid homage to the people singled out as mass victims in the world's single most horrendous event of genocidal intent. A tour of guard towers, barracks that held emaciated humans en route to the crematoria is a lesson in humility.

As the first U.S. president to visit Buchenwald, one of the few Nazi-era concentration camps in Germany itself, he spoke movingly of the viciousness of Holocaust denial and the incendiary hatred that motivates it. "This place is the ultimate rebuke of (Holocaust denial) those thoughts - a reminder of our duty to confront those who tell lies about our history. These sites have not lost their horror with the passage of time."

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Attack! Ads

The Conservatives' "just visiting" television campaign to help Canadians recognize the qualities that render Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's intention as fit to lead the Liberal party back to the ascendancy and himself to the prime ministership is a lesson in civic responsibility. Well certainly it is also a political gambit, a ploy, a construction to remind the electorate that a vote for Mr. Ignatieff is a vote for an individual who had no personal use for life in Canada for most of his adult life.

Isn't that strange? That a Canadian would make a deliberate choice to live outside Canada for 34 years? That living in Britain or in the United States would exert a greater personal appeal than to find one's place within the country that one now sees fit to run as a prime minister? How much can someone who has chosen to live outside the country for three and a half decades really understand about that country?

More to the point, why would such a candidate assume that he represents the electorate's best interests, having made himself a stranger for most of his life to the essence of the country, its concerns and its people? What kind of monumental egocentricity might be engaged to persuade someone that he is fit to govern a country he hardly stepped foot into, preferring life elsewhere?

Mr. Ignatieff made his international reputation as a political commentator, a reporter, and an academic. He thinks highly of himself and considers it meet that others do likewise. And no one is immune to the kind of flattery he must have felt when a visiting group of Liberals travelled to Harvard to exhort him to vacate academia for higher aspirations; the leader of a country.

All of a sudden the country that he so long spurned for more opportune, enticing and exciting pastures must have looked mighty appealing. Nothing quite like appealing to someone's vanity, pledging support to enable him to reach for the stars; in this case the leader of a country. Now that's power, that's prestige, that's opportunity unparallelled.

Not necessarily appealing as a country to visit for an extended period of time, much less to resettle in, but one desperately awaiting his return, to rescue it from a floundering political process, by which the natural governing party had fallen on hard times. Permitting that most dreadful of circumstances to evolve whereby the Conservatives looked like a better electoral prospect to the electorate.

What, precisely is unethical about one political party cannily pointing out the obvious. After all, just about anything and everything is fair in politics; virtual assassinations and hatchet jobs are par for the course. Look at Michael Ignatieff attacking the Conservatives for agreeing to Liberal and NDP demands and in the process ratcheting up the debt and the deficit to unwholesome proportions.

And look over there - Mr. Ignatieff railing against Conservative perversity in honouring Liberal-structured Employment Insurance constraints, obligations, rules and benefits. Carefully outlining which areas of the country should benefit most, and hauling in EU contributions that outmatch claims, hatching a monumental nest-egg for inclusion in general revenues.

To pay down the debt, of course, and parade before Canadians how fiscally wise are the Liberals. While slashing social services because there was a need to do so, to take the country out of its dreadful debt situation. So while the Liberals now decry the wastefully errant Conservatives, taking the country into deep debt (at their own behest and urging) during an international financial downturn, they also insist that EI must be reformed.

That will rack up another huge cost to the country, but no matter. Once that happens the Liberals can point fingers of blame again. And hope that the voters will permit their perennially poor memories to be exploited for votes to be dredged out of people forgetting that the Liberal leader not that long ago considered himself American.

Labels: ,

Yes, Most Certainly In My Name

The City of Ottawa may yet become divested of the services of its current semi-disgraced Mayor Larry O'Brien currently undergoing trial for a rather clumsy attempt at influence-peddling to get another candidate to stand down in the run for public office for the mayoral chair. He will not be missed. He may have been a successful businessman, but as a mayor, even one on a learning curve, his sharp business practices did not translate well to public office. His bluster and overbearing confidence led the electorate to mistrust him and with good reason.

He was elected primarily on the strength of his promise to the voters of the city that he would keep property taxes down. He would deliver the same strength of municipal services to which we had become accustomed and expected to continue, but he would do it on the basis of trimming costs, cutting back on unneeded personnel, enhancing efficiencies, ensuring that streamlining municipal processes would proceed apace.

And then discovered that rhetoric is no replacement for practical realities.

He made an absolute hash of public transit upgrades, leaving the city without its anticipated entry to the world of high-speed or underground transit. And he reigned over a council that bickered among themselves constantly, unable to reach consensus on meaningful municipal decision-making. Taxes were increased, as they were required to do, with a municipality falling deeper into the red whether through mismanagement or redundancies, and municipal staff were let go.

It's time this capital city had a more responsible, responsive municipal governing body under the direction of a competent mayor. Councillor Alex Cullen appears as a real possibility, one of a handful of good councillors who have the best interests of the city and its denizens in mind. He has recently raised the possibility of a poverty-reduction strategy into which could be introduced a 'living-wage' policy whereby no city worker would earn less than $13.25 an hour, whether working part-time, on contract or as a summer student.

The minimum provincial wage of $9.50 an hour can hardly be called a living wage. Mr. Cullen has announced his intention to run for mayor in 2010, and on the basis of his devotion to alleviating the plight of the working poor in the city, he would have my vote. His opinion is that is the city's responsibility to ensure that those who work for the municipality and those who work for contractors on behalf of the city should earn a living wage. He's right, and they should.

And I am prepared to pay higher property taxes to ensure that this becomes a reality.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Tough Love From Canada

Canada applies its laws against admission into the country of those with a criminal background or a criminal conviction, or involved in criminal activities fairly consistently. If there has been a background of criminal convictions or known criminal activities, inclusive of war crimes, or belonging to a terror group or taking part in official government offences against society as a party to inhumane treatment of others, admission to Canada is denied.

Even if you're one of the wealthiest people in the world, a billionaire with high-placed political friends and allies in your country of origin. Vitaly Borisovich Malkin, who is a senator in the upper house of the Russian parliament, whose financial standing ranks on Forbes list of billionaires and who owns 111 condominium units in Toronto has been denied a visitor's visa, just as he has been denied, over the course of fifteen years of trying, entry as a prospective immigrant.

Canada's immigration authorities hold him to be associated with criminal money laundering, to be involved in the international arms trade as well as trade in banned Angolan conflict diamonds. He has been deemed to be inadmissible to Canada "for being a member of a group engaging in organized or transnational crime". He has repeatedly attempted to appeal that decision and each time he has been denied.

On his original immigration application he planned to start up a merchant bank in Canada, along with an export firm, and to engage in further property development. He had purchased two buildings, and was negotiating for ownership of a third. And that's when the Canadian Security Intelligence Service became interested, following which Immigration denied his 1997 application.

While immigrant applicants from Hong Kong, wealthy Chinese uneasy about mainland takeover of the island kingdom from Great Britain sought to position themselves with Canadian citizenship and passports in the event that the economic situation went awry - promising to invest heavily in Canada in exchange for that opportunity - they were seen as acceptable prospective citizens. They were high-quality economic migrants.

It isn't illegal to attempt to escape the uncertainty of a new, unknowable political and financial future. Wealth, power and prestige however, sullied by criminal enterprise doesn't make the cut.

Labels: , , ,

Never Without A Mouthful

A new report in the most recent issue of the Canadian Journey of Surgery points out some unfortunate statistics about Canadian society. A study by Dr. Nicolas Christou, professor of surgery at McGill, director of its bariatric surgery program at its health centre, renders a 'conservative estimate' of the number of Canadians who fit into the morbidly obese category and who might be eligible for surgery at between 600,000 to 1.2-million.

Now that's a staggering number of people who qualify as morbidly obese, whose state of health has been imperilled by their choices in life. To the extent that they acquire additional conditions such as diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease, high blood pressure and deep-vein thrombosis. All of these conditions, following on obesity are a direct threat to health and longevity. And aren't these self-imposed slights to one's health?

After all, we are all imbued with free will. We make decisions that may benefit us or do us ill. And those who choose to forage unceasingly, eat without respite, consume fat-laden, sugar-filled fast-foods with scant nutritional value but surfeit with calories, and who further choose not to unduly tax themselves physically, preferring to live sedentarily unwholesome lives have made a choice to become what they have.

The author of the study bemoans and bewails the long wait times for bariatric surgery; approximately five years. And recounts a growing death rate among people awaiting surgery. The average age of people who have died awaiting surgery was judged to be 46. Some on the waiting list died of secondary conditions related to their obesity. A 33-year-old was cited as having died of multiple organ failure due to complications from diabetes.

Other patients on the waiting list died of asthmatic attacks, cardiac arrest, blood clots in the lungs, and heart attack. Studies out of France suggest that 50% of patients given gastric bands had to be re-operated on because the original procedure proved to be unsuccessful. One in four patients given referral to the bariatric program in Edmonton, for example, is considered a reasonable surgery candidate.

Individuals who for one reason or another aren't deemed to be good candidates because they can't commit to making the necessary lifestyle changes won't be accepted. There must be follow up with these procedures to ensure that these patients stay on their diets. These are adults, whose health has been compromised by neglect and deliberate satiation of unhealthy foods, who cannot be relied upon to observe life-saving diets following surgery.

One patient awaiting imminent surgery is a 34-year-old father of two, who weighs in at 400 pounds. When he was in Grade 11, he weighted 285 pounds. He suffers from sleep apnea, knee and back problems. Little wonder. "It's kind of ironic" he says, "that I try and get more active to lose weight and I end up hurting myself instead." Well, too little, too late. Eat less, eat more healthily, exercise yourself reasonably.

This man claims that bariatric surgery "can make my life better, my family's and society's, because it means I'll be less of a burden on the health system". The idiocy of it all. Canada's universal health care system pays to undo the damage that a short lifetime of abuse inflicts on lazy and self-absorbed people who feel entitled to have the public purse rescue them from their own stupidity.

And he sees nothing amiss in the fact that his choices are responsible for his pathetic health condition. Rather he's smug about his entitlements, and speaks of society's responsibility to permit him a 'better life' than the one he has obliged himself to inherit.

Inane and moronic.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Fiscal Irresponsibilities

Canada's Finance Department has identified a number of Crown corporations that may be expendable to the national interests, whose operation, it is averred, would be more sensible and viable as privately-operated businesses. Canada may potentially divest itself of such Crown jewels as the Canadian Broadcasting corporation, Via Rail, the National Arts Centre, the Royal Canadian Mint, and Atomic Energy of Canada.

To Canadians, long accustomed to viewing these corporations as critical to the functioning of the country representing the best interests of the public, this represents quite the institutional upheaval.

It has long been held by those of a fiscal-conservative bent that private industry functions far more efficiently and effectively than public institutions. It has often been said that when governments intrude into the private sphere by making institutions answerable to the government by vesting public interests in them, failure is certain to ensue.

And in some instances this is precisely what has occurred, both provincially and federally. On the other hand, more social-minded politicians and the public feel that government should be invested in vital areas of public concern.

Privatization of Crown industries and institutions entering a competitive market may very well result in profitability. But does the public want the institutions that represent its government to be profitable, or do we rather take pride in their presence as representing the interests of Canadians? Publicly-operated entities give benefit to society, reflecting societal needs. There is a vital public mandate that they fulfill, which will be lost on privatization.

So is the government that has decided in its great good wisdom to divest itself of the responsibilities of Crown corporations taking a logical step in advancing the needs and priorities of the country on the one hand, and then inanely and confusingly contradicting itself by ushering itself into private manufacturing as a directing shareholder on the other hand?

How much sense does that make? To identify public institutions as costing the taxpayer funding through inefficiencies, then to turn around and rescue, with tax dollars, a failed private manufacturing enterprise?

Because the government of the United States under a new social-minded direction and administration decides it cannot permit one of its manufacturing institutions to collapse due to a long history of inefficiency and poor production, and invests immense Treasury resources into its rescue, must we?

Canada has other industries, more resonant with our traditions and history that are on the verge of total collapse, that have a greater claim to our tax assists. The lumber industry, impacting on jobs in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia come to mind. Nortel Industries, a mainstay and the pride of Canadian telecommunications, research and development is on the verge of imminent collapse.

Why not invest tax dollars in rescuing that valued company from extinction? Both of these worthwhile endeavours are languishing from government disinterest, and far more unemployment will ensue from their collapse than from that of the automotive industry. Why the discrimination that favours one over the others?

Particularly given that there are still thriving and successful automotive manufacturers with steady sales in Canada. So why commit the Canadian taxpayer to bailing out Chrysler and General Motors? This represents anything but a fair, just and intelligent discharging of Canadian tax dollars.

The Government of Canada does not need to be a shareholder in these failed corporations. The end result will be that Canadians, who have unwillingly invested to the value of $550 for each and every one of us in these businesses collapses will be left holding an empty bag.

The irony is that the action of the Obama administration has orchestrated this madness. Canada, Russia, Germany and Britain have all taken their lead from the United States. And doesn't that reflect another contretemps whose collapse still infuses our economies with a disabling misery; the U.S. sub-prime mortgage debacle that caused a global financial collapse?

Aren't we yet ready to learn from past mistakes? Pity.

Labels: , , ,

Aboriginal Discontent

Insisting that they are an authority unto themselves, as a sovereign nation, the Akwesasne Mohawks have government at a standstill at the Canadian border before the Seaway International Bridge between Ontario and New York. In response to threats from Mohawk Warriors furious that the long-promised arming of Canada Border Services Agency guards is imminent, the government has temporarily shut down the post on the reserve.

The Akwesasne Reserve is well known, on both sides of the border, as a venue for illicit smuggling. Alcohol, drugs, tobacco, take your pick. And more latterly, people. The Reserve is an oasis of illegal and criminal activity, tolerated by the community itself as an expression of contempt for the fiction of Canadian control of aboriginal lands. Leave it to angry young men whatever their derivation to pose as community heroes, defiant of outside authority.

Claiming sovereignty and daring the federal presence to impose itself where it is not wanted, and does not belong, these warriors wearing quasi-military gear, masked and well armed, acquit themselves as righteous soldiers protecting their communities from an invasion of a foreign entity. Both governments, that of Canada and of the United States, where the St.Regis Mohawk Reserve straddles the border, are wary of provoking aboriginal outrage.

Both are content to permit their native populations to live with the fiction that they are extra-territorial and fully autonomous. On the Canadian side, that border is now closed, until such time as talks between the local community and government agents come to a workable agreement. But the Canada Border Security Agency will not back down on its already-delayed arming of its officers.

While the Mohawk council of Akwesasne claims in good faith to being committed to a peaceful solution, the hothead Mohawk Warriors spoil for a good physical interaction that they feel will prove their militant-hero status to the community, giving them reason to strut in a victory parade. Border guards have reason to fear for their safety given the emotionally charged atmosphere at any given time.

Arming border guards as they requested seemed a reasonable adjustment to a situation faced by the guards where they must be alert to all the facets of the jurisdictional problems related to the border and the constant smuggling that ensues. A dozen tobacco factories on the U.S. side issue illegal cigarettes to be smuggled into Canada, a profitable trade for the Mohawks.

That the border guards were unarmed was a plus; the change, arming officers, makes things more problematical for the illegal trade. It isn't however, that this border in particular has been singled out for the arming of CBSA officers, rather it is all borders where potentially violent incidents may occur, across the country. Border officers felt they would be more prepared to deal with problems if they held the authority of arms.

But it is not the illegal trade of tobacco products, drugs, weapons and people that the Mohawk Warriors are defending, it is the defense "of the land" that has them standing tall and well armed against a government whom they claim has no business intruding on their geography and their lucrative business dealings.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 01, 2009

That Dirty Word: Abortionist

Abortion providers - doctors whose conscience impels them to provide to women determined not to complete a pregnancy with a safe abortion procedure, must of necessity be dedicated to their profession and to an empathetic compassion for women. The medical profession delights in portraying itself as one that supports life. Its practitioners are cautioned to 'do no harm'.

And many within the profession side with the stark opinion of 'pro-lifers' that one does grave harm in aborting a potential human being.

Religion, needless to say, plays a large part in this unwillingness to eschew the battle against access to abortion. As does society's general mores that hold a woman's body is meant to produce new life, and it is unethical, immoral, for a woman to deny that new life to come to realization. This is the traditionalist view, one that is considered punitive by women liberationists.

It is undeniable that throughout the history of humankind women have sought means by which they can themselves cut short an unwanted pregnancy when societal norms mitigate against the legality of abortion. And in the process not only were the foetuses destroyed but the lives of many women as well. Not all attempts at abortion were successful, with the results that the pregnancy went full term, and yet another unwanted child born.

There are those who hold that it is from among these unwanted children, largely, that society's neglected children mature into society's social misfits and sociopaths. Having been denied love and emotional support, unwanted children never learn to give or to receive love, and remain dysfunctional throughout their lives.

There are women who quite simply cannot cope with another child. They should have the right to decide for themselves.

First-trimester abortions don't seem to present as ethical dilemmas to most people. It is the late abortions, those that take place when a birth is close and the resulting life is viable, that presents as a moral dilemma. That takes deep thought and reluctant acceptance for anyone. And doctors who lend their professional care to women who for one reason or another seek that route, are harassed and despised by pro-life groups.

The matter of abortion entitlements in the United States, as in Canada, has never been satisfactorily concluded to everyone's satisfaction. And in fact, it never will be. That women have the right to decide for themselves whether they wish to proceed with a pregnancy should be a given, and for most people it is. Yet the pro-life community will not permit even that to rest.

So little wonder that bitter acrimony in society results from the clash between those who feel relaxed about the process and those who equate abortion with mass murder. But when those who claim to respect life take a life to prove their dedication to the belief that abortion represents murder, society has become lesser as a result.

An American doctor living in Kansas who was one of very few medical practitioners in the United States who will perform late-term abortions, who has been demonized by outraged right-to-lifers, who has been threatened repeatedly, had his clinic bombed, been shot at, is a brave and dedicated man indeed to continue to defy his detractors and those who were intent on doing him grave harm.

His medical competence, and his dedication to serving the needs of women have finally resulted in his death. Shot to death as he attended church; in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas. It is a tragedy that his courage in the face of the moral outrage of groups committed to saving potential lives, has resulted in the waste of his own.

Labels: , ,

News Updates

Pakistan expects to complete a decisive victory over the Taliban in the Swat Valley within days, following the successful capture of the region's main town, Mingora, on Saturday. A senior government official said the offensive to wrest control of north-west region from the Taliban would end in two or three days, but a military spokesman warned the challenge of securing the area from future infiltration would last for a lengthy time. The offensive in Swat has sparked an exodus of about 2.4 million people. The United Nations has pleaded for contributions for a $543-million fund to help.

The U.S. and Cuba have agreed to resume direct talks on migration and open discussions on establishing direct mail service between the two countries. Cuba presented a diplomatic note to U.S. officials on Saturday agreeing to a U.S. request made last week to resume the migration talks and also agreed to a U.S. request proposing talks about direct mail service, which has been suspended for decades.

North Korea
A North Korean long-range missile has arrived at a launch base in the northwest of the country, reports said early today, amid signs Pyongyang is preparing to defy international pressure with another test. A train carried the missile from a factory near the capital to Dongchang-ri over the week-end, the Joong Ang Ilbo newspaper reported, quoting an unnamed intelligence official.

Six people were killed in a West Bank shoot-out on Sunday when an attempt to arrest a senior Hamas commander went awry, deepening the Islamist movement's rift with rival faction Fatah. the firefight erupted when Palestinian police, dominated by Fatah, tried to arrest Mohammed al-samman, commander of Hamas's armed wing in the northern West Bank, who is also on Israel's wanted list.

Security personnel defused a homemade bomb found on a domestic flight late on Saturday, Iranian media said. The semi-official Fars news agency said the device was defused after the Tehran-bound Kish Air aircraft with 131 passengers on board made an emergency landing in the city of Ahvaz. "The plot ... was unsuccessful due to the security forces' awareness and those behind it were arrested" IRNA said.

South Africa
At least 55 whales stranded on a beach near Cape Town were put down or died after rescue teams failed to return them to the ocean, a sea rescue institute said on Sunday. Scientists shot 42 of the false killer whales on Saturday and 13 others perished, at Kommetjie Beach. Marine scientists and volunteers worked all day to try to get the whales back into the water, but many were pushed back ashore by waves.

United States
Authorities arrested a suspect Sunday in the death of a provider of late-term abortions, who was fatally shot as he walked into services at his church, officials said. Abortion doctor George tiller was shot to death just after 10 a.m. in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, police and city officials said. U.S. President Barack Obama expressed outrage at the fatal shooting of the controversial doctor.

France and Brazil are searching waters deep in the Atlantic for an airliner carrying 228 passengers and crew which disappeared in a storm on Monday. France believes there is little hope of finding survivors from among those aboard the Air France Airbus, which was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. An automatic report of a short circuit was the last communication it put out before vanishing over the ocean. French officials believe it may have been disabled by a storm. But French President Nicholas Sarkozy cautioned that no hypothesis could yet be ruled out as a causative.


() Follow @rheytah Tweet