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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Any Kind of Public Notice is Great!

Isn't that the usual impression, that any kind of publicity, good or bad, is positive, because it brings attention to the individual, and it is the buzz, the attention itself, that is so invaluable. Perhaps when you're a celebrity, or an aspiring celebrity of some sort. Not, however, when you're a politician. Unless you live in Italy. Canada, and most other countries have different standards by which they judge their politicians.

We're obsessed, if you will, by outstanding political traits, somewhat less by recondite intellectuals. As politicians, that is. Connection is key. Communication with the electorate. Effective communication, paired with character, one that represents as intelligent and resourceful, committed and resolute, honest and reliable. It's that kind of public awareness that politicians who inspire trust in the public would ideally like to relay.

Which makes it all the more interesting to note how the political punditry have now assessed the performance of Michael Ignatieff as crowned leader of the Liberal party of Canada. Some recent comments are fairly riveting, in fact.
  • George Jonas: Some say what Ignatieff has going for him is his head, inside as well as outside. ... As for what's inside his head, it's clearly more than enough for the office he seeks in terms of education and IQ, partly because he has plenty of both, and partly because the job, though tricky, is not rocket science. Ignatieff would probably beat the world's sitting prime ministers on a TV quiz show called How To Be a Prime Minister? - all except Stephen Harper. As luck would have it, Harper is the one for him to beat. ... But Ignatieff is running for Harper's actual job, the job for which qualities in which he's perceived to be deficient matter more to voters than qualities he's perceived to possess in abundance. ... Ignatieff may have his head going for him, but going against him are a collection of other body parts, notably his spine, guts and heart. He doesn't impress many Canadians as the guy they'd want next to them in the trenches. Add to this a further perception of Ignatieff as an inexperienced, narcissistic carpetbagger, and it's no wonder the smart money goes the other way.
  • Adam Daifallah - Over the past six years, the Liberals have picked at least two leaders in a row that have failed the competence test, and perhaps three. ... Martin turned out to be an inept prime minister, so unable to take decisive action that The Economist derisively labelled him "Mr. Dithers". Stephane Dion was even more disastrous. ... At present, Michael Ignatieff seems headed for a similar fate. ... Of course, Ignatieff's poor performance and perceived incompetence is just one problem amongst many - many is why there is a silver lining in all this for the Liberals. Since they were turfed from power in 2006, many party members have been under the false impression that they would be out of power only briefly before promptly returning ... Canadians of all political stripes owe Harper's Conservatives thanks for making sure this did not happen for two reasons. First, by winning re-election in 2008, the Tories proved that their earlier win was not just a fluke and that Canada once again had a functional, two-party democracy. Second, a brisk return to power would have denied the Liberals the wilderness years needed to spur them to rebuild and reform their party.
  • Fen Osler Hampson - Michael Ignatieff delivered his first major address on foreign policy as leader of the opposition earlier this month. ... Much of Ignatieff's speech was devoted to offering a long laundry list of initiatives that he would pursue if he were to become prime minister. Some are noteworthy but most looked like they had popped up in his rear view mirror. Ignatieff said he would champion the expansion of the G8 to include the countries of the G20 and also offer to host and fund a permanent G20 secretariat in Canada. ... The G20 has already replaced the G8 as the centre of gravity in dealing with the world's economic and financial problems. ... Ignatieff is behind the curve on this one. ... Ignatieff chastised the Harper government for not paying nearly enough attention to China and India. ... But the Conservative tap is now running hot - so hot, in fact, that after a flurry of high-level ministerial visits this summer Harper plans to buy his own plane ticket to Beijing if there is not an election. Following Washington's own strategic dialogue with India, Harper has raised the level of our engagement with exploratory discussions about a comprehensive economic partnership agreement and the opening of new trade offices in key Indian cities. ... On the U.S., Ignatieff promises to "renew our relationship" and to "engage Americans in strengthening not weakening the North American space". It is hard to see how Ignatieff could do any more than Harper is doing now to engage President Barack Obama, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. media. "Constant attention" is not the problem. Harper has launched a strategy of attrition political warfare with America.
Oops, over to the Liberal war machine. Flailing, failing, faulting, finished.

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Playing Fast and Loose

Canada has been criticized from within and without, for its lax immigration rules, for its laissez-faire attitude toward those whom we permit to settle in the country, for our seeming inability to control our passports. One imagines every country has these problems. Yet it is true that aspiring emigrants from various countries of the world have the impression that entry to Canada is expedited by a relaxed and welcoming immigration tradition.

All these complaints and accusations have likely caused immigration authorities to attempt to become more adept at identifying false claimants for refugee status, and to become more alert to the potential for fraud, using Canadian passports. Such passports are valuable commodities and if they are lost, or sold illegally, they are worth quite a bit to people attempting to enter Canada illegally.

Little surprise, then, that when a Canadian consular official stationed in Kenya interviewed Somali-born Suaad Hagi Mohamud this past spring after Kenyan officials determined that they believed she was an imposter, fraudulently using a Canadian passport on the basis of obvious variances in facial appearance, he was extremely careful in questioning her.

The 31-year-old woman who had left Toronto where she lived with her son for a visit with her mother and her estranged husband in Somalia, was attempting to return to Canada to reunite with her son, when she was apprehended. Which was when the High Commission in Nairobi came to the conclusion she was not whom she represented herself to be.

Following her return to Canada - after having proved whom she was by a DNA test - to the loud cheers of her many human-rights supporters who blamed the government for over-zealousness in victimizing this poor woman, she portrayed herself as ill-done by, abandoned by her government, and ill to boot, as a result of her brief incarceration in Kenya.

Buoyed by her reception back in Canada after her ordeal, and supported by her Canadian lawyer, she is suing the government for $2.6-million in compensation for the "callous and reckless treatment" she suffered. In response to which situation the federal government has filed documents outlining events as they occurred from their official perspective.

The consular official who examined Ms. Mohamud in Kenya claims she was "vague and evasive" during the questioning, and her responses were puzzlingly contradictory and some of them just plain incorrect, betraying a total absence of the kind of personal knowledge which should have identified her beyond a reasonable doubt.

What mother doesn't know her child's date of birth and where he was born? How could she not identify someone listed as a reference on her passport application? A Canadian citizen and having no knowledge of the past or current prime minister's names? Living in Toronto for ten years and not knowing the name of Lake Ontario?

Confusion over which community college she was attending - or meant to attend or for what purpose? Not aware that the acronym TTC represented the Toronto Transit Commission, or that ATS was the Andlauer Transportation Services, a company for which she worked - let alone what she did there in the way of work?

Along with a number of additional failures of recognition of familiar landmarks and other discrepancies; her height among them, as listed on her passport details. How could any credibility be given to a woman with the claims she made, holding a passport in which her photograph did not quite match her physical facial appearance?

Case closed.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What Moral Authority Might That Be?

Oops, the Liberals are at it again. Stepping all over one another in their anxious haste to prove yet again that they are in no condition to step in to governance. Their hallowed spot in the hearts of collective Quebecois has been hollowed out slightly, with the grumpy, unlovable departure of Denis Coderre, formerly the party's Quebec lieutenant while in power, and practising to duplicate that blessed time in the annals of Liberal ruling tradition.

He's gone off in a regular huff, he has, feeling that his bona fides have been sullied, his knowledge of his party and his province and his voting public having been discarded for the inferior manipulations of the Toronto-based Liberals leading Michael Ignatieff toward surely, a majority government, after discrediting the worthless Conservative-led government that Canadian voters inexplicably have found so attractive.

Just a simple instance of two Quebec-based Liberal stalwarts, attempting to positively position themselves, as adversaries each hopeful to become a future Liberal leader. Affecting the traditional position of trust and the leverage to bring Quebec into the winning circle, out-balancing the rest of Canada in their tedious pendulums of Anglo/Quebecois prime ministers. Monsieur Ignatieff this time around, Denis Coderre next time.

Imagine, the nerve, simply because a former federal justice minister under a previous Liberal regime had his nose out of joint when his rival Denis Coderre selected another high-profile candidate to run in the riding Martin Cauchon wished to run in, all the Liberal Anglos got their briefs in a knot, with Bob Rae speaking up for his former leadership campaign manager. So what if his choice agreed to run elsewhere?

His carefully laid plans of eight months' hard work organizing Quebec to line up where they could be trusted to pull weight for the Liberals come the next election, all to naught. No self-respecting Quebec politician aspiring to mount the elite level of premiership would accept that kind of usurpation of authority. Hence, Mr. Coderre's resignation, claiming his moral authority had been transgressed.

Moral authority? Moral? What would this man know about morals?

Is this not the Quebec Member of Parliament who lined up to march proudly in a 2006 protest purporting to be a pro-Lebanese rally in Montreal, aligning himself with others of a like mind, in protest of Israel's military entrance into Lebanon to battle the terrorist Hezbollah? That very militia classified by Canada as terrorists? Those very terrorists who prodded Israel to respond to attacks against its sovereignty and the safety of its people?

There was the Liberals' Quebec lieutenant, in solidarity with those who carried Hezbollah flags, in Montreal. Effectively leading any onlooker to the conclusion that the Liberal party was in agreement with the claims that a democratic country had no right of self-defence. Just another little incidental. We tend to forget these little crises, when during duress, people are inclined to demonstrate their inner character. Or lack of.

Now that I recall, was that not when Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff back-pedalled on an initial supportive statement on Israel's right to self defence, classifying it later, as disproportionate in nature? Ah, morality. Liberals know all about that. It's evident in the manner in which they press the government to increase stimulus funding in the economic crisis, then deplore the extent of the looming national debt.

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Charter Rights

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Fundamental Freedoms
- 2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication...
Legal Rights
- 7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

All very well, and satisfying and comfortingly rational. Except for one thing: Someone else's freedoms may not impinge upon mine in a manner that may prove to be seriously deleterious to my health and well-being. This too is a basic reality. And we have laws in place, and carefully determined outlines of social contact within the social compact to ensure that, in effect, everyone's right to security of the person is recognized and valued.

When it comes to volunteering to give blood with the Canadian Blood Services, a screening process is employed, where volunteers are requested to fill out a questionnaire, to ensure that they are not potential carriers of disease which might infect others needful of blood transfusions. Canada experienced the horror of disease transmission through infected blood transfusions, an experience it has no wish to duplicate.

For that reason, along with good common sense, it is incumbent on the blood collection agency to ensure that those good-hearted citizens who respond to the plea to give blood are free from any manner of blood contamination that may prove injurious to the health of blood recipients. And those who do regularly give blood as volunteers, are very familiar with the contents of the questionnaire and the reasons for the queries.

Now a gay man who has taken umbrage with the protective procedure, claiming it to be an affront against his human dignity and his sexual orientation, protected under the Charter, seeks $250,000 in damages from the agency. This is a man who, with no malice aforethought, but secure in his belief that he was right, deliberately falsified his responses to the questionnaire and gave blood repeatedly.

When the Canadian Blood Services agency discovered Kyle Freeman's deliberate flouting of rules meant to protect the public, they filed a lawsuit against him. He had donated blood on numerous previous occasions to the Canadian Red Cross as well, the predecessor of the current agency. Which agency had been discredited when donor blood tainted with HIV and Hepatitis C changed the lives of many Canadians.

While fully knowledgeable that as a gay who enjoyed sexual relations with other gays meant that he would be ineligible to give blood, he set out to falsify his responses, and to continue giving blood. He is adamant that the Blood Services agency is at fault in their determination of his ineligibility because, although he is gay, tests have indicated he is not HIV-positive.

Which condition, of course, could change at any time, given his sexual orientation, placing him at relatively high risk, and by extension posing a potential risk through the donation of his blood. The extent of his hypocrisy is blatant, since he claims he is prepared to abandon his lawsuit against the agency, if they drop theirs against him.

He seems to enjoy splitting hairs, contesting the illegality of his position, while flagrantly and casually being responsible by his past conduct, of placing the recipients of his blood donations at risk of developing catastrophic health conditions. His considered opinion is that his 'rights' under the Charter have been infringed, with little consideration for the rights of others.

Since the executive director of the Canadian Hemophilia Society feels the current practise is in the "best interests of blood safety", we can assume we have it on fairly good authority that Kyle Freeman is seriously in error.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Dilemmas and Circumstances

Well, that was an unexpected turn of events, was it not? After having successfully evaded the social covenant of justice imposed for a cruelly mindless act of lust, Roman Polanski has been detained by the Swiss justice system. At the polite request of the Los Angeles Justice Department. And while his friends and colleagues twist their hands in anguish over the unfairness of it all, the utter duplicity of Swiss authorities, they have ample support from official France and Poland.

The man is now 76 years of age, just drop the sloppy mess and do everyone a favour. He is, after all, a brilliant film director, has gifted the world with thoughtfully analytical cinematic treatises on the nature of humankind. And he has, undeniably, suffered greatly throughout his life, from the time he was a child and escaped the tentacles of Nazi determination to annihilate every Jew that came into their deadly clutches, to the horrible dispatch of his pregnant Hollywood wife.

He experienced tragedy that might unhinge any sane person's mental capacity. Of course this was not exactly the case, with Roman Polanski. He was possessed of a steely character, he was a true survivor, not unlike so many other Jews of his generation, who forced themselves to cope, to have hope and to survive. But then he truly disgraced himself; it is not as though there is any doubt on that score. He undertook to avail himself of forbidden fruit. Any deviant can explain to themselves why they might embark on such a journey.

Curiosity, of the idlest sort, perhaps. What it might feel like to exploit and violate a child. Having experienced so many other types of human injustices personally, perhaps he might have felt in a dark recess of his mind that he was entitled to experience what it would feel like to be a predator and expose a child to a grown man's lust. That child was given alcohol and drugs to prepare her for that experience. Children are fairly trusting, and it wouldn't be all that difficult to dazzle a young girl through the excitement of the attention of an urbane man of the world.

His defence? Claiming that the girl was sexually experienced. At the age of 45 he did not alert himself to the simple fact that he was undertaking a personal mission of molesting a child many times his junior; at half the age he was then, it would have been disgustingly inappropriate. What might he have been thinking? Well, not an awful lot, obviously, other than what an interesting experience plucking this low-growing temptation might be.

It is generous of his former victim to express her wish that he no longer be pursued.

But nothing alters the fact of his having raped her and sodomized her when she was a child. And no one but this child knows how agonized she was, how her life, during her maturing years, was affected, the unhappy memories she yet has. It is highly likely he will never see the inside of a California prison system. There will be sufficient outcry to ensure that the notoriety so recently re-awakened, casting a dark cloud over this otherwise-gifted man will be the final outcome.

There are some crimes against humanity, however, that simply are not forgivable.

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Found In Favour

Imagine, a brutal felon - charged , convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for a deliberate murder spree where four young Canadians and a Minnesota police officer lost their lives - is deemed to have the right to sue on the basis of having had his human rights overlooked. What amazing values we have, as a liberal society, infused with a concern over the well-being of mass murderers, intent on seeing that someone like Gregory McMaster does not suffer.

Thirty-one years ago he took the lives of four human beings, all of them far finer representatives of our species than he, but through our system of institutionalized universal human rights recognition - extended even to the most atrociously-behaved among us, convicted of serial murder - he is guaranteed such basic rights.

The families of those he murdered will live forever with the pain and torment of knowing their loved ones' opportunities to experience life on any level, was viciously removed.

In our great collective wisdom - our need to know that we behave with a tender concern for the well-being of all, the non-deserving as well as those who do deserve the caution of careful thought and compassion - we have entitled this man, representative of the lowest spectrum of depraved human descent, to insist on his 'rights'.

And thus it is that an appeal court has ruled Canadian taxes must fund $6,000 to this prison inmate in acknowledgement of his "pain and suffering", occasioned by a strain to a knee while exercising, wearing year-and-a-half-old running shoes. Not just any replacements would do for this man; he required extra-wide Size 13 New Balance running shoes.

The "appalling delay" in providing this footwear to this killing machine was cited by Federal Court Judge Leonard Mandamin as reason to reject the federal government's appeal of a ruling by Prothonotary Kevin Aalto when he blasted prison authorities for their unappealing laxity in failing to provide precisely that foot gear for the prisoner's exercise routine.

The lawyer for this murderer congratulates himself for the ruling. John L. Hill's argument is that in his successful prosecution of his client's case, the way has been opened for the general public to go to court in instances when they consider themselves to have been ill-done-by on the part of a federal or provincial civil servant. He flatters himself with frail defence.

He may feel good about arguing for a murderer, but the ordinary person-on-the-street may feel justified in their aversion of lawyers' moral standards, in yet another representation of questionable defence, outrageous outcome.

In the original suit against the federal government the demand was for $50,000 in damages resulting from "misfeasance in public office"; failing to provide adequate footwear in this instance. In the event, the award amounted to $9,000 with $3,000 deducted in acknowledgement of the prisoner's continuing his work-outs despite wearing the old worn-out running shoes.

A slap on the side of the head at the authorities at Fenbrook Institutions who were held to have abused their powers in deliberately withholding the requested footwear. A reminder to public authority figures in our prison system that prisoners' rights must be taken seriously; a reasonable proposition and requirement in most instances, a downright grating one in some instances.

And an obnoxious fist in the pocket of the law-abiding, taxpaying public.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blistering Bluster

It's often engaged in, but no more frequently than by politicians eager to sink home a point of honour, of moral integrity, of outrage against any and all whose character and behaviour offends universal morality.

The Conservative-led Government of Canada has done a fine job of demonstrating to the world precisely the manner in which it condemns and disdains immoral leaders, those whose vicious human-rights abuses against their own people and whose belligerence toward others marks them as beyond the pale of acceptance - none more to the obviously representative than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

Why then, one wonders, blur and undermine the stringency of that condemnation by promising to confront another world-class misfit, one whose mad ravings set him aside as truly especial, a tyrannical lunatic - when it would be far better to simply ignore him. Knowing that Moammar Gadhafi's planning team was preparing to land for re-fuelling at Gander, Newfoundland, why not simply, state-to-state, issue a refusal of permission to land, to sully Canadian soil, with his unappetizing, mercenarily-murderous presence?

What is this all about, these schoolboy taunts and promises? That the prime minister has obliged his foreign affairs minister with the task of hying himself off to Newfoundland directly from the United Nations General Assembly to meet-and-greet and insult the King of Kings on Canadian soil...? To what purpose, exactly? After all, careful steps have been taken to obtain full news coverage of the plan; for days ahead Canadian media have been trumpeting the intention of the prime minister and his foreign affairs minister to confront the man.

Did they really anticipate that, despite his ravings, he would remain oblivious to the intended insult and simply forge ahead, arriving on schedule to make himself available for the anticipated dressing-down? His entourage was known to have planned to stay over in Gander, and to have the King of Kings of Africa's Bedouin tent planted in a suitable place on the landscape. His handlers were already on site, making advance preparations. Would not that have been the time to proffer a dignified note of diplomatic denial? A snub that would speak louder than mere words?

Did the government deliberately set out to make itself look rather ineptly foolish on this file? Well, we forgive them their excesses, being so utterly satisfied with their performance where it truly counts, at the United Nations. In a manner that brings honour to Canada, quite unlike Canada's performance of the previous several decades. So, thank you, and thank you again, Mr. Prime Minister. You have our gratitude. Truly yours.

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Noble Martyrdom - or Self-Delusion?

Perhaps a tad of both. A sense of personal outrage, resignation, and finally a realization that, to accord with one's stringent belief in the sacredness of the meeting of an ovum and a sperm cell one may not destroy what grows within one's bodily temple. Even when the resulting embryo, brought to life through in-vitro fertilization is not one's own and really, truly, has no business in a nurturing womb without a biological connection.

Such are the scruples of religious adherence: the faithful must needs apply to self what they demand of others in recognizing the supremacy of God's word and the exhortation to humankind to 'go forth and multiply', for hasn't He infused them with the imperative to do so? And here I was naive enough to think that Carolyn Savage was, through some twist in law, constrained to surrender the fruit of her body's nurturance to others.

Not so, evidently. The foetus that grew within her body, being the biological result of another couple's attempt to conceive, was one that she and her husband felt they had a moral obligation to carry to fruition. And a similar obligation to hand over to the true biological parents. No one, no human agency, no lawful construct demanded this of them. They interpreted the Lord's word and determined His would be done.

"We wish Paul, Shannon, their twin girls and their new baby boy the best, as they move forward with their lives together", was the message to the biological parents via the media, from the nobly suffering pair, as they gave up the baby that was delivered at St.Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Ohio. Offering as they did so their "heartfelt congratulations" to Paul and Shannon Morell.

Having delivered themselves of this onerous task, and having delivered their message through the media eager to scribble impressions of this unusual affair and this deeply committed pair, they requested privacy as, they said rather plaintively "Our family is going through a very difficult time and requests privacy in the days ahead." Why not gladly offer them the privacy they now wish to possess?

Their brief fling with notoriety, bringing a fresh new look to the annals of nobility has been completed. Their self-imposed task done. Their deeply significant religious message of suffering, forbearance (against an adversity they hadn't sought), spiritual and corporeal generosity - and sad self-congratulations. Theirs was the duty and they met it superbly.

And they are exceedingly elevated by the experience, as they so movingly stated: "Our family is deeply grateful for the support and prayers of so many people from around the world". Duty done: "We didn't have to discuss it. We came to an instantaneous conclusion; this was the path that we had to go down", said Sean Savage.

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Sly Liberal Machinations

The 1982 Constitution sets out requirements for proportional representation in the House of Commons, where population density results in a greater number of elected representatives to Parliament than areas with considerably fewer numbers of people whose regional interests are to be represented. It has been common knowledge for a number of years that there is a current imbalance between regions of the country with respect to representation of members of Parliament.

And it has been acknowledged fairly generally that a re-alignment must take place, although to date, nothing concrete has been done about the situation. In previous Liberal-led governments there was a bit of a conundrum; increase the number of seats in cities such as Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, and see some decrease in representation from Quebec? Troubling prospect. Rumbles of discontent. Traditions upturned.

Oh dear, that would never do. Since, of course, Quebec would be furious, and traditionally it has been the Quebec vote that has granted Liberals their majority governments. Lest it not be properly understood just how injured Quebec would feel, the Bloc Quebecois and the federal Liberals (read: Michael Ignatieff) have warned how upsetting it would be to lessen the current 24%-Quebec Parliamentary seats.

Quebec would most certainly not take kindly to losing its Parliamentary influence, simply because of the inconvenient reality of an increase in population elsewhere in the country. Even if Quebec is predominately occupied with putting the rest of Canada on notice interminably, that it is a nation in and of itself, and ultimately sees separation and full autonomy on the horizon.

"It's clear that when the population increases in a province, there must be a change in the distribution of seats, but we must also maintain a good balance with Quebec", Michael Ignatieff piously intones. "We cannot play partisan games with this, because of (concerns of) national unity of the country."

Ah, the Liberals tout the necessity to kowtow to Quebec, and they may play their traditional partisan games because having done so and continuing to do so they remain the favoured party (absent the Bloc votes) in the province. The Conservative-led government is placed on notice that now is not the right time - there may never be a right time - to re-jig seats on a proportional basis.

Yes, it should be done eventually, and eventually it may become reality. But the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is put on stern notice that national unity will be threatened should it proceed to increase the electoral presence of the voting public in Ontario and Western Canada, reflecting their growing numbers. Particularly before the next election. Particularly given polling numbers.

Legislation for that very purpose is being considered. And Quebec is alert to the inevitability of their weakened control over Parliament through fewer allocations, and this will arouse their ire. Oh dear to that, too.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mindless Violence

Out of Winnipeg has come, all too startlingly-frequently, stories of violence at odds with standards of social conduct and respect for others in a civilized society. Violence visited against adults, young and old, is hard enough to accept. But mindless violence represented by vicious assaults against infants staggers the mind, and alerts the public to the full extent of a culture of dystopian violence, of nihilistic disregard for the social compact.

The city of Winnipeg, just over half-a-million population, is rated to represent the Canadian city with the highest rate of violent crime. And the incidence of violent crime is on a steep rise. That level of violence was once restricted to a number of inter-urban areas, but has steadily moved beyond those neighbourhoods to infiltrate other communities. The violence is held to be a by-product of street gangs whose members battle for territory, drugs and 'respect'.

Gang cultures in various parts of the country often are represented by ethnic groups; in Vancouver, those of Asian or East Indian ancestry; in Toronto those of West Indies descent, for example. Whereas in Winnipeg armed street gangs are represented by aboriginals with their various pride-of-origin names. What they all have in common, these gangs, is the assurance among the young gang members that they'll receive that proverbial wrist-slap.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act is relatively lenient with young offenders. So too when a young woman viciously beats a two-year-old child, and a young father of another infant seriously wounds his child by stabbing it in the face, their substance-dependence and youth and background of poverty will ensure a free-pass leniency. The youths that stab and shoot and bludgeon the old and the innocent don't much care what results from their violence.

The mayor of Winnipeg, in discussing the issues before the city council and its policing authority speaks of the "revolving door of justice". Arrested, tried and sentenced, a short prison stay in juvenile detention sees the offenders back on the street in quick order. Worse, perhaps is that they manage, while in detention, to recruit other vulnerable imprisoned youth to gang membership.

"Today, about a third of the inmates within an institution are gang-affiliated", according to the Chair in Criminal Justice at the University of Winnipeg. Some of those young people who become affiliated with the various gangs represent socially-aversive youth whose reserves have expelled them for violent crimes or substance addiction.

So where do the answers to this problem lie? With the all-too-often aboriginal communities whose own levels of child-rearing dysfunctionality is legendary because of parents unwilling or unable to properly raise their young because of their own debilitating addictions? Or with the municipalities that end up inheriting these dangerously violent social misfits?

Should Canadian society look more deeply into investing in remedial opportunities within the aboriginal communities themselves, in an effort to forestall these problems of ineffective child-rearing to begin with? Undeniably yes. The other, less palatable alternative is to battle violence with violence. And that devalues us all.

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An Original Investment

Comes the story in the news of an American woman who, along with her husband, decided to make use of the last of their frozen embryos. She and her husband had used in-vitro fertilization, resulting in a year-and-half-old child. They have also two older children. She is now 40 years old, and this couple felt this would be a timely choice to bring their remaining embryo to fruition. And so it was implanted to produce their fourth child.

And when they were informed that the procedure had been successful, and that Mrs. Savage was indeed pregnant as a result of the implantation, they were also given other news. The first flush of pleasure, learning of her pregnancy, was followed by disbelieving dismay when Carolyn Savage and her husband Sean, were further informed by a representative of the fertility clinic that the wrong embryo had been implanted.

And that the foetus growing in her uterus belonged to another couple. One might think it would take the wisdom of Solomon to arrive at a solution to this very particular dilemma. A child is a child is a child, and the living human laboratory that brought life and maturity from the embryo to a foetus and then a child, should, logically, be presumed to be the mother for biological-procedure purposes.

Yet, at 35 weeks of pregnancy, having carried what has turned out to be another couple's embryo to maturity, this couple has had to resign themselves to the inevitability of surrendering the child at birth to the 'rightful owners' of the embryo. "The hardest part is going to be the delivery", Mrs. Savage has said. "We want a moment to say hello, and goodbye."

Mrs. Savage admits to feelings of denial and resentment: "In a way, I felt violated", she has said. Little wonder. The violation is evident, in fact. That she would be expected - after having physically, at the most elemental biological level, nurtured an embryo into foetal stage, then delivered a baby - to have to observe a legality requiring its surrender.

The fertility clinic offered them two options; to terminate the early pregnancy - which they found difficult to contemplate because of their religious beliefs - or to accept that if they saw the pregnancy to finalization, they would have to give up the resulting child. For them there was no happy medium, but to agree to continue the pregnancy with a view to surrendering the child.

"Of course we will wonder a bout this child every day for the rest of our lives. We have hopes for him, but they're his parents, and we'll defer to their judgement on when and if they ever tell him what happened and any contact that is afforded us. We just want to know he's healthy and happy."

This represents an inhumane outcome for a pair of trusting and decent people. It illustrates the misapplication of the laws of possession and ownership; observing the letter of the law as it applies to ownership of an object, as opposed to the treasured possession of a living human being nourished within a woman's body.

This is a parody of justice. Solomon would not have been impressed.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Justice Triumphs

Or does it. Perhaps not exactly. Might be our Supreme Court Justices and our Federal Courts of Justice are fixated on interpretations of our laws that satisfy their personal sense of justice, totally oblivious of the real world in which we now live. Or, illogically, because of it, despite it, demonstrating a noble willingness to take chances that perhaps the rest of society would far rather not. They are of the shared opinion that they are imbued with the kind of wisdom not shared by the great unwashed.

Nor, for that matter, with the Government of Canada itself, or its security and policing agencies. Some discord in perception there. Which might not matter all that much, if it didn't matter in fact and reality - enormously. Enter the triumph of skewed reasoning; welcome the assaults on our right to self protection. Why are the esteemed justices supremely correct, one might ask in all innocence, freeing those whom government and its agencies are concerned pose a threat to the country?

When Canada Immigration and Canadian Security Intelligence Service are sufficiently concerned of the prospects of an individual bringing harm to the country, that they refuse that individual citizenship and undertake efforts to deport him to his country of origin, how is it that the legal system, trumpeting the right of self-defence and Charter guarantees, feel confident of jerking the rug out from under security certificates and/or deportation orders?

Federal Justice Department lawyers insist that Adil Charkaoui poses a threat to the country, as an al-Qaeda sleeper agent. CSIS denies the charges by Mr. Charkaoui and his lawyers that there is unreliable evidence linking him to terrorism: "CSIS stands by the accuracy and reliability of its information submitted in the security certificate issued against Adil Charkaoui". Disclosure of the information requested by Judge Tremblay-Lamer would have resulted in disruption to intelligence gathering.

So, six years following the man's arrest and detaining as an al-Qaeda agent, Adil Charkaoui is a free man, after Justice Daniele Tremblay-Lamer made the determination that the secret evidence against him simply was not sufficiently persuasive to her. Ruling that all conditions be lifted covering his release on bail. Government is set to appeal, and if successful, plans to issue another security certificate to have the man deported to Morocco.

The government and its security agencies claim to have more than adequate knowledge and the assurance that this man is a member of al-Qaeda, trained in terror camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is a familiar of other Islamist fanatics. Some of which information has been corroborated to government's satisfaction. For his part, a triumphant Mr. Charkaoui is willing to accept an apology from the federal government.

Upon which he can feel himself free to launch a lawsuit to compensate for his hardships. And he will be satisfied to remain in Canada, good name restored, compensation banked. He will have to stand in line with his lawsuit, since there are others that have been launched by yet other hyphenated-Canadians whose rights as Canadians have been under assault by our elected representatives.

Not the least of which is Abousfian Abdelrazik, who blames the government for his travails, as well. He is prepared to accept $27-million to make him feel better about his misfortunes. Interesting how other countries handle these situations in other ways. Take, for example, Yemen-born Modhar Abdullah who came to Ottawa in 1998, studied at Algonquin College for a while, before heading off to the United States.

Charged there with aiding and abetting, and being intimately involved with other terrorists, and who claimed to have known the 9/11 attackers, and of being in possession of knowledge of their imminent attack. Without adequate evidence to charge him he was discharged from prison and departed to Yemen in 2004. New information since coming to light may yet see the FBI renew its investigation.

Do we have to wait until some fanatical Islamist clique, imported or home-drafted, deploys successfully and visits a catastrophe on the country before our judiciary takes the danger they represent seriously? Seriously, if public safety and security agencies in their professional capacity to defend this country are convinced they have uncovered a presence deleterious to the country, why not simply deport?

Why is it that someone who is a resident, but not a citizen of the country, whom the government wants to deport, is able to call on the law to defend his 'rights' under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Do law-abiding ordinary citizens of multifarious heritages in this pluralist-society have no protections under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

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THIS is Poverty?

A newly-released study titled "The Affordability Gap", coming out of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, using statistics available from Statistics Canada, gives the results of their exploration of the patterns of spending ascertained from questioning Canadian households. The results of their study led the CCPA to the conclusion that low-income households are at a distinct disadvantage in quality of life and opportunities. Amazing conclusion, that.

Were these low-income families unable to buy enough good-quality food for themselves? Were they experiencing difficulties in find a decent place to live? Were the children of low-income families forced to attend under-performing schools? Did the lack of adequate household income result in dire deprivation for the families involved? Did they worry whether they could pay their rent or mortgages, have enough left over for milk for their children?

I can relate to all that to some degree. And feel really, truly badly for these low-income families. I remember schools feeding hungry children, allowing children to shower there because of a lack of indoor hygienic facilities at home. I recall myself receiving dental work through public-school auspices from a dentist all the kids named "the butcher". And I remember attending a fresh-air camp for underprivileged children.

I can even recall what it was like to worry about paying both a first and second mortgage, and having enough left over to pay the milkman, and counting pennies to try to buy enough fresh fruits and vegetables to feed three hungry children and their parents. Holidays were comprised of day-time visits to local parks, and going for lots of walks. We were pretty happy, anyway. And we felt ourselves inordinately privileged.

But this study compares the average household spending of the low-income percentile to that of the richest, and there is a whopping disparity there. Honestly. "We live in one of the most affluent nations on the planet, but Canada's poorest households are struggling to buy basic goods and services that most Canadians would consider reasonable for normal living in the 21st century", according to the author of the report.

"In every spending category, the richest 20 percent spent six or seven times more than the poorest 20 percent." Imagine. Is this to be believed? This is serious stuff since, according to the report many Canadians haven't the funds "to participate in a meaningful way in the society around them." Details, we'd like those details, please.

Well, the report author points out helpfully that for low-income people to be able to "participate in a meaningful way" they must have disposable income 'left over' once the basics of food, shelter and transportation have been paid for. So our poor social left-outs do have food, shelter and transportation; that's a great relief.

Government must step in to help Canadians unable to compete in our social world by boosting welfare rates substantially, increasing minimum wage rates and enhancing income support programs. To enable these of society's less fortunate to have high-speed Internet access, cellphones, pets, and recreation. For poor households spend $2,680 on recreation as compared to the wealthy who spend $8,449. No kidding.

Insufficient numbers of low-income families are able to spend money on sports equipment, computers, visiting museums, and purchasing tickets to the performing arts. More important, in my jaded view, eye care and dental care is lower among the poor percentile than the wealthy. Might this be indicative of values and priorities: recreational versus medical needs?

Good thing for all of us, isn't it, that Canada has a universal health care system, and that the poor needn't concern themselves about access to doctors, to hospitals and to the larger health-care community, when and as required. Free from the need to purchase pricey health insurance, from having to pay physicians' fees, and hospital fees, the poor do (relatively) well.

To be poor in Canada, is (no) dread thing indeed.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Still Flailing Away?

Michael Ignatieff is trying the patience of staunch Liberals who felt they finally caught a winner in his ascension to the leadership, sans democratic orthodoxy in attainment. His potential as a winner was worth bypassing the usual dreary process of a leadership election procedure. Truly peculiar how everything has gone downhill for the Liberals since that event. They exchanged one failure for yet another. The first one was at least honest, if inept. This one's statements beg credulity and his bumbling performances have brought discredit to the party, if anything.

In fact, not much truly has changed from the time Stephane Dion was leader to the present, with Michael Ignatieff leading the Liberals in constant challenges to the record of the Conservative government. Mr. Dion too railed against the government's incompetence on the economy, the environment, international affairs, natural resources and health care. And threatened repeatedly to bring down the government. It's like an excruciatingly bad, broken record; Mr. Ignatieff appears to have carefully studied Mr. Dion's discredited performance and intentionally repeats it, as though addicted to self-destruction.

All the claims of government ineptitude are contradicted by reality. And the other reality is that the Liberals, if they were now back in the position of government, would be performing in much the same manner. But not quite as successfully, as virtuously, and as commandingly. This is the opinion of the majority of Canadians, as it happens. In all the indices: health care, taxes, national unity, environment and the economy, the Conservatives have an edge on public opinion, significantly over the Liberals.

And the fact is, Canadians have reason to be proud of this government in its refreshingly new, candid and principled stand in world affairs and within the halls of the United Nations. There are some problems internally that should receive more attention, and might be resolved that the Conservatives have yet to pay due diligence to, and they may not at all, more's the pity.

But then, the Liberals never did, either.

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Honduran Intransigence

What on earth is the matter with all those countries of the world that stand in judgement of Honduras? Most particularly the United States, where the President and the State Department keep urging the interim government to permit the ousted and discredited former president Manuel Zelaya to be reinstated. Theoretically, very temporarily. He, of course, has other plans.

Inspired by his friendship with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez to aspire to a lifetime presidency of his country, and supported by the like-minded pseudo-democratic socialists practising their version of totalitarian rule, he revels in their support and fully intends to re-implement his aborted attempt to change the law for re-election, flouting the country's constitution.

The Honduran judiciary and its politicians and most of its population condemned the ambitions of Manuel Zelaya whose rule of the country has been degraded, and on order of the high court, ordered him deported, taken elsewhere, anywhere, out of the country, to be rid of his machinations, his manipulative, self-availing insistence that he be ruler-for-life.

The man deliberately violated his country's constitution. His presidential powers were revoked by order of the country's federal judiciary. Who brought in the military to forcibly remove him from further destabilizing the country. Logically, his next-in-command temporarily took office, until such time as the duly elected future president could take office.

Because Hugo Chavez and his revolutionary cohorts and their collaborators in specious 'social justice' insist that democracy has been stained in this unusual response to an unusual and officiously-denigrating spurning of Honduran values and laws, the international community has also, and mysteriously, reacted to support Mr. Zelaya.

Direct interference in the concerns of an sovereign country. One which has evoked its own system of laws to support the removal of a president who could not respect his own country's laws. This is a respectable country, one whose concern for its people is paramount. After November 29 the country will have a new president, and the interim president will step down.

The embassy of Brazil within Honduras should invite Mr. Zelaya to remove himself from their protective auspices, and seek forgiveness from Honduras for their unneeded intervention. The United States should recognize the inappropriateness of their condemnation of a country that has the right to determine its own destiny.

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From Omnipotence to Impotence

The world's leaders are (somewhat) agreed that nature's changing environment - nudged along peremptorily by environmental activists and a concatenation of scientists convinced that humankind is partly to blame - must be acknowledged through an international determination to change our wasteful energy habits.

But we are so comfortable with our current situation, given to the independent pleasures of driving ourselves wherever we wish to go, building and living in our luxurious surroundings. We have constructed an enviable lifestyle for ourselves in taking from the planet that which nature has left for us to discover and to use.

Endless manufacturing of countless durable (but for built-in obsolescence) items that enrich our lives in so many ways; how to live without those energy-using appliances so much a part of our daily lives? Commuting long distances daily, spontaneously responding to our need to see other parts of the world, so effortlessly attained with the use of modern flight.

Communicating with one another with all of our electronic devices, each one of which absorbs increasing amounts of energy, fuelling this lifestyle. And, in the process, throwing up carbon emissions, degrading our environment. What a nasty predicament. Really, we must get a round to doing something about this mess.

Step right up, please! Which will be the first country to deny itself, its GDP and its citizens the freedom to continue absorbing more and more of the Earth's resources to enable these entitlements? People, ordinary people, after all, have been made aware of pending disaster, they collectively deplore the situation, are eager to claim they will form part of the answer to combating environmental change's potential to bring catastrophe upon us all.

"Difficulty is no excuse for complacency", lectured President Barack Obama, the new, take-responsibility CEO of the United States.

"We seek sweeping but necessary change in the midst of a global recession where every nation's most immediate priority is reviving their economy and putting their people back to work." Ah, yes. Precisely. But then of course, "Each of us must do what we can when we can to grow our economies without endangering our planet - and we must do it together."

Well, say India and China (and Brazil), you in the Western Hemisphere who assembled all those advantages so well and fulsomely, before we had the opportunity to attempt the same, have been largely responsible for all those dread carbon dioxide emissions that now threaten us collectively. Accept the blame, and take all necessary measures, personally.

We need to have some breathing room to enable us to achieve at least some semblance of what you have already got. Our people too, would appreciate that fabled middle-class life of entitlement to all the good things that can be offered in a successful economy which we now strive to emulate.

You pull back, you make the sacrifice, you show the way. We will follow. Eventually. When it suits our purpose to do so. When, in good time, we will have managed to achieve what you now wish to persuade us to surrender all aspirations toward, for the greater good of the planet.

President Hu Jintao gave no hint of co-operation sought by the West now claiming the need for moderation everywhere in energy expenditures for the greater good of all. China set a firm carbon policy, and commit to emission targets or reduction timetables? It is not China's turn to surrender her future with alacrity to the beseeching economies of the West.

But why blame China, after all? The world in its entirety, all the developed, developing and hopeful countries of the world seek continued economic growth toward which achievement carbon taxes and controls are directly threatening. Look no further than the most powerful, most wealthy (however financially indebted) country in the world, and look closely.

Despite all the heartfelt rhetoric and declarations of intent, the United States knows well enough that to commit to meaningful fossil fuel and emissions controls is to accept growth stagnation. This can be achieved with great pain. Economic growth will grind to a standstill.

The deep recessionary travails of the United States with the largest unemployment figures in quite a long time will remain in a quagmire of unfulfilled promises to the electorate.

Leaders at the G20 summit will speak of their vaunted climate policies, and congratulate one another on their committed burden of responsibility. And then, astutely in recognition of the reality of getting on with the business of getting on will focus yet again on battling the problems that have reared their ugly heads, and pledge themselves to furthering economic growth.

Enthusiasm for global environmental battles wanes in direct proportion to the experienced dismay at the level of the still-plunging economic recovery.

This speaks to the discomfort of reality.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Supreme Court versus Government of Canada

Canada, like most of the Western world, faces an ongoing and dire threat both from without and from within, through the frenzied auspices of the international jihadist movement which has inspired young Muslim men to give their all for Islam, surrendering to the call to prove themselves by dispatching Western symbols and civilian populations to oblivion, while they themselves ascend to Paradise.

Sounds like a rather absurd plot, admittedly. Might make for interesting end-of-civilization creative literature so beloved of disaster-buffs.

That old adage of truth being stranger than fiction has at no time been more evident than at the present. The threat is there, seemingly remote in potential, and in the mind's eye, but time and again it raises its dark and ugly head with the apprehension of yet another little dedicated clique intent on wreaking vengeance jihad-style on targets of choice. The score thus far has been more in favour of the defenders than the offenders, after the initial successes celebrated by jihadists in the U.S., England, Spain and Indonesia.

But the threats keep coming, and intelligence agencies keep doing their thing, crossing fingers and checking information. Democratically elected governments most certainly have their work cut out for them, have they not? They discharge their obligations to those who elect them to office by the skin of their lawmaking teeth. To be brought up short by those whom they appoint to oversee the juridical aspects of the country's well being. And in the current post-liberal atmosphere of judicial friendliness to all and sundry that is proving a difficult balance.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin cautions government and its intelligence and protective and security agencies that it may not 'overstep' the boundaries laid down and interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada. Government may not take as its security touchstone the events of September 11, 2001, nor any that succeeded them in attesting to the determination of fundamentalist jihadists to destroy Western civilization, and haul the world back into the age of Islamic glory.

When, therefore, government agents in security and intelligence feel confident that they have identified a potential threat to the country and seek to isolate that threat they are slapped down as overstepping their authority. Algerian-born Mohamed Harket, refusing the government's invitation for him to return to his country of birth, may now have a get-out-of-suspicion pass. His rights under the Constitution not to be considered a threat to Canada due to his past associations and suspected allegiances trump public security.

A Palestinian-born member of the Popular Resistance for the Liberation of Palestine against whom French authorities feel they have assembled adequate proof of responsibility for the bombing of a Paris synagogue causing death, destruction and the maiming of innocents, must have his rights scrupulously observed, before extradition may take place, (should it take place), and his lawyers insist his innocence must render him protected from the RCMP's violation of his Charter rights.

It is truly wonderful to feel that the Supreme Court of Canada is intent on protecting the rights of Canadians. And it is puzzling that in seeking to protect the safety and security of all Canadians, the Government of Canada is offending the Supreme Court of Canada.

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Surveys, Findings

A Nanos Research poll recently released indicates that over 77% of respondents felt confident that the level of honesty and ethical practise among doctors was very high. The medical professional received the highest level of confidence for ethical behaviour in their practise, with pharmacists a close second. And that's very comforting. If we don't trust our health professionals to point us in the right direction, know that they are concerned about our personal health because of their dedication to their healing profession, whom can we trust?

Well, actually, we might do well to trust our doctors, but also become informed and do our own due diligence. Which is to raise questions if we have doubts, and insist that we have a right to answers, since it is our health and physical well-being involved in treatment options. In the United States, for example, there is a well-established practise of collusion between health professionals and pharmaceutical producers, as well as with private clinics. The bottom line, not necessarily the best line of treatment protocol for the patient is the governing option.

We see this in various ways, mostly doctors prescribing name-brand pharmaceutical products instead of less expensive generic products. And trusting the 'research findings' of their peers, in accepting new medications that turn out, in the end, not to be as effective as previous drugs, but more expensive. As drug patents lapse and generic producers are able to copy prescription formulas and sell at more reasonable rates, the name-brand pharmaceuticals seek to reproduce another, more costly drug to do similar health remediation.

And then there is the sad old story of health specialists, particularly those holding prestigious academic chairs in their specialties in various areas of diagnostic-and-treatment practise amenable to to taking part in 'research', coming up inevitably with findings canted in favour of the drugs being tested, encouraged mightily by the funding they receive from the drug manufacturer. We see symptoms of this also in the propensity of doctors ordering often-irrelevant and unneeded tests.

And doctors in Canada operate in the very same way. In Canada, for example, obstetricians solemnly avow that Cesarean section procedures in delivering babies is the woman's call. Most obstetricians support a woman's right to 'choose for herself', yet C-sections are performed now at an alarming rate, for women who do not actually need to be delivered in this way. C-sections represent a potential threat both to the well-being of the mother and child. Yet 28% of women now choose to go that route, nationally.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada feel this procedure should not be offered without a compelling medical reason to perform one. Despite which, 42% of obstetricians support a woman's right to choose to deliver by C-Section. Simply put, there's a certain convenience involved in the procedure with respect to timing. No waiting in suspense, just reserve your date. That way you're certain to have the doctor in attendance, and you're certain of a swift outcome.

Analgesic epidurals are also now regularly and routinely given even though they interfere with labour's normal progress. The pain of it all ... Midwives, on the other hand, knowing childbirth to a natural process, prefer it be conducted naturally. And although most obstetricians claim to be against fetal monitoring, that's not what's actually occurring, with 91% of births being monitored during labour, risking false-positive results.

Risks to babies born through C-sections include accidental lacerations and neonatal respiratory distress, among other inadvertent results, while risks to the mothers include higher potentials for hemorrhaging, blood infections, wound infections and blood clots on the lungs. The trouble is, the health professionals that people place their trust in simply haven't the time nor the inclination to sit down and waste precious office time explaining all of this.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two Foul Odours

A tawdry affair has recently come to light where a law firm located in Vancouver, Dohm, Jaffer and Jeraj, is being investigated for malfeasance/malpractise by the Law Society of British Columbia. This law firm was engaged by the Catholic order, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in New Westminster, B.C., to look after their interests in settlement claims related to Indian Residential Schools abuse claims.

Former residential school students had charged the Oblates operating schools across the province with abuses against the human rights of their former students. Over a period of time, after the final closing of the last school in 1984, most of the hundreds of claims were settled. Throughout the process of litigation, the law firm had billed the Oblates quite sensationally high rates for legal tasks performed.

Support staff who worked on the various cases were billed at between $75 to $100 an hour; even a receptionist at the law firm had time billed at $65 an hour. The senior partner in the law firm charged at the rate of $450 an hour, while the junior partner billed at $200 an hour. On occasion billings represented 24-hour workdays. The Oblates, who take a vow of poverty, found themselves truly struggling in poverty to pay these excessive billings.

They sought the services of another law firm to determine whether the billings were legitimate, whereupon the initial law firm simply demanded that the Oblates continue to pay: "Now that the lawyers have been here ... you will do the right thing and pay our bills in full immediately", the senior lawyer wrote to the Oblates. Finally, the Oblates, finding themselves in a deficit position, filed a lawsuit.

The documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court charged that the law firm had billed the B.C. Oblates in excess of $6.7 million, representing $5.1 million in legal fees from January 2000 to December 2004, for work related to settling the claims of 200 individuals, former residential school students who suffered sexual or physical abuse while under the Oblates' care. Discharging the moral and legal obligations of the Oblates at an obviously exorbitant rate.

While the law firm and the Oblates have since reached a settlement, the Law Society of B.C. is continuing its investigation, concerned that the senior partner of the law firm, none other than Senator Mobina Jaffer (The Senate of Canada) and her son, Mr. Jaffer-Jeraj, "engaged in excessive and inaccurate billing of the client and failed to fully inform a client about their retainer".

The second half of this story of miserable human conduct is that the former Oblates administrator, Father James Jordan, who launched the investigation into Senator Jaffer's law firm's inordinately questionable billing practises, having left his administration position some two years later, was arrested in 2009 and charged with one count of possessing child pornography.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

On Good Authority

Relax your apprehensions, we have it on good authority that Israel has no plans uppermost in mind to seek to demolish the Iranian nuclear emplacements that threaten the survival of the Jewish State. The world is informed time and again by the Islamic Republic of Iran that its intent is to ultimately destroy Israel. It has a right to do so, it claims, informed by its leading ayatollahs that to do so would please Allah.

It does have the option, however, of patiently awaiting the imminent arrival of the Hidden Imam, upon whose arrival there would be no need to fire off nuclear-tipped missiles to eradicate Israel from the geography of the Middle East. God himself, the God of Abraham, of Moses and of The Prophet would undertake that task, bidden by the Hidden Imam.

God - perhaps not the Hebrew god, but the Islamic god - for there is none but he, all others being impostors - will make that decision. This is confusing, understandably, since Islam respects Abraham and Moses and Christ, yet worships not Yahweh, but Allah. And since there is no god but God, this is a bit of a conundrum. Yet any rational being can understand that it would not be the Hebrew god who would visit finality on Israel.

Israel ponders its options, and they are gravely questionable with respect to total success. They might offer a little more time, but at a colossal cost. The only other option is to hope for an interior-motivated change of theocratic administration in Iran; one that would remove the fanatical lunacy of the incumbent Grand Ayatollah, his toady counterparts and his creature, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It would appear that a great faction of courageous Iranians have fond hopes of such a change. They are, in fact, demanding it, at the price of their own safety and security. Many of them are suffering torture and human-rights-degrading acts of enforced contrition through serial rape, and many suffer the final assault on the human spirit and body leading to the irreversibility of death. Yet they demand, and they demonstrate.

As for the good authority, as opposed to the Good Authority; it is Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who confidently (confidentially) discloses that Israeli President Shimon Peres had personally informed him that "Israel does not plan any strikes on Iran, we are a peaceful country and we will not do this". President Medvedev considers this just and proper, for in his opinion such a scenario would be disastrous.

"What will happen after that? Humanitarian disaster, vast numbers of refugees. Iran's wish to take revenge, not only on Israel, but upon other countries as well." True, all too true. The man is a sage, a repository of wisdom. On the other hand, should Iran bomb Israel it would not represent as a humanitarian disaster, for Jews are accustomed to attempts at annihilation, and know well what it is to be a refugee.

And Jewish wisdom and forbearance would allow it to sacrifice its entirety in the interests of regional stability, for heaven forfend that Iran should expend its outrage on 'other countries as well'. And just for the record, Russia defends its independent right to continue to aid and assist Iran in its nuclear aspirations, and to sell to that country as many advanced weapons systems as it sees fit.

We have that too on good authority.

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Unequivocal Defeat to the Colonialist Armies!

The Taliban and their religious-ideological brethren wherever they are on the globe, keep close tabs on the manner in which the West views their enterprise to vanquish the infidels and establish a world-wide caliphate with Islamic sharia law governing the lives of all, not merely the world's Muslims. That, of course, is the end-game, and the various wars in progress are meant to lead up to that final solution to the existing reality of different religions, ideologies, political systems and social customs currently existing in international debased decadence.

It pleases al-Qaeda no end to hear the hopeful declarations emanating from Western sources that it has run out of steam, even while the tentacles of Internet enablement and involvement continues to recruit eager young jihadists anxious to do the bidding of their heroic instructors to battle the demonic forces of the West. Just as it delights Mullah Omar, the resourceful leader of the Taliban, to crow that Afghanistan exists as - as history has proven time and again - a graveyard for colonial troops.

"The more the enemy resorts to increasing forces, the more they will face an unequivocal defeat in Afghanistan", celebrates the Taliban's supreme commander. The resurgence of Taliban forces within Afghanistan - supported by Pakistan's Taliban and foreign Islamists - ferociously maintaining the use of guerrilla tactics while keeping traditional combat to a minimum, has had the desired effect of bringing fear anew to Afghans, and destabilizing the intent of the 100,000 NATO troops assigned to battle them.

"The West does not have to wage this war", Mullah Omar croons softly, denying the prevailing and common understanding that in permitting the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and their cohorts to prevail, the countries of the West leave themselves open to further and ongoing attacks on their own soil. The presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan is meant to forestall and to ultimately totally squelch the possibility of any further attacks on the West, in their own countries by fanatic Islamists.

Moreover, Mullah Omar asserts, the NATO forces are suppressing freedom for Afghans in supporting the corrupt and tyrannical government of President Hamid Karzai. As opposed to the humanely charitable, kindly administration of the Taliban when they oppressed the Afghan population, and welcomed the leadership of al-Qaeda to make themselves comfortable in an environment suited to their purpose. Afghan civilians may have a different take on the levels of corruption and totalitarian rule between one and the other.

Now U.S. General McChrystal has forwarded an assessment of the engagement to the U.S. defense secretary to be reviewed by President Obama and his national security team. They have been studying the contents for several weeks. General McChrystal has not been shy to state his professional opinion that the tide of success will not turn in favour of NATO forces without a substantial increase in troops deployed to the country. He does not portray the Taliban as without considerable resources. In this way he respects what NATO confronts.

President Obama claims to be awaiting "absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be" before making his decision on whether or not to commit a substantial number of additional U.S. troops to the mission. The strategy is clear enough; to overwhelm the Taliban by sheer numbers of troops able to confront and deny them the opportunity to retake ground won and then left unprotected. To completely rout the Taliban, seek them where they find shelter and destroy them.

Leave them in a state of utter disarray so they may no longer be successful predators on the population so weary of a constant state of warfare. And while they're about it, turn the Afghan government itself toward the clarity of service to the country and its people, as a departure from traditional corruption and sieving of international funds into private hands. Above all, instilling, through sheer perseverance, a respect for the human rights of women and children.

And good luck to all that.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Both, Certainly

Which is to say both racial bigotry and political ideology are involved in the recent controversies over U.S. President Barack Obama's exercise of his executive office. There is such a long history of racial intolerance in the United States, despite a gradual relaxation of peoples' attitudes toward people of colour, that it can surely surprise no one that there is an undercurrent of racism involved in the criticism of this bi-racial and most certainly African-American president.

But the driver of the recent backlash against President Obama's striving to have Congress and the American people accept a new government-led policy toward health insurance is mostly led by politics. Not entirely, but for the most part. It is truly unfortunate that a scheme such as Canada has, with universal health coverage, is not possible for adaptation in the United States. The scheme that President Obama is left with, having had to assure his critics that he is not considering universal coverage akin to Canada's, will leave coverage a personal responsibility.

And that personal responsibility will likely result in hardship for many hard-working people whose work benefits do not include insurance coverage, and whose wages are so low that having to budget for still-whopping insurance fees will prove next to impossible for them. The health insurance brouhaha aside, there remains a large contingent of people in the United States for whom anything an African-American president does or promises to do, is viewed as an assault on heritage and tradition.

In the American South a mere ten percent of Americans cast their vote for Barack Obama. Not all who passed on the opportunity to make history by electing a Democratic Barack Obama are racist; merely Republican by choice and heritage. Which does not discount another sizeable bloc that do qualify as racist, and they have made their anger with the reality of a black president well known, claiming him to have been foreign-born and a secret Muslim, among other slurs in an attempt to claim the purported illegitimacy of his election as president.

There will always be political opposition of one kind or another, and opposition too based on discrimination of one kind or another; John F. Kennedy breached the gap between presidential material and Catholicism and made history that way; Barack Obama has taken it another, giant step further. Had a woman been elected president all the horking-mad misogynists would have given birth to other equally-incredible conspiracy theories in a lunatic rush to discredit a woman as being suitable presidential material.

This president of the United States has embarked on an agenda of his own. When he campaigned for the presidency he spoke of a new era, and promised massive change. Change of all kinds, internal and external. He is no super-man, he is simply a man with his own ideas of what is tolerable and what is not. Of how he can be useful to his country and his people in altering social and institutional covenants to improve the social contract.

But most people see comfort in the familiar, whether or not it benefits them. Change is often seen as disruptive and threatening, and this is what people react to; the unknown, the unfamiliar. As such they are ripe targets for campaigns that purport to explain matters in a light unfavourable to change. Americans have always been polarized politically, and much of that polarization saw its birth in the American Civil War. Old antagonisms die hard.

It was quite simply too naive to think that the election of Barack Obama would speedily breach the gap of the two isolated ideologies; one social the other political.

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Manufactured Ado

Some harried civil servant made a poor decision when he decided to pack an abundance of body bags in with the usual stock of related protective medical supplies that regularly go out to First Nation communities. Causing the recipients to take a deep breath of dismay, wondering whether there was a message inherent in the inclusion, and whether they should become very worried. Among the face masks, gloves, gowns and hygienic hand-wash, there were body bags, in themselves not unusual, simply the numbers provided.

What might that individual have been thinking, in deciding to throw in additional body bags? Likely not very much, just mechanically tossing in whatever was close to hand. Yet the Liberals now have another cause with which to bludgeon the Conservative government, already on high alert over its need to be seen to be in control when the H1N1 virus hits Canadian communities all over the country, this fall and winter. There have been some early hits in aboriginal communities, identified as early signs of H1N1.

Most of those affected have simply shaken off the symptoms just as they would any other flu symptoms, and got on with their lives. A few have had to be hospitalized. But these are aboriginal communities and a heightened sense of alert is raised when these communities are affected deleteriously by just about anything. And they are, often enough. Doctors treating these patients consider the cases to be mild. But right in line with the media that loves to inflate problems, the Canadian Medical Association Journal chose to publish an article bemoaning a major outbreak of H1N1 near Vancouver Island.

"We have been very transparent", according to Dr. Charmaine Enns, a medical health officer with the Vancouver Island Health Authority: "There is no story there." This health professional stated her professional and first-hand opinion of CMAJ exaggeration. Pointing out that of a population of 800 to 1000, the community of Ahousat has had roughly one hundred people affected by H1N1, six of which cases were lab-confirmed, and no deaths attributed to the virus. But didn't the media take the story and run with it?

Enabling the Liberals to shout for joy as they accused the government of gross insensitivity and failure to address the needs of Canada's aboriginal populations. With Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, avowing how upset she, as an aboriginal Canadian, is by the thoughtlessness of the bodybag transfers and what they might imply. With the Liberals accusing her directly of incompetence. And newly-elected Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo, denouncing the situation, stating his outrage that First Nations peoples do not benefit from adequate medical treatment.

Where, he ventilated indignantly, during a news conference, were the ventilators and other needed equipment, the medical specialists to look to the needs of his beleaguered people? Well, people who choose to live 'traditional' lifestyles in isolated communities, simply do not have access to quite the same quality of hospital care as urban-dwellers, and the same holds true for on-reserve Indians as it does for white folk who choose to live as far from urban centres as they can possibly manage. Country folk too haven't the same access to medical care.

As for ventilators, even hospitals located in densely-populated urban centres have a dire shortage of them for emergency treatment of badly afflicted H1N1 sufferers, with no one able to make the intellectual leap theorizing just how bad things may get - or not at all. It's just as well that everyone has stopped running around like Chicken Little; that Leona Aglukkaq, and Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs - along with Chief Shawn Atleo have reached an understanding leading to an agreeable protocol of communication. And calm is restored.

Leaving the Liberals to splutter and accuse to their dark and shrivelled hearts' content.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

How Perfectly Inelegant

This rake who imagines that women swoon over his very presence appears to have tasked the patience of just about everyone around him. One supposes that his assignations and periodic surrenders to his unassuageable lust renders him a victim of priapic primitivism. Most men, after all, who are normal and socially well adjusted, particularly those who offer themselves as symbols of political savvy, if not moral rectitude, are able to control their passions.

Finally, it seems that even Italians themselves have become heartily fed up with the man's bedroom antics. While he celebrates his uber-manhood, and waxes eloquent about how he merely serves women's interests - since it is simply too impolite to slight their demands upon his perfect, virile body, despite the ravages of age that assault other, less testosterone-blessed men than he - the tawdry tales being bandied about appear to be vexing the electorate.

It is nothing short of scandalous that an individual of questionable taste should take it upon himself to claim to have provided some three-dozen nubile and beautiful young women for Silvio Berlusconi's delectation. (The man is quite obviously a ruffian, a liar of the first order.) Some of whom, it would appear, were present at his soirees simply as lusciously-decorative symbols of feminine pulchritude, others who prettily offered additional services.

Denying Mr. Berlusconi's triumphant claims that he has no need to pay for sexual favours, the businessman, Gianpaolo Tarantini (the lovely sound of that name, the tongue caresses it!) insists each of the women's attendance cost him $1,500. Pleasure doesn't come cheap, as anyone should know, particularly pleasures of the socially, ethically illicit variety, but that's another squalid little story.

And look again; it is not merely female flesh that Mr. Tarantini so obligingly provided for Mr. Berlusconi's sublime pleasures (don't they use the word pimp in Italy?) but cocaine, as well. The drug of choice of the intellectual, the social elite, the wealthy. It is a sad reality of life that a little bit of titillation passes muster, but when a trifle becomes a tsunami of bad taste and distasteful decision-making, people are prone to passing judgement.

Evidently, this time, Mr. Berlusconi isn't getting a passing grade. People can sometimes be so tediously unreasonable!

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Tossing Bad Apples

Seems once a refugee applicant convinces a refugee board that he is a genuine refugee, and that board agrees that he is admissible to Canada as a refugee, almost nothing can budge that claimant from his perch in Canada, irrespective of his having been caught out as not having divulged required information that would have denied him that status. It's troublesome enough that Canada has experienced great difficulties in removing those claimants whose claims have been denied. They just seem to stick around, endlessly.

And why should they depart? After all, they're given opportunities to establish themselves in the country while awaiting their refugee-status hearings to determine whether or not they will ultimately be accepted as genuine refugees. They are given interim funding required to enable them to live within the country while awaiting their scheduled hearings. Their children may attend school at no cost to them, their medical-health care, welfare and housing are looked after through tax dollars.

Apart from genuine refugees whom Canada admits, as a responsible country aiding the less fortunate of the world, anticipating that the refugees will become a valued segment of Canadian society, there are notable instances when war criminals are admitted under the system, and when detected, legal machinery under the immigration and refugee act is oiled to rid the country of them. Yet they can take advantage of the legal system to insist on additional hearings, and string out the process interminably.

Then claim that they and their families have been established in the country for so long they've become an integral part of the population, and their human rights would be damaged by government action to remove them. Theirs then becomes a humanitarian plight and often church groups come to their defence. Often, but not always. Not, for example in the instance of Henry Jean-Claude Seyoboka of Gatineau, Quebec, formerly a member of the Rwandan army, during the genocide which saw 800,000 Tutsis slaughtered by the Hutus then in power.

This man has been ordered removed from Canada no fewer than six times. He has been deemed a war criminal, recognized as such after investigations by the RCMP War Crimes Unit, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the Canada Border Services Agency. He was stripped of his refugee status in 2006 for complicity in crimes against humanity a year after his refugee status was granted. Yet our legal system permits him to appeal that ruling.

The seventh time he has done so. He has filed yet another judicial review request in Federal Court to have the IRB decision reappraised, insisting that his rights have been infringed. Cannot we assert ourselves properly to remove such human trash from this country?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The New Reality Show: Canada

To be noticed, regarded, respected, we are enjoined to !!flash!!. Canada appears hardly to exist on the visual horizon of our great neighbour to the south. Of course there may be perfectly reasonable explanations why this is so. We do not, ordinarily, cause notice. Our population does not seek to escape the confines of our border into the United States to leave behind poverty, violence, lack of opportunity. Canadians do not comprise an underground, illegal migration of millions of asylum-seekers, as do Mexicans.

Although Americans do receive quality B.C. bud, it has not been accompanied by the zinging dangers that murderous, adversarial syndicates, killing at random has occasioned through its illegal drug trade with Mexico. Illegal that is, as far as U.S. lawmakers are concerned; tantalizingly needful as far as a whopping percentage of Americans are concerned. Canadians, as far as Americans are concerned, are very like them. That they err in so thinking is of no moment.

Why, we are so like them, with like values and priorities and appreciations that many of their entertainers, from actors, to singers, to comedians to news anchors who are so hugely successful as "Americans", are actually Canadians. So much for American culture. In the years since Mary Pickford was America's darling, leading up to Celine Dion's amazingly-questionable popularity, Americans have absorbed themselves with what they claim to be reality. As in reality shows.

The gangsta rappers, the entertainers and celebrities who flout convention and civility are what absorb popular interest. The trend is to demonstrate utter disdain for what was once thought of as social norms, to celebrate the vacuous, unintelligent, solipsistic, ego-driven, self-referential and -reverential as the new norm. And it results from Americans' obsessively-zealous status-levelling first evinced through normalization of first-name simplicity, reducing society to a low common social denominator.

Proving nothing other than that low commonality could very well descend further, much further. Which gave rise to social-networking Internet sites where everyone could be noticed and legitimately think of themselves as celebrity-material, inviting everyone to join their site, acquiring 'friends' without stint or integral meaning. Those in the legal profession are urged to set up their Facebook accounts for accessibility. Doctors now receive plaintive appeals from patients to be their 'friend'.

And, well-meaning Washington-watchers recommend to foreign diplomats (those representing Canada, in any event) that it is no longer sufficient to be stiffly present in the upper echelons of executive power. Washington is a busy place, the centre of the centre of the world. There are too many distractions for lawmakers and the senior executive to take especial attention of any single country's diplomatic presence. Without good reason or rhyme to reason.

Without the ability to entertain, to sparkle, to elicit a fascinated interest in the showiness of one's special attributes, be it personability or one's country's particular cadre of talented and expressive cultural exports, one will not be noticed. Canada hides her light behind a careful veil of circumspection. She must seek to scintillate, titillate, and entertain! The ongoing efforts to be noticed soberly in trade and productivity will continue to be in vain as long as there is little notice of one's celebrity-presence.

It's unfortunate that Canada is seen as smugly banal, too comfortable by half with ourselves and our lot in life, even if that is just what we are, collectively. (Amend that; each and every one of us is dull, dull, dull, despite which we're eager to shine our light where it is appreciated, the U.S.A.) If we are to make any inroads in Washington, to be noticed even half as much as any other country in the world, all of which present as exotic and interesting in some way, (Canada excepted), we must change our collective persona.

Our ambassador must gird his intent, place the rictus of bonhommie on his face and present as a bon vivant, but one with a strident and boisterous sense of (bawdy is good) humour and appreciation for the ridiculous. And do it exuberantly, joyfully, with the intention of garnering to him the attention that has so long eluded our previous representatives with their staid and stolid demeanours worthy of 19th Century European ambassadors.

He must seek out invitations to appear on late-night talk shows, allow himself to be prodded and picked at, to the verge of personal humiliation; or not, if his personal sense of self is sufficiently intact, and his sense of humour can carry him over. Personal humiliation is never too steep a price to pay for one's country, however, and no one should be immune to having their ego pricked. What seems intrusive to the thoughtful, is merely grist for the free-of-thought.

He should be interviewed ad infinitum on any and every newspaper and broadsheet in the country, paying particular attention however, to the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal. He must never, ever, be oblivious to the need to have his photograph taken at soirees, and dress appropriately elegantly, but with a touch of fashion independence; chartreuse running shoes with a tux might do it.

He must be prepared to shout to the heavens how misunderstood, mysterious, and fascinatingly marvellous Canadians really are, then go out and prove it with his personal dynamism, his charismatic appeal. Canadian innovation, industry and culture, he must boom out, is like none other, and deserves to be recognized, and then demonstrate just how and why. He could set up a mini-House of Commons on the greensward across from the White House.

People it with lawmakers resembling the real McCoy, and offer a demonstration of Parliamentary procedures; Question Period at its very theatrical, bumptious best. If that doesn't wow them, nothing will.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

And Good Luck With That

Not a word in the Washington Post to remotely suggest that America's next-door neighbour, the one with whom she has the greatest trade, the closest to her socially and culturally with a shared historical background in British settlements, was visiting the country in the person of Canada's Prime Minister, for a distinct purpose. Americans are so wrapped up in themselves, their news media so self-consumed, the only brief notes they recognize about Canada relate to scandals, or purported insults against the U.S.

But there was Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on a mission to attempt to convince the United States, Canada's great traditional trading partner, with whom under the two free trade deals the two countries' industries and trade have become inextricably entwined, with both countries benefiting immensely economically, and there's no notice, no story. Utterly pedestrian, nothing to warrant even the minutest coverage; not even under the rubric of 'what's going on at Capital Hill'.

Of late, Canada has been given to understand we're not so special, after all, in the larger scope of trade relations. Reality may be that states and provinces recognize - some of them - the interlinked structure of the two countries in business and trade enterprise, but the political elite of the country do not. It is the United States Congress that listens carefully to those states and special interest groups lobbying for protectionism, and on whose behalf they are swift to react.

The President of the United States may deplore his party's, and his country's, and his Congress's protectionist streak, and commiserate with Canada over the lop-sidedness of the fast-emerging protectionist bent, but his is neither the choice nor the power to turn the tide. Yet direct talks between the Prime Minister and the President, outlining the problem, and the extent of the problem, is a necessary requirement.

The problems that Canada has experienced in the past with lumber states protesting against Canada's trade being subsidized by the government is patently absurd when one considers how fully the United States subsidizes agriculture and then proceeds to dump cheap produce on the Canadian market. Canada's energy resources represent the United States' first source for oil and gas as well as electricity, without ever acknowledging that fact.

When mad cow disease is discovered in a single cow not yet sent to slaughter in Alberta, the market is shut down to Canadian producers and their traditional markets in the U.S. Swine flu hits the consciousness of the international community and suddenly pork products are looked upon askance, and the market for pigs and hogs, traditionally sent to the U.S. from Canada, mysteriously dries up. Connection?

Now new U.S. regulations ban Canadian airlines from flying chartered planes between American cities, a practise normally permitted for artistic touring performances and professional sport teams. Canadian companies have been shut out of bidding on the massively-funded infrastructure projects in the U.S. due to the buy-American provisions built into the Economic Recovery Act in the U.S.

While nothing stops American firms from bidding for Canadian contracts. The irony here, of course, is that American contractors are themselves dismayed that they may no longer source less expensive and better quality construction products from Canada as they have always done, the Act forcing them to buy American in instances when it does both us and them a clear disservice.

To his credit, in recognition of where the real power lies with respect to trade, Prime Minister Harper will be addressing the U.S. Congress to remind them that their buy American provisions represent protectionism, a practise that does them no credit, wins them no friends, and destroys their credibility in the world marketplace.

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