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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Exchanging Geography

"You'll never get an offer that is more fair or more just. don't hesitate. this is hard for me too, but we don't have an option of not resolving [the conflict]." Ehud Olmert
Negotiations between reasonable individuals will bear fruit when there are no assumptions, but there are earnest attempts to bridge the gap of expectations. Some give, some take. At the top of the agenda must be the determination to be as thoughtful and as open to recommendations from each side as possible, to balance the needs of each and arrive at workable solutions.

Good will is an overused term, but it cannot be overstressed. Coming into a negotiating session with the pretense of co-operation but the intention of balking at potential solutions spells failure. Just as much as arrogance and entitlement.

When, after prolonged periods of negotiation between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and the helpful interventions of the United States and other stake-holders in the Middle East, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for what was to be a final negotiating meeting between the two principals, there were high hopes for success.

Despite which, there was no agreement to be finalized into a workable peace plan. And in the final analysis, that was the case for the very same reason that Yasser Arafat, a far more malicious and corrupt figure than his successor, cited when he finally turned down the offer that President Bill Clinton brokered between Ehud Barak and Arafat; that were he to accept that agreement as preferential as it was to the Palestinians, he would be signing his own death warrant.

As with the Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David in 2000 to negotiate and conclude successfully a "final status settlement" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so likewise with the
U.S.- and Egypt-brokered plan on the verge of a peace deal eight years later. Long gone from office, former prime minister Ehud Olmert had hinted years ago how puzzled he had been by failure, when he felt success was close enough to touch.

"I began by presenting the principles of the arrangement that I was proposing", Mr. Olmert later wrote in his soon-to-be-published memoirs, excerpted in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. "After I finished, Abu Mazen [Mr. Abbas] sighed deeply, and asked to see the map that I had prepared. I spread it out. He looked at it, and I looked at him. He was silent."

What the map made clear to Mr. Abbas was a possible way out of the dilemma posed to each side by the presence of the problematical and long-standing West Bank settlements housing tens of thousands of Israelis. Major settlement blocs in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to the proposal, would be left in Israel's hands. In exchange the Palestinians would receive land upon which majority Palestinians lived.

It represented an equal exchange of land, but with each side logically receiving land that their own lived upon. For the Palestinians it was land incorporated into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with a narrow corridor of approach from one to the other. Jerusalem would be partitioned between its Jewish and its Arab neighbourhoods, and this would allow for each nation to install their capitals within their portions of the city.

The contested holy site location - where the holiest site in Judaism exists, with the third-holiest site in Islam sitting directly over it, would be administered by an international, special-purpose committee comprised of representatives from both parties, including as well the United States, Jordan and Saudi Arabia; a fully-inclusive governing body.

"Never before had any Israeli prime minister presented such a crystallized and detailed position about resolving the conflict as was presented to him on that day", wrote Mr. Olmert. "For the first time since the negotiations began, I was very tense. For the first time since I had become prime minister, I truly felt the weight of Jewish history on my shoulders, and despite the fact that I was confident that I was doing the right thing, the negotiations were very heavy."

So "heavy", in fact, that they collapsed. In intense negotiations that had preceded this meeting that been ongoing for eight months, none of the offers proved acceptable to Israel by the Palestinians who had themselves offered major concessions. The Palestinians had offered to surrender claims to large parts of East Jerusalem, gave up demands for refugee return, agreed they would share Jerusalem and its holy sites.

And it was the Israelis who adamantly pressed for more concessions. At this meeting Mr. Olmert had the indelible impression that the sides had finally moved together, that each was meaningfully responding to the other, affirmatively. "Take the pen and sign now", he urged Mr. Abbas. "Give me a few days", Mr. Abbas responded. "I don't know my way around maps. I propose that tomorrow we meet with two map experts, one from your side and one from our side. If they tell me that everything is all right, we can sign."

The following day Palestinian negotiators called to say Mr. Abbas had forgotten he had a previous appointment in Jordan. The Palestinian Authority/Israeli meeting would have to be postponed. And that was the day, as it happened, that Mr. Olmert was replaced as leader of his governing party.

"I haven't met with Abu Mazen since then", wrote Mr. Olmert.

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Conferring with the President

That venerably righteous, lance-tongued elder statesman, former American president, Jimmy Carter, is at it again. Understandably, since the Middle East and its unnervingly complex intrigues is his 'specialty', although he reserves his right to impose his humanitarian and progressive views on that troublesome continent of Africa, as well.

Mr. Carter continues to stand as tall as his years will permit him, with the experience garnered through his international travels, and as president of that great United States of America, at a time of huge social and political turmoil.

One would think he is far more self-assured and can avail himself of far more knowledge and integrity through his experiences than he appeared in 1979, when he was vexed, perplexed and completely unnerved by the fall of the Shah of Iran and the inexplicable rise of the fiercely Islamist Ayatollah Khomeini.

When Iranian passions ran high and volubly named the United States as the Great Devil whom Islam must defeat, taking 66 American embassy diplomats and workers hostage for 444 agonizing, and frightfully indecisive days. He could claim the inglorious blight of failed negotiating attempts for their release.

Along with the ill-fated and amazingly amateur Operation Eagle Claw rescue operation in 1980, which failed miserably. The mission saw the destruction of two aircraft, the deaths of no fewer than eight American servicemen, attempting to do their sworn duty on behalf of the President of the United States of America.

It would take the following year to see the release of the hostages, just in time for President Carter to turn over the seal of office to his successor, a far more able administrator. Who successfully faced down the world's most tyrannical ideology. And may not have been in full possession of his intellectual faculties at the time. Which leads one to question the extent of Mr. Carter's.

Yet here is Jimmy Carter, doing his inevitable shtick again: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, he has declared, must leave office. On the authority of his having brokered the 1979 peace accord between Egypt and Israel, one that was initiated without him, one that would have been inevitable, given the courage and determination of Anwar Sadat, but which success in helping to implement has been the shining star of his legacy in office.
President Mubarak has "become more politically corrupt" of late, he opinioned, determined to "perpetuate himself in office". And the current crisis in Egypt represents "...the most profound situation in the Middle East since I left office". It is interesting that this protest is given greater substance than that which occurred in Iran, than the American invasion of Iraq and the subsequent horrendous descent into violent chaos between Sunni and Shia.

But President Carter is a man of international stature. When he names the only democracy in the Middle East which should represent as a model of governance for its neighbours, an Apartheid state, it could not conceivably be construed as vicious slander. A simple misunderstanding of someone who cannot conceive of a Jewish state whereas Arab states make profoundly good sense.

And he is a Nobel laureate, after all.

Like the current president, Mr. Obama. Two American presidents, thirty years apart in their administrations, each of whom has faced an upheaval in the Middle East in countries which they held impressive levels of influence with. History may question President Carter's inept handling of the Iranian Revolution. But Mr. Carter has taken it upon himself to question President Obama's handling of the current situation, shaping up as the Egyptian Evolution.

He did not, presumably, confer beforehand with the current president.

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Blazing Cat Fur: Video: Toronto's Egyptian Freedom Support Rally Hijacked By Islamists & Their Pseudo-Leftist Enablers

Blazing Cat Fur: Video: Toronto's Egyptian Freedom Support Rally Hijacked By Islamists & Their Pseudo-Leftist Enablers

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Inchoate Rage

Without for one moment dismissing the very real reasons for people to be fed up with their state of existence whose state owns entirely to the geographic, social and political conditions in which they live, there are times when mass hysteria spreads like a malignant virus, causing people to mass in dense howling crowds to demand change, without fully comprehending the potential outcome of what it is they demand.

The current president of Egypt has been exercising his role as sole and supreme leader for three decades. In that time the population has almost doubled, and so has the average, albeit inadequate income level, still leaving fully 40% of the population living in dire poverty. The government is undeniably politically repressive; there are no acknowledged legitimate political challengers; human rights are not recognized and protected.

At the same time, it should be recognized that nowhere in the Middle East has anything approximating democracy been established. All of the Arab countries and the sole non-Arab Muslim country in the geography are governed by autocratic rulers, sheiks, monarchs, theocracies, and now, in Lebanon, an Islamist, terror group matching its sponsor in Iran.

It is the young people of Egypt, mostly between 20 and 30, the educated, those who know how differently the country could be governed, through their contacts with the outside world by means of technological devices, by visiting other countries, by completing their educations elsewhere, who are restive and demanding change from the repression they have long lived with.

The wealthy and the older middle class are not out in the streets demonstrating. Nor are the poor. The young unemployed are, but there is no central organization and the prevailing atmosphere is anarchic in response to what they feel is their time to erupt in anger over their condition. The police, always despised for their brutal presence and response, have been deployed to deal with the protests.

They have been dispatched to vulnerable places in protection of government buildings, tourist spots and to the areas deemed most likely to be vulnerable to the crowds of protesters. Among the protesters are those who just enjoy a rousing opportunity to vent their frustration over life, and those whose aspirations are no more complicated than pillaging and looting where police are absent.

Shops, businesses, private homes left unattended, or left in the care of the helpless and the unarmed are now vulnerable to being entered and robbed, because the police whose presence is normally a deterrent are displaced otherwise. And because they have had to abandon their normal activities there have been jail riots and break-outs. Violent criminals have accessed their freedom and now roam freely.

Members of arrested Islamist groups imprisoned for security reasons, are now enjoying their freedom, some of them having crossed through the Egyptian border into Gaza. Armed terrorists are reported to have torched a police station at the Rafiah border. And Bedouin tribes hostile to the Egyptian government have used rocket-propelled grenades and rifles to attempt a takeover of the border area in the absence of Egyptian police and army forces, called to duty elsewhere, to help quell rioting protesters.

The Muslim Brotherhood had announced they had given assent to their youth members to join the protesters, but they are themselves not actively involved, it seems. Even though should the government of President Mubarak fall, they might seem to be the logical inheritors given their cohesion and long-standing organization. Former IAEA head Mohamed al-Baradei seems to have given them a clean bill of health, denying them to be fanatics.

He has no established organization himself, and lacks credibility as a potential replacement for Mr. Mubarak, but he could represent as a possible figurehead for the Muslim Brotherhood, thus fulfilling both his and their agenda to take over the reigns of government; an unsavoury and potentially worrying scenario.

But in light of the fact that President Mubarak elevated his top intelligence chief and staunch ally, highly respected in international circles as well as with the Egyptian public, as an esteemed public figure who has the support of the country's still-respected armed forces, it is entirely possible that
the newly-appointed Omar Suleiman may leap from vice-president to President with current President Mubarak stepping down for the good of the country.

The reforms that President Mubarak promised could be implemented under a new president. Which would encourage the return to Egypt of its wealthy citizens and the middle-class and professionals who have hastily departed in fear of the revolutionary zeal of the demonstrators who refuse to adhere to the government's appeals for withdrawal from the streets.

On the other hand, President Mubarak, despite his age, is determined for now not to step down from office. Should he remain, and begin to speedily put in force the changes he has suggested to turn Egypt into a more democratic country that offers its people the dignity of their human rights, the country would still have to contend with the problems of rising food prices, unemployment, and the incessant, destabilizing threats of fundamentalism.

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Food Scarcity, Political Instability

Poor harvests resulting from disastrous weather conditions in various parts of the world have been contributing to certain food shortages. Russia's wheat crop has been the victim of adverse weather conditions; India and Pakistan have found themselves short of root vegetables and all three have halted exports as a result.

Australia has suffered years of drought impacting deleteriously on their agriculture. Growing middle-class wealth in China has contributed to an abnormal call on meat products. China has been renting land in Africa to grow crops for home consumption. And the West's preoccupation with biofuels production has caused a shortage of corn and other agriproducts on the food market.

Recent riots in countries like Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt have reflected those in European countries like Greece and Portugal, and African countries like Zimbabwe, Somalia and Mozambique and with people protesting scarcity and higher food prices in economies already hard pressed with people living constrained lives due to endemic poverty.

The escalating price of oil added to the equation ensures that rising production and delivery costs will also increase food prices.

The geographic and national manipulation of agricultural production by many countries from North America to the European Union and beyond also does its bit to maintain high food prices.

And while Europeans and North Americans complain at the steady rise in food prices on the grocery shelves, they can still afford those prices far better than those living impoverished lives in developing countries. In wealthy countries, capitalism and free enterprise trump everything.

The European Parliament has proposed massive stockpiling of food for the purpose of avoiding price and supply crises; making hoarding of food stockpiles a safety net for the EU, ensuring less exports to those countries whose populations are in dire need of food supplies.

Financial subsidies and regulatory interventions are to be maintained and expanded in a EU-launched we're-all-right-Jack kind of food security proactive initiative.

What is needed is the installation of initiatives that persuade producers to increase production of agricultural products, not stifle them to maintain a steady and increasing commodity issue to disrupt markets, leading to "food price shock", shortages, and an inability of people to pay for the foods that are available.

Less conversion of grains and corn to biofuels and ethanol should be another positive issue to be addressed.
"The reality is that the same speculators that caused the global economic meltdown through their illustrious trade in subprime mortgages, are betting on our food system now too." D. Doane, world Development Movement
This is a reflection on food commodities suffering inflation as a monetary phenomenon through deliberate market manipulation rather than a supply and demand problem caused by climate forces alone. The energy-intensive nature of large-scale agriculture, inclusive of the total cost of production, from fuelling farm machinery to transportation costs to fertilizer costs all relate to the rising costs of food.

A serious problem continues to be the determination to increase annual ethanol production, diverting important food grains from the food-consuming market for people, exacerbates the problem. Along with dire weather conditions now impacting major food-exporting countries across the globe, complicated by the steadily rising demand from a steadily emerging middle class from newly-emerging economies.

Rising food prices are set to continue, and they will be led also by monetary inflation with commodity prices steadily rising and various countries' currency peg policies. Unless there is a general agreement for countries to understand that full co-operation is required to ensure that steadily rising food prices do not end up pricing themselves out of the reach of the world's poor, the situation will become more desperate.

Speculators interested in rising food prices and gambling that they will continue to rise so they can continue to make a killing, and the spectre of food hoarding to help prices rise even more steeply will add to an already volatile situation world-wide. This is something the world cannot afford.

Leading inevitably to more impoverished countries, many with corrupt, inept and autocratic governments seeing their social and political stability threatened through a rising tide of hungry people and outraged sensibilities demanding their human rights.

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Exceptional Justice

In Manitoba a man who has made a career of criminality opted for exercising his ingenuity in pursuing his life of crime by persuading a six year old girl to accompany him from a playground, to rape the child. It's an old story, but one that never fails to horrify ordinary people, that a trusting child will be cajoled into believing some pathetic story to elicit her interest, and that simple act of trust will victimize her beyond imagination.

The man's defence argues that because the rapist came from a disadvantaged background he should not be considered wholly responsible for his choices in life. That his decision to formulate a plan to separate a little girl from her brothers in a public play ground and lure her to a place where she would be vulnerable to attack should be considered in light of his own misfortune.

An aboriginal child raped by an aboriginal man; he will be partially excused, handed a lighter sentence in view of his background, and she will live forever with her agony.

An enlightened Supreme Court had earlier, in another case, come to the decision, setting a precedent in Canadian law, that some First Nations offenders deserve lenient sentences reflecting the hardships encountered during their lives. Empathy for the violator, little thought given to the enduring well-being of the violated.

In this instance, Sharon Rosenfelt of Victims of Violence fame, herself of aboriginal descent, had something to say about the case: "But the line is drawn when it comes to the rape of a child by an adult". As an advocate for victims she has had her own personal experience in the loss of a son, and as a counsellor at a native alcohol and drug abuse treatment centre.

At the other end of the country, a francophone man perfectly comfortable and conversant with both English and French, his mother tongue, was acquitted by a New Brunswick judge who claimed his rights under provincial law were abrogated when he was not offered the option of being arrested in English, when he was charged with a drunk-driving-related offence.

A constable with the RCMP found Donat Robichaud passed out in his truck in a predominately francophone area. On waking, Mr. Robichaud spoke to the RCMP officer in French. He was then charged, in French, with failing to provide a breath sample. He had the right, under New Brunswick law, to be served in the language of his choice.

He was not given his 'choice'. French may be his mother tongue, he responded in French, but he reserved the right to be served in English.

Bilingualism being utilized as a handy tool for legally escaping responsibility for dangerously illicit acts. If the "active offer" is overlooked, to be served in either French or English, because too much is assumed, the law and justice are circumvented.

A language rights expert in Moncton,lawyer Christian Michaud: "What's appalling, unfortunately, is that police forces have still failed to comply with the active offer. That's where the people should be frustrated, not toward the people who access their rights."

That's an interesting perspective; that the failure to comply with the 'active offer' is appalling, not that people of their own free will choose to present as a danger on the roads because of their drinking and driving habit, and then seek shelter from prosecution under a risible pretext; that truly is appalling.

On to Quebec, where the Quebec human rights commission and a government-paid lawyer, issued their determination that condo owners were to pay another condo owner $10,000 for insufficient sensitivity to their neighbour's disability. And another of the condo owner's neighbours was to give up her legal and preferred parking space and hand it over to someone she had previously refused.

Marise Myrand, weighing almost 400 pounds, unsurprisingly with diabetes and heart and respiratory conditions, informed her condo association she should have a parking space closer to the door of the building. None were available, all taken by other condo owners. Ms. Myrand specifically had in mind one owned by another woman who happened to be herself infirm and who worked late hours, needing the convenience of her parking spot.

For those reasons, and because she liked her ownership of that parking spot, she refused to surrender it on request to Ms. Myrand. Who then went to the human rights commission, who found that the neighbour had 'discriminated' against Ms. Myrand by failing to give up her parking spot to accommodate her neighbour's handicaps, while her own handicaps and needs were ignored.

In all these instances, and more, far more, since these are merely haphazardly representative, courts have found in favour of a malefactor or someone dissatisfied with reactions to their demands, and in favouring them, they have victimized others.

Call it what you like, it is most definitely not the rational administration of justice.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

The West Fiddles, Egypt Burns

Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press

President Hosni Mubarak's curfew does not appear to be making much of an impression on Egyptians determined to hold their government to account for its unrelenting stranglehold on the country's social and political progress. They do have the government to thank for keeping the Muslim Brotherhood in a state of suspended animation, although that has not resulted in a more quiescent Islamist group, but rather a more careful, yet still bold one.

One that has successfully established ties throughout the world, including Europe and North America. Where they have stealthily and successfully presented themselves as reasonable alternatives to the prevailing political (and religious/secular-oriented) governments historically and currently in place in the Middle East. Familiarity breeds acceptance in many quarters, quieting suspicion, proving that patience is a great virtue.

And whose sibling-organization in Gaza, is carrying on the fundamentalist message of Sharia and strengthening the region's ever-expanding net of Islamism whose first target is Israel. Sectarian differences may separate Shiite from Sunni, but Hamas and Hezbollah recognize certain indivisible loyalties and aspirations more achievable in a state of convenient concert than discordant divisiveness. Once the goal of destroying Israel is achieved, and Sharia more accepted, the sheathed knives of dissent can be once more drawn.

For the moment, all can bask in the happenstance of collective pan-Arab-populations' discontent with their status quo as socially backward, politically constrained, religiously restive resulting in poverty, inequality and ignorance. The Arab Street, sharing much of the fundamental message of the Islamists have, independent of that fact, awakened from their slumber of acquiescent bondage to tyrannical regimes.

Riot police walk past burning tires placed to form a barricade during clashes with protesters in Cairo.
Riot police walk past burning tires placed to form a barricade during clashes with protesters in Cairo.Photograph by: Goran Tomasev, REUTERS

The first-responder police, hated by the public, representing the government's implacable will that they will implement at the cost of lives and injuries, are doing their utmost to ensure the protests become becalmed, before they break out another day on the rough seas of fiercely renewed determination. The patrician former head of the UN's IAEA, Mohamed el Baradei, a long-time critic of President Mubarak, is joining with the youthful protesters, portraying himself as a potential, (albeit another elderly), compromise candidate for president.

But the estimable Dr. el Baradei, Nobel prize aside, has no political network working on his behalf. He may be esteemed for his former work as head of the IAEA, but he has been absent from Egypt for far too long to be recognized as a politician, rather than a diplomat. It remains the precinct of the Muslim Brotherhood to present as an alternative to the current government, as the single most organized and longest-existing challenge to the governing NDP party of President Mubarak.

There's a balancing act evident on the part of the United States, Egypt's generous financial supporter to the tune of one and a half billion yearly, most of which supports the country's armed forces. The status quo, while crushing the aspirations of ordinary Egyptians to overcome their desperate state of poverty and ignorance, has been one of stability. Egypt, traditionally the elder statesman of the Middle East, has supported the West's struggle to contain fundamentalist political Islam, and its peace accord with Israel is vital.

President Mubarak has the grudging respect of those who know him as a political ally, while his coercive use of the police and the army on dissidents within the country - his mock-democratic display of elections where conventionally his ruling party is elected by acclaim, and he by a margin excluding any challengers, who may post-election find themselves incarcerated on trumped-up charges - greatly perturb his Western allies.

Which, inconveniently for those who wish to uphold universal freedoms and human rights, leads to the paradox of urging democratic reforms on the country; honouring peoples' rights to free and fair and open elections which may, as was done with Hamas, end up elevating the Muslim Brotherhood to the status of elected majority and administrative rule of the country.
Yet change is manifestly in the charred air of an Egypt rent with anger at the status quo.

What and how that change will result in is a worrisome matter of much speculation. Tunisia's future is far more predictable than is Egypt's; one a small country of more educated and urbane people more given to secularity than the religious fixation of the far more populous, socially downtrodden, uneducated Egyptians. As goes Egypt will eventually go other Arab and Muslim countries teetering on the brink of social/political revolution.

The world can only wait with bated breath.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Um, Peter...?

All right, a busy governor of an immense state with a population itself equalling that of the country next door, unaware of the little details that make up the difference between a credible statement and a stupid error. Cut him a little slack, we don't mind.

He was a body builder, a grade B actor, not a politician. Except that, as a politician he didn't do too badly at all. Particularly for a Republican married to a Democrat, and marrying the values of both as an accommodating non-partisan.

He appears to be an amiable chap, and all he wanted to do was to offer a little thanks and flattery. And what do we do?

Wince, when the guy says he has the greatest admiration and regard for the brave Canadian soldiers who proved their allegiance to their neighbours by joining them in the U.S. "coalition of the willing", in attacking Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein.

All right, we didn't.

We chose not to join that coalition led by our American neighbours. Mostly because the United Nations did not give its imprimatur to that initiative to remove yet another Middle East monster from power, and the United States and its coalition went in unauthorized, as it were.

We did, though, join the United States and NATO in a UN-authorized and supported mission to remove the Taliban and al-Qaeda from Afghanistan.

So, that's that. No hard feelings, old chap. We do like you, after all, lest there be any residual doubt. We all make mistakes.

But we cannot find it in our hearts and in our hard little heads to be quite so generous when one of our own makes a whopper. Because, frankly, it is rather unforgivable. Surprising in the simplicity of the oversight, in fact.

And it's not the first time that someone in government has made such an amazing blooper of a geographic error.

Come on, Defence Minister Peter MacKay...! How could you have? Here we thought you were so bright...? Got lots on your mind, is that the problem? Spoke before you thought? Don't we all? But this was such a geographically-ignorant, really stupid thing to say.

From the East Coast of Canada but don't have any inkling about the West Coast? Peter, please...!

Now, repeat after us...Washington State is next to Canada, not California. California, young man, borders Mexico.

Repeat, California does not border Canada. Got it?


Egypt's Social-Political Plight

Egyptians have been simmering with agonized resentment for many long years. It's what oppressed people without rights do, after all. There are far too many young people who are unemployed. There are too many people living in extreme poverty. There are the young who receive higher education and they begin to look more closely around them to find fault with the country's social, political and religious establishment.

And like all countries worldwide now, technology has offered them relatively inexpensive instruments of instant communication. That instant communication has been temporarily cut off. Egypt has learned its lesson from observing what has occurred in Tunisia where through social networking sites people invested in challenging the government have been able to make their dissatisfaction heard.

Tunis is in the agonizing political state of social upheaval, with what's left of the original government absorbing the anger of the people, desperately trying to placate them, offering solutions that go part way toward indicating that the voice of the people has been heard. Jordan's King Abdullah is blaming his country's legislators, demanding that they begin to do a better job of representing the country's and the population's interests.

Yemen, already struggling to contain a revolt in its south, and attempting to accommodate the urging of the United States to isolate and neutralize the growing threat of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, now is faced with revolutionary protests. Algeria, the first in the area to counter large-scale protests over rising food prices and high inflation, may yet see them resumed.

But it is in Egypt that an aging former General who has the trust of the Egyptian armed forces, has been faced with huge protests in its largest cities, with tens of thousands of irate Egyptians turning out in Cairo, Suez, Alexandria and others of its cities, with the armed forces brutally attempting to suppress them. Internet access and cellphone connections have been cut off.

President Mubarak has finally addressed the nation.

He has taken the amazing step of dismissing his government, informing the nation that a new cabinet would be announced the following day, Saturday. Emergency measures to counter a state of emergency; 26 protesters have died, and hundreds have been injured. The headquarters of the governing NDP party has been set afire, and the state television and foreign ministry buildings have been surrounded.

President Mubarak is a seasoned politician and a survivor. An autocrat ruling as a semi-benevolent dictator insufficiently responsive to the needs of the 40% of Egyptians who live in poverty, and to the large number of unemployed youth, he has had the courage to maintain a cool, but utilitarian peace agreement with the State of Israel.

He has been a staunch ally of the West in battling extremism, facing his own country's incendiary problems with the Islamist fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

Political, social and economic reform will inevitably have to be addressed. In a changing world where political Islam is becoming ever more forcefully assertive, threatening the conventional regimes that have ruled in the Middle East, where the populations remain under-served and restive, those who promise them a better life will be heeded - even if they are the Islamists.

For the sake of stability in the region, and for the sake of offering hope to people living without it, struggling to exist in a hostile social and political environment, those who govern without due concern for the well-being of the governed have been placed on notice.

When Mr. Mubarak stated that he understood the protesters' grievances but that a thin line divided liberty from chaos and he would not allow Egypt to be destabilised, he was being forcefully reactive as a responsible governor. He now needs to be forcefully pro-active in considering what more needs to be done to enact changes in his country to benefit both it and its people.

No easy task, but critically overdue.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Quebec's Ongoing Entitlements

The Bloc Quebecois remains resolutely hostile to national unity. Hardly surprising, since they have reiterated their stance continually, and it is beyond obvious they have no interest whatever in the welfare and the future of Canada. Their interest lies only in what they can squeeze out of Canada in the way of concessions relating to sovereignty and their provincial empowerment, including of course, the financial wherewithal to comport themselves as an exceptional governing body.

They cannot recognize when they add insult to injury, for they are completely inured to the concept of modest gratitude and loyalty other than as it relates to their vision of themselves as a "national" body representing an extraordinary nation. One with hereditary ties to France, but exempt from any manner of recognition that it is indebted also to the rest of Canada, taking into account our long historical connection that is overdue recognition.

Instead, the Bloc with the arrogantly hypocritical and bloodless Gilles Duceppe blandly informs the federal government that Quebec awaits further munificent gifts from the national treasury to make it feel appreciated. Which state of affairs is simply a reflection of what they are owed. And which will not, upon the acceptance of the demands, result in a mellowed Quebec content to acknowledge its historical place within Confederation, stretching into the future.

They will deign to give their 47-seat support to the federal minority Conservatives' new budget as long as $5-billion is forked out to engage Quebec's interest in compliant acceptance. The breakdown logical enough in their estimation; $2.2-billion to be earmarked as compensation in recognition of the province's agreeing to harmonize provincial sales tax with the federal GST.

Oh, and while we're at it, remember that disastrous ice storm back in 1998 and its costs? They'd like reimbursement for their provincial emergency outlay - about $421-million, thanks a whole bunch. Now let's see, how about pumping up equalization another $1.5-billion? This is a recommendation, not a question, please note. A recommendation posing as a request posing as a requisite for going along to get along.

Too steep a price for the federal government in cognizance that this represents taxes absorbed from all the other provinces who themselves would favour a more balanced and representative deal? There's the offer, messieurs, take it or leave it No one wants an election at this time, isn't that correct? Mr. Duceppe, estimable Bloc leader, insists the government is practising a double standard, favouring, for example, Ontario over Quebec.

Rich, isn't it? Mr. Duceppe fulminates that the Conservative-led government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn't take Quebec's needs sufficiently fully into consideration, nor does he take the province's requests seriously enough. As, for example, Quebec City's polite request for federal funding for a proposed new hockey arena, the better to entice the return of the NHL to the city.

The Liberals would listen, they would be open to these recommendations/suggestions/requests - demands? Their leader, Michael Ignatieff, is musing about just that, in fact. His party, he suggested, would indeed give serious consideration to federal funding in support of the planned 18,000-seat arena. For it is clear the installation would have a "cultural" component, and the Liberals are all in favour of Canadian culture.

Whereas the Conservatives are not. The prime minister revealed a low regard for cultural events on several noted occasions and that is not readily forgotten. The arts community is very sensitive to neglect, and who can blame them? Mind, most taxpayers would resist strenuously, tax dollars going in support of an NHL franchise that pays its players exorbitantly, and is a magnet for big corporate bucks; some culture that is.

This is a vexing issue that should be allowed to die a quick death; why is it being resurrected?

Wait, we're not finished, not quite. Quebec envisions that with an $800-million additional advance on its post-secondary and health future to be embellished further beyond what pertains in any other province, they can talk a done deal.

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Hell And The Holocaust

I Hell: Definition and Description

Death camps. Zyclon B: cyanide-based pesticide. Use: Fitting to the nth degree for the purpose of destroying sub-humans having more in common with pestiferous insects than with the human race.
A vast, unbottom'd boundless pit,
Fill'd fou 'o lowing brunstane,
Wha's raging ragin' flame an' scorchin' heat,
Wad melt the hardest whunstane. R. Burns
Gathered from all the cesspools and pits of xenophobic, racist European society where they were sometimes quietly, sometimes violently despised, to assemble into holding areas called ghettoes, far from the original in Venice; these crowded, squalid pre-death camps suffocated the Jewish spirit rendering their victims compliant but not complacent, awaiting they knew not yet quite what.
There is in hell a place stone-built throughout,
Called Malebolge of an iron hue,
Like to the wall that circles it about.
(Loco e interno detto Malebolge,
Tutto di pietra e di color ferrigno,
Come la cerchia che d' intorno il volge.) Dante
In that world there were many helping hands, eager to divest their communities and their societies and their nations of the irritating inconvenience of those classical outsiders; biblical-era scapegoats transformed into the world's detested horde of balefully malicious skulkers intent on world domination.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscrib'd
In one self place; for where we are is hell;
And where hell is, there must we ever be;
And to conclude, when all the world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that are not heaven. Christopher Marlowe
We pause but briefly to recall six million lives methodically, systematically extinguished because there were those who would have it so. The world made that much poorer for their absence. Loving life as they did, their cries for mercy and for help to avoid their fate went unanswered, their desperately clawing hands ignored, clasping life and loved ones as they made that journey from whence none return.
A dungeon horrible on all sides round
As one great furnace flam'd yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible,
Serv'd only to discover sights of woe,
regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end. Milton - Paradise Lost
Heaven and Hell, Hieronymus Bosch


Blazing Cat Fur: Here's another reason to kick Quebec out of Canada

Blazing Cat Fur: Here's another reason to kick Quebec out of Canada

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Spinning Out Of Control

It's an ill wind that blows no good for repressive Arab regimes that have for far too long oppressed their people. With Tunisia attempting to recover from a populist shake-down of its ruling political party and the former president driven from the country, leaving his party to try to appease the population demanding their rights, other Arab and Muslim countries' populations have been inspired to wreak damage on their tormentors.

One can only begin to imagine how nervous Libya, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt must be right about now. Lebanon is a different story altogether. They've long since co-opted normalcy and civility to the slow and brutal succession led by a violent militia doing the bidding of Syria and Iran, themselves now susceptible to the unwholesome rot within leading to liberation.

Ancient systems of brutal governance, totalitarian, autocratic, theistic, princely, have latterly been threatened quietly but resolutely by the kind of communication, support and comfort derived through what is called social networking, where the Internet's cyberspace has a wide, wide reach that provides for solutions never imagined by the tyrants and kingships content in their grip on power.

Self-immolation has become popularized; an extreme, morbid and effective tool for protest that helps to mobilize like-minded protesters to mob the streets and threaten the stability of the governments they loathe. Thousands of Egyptians have flocked to the streets, demanding the cessation of President Hosni Mubarak's iron-fisted reign.

Compelling. The spanner in the works of this kind of revolution is the up-tick globally within the Muslim world of a long process of Islamization toward the fanatical end of political, ideological Islam. With the vacuum that may result in Egyptian leadership who will prevail, the Muslim Brotherhood?

And this now, from Arutz Sheva online:
The wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and their son Gamal, considered the successor to his father as president, have fled to London with 97 suitcases after unprecedented massive protests in Egypt, an Arab website reported.

The plane also carried Gamal's daughter, the Akhbar Arab website reported. It also said a Twitter account was blocked to prevent a social network campaign to urge the ousting of Mubarak, who is over 80 and is reportedly is suffering from cancer.

Dozens of Twitter messages have been sent sayng that Mubarak’s wife Suzanne was identified at Heathrow Airport in London, where she and her son and granddaughter arrived in a private jet.

In Egypt, calm has returned to the streets. Three people – two of them protesters—were killed in Tuesday’s demonstrations that spread throughout the country.

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The Chuckle-Maestro

Could anyone possibly be more miserably spiteful and righteously self-involved than an old Liberal hack who just refuses to fade into history? He purports to speak straight from the heart, and if so that organ must be black and desiccated by his obsession with greed and narcissism.

Those Canadians who deplore the very memory of Jean Chretien as an embarrassment of a prime minister, an impostor, a charlatan, the littlest of little men, would far prefer never to hear of or from him again. Alas, he refuses to be silenced or silent.

His warm relations with the Chinese establishment, politicians and corporate heads in Beijing did well for Canada, he claims. What he meant was that while in the position of prime minister he feathered his future corporate and opportunistic nest by making the contacts that would stand him in such remunerative stead after leaving public office.

And now he is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he is quoted as heartily favouring good relations with the United Arab Emirates, which he had burnished while at the helm of government, and which the dastardly Conservative-led government has tarnished.

"I think this problem has not been well managed", was his considered opinion. "I hope (the Canadian government) will resolve the difficulty because we need good relations with this part of the world", Chretien shamelessly informed Arabian Business.

"I never had any problems when I was prime minister with the countries here. I never had, in the 10 years I was there, had that type of problem without finding a solution." Most certainly there were no problems because under his Liberal-led rule, Canada's moral face at the UN was shameful.

His solution? Trade that favours the absorption of human rights and justice and equality rights into a little casket not to be disturbed while countries like Canada during his tenure handily overlooked their moral amnesia.

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The Glory of York University

What an amazing reputation to burnish. Jew baiters and anti-Semites rule the academic roost at York University. Blatantly and confidently asserting themselves as supporters and soul mates of the Palestinians. Which position requires a counter-position and that one is easily enough assumed. It is an ancient one that fits quite comfortably, like an old, loved comforter one is reluctant to discard simply because it may have outlived its usefulness.

Some things are simply too useful to be discarded. If they are worn they can be set aside, to be plucked once again into utility, patched here and there and given a new lease on life, as it were. For it is true that for a while, at least several decades in Canada, anti-Semitism seemed to have faded into the obscurity it deserved as a shameful social tool to degrade the existence of a certain segment of society.

Now, however, that society itself has chosen to segment itself into those who support and aid the cause of the Palestinians, it is acceptable that if there is a victim there must also, ipso facto, be a victimizer. Readily identified, because the victim has named him, the Occupier to whom "resistance" is violently applied. The violence readily overlooked as an acceptable inconvenience, the "occupation" recognized as vicious Apartheid, not self-protection.
"Can anybody believe, really believe that this is a lifestyle we elect? There is no glory to be found and nobody should believe that there is.
"You people here - nobody else - are who we look to from Israel to hold this line of truth. And it's being eroded on your very watch faster than any of you care to imagine. What you do today will have very real consequences for us tomorrow." Benjamin Anthony, sergeant, heavy machine gun operator, Israel Defence Forces
Born in England, now a citizen of Israel, Mr. Anthony is travelling the Continent to tend to the problem for Israel of academic institutions hosting Israel-bashing events, led by the academic and study body whose affiliation with and allegiance to alleviation of the suffering of the Palestinians leads them to slander Israel and hold it to blighted account for what they identify as Apartheid.

He speaks with passion and belief in his mission. That his earnest words will reach the minds, attitudes and opinions of those who have not yet solidified their position, if they have any interest in what occurs in the Middle East. He was forewarned, he tells his audience at York University, of its reputation.

"I was told specifically to watch out for what would happen at York University", he said, clearly not quite crediting what he was told. A friend had told him that, unlike the many campuses he has visited in the United States and Canada, York students would "tear me apart". The lecture went at scheduled, no protesters in sight.

The University of Western Ontario on this occasion takes full credit for insulting protest.

The man's focus on North American academic institutions and the hostility expressed by some members of faculty and the student bodies, attempting to address the virulent hatred expressed by "racist" claims "willing to brand an entire country as murderers", will certainly keep him busy.

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"Distortions and Fraud"

Offensively intolerable to the Palestinians, sensible enough, were it to have been true, to the Israelis. Carve out those areas within Israel's borders where majority Arab Palestinians live under Israeli rule and citizenship, and incorporate them into the nascent Palestinian state. Balance that by ceding those areas within the West Bank where sufficient Israelis live to merit the action, and incorporate them into the Israeli borders.

Solve the aching problem of East Jerusalem by submitting its administration, protection and neutrality to a trusted, special-purpose third party to ensure that the holiest site in Judaism remains accessible to Jews, and that the third-holiest site in Islam is equally accessible to Muslims, but with nothing like the preferential treatment given to Muslims as currently exists.

As for the Right of Return, no such thing; there is no 'right' for descendants of the original Palestinians who chose or were forced to flee the fledgling State of Israel. Saeb Erakat may have declared that the accessed/purloined papers were false and taken out of context, but there have been expressions of the utility toward the peace process of ensuring that returnees remain under Palestinian rule.

Problems solved. More or less. A state is negotiating with a population without an established state. There is no force on Earth, moral or legal, that propounds the theory and the necessity that the established state forego many of its most vital needs to satisfy the demands of the state-to-be which has flourished with co-operation from the state, yet resents and abhors its existence.

The positions accredited by the archival material given to Al Jazeera purporting to reveal the double-crossing motions of the Palestinian Authority for the purpose of achieving a peace settlement opening the door to nationhood for the Palestinians are obviously those of Israel, cross-referenced to the PA. The purpose; pure mischief, to make certain the unravelling of the peace negotiations remains permanent.

Who, in the Middle East, stands to profit from the interference and the inferences? Why, all those entities, formal and informal, national and religious, who choose to spike the goblet of potential accord with a poison draught of ongoing hatred, revenge and ongoing plans to destroy Israel. Stand up and take a bow, Syria, Iran and Lebanon, for starters. Qatar? Turkey?

There are some obvious truths that were revealed previously, but denied in self-defence. That in fact Israel did inform the PA leadership well in advance of its defensive invasion of Gaza, and without too much of a doubt, the PA agreed to the necessity, urging the swift defeat of Hamas which had violently uprooted Fatah from Gaza.

But when this information became public, the PA was quick to denounce it as a blatant lie, and to announce that it planned to react to the genocidal-intending Israeli move on Hamas in Gaza by unilaterally withdrawing from the then-ongoing peace talks.

When Mahmoud Abbas claimed that Al Jazeera deliberately confused the Palestinian and Israeli positions, he correctly diagnosed the situation, as well he might, and to little avail. "We don't have anything to hide, and I reiterate that Al Jazeera's information is full of distortions and fraud", fumed Saeb Erakat.

Quite so. And now?

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Arbitration of Justice

Lawyers defending the indefensible, which is to say low-down, degraded, morally-challenged societal predators somehow always try to portray their clients as not entirely responsible for the carnage they mount. Victims of brutal assaults somehow must be responsible for what has occurred to them. They were, after all, in the wrong place at the right time. Or might that be the right place at the wrong time?

Ewan Lyttle, representing Yonis Awais Hassan, the driver of a car who with a 17-year-old accomplice who cannot be named under the Youth Justice Act, has argued that a woman whom the two robbed is herself responsible for the injury to her brain caused by the reckless driving that resulted when the driver attempted to dislodge the woman hanging on to the youth who took possession of a piece of jewellery she had advertised for sale.

In 2009, the two drove to a home in Orleans with the intention of stealing a diamond and sapphire bracelet that the woman had advertised on the UsedOttawa.com website. Things proceeded not quite according to plan when the woman, seeing her bracelet being taken without payment, chased the youth to the car and began "scratching and fighting" for re-possession of her property.

The driver claims to have panicked, and sped away, eyes on the road ahead, paying no attention to the fact that the woman was clinging to the youth seated in the car, demanding the return of her property. The lawyer for the defence of the two youths insisted that Hassan was not entirely blaming the victim for her misfortune, but that her actions were "legally relevant", to become a factor in sentencing.

The idea being that when Ontario Court Justice Lise Maisonneuve comes to the business of sentencing Hassan for aggravated assault and robbery, in February, this be taken into account. The victim having on her part recounted to Justice Maisonneuve her thoughts of suicide, living with a fractured skull as a result of the robbery and assault.

Her own lawyer has argued it was simply unfeasible that Hassan would be unaware that the woman was hanging on to the passenger as he sped recklessly away. "The impact on the victim and her family has been "catastrophic", she argued, feeling a jail sentence of 18 months to 2 years to be appropriate.

This is the judge, however, whose Ontario court roster is one replete with instances of seemingly excusing intolerable conduct on the part of predators and perpetrators; appearing to the interested onlooker on the basis of reports in the media, to be expressing compassion for the violators, while seeming to dismiss the agony of the victims.

And the attorney for the defence has argued that Hassan, who nobly aspires to becoming a youth worker co-operated nicely with police post-arrest, and should therefore receive no more than a 90-day jail sentence served on weekends, followed by probation.

All hail slick, conscienceless lawyers and their penitent clients, appearing before kindly, understanding arbiters of justice.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Professional Brotherhood

A long tradition of police attending the funerals of other police forces across the continent has grown in popularity among police forces, as a way in which representatives of various police forces can express their solidarity with their fellow officers at last rites. There is little doubt that this compact can be construed as an heartfelt attempt to share a family's and a police force's shock and grief, for that is its purpose.

Those who work day-to-day on contract with law enforcement agencies have a special bond with one another; they are in the business of public protection and of upholding law and order. That is a responsibility writ large in their employment contract, one which society depends upon to ensure that order is maintained and safety ensured, while the law is upheld.

For all of these fine points to be accomplished requires dedication and courage.

It also requires that those who work in the profession trust and depend upon one another and are capable of working together in harmony to achieve the purpose at hand. All this being so, it is also an idealistic picture of how law enforcement works at the best of times. The worst of times is when police officers betray the trust their position holds them to.

It is often a fine line to tread; they are like anyone else in the public; individuals.

In the wake of the most recent public funeral service that took place in Toronto for police Sgt. Ryan Russell, a record crowd of 12,500 mourners drawn from across North America attended to pay their respects and present a solid front in the face of what they potentially encounter on a daily basis in the performance of their duty.

That number of men and women, duly uniformed, with unison of purpose present as quite a sight. To some onlookers it may resemble a militaristic parade of might and determination, one that many people might shy away from. There have been open critics voicing their repugnance at the display of what to them appears to be raw power in the guise of a parade of civil servants.

The "public spectacles" may put some people off, but on the other hand, it represents a reassuring display of professional and personal support and sober camaraderie to those who work behind the thin blue line. That line that separates the public from the socially disruptive red line where crime and criminals have the potential to impact on our safety and freedoms.

This is not done on the public dole. Those attending these funerals of slain police officers arrange their own time off from their duties as they may, and they pay for the expenses incurred for travel out of their own pockets or through union support. "The policing community is a big family. When we lose a police officer it strikes a nerve with all police officers", explained the president of the Toronto Police Association.

Who could logically argue with that? Criticism of the ceremonial and symbolic presence of large numbers of police officers paying their respect at such times of emotional duress may be inevitable, and it may be unfair, but freedom of opinion and articulating that freedom is one of the guarantees were are vouchsafed living in this society.

Everyone has their own opinion about a multitude of matters concerning the larger community. In this instance, it's fair to say that most people see the purpose and practicality of a professional 'family' mourning together to help ease the pain.
The hearse carrying the casket of Toronto Police Sergeant Ryan Russell travels along Simcoe St. in Toronto during the funeral procession, January 18, 2011.
The hearse carrying the casket of Toronto Police Sergeant Ryan Russell travels along Simcoe St. in Toronto during the funeral procession, January 18, 2011.

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Russia's Agony

The carnage and the fear left in the wake of one suicide bombing after another leaves that indelible message, that Islamists will not be contained too readily. Despite the atrocities committed by dedicated jihadists intent on blackmailing the world into compliance with their agenda of accepting that Muslim-majority countries around the world must submit to Sharia law and Islamism, countries under attack that are not Muslim-dominated continue to treat the issues with kid gloves.

Russia does not. Her troops have been sent to Chechnya, the north Caucasus and other Muslim-insurgent hot-spots within her territory and sphere of influence, to quell the insistence of the Islamists. Much good it has done Russia. Some of the most horrific attacks against non-Muslim targets have taken place in Russia.

Certainly the 2002 attack on the Moscow theatre by 50 armed Chechens, ending with the deaths of 130 of the hostages was one of those. Over a two-and-a-half-day siege (the Nord-Ost siege) 850 hostages were held, and the siege lifted only when Russian special forces pumped a chemical agent into the ventilation system and raided the theatre, freeing most of the hostages and killing 39 of the attackers.

And the world watched their television news with growing apprehension and horror as details of the Beslan massacre, a three-day hostage-taking of over 1,100 people, including 777 children, ended in the deaths of over 380 of the hostages, 186 of them children, when Ingush and Chechen terrorists invaded the school in Beslan, North Ossetia, in 2004. The Russian special forces were accused of heavy handedness in their violent response.

But that tragedy and others became responsible for a hardening of the Russian position toward Islamist jihadists, and went a long way to strengthening the retributive options of then-President Vladimir Putin. Yet strangely enough, Moscow has often aligned itself with Islamist forces as long as their violent agenda does not include attacks on Russia itself.

When those forces, like Hamas and Iran threaten Israel, for example, Russia finds it possible to be generous and helpful to those agents of violence. Of course that position is not all that far off Middle East countries like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates who fund terrorist activity as long as it is not aimed at their regimes. Inevitably, that too will come to pass.

In the interim, Russia has faced another disaster on its soil, with an attack on the international arrivals hall at Moscow's modern showpiece Domodedovo Airport. A fairly brazen one at that with the bomber, explosive-case in hand, entering the the arrivals terminal from the outside; so much for security. In fact, there had been prior notice of the attack a week previously.

The response to which was a problem in and of itself since despite that notice the bomber was somehow able to elude security and bring into the arrivals lounge 5 kilograms of explosives. The airport is the busiest in Russia, carrying over 22 million passengers a year, with 77 airlines using the international airport.

There goes Russia's reputation for safety and security in the face of constant threats from the north Caucasus. Yet another tragedy for the country and its population, with 35 people dead, and 170 injured, many seriously, bleeding from shrapnel wounds.

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The Tax-Cut Game

Those impolite and most politic campaign advertisements have been launched for an election campaign that everyone claims not to want, but which they see nevertheless in the not too distant future. Setting aside the small-minded and ineffective taunts one party levels against the other and the personal attacks on the credibility and trustworthiness - and lack of - the leaders, it can be usefully assumed that no one is seeking to occupy the 'high ground'.

On the other hand, there is a great disservice done to the country and the voters when the opposition parties claim truths that are less than self-evident, because they represent half-truths or downright evasions of reality. Take, for example, the government's beyond-debate federal corporate tax cuts, already set in motion because they received general agreement as a positive economic step to enhance financial recovery.

The federal corporate tax rates have been cut back to 16.5%, and another cut is planned for next year, to 15%, making Canada very competitive for investment among the G8. Although the Liberals had initially agreed with the economic utility of the cut-backs, now they're in campaign mode and their leader is fulminating that this is the wrong time for tax cuts when the country is in deficit mode with a stunningly high debt.

Mr. Ignatieff speaks passionately to the issue: "I listen to Mark Carney and the studies from the Bank of Canada that make it very clear that cutting corporate tax doesn't necessarily create jobs, it doesn't necessarily increase productivity". But the governor of the Bank of Canada has clearly stated he is not in opposition to corporate tax cuts.

"Corporate tax competitiveness, particularly for new investment, has improved markedly over the past decade and is now among the most attractive in the industrialized world. Canada has actively pursued trade openness through new agreements and unilateral tariff reductions. Staying the course in these regards is likely the single most important contribution of the public sector", claimed Mr. Carney.

And, this just in: Japan and Australia plan to reduce their corporate tax rates, and so is Britain, for starters. Ireland, in the economic doldrums from its former glory, is resisting an austerity plan that urges it to raise its low corporate income tax rate; it knows that to stoke growth it must invite investment. Most Canadian provinces are moving to reduce their own business tax rates to 10%; in tandem with the federal government.

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proudly celebrated five years of fairly successful minority government, Mr. Ignatieff sneers that the Conservative government has failed Canadians. Hardly surprising since the initial warnings that emanated from the NDP and the Liberals warned Canadian voters of dire consequences to follow resulting from the Conservatives' "hidden agenda".

That hidden agenda has revealed itself as a moderate, steady-as-she-goes administration that has resulted in some economic advantages, despite the global financial crisis. Despite the belt-tightening that Canadians have had to accede to, and while we're still on the cusp of some vulnerabilities, our per capita GDP has increased, as well as hourly wages and personal disposable income.

Retired couples pay less income tax, allowed to combine-and-split, and we're paying less GST. Canada has agreed with many of the moves taken by this government on the international scene; a leadership role within the G8 and G20, a defence of our allies in the United Nations, and a defining move to support the health of women and children in developing countries.

Within the country Mr. Harper has travelled widely and made himself better acquainted with the nation, acquainting Canadians with his personal endowments, and more people think he presents as finer mettle for the post of prime minister than his opposition.

And it couldn't come at a better time, for it is expected that at the World Economic Forum coming up in Davos, Switzerland, it will be revealed that we've nowhere to go but up, and fast. There is informed talk that the world may be entering a long-term growth cycle that will impact favourably on all economies throughout the world simultaneously.

Now that's ample reason for waiting with bated breath. We're waiting.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Tainted Funding

Nothing inspires the righteously hysterical indignation of the lib-left like the presence of big money, corporate funding, anything smacking of associated conservative ideology. And most certainly Big Money and entitled CEOs with their immensely disgusting financial emoluments seeking to have their way by interfering in matters relating to their own sphere of influence.

And what could be more relevant to the sphere of influence of the left than academia? Unless we throw in trade unions as well. Both appear to have become morbidly infected with the virus of anti-anything perceived to be illiberal in intent, character or purpose.

Academic entities, however, like other public institutions such as hospitals, are always on the lookout for generosity on the part of their alumni or the philanthropic public, particularly those of economic means.

And isn't it past time for Canada and Canadians of means to begin to divest themselves of all those unneeded earnings? After all, how rich does someone have to be before he/she decides excess baggage - or bank accounts - are capable of doing far more good dedicated to the public weal?

So when that finally happens and more and more Canadians of means decide to spread around the largess of their generosity, we should be celebrating the charitable impulse and consider our good fortunes.

Academic and health-delivery institutions are always in need of additional funding, and they remain the measure of our existence as a favoured, forward-aspiring society offering educational opportunities and medical-health assistance to a steadily-growing and aging society.

But! shriek some within the community of the cerebrally elevated: It's indecent, unacceptable and disgusting that a wealthy alumnus of the University of Toronto has decided to further divest himself of some of his riches. And to convey their disgust a protest 'event' was scheduled by academics and political-social-affairs writer Linda McQuaig, with help from Judy Rebick, Canadian Auto workers Sam Gindin Chair in social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University.

Oops, there's that academic-union link...!

A 7-hour-long "anti Corporitization teach-in" has been scheduled to protest the generous gesture of Peter Munk of Barrick Gold fame-and-success. Filthy lucre is fairly gross at any time, but when it's connected to Barrick Gold and its stockholder-minions, we're talking serious filth.

Which cannot be allowed to corrupt and degrade the pure and perfect hallowed halls of academe. Even if that funding is scheduled to enrich an already-existing enterprise previously funded by that same deleterious source.

The University of Toronto's Munk School for Global Affairs, in fact. Which has managed, somehow, miraculously, to earn a reputation for balanced, interpretive politics and studies in international affairs whose advisory board is chaired by John Manley, a former Liberal Cabinet Minister in the Chretien government.

Besmirched by a "corporate agenda". Intolerable.

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The Banality Of Evil

Poor France, it is under attack by dint of its 20th Century history during the Second World War as a Third Reich-collaborationist government by the Petainist government whom most French citizens detested, and it is embattled by claims levelled by the grandson of one of the Petain government's chief functionaries who aided in the removal of French Jews.

France has always had an unfortunate relationship with its Jewish population. In that respect, however, little different from most other European countries, and far better than east European nations.

Still it does rankle, like prickly burrs somehow stuck under one's underclothing, never permitting one to sit comfortably and look dignified through the process of attempting, in public, to discreetly extract those burrs while carrying on a civil conversation. The conversation is anything but civil at the moment, with denials from every corner of the allegations levelled by Alexandre Jardin through his legacy accounting of his grandfather Jean Jardin, chief of staff to Pierre Laval, prime minister of Vichy France.

France has never been comfortable in contemplation of its war-time compliance thanks to Marshal Petain, with Nazi Germany's occupation of the country.
"France is a curious country. You can talk about anything here: about pedophilia, about the most shameful passions, but not about our families' dishonour during the Second World War - because that particular past just won't pass. Especially if you argue that to have taken part in the worst atrocities of the Nazi occupation one didn't necessarily have to be a monster." Author, Alexandre Jardin
Aiding in the mass extermination of a signal portion of Franc's population who just happened to be Jews is not a nice topic of conversation in polite company. Best to simply ignore it. The past, after all, is the past.

And France currently feels it has a special obligation to its Jews. It took great moral umbrage when, on a visit to France, former Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and later Ehud Olmert and Benyamin Netanyahu, issued pointed invitations to French Jews to remove themselves to Israel, where they would be protected from the growing incidence of anti-Semitic attacks in France. And just incidentally help to increase the Jewish presence in the State of Israel.

Even Mr. Jardin's own family has condemned him for writing his revelatory book claiming his grandfather to have been quite involved in the arrest and deportation of Jews. "It took me a while to realize that nothing is signed by a chairman of the board that didn't pass through his chief of staff", he wrote. Historians have their doubts about Mr. Jardin's nomination of his grandfather as chief enabler of the transport of French Jews to death camps and the chimneys of the crematoria.

But Mr. Jardin is adamant. He will not be swayed. He knows of a certainty what is obvious to him. Despite the social and familial pressures he is under he remains unswayed and will not renounce what he has written. His book has given him notoriety, but he regrets nothing other than to state his regret at the "blindness of my family and our whole nation", responding to the contents of his book which "evokes the guilt of the upright, morally endowed people who collaborated with Nazism and who, definitely, allowed the extermination of the Jews."
"I have wondered how a perfectly decent man like him, belonging to a society of perfectly decent people, could aid the horror.
"To burn down a synagogue and liquidate a few Jews, all you need is a handful of violent sadists. But to perpetrate this on a large scale, a moral discourse must be used of a sort that mobilizes a great many decent people, who will be even more efficient.
"My grandfather, a man steeped in Christianity, was one of those people."
And France still does not recognize nor does it admit its portion in the history relating to the Holocaust. Only in 1962 did school curriculum address the Second World War, and the related textbooks barely make mention of the Holocaust; too depressing, distressing, embarrassing for young Frenchmen. And certainly with the preponderance of immigrants from Muslim backgrounds, far too socially inconvenient.

No French leader had given public acknowledgement of the country's role in deporting Jews to the Nazi death camps stationed around Europe. Until Jacques Chirac as president in 1995 succumbed to the issuance of a public apology. Now, can we all set this aside for good?
Not, it seems, if Alexandre Jardin has anything to say and write about it.

Public discourse anyone?

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New French Pamphleteer Sensation

He is 93 years old, and as such can be considered to have acquired the wisdom that comes with venerable old age.

He has had experiences that qualify him as one who can look back and assess the state of the world, then and now, making comparisons and announcing his qualified diagnosis. Which appears to be that his French countrymen are too placid, too busy going about their distracted lifestyles, and in his opinion, not sufficiently engaged in the social and political life of their country.

His message will have huge appeal to the 4.1 million Muslims now residing in France. Stephane Hessel's experience had little to do with the perceived shortcomings he now recognizes, of his country in addressing itself - or failing to, in reflection of the current climate of hopeful neglect and resulting resentment among immigrants - to the ills he perceives among the body politic of his country.

This is a man with a storied past. A former spy with the French Resistance. Who happens also to be a survivor of the Holocaust, since he is a Jew, besides being a decidedly angry personage. Who wouldn't be angry if life had served up a performance consisting of not one but two incarcerations in Nazi prisons, and death camps thrown in for good measure. He escaped to join the resistance.

And now, well seasoned by experience and by all the time that has elapsed since the end of the aspirations of the Third Reich, this man who was a former diplomat to offset his stint as a freedom fighter, and who just incidentally is one of the last surviving authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - who better than one with his experiences to delineate human rights? - has written his own brief tract, Indignes-vous!

He wants to mobilize public opinion, encourage people to think, to engage in some introspection; is this the society they want, where inequities, social and economic, dominate the social fabric of the country he so obviously loves?
"I would like everyone - every one of us - to find his or her own reason to cry out. That is a precious gift. When someone makes you want to cry out, as I cried out against Nazism, you become a militant, tough and committed. You become part of the great stream of history ... and this stream leads us toward more justice and more freedom, but not the uncontrolled freedom of the fox in the henhouse."
In other words, he wants, reasoned, rational reaction, a cry from the heart, a commitment, an impassioned but credibly reasonable move to right the wrongs of society where too many are poor and those that are not are too well endowed with the riches of the world. He cautions that those who heed his appeal not succumb to the "uncontrolled freedom of the fox in the henhouse", but he is aiding that very process.

Whereby a public conscience becomes aroused, and through that arousal looks about for a focus for their alienation and the privation they see around them - and that usually does translate as the fox having his way in the henhouse. The henhouse in this instance is the Jewish community within France.

For Stephane Hessel is also an outspoken and dedicated critic of the State of Israel. He denounces Israeli policies, accusing Israel of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity".

While this is fairly standard fare for the progressive, liberal-left which has, through unions and academics taken up the cause of the Palestinians, and in the process ascribing to Israel perniciously indefensible actions against a weak and fearful society dominated by another, what he is engaged in is stridently slanderous propaganda which serves the purposes of malign Islamist forces in the Middle East and within immigrant-Muslim Europe.

Those accusations which he has helpfully included in his pamphlet-publication identifying an enemy upon whom his followers can focus will do its part to help spread the already metastasizing cancer of anti-Semitism in Europe. And is that not the supreme irony? That a Jew who had experienced the Gestapo, torture, Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen, the Liberation and the General Secretariat of the United Nations, now dedicates himself to the greater good of humankind through skape-goating Jews for the world's ills.

"It's true that reasons to cry out can seem less obvious today" he has written. "The world appears too complex. But in this world, there are things we should not tolerate ... I say to the young, look around you a little and you will find them. The worst of all attitudes is indifference." He is certainly not indifferent. And there most certainly are things that should not be tolerated - in abundance.

Linking Israel and its 'policies' to the miseries of the world in general that creates slums like those which exist in French and British cities breeding material for violent jihadists does not represent social justice. To colour Israel in the vibrant mantel of the modern world's imperialist ambitions preying on a victimized population which in fact represents a dire threat to its existence through incessant violence posing as 'resistance' to the 'occupation' disfavours truth and reality.

Mr. Hessel, whose social-change tract has created a sensation in France is a most unlikely-seeming catalyst for the change his impassioned words are likely to aid. We are not the better for all of that.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Torch For Peace

When people have in their history and heritage figures who exemplify all the good impressions and emotions that we should wish to emulate, it is beyond peculiar that these figures are not elevated and held to high esteem, encouraging others to fashion themselves after them. These are, of course, figures of historical importance who chose peace and harmony, reason and patience over anger, hatred and social dissonance.

Men like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, in our most recent 20th Century histories. One a Christian the other Hindu. And there appears also to have been a man of outstanding conviction in the power of compassion and peace who was a close compatriot of Mahatma Gandhi, an ethnic Pashtun and Muslim, Badshah Khan.

Both were born and lived in India, where Hindus and Muslims have lived together for well over a millennium. Along with Sikhs, a minority of Christians, Zoroastrians, Jews and countless other religious sects, peoples of various ethnic backgrounds and languages.

Religions of IndiaTibetan Mandala, circa 1800.

Unlike his more famous Hindu counterpart, it seems that Badshah Khan, a non-violence advocate like Gandhi, is little in the public mind. At one time he was instrumental in successfully raising an army of over a hundred thousand men and women representing a variety of religions, all assembled as "Servants of God", all dedicated to non-violence, helping India to win its independence from Great Britain.

The man and his followers sought to achieve the recognition of official equality for his Pashtun tribe in a new country that had broken off from India - Pakistan. Now, a documentary about the life and times and achievements of this Muslim man who strove for harmony, acceptance and tolerance among peoples, has been produced in a 90-minute documentary by Teri McLuhan.

The documentary won first place in the best-feature documentary award category at the Middle East International Film Festival in 2009, and is scheduled to be shown in Ottawa. If the name sounds familiar, it's because it is. Teri McLuhan's father was Marshall McLuhan of "the media is the message" fame. Not surprising his daughter has followed her father's footsteps.

The subject of her documentary was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He died in 1988 at age 98. "He was a devout Muslim who sacrificed all in the cause of non-violence, peace and religious tolerance", explained Ms. McLuhan. "It's really just to put a laser beam of light on the truth of the power and beauty and richness of the religion", she said.

Patience, she explained, was the guiding force behind Badshah Khan's quiet diplomacy. He had the patience to endure much with the hope of achieving his aim; unity and peace. It's a different kind of message delivered by a Muslim thinker and peaceful spirit who impressed and mobilized those among his religious peers who felt as he did.

One can only wonder what he would think of the schism that has opened in understanding and accommodation between the world's great religions today, and the threat that militant Islam poses to the world at large, including toward Muslims themselves.

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Canadian Refuge

What is it about Canada that seems to attract so many of the world's sadistic, dictatorial, perpetrators of human rights abuses from abroad? Our lax immigration laws, we are informed. So why in the world don't we tighten them? We seem always to have had the ill fortune to welcome among us people who represent the very worst of what human beings can attain to. From Nazi collaborators to members of the armed forces of the governments of countries like Sudan and Somalia, Bosnia, Cambodia and Rwanda

We don't want these people here, to live out the rest of their lives in comfort, leaving their backgrounds behind to be forgotten that they had preyed unmercifully on other human beings. On occasion our immigration officials discover that someone gave false witness when applying for asylum, for a visa, for citizenship. Extradition proceedings take place, but those whom we wish to rid ourselves of by returning them to their countries of origin are able to take evasive, legal action and remain here for years.

Now, despite that our government says it absolutely refuses to welcome members of the former Tunisian ruling family, we have been burdened with at least four members of the extended family of the deposed and despised former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who has fled to sanctuary in Saudi Arabia with his wife, and the looted gold from his country's treasury.

There were rumours circulating initially that Ben Ali and his wife would attempt to flee to Canada where a daughter and son-in-law are in the process of building a house in an upscale area of Montreal. They do not appear to be in Canada at the present time, but a brother of the president's wife and his wife have arrived in Montreal. They would have to have acquired official permission to do so.

Not, of course from the government directly, but through a government agency, Immigration Canada, where a representative in Tunisia would have had to supply the Tunisian couple with return visas. Given the fact that many members of the Ben Ali extended family have been arrested and charged with pillaging and looting their country's financial resources, is it likely that these two plan to return to Tunisia?

A visa would only have been issued with the proviso that a return to the country of origin was guaranteed. Any visa-examining-and-issuing immigration official who believed that this pair, under the circumstances, would be eager to plan a scheduled return to Tunisia would have to be suffering from advanced frontal lobe dementia.

"Mr. Ben Ali, deposed members of the former Tunisian regime and their immediate families are not welcome in Canada", assured Citizenship and Immigration Department spokesman Douglas Kellam, in a newspaper interview. He claims that "appropriate action" would be taken ... if someone not wanted in Canada has managed to get here. Well, they have, so what now?

Members of the Canadian Tunisian community are not overjoyed with this turn of events, and nor are ordinary Canadians. Tunisia, understandably, after what has turned out to be a relatively peaceful exercise in civil disobedience resulting in the overthrow of the existing, brutal regime, is on the brink of handing over its secular identity to an Islamist party that the current, teetering government had outlawed.

Unless Tunisian-style, born-and-bred Islamists are somehow far removed from the strident ideological belligerence and tendency to jihadist violence, along with insistence on Sharia overtaking the country's systems of jurisprudence, it seems feasible that in the not-too-distant future the dedicated Tunisian Islamists who attend the Al-Quds Mosque in downtown Tunis will soon have the upper hand.

The Islamist party Ennahdha's exiled founder Rachid Ghannouchi is preparing to return to Tunisia from exile in London. Must be something about the Commonwealth and its political aura, that seems to welcome all manner of political, ideological and religious strays to its ample, welcoming bosom. Currently secular Tunisia seems set to follow the lead of Iran and Turkey, more's the pity.

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