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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Change They Can Trust

The Republican and Democratic Institutes have been busy working in Egypt - openly - since 2005. Helping to assist with election monitoring during the parliamentary vote. They are funded by the U.S. Republican and Democratic parties. Their purpose, of course, is to assist in the support of achieving democracy within the Middle East. A pursuit reflective of the mission of the Bush administration in the U.S.

And the current de facto administration in Egypt, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, has charged human rights and pro-democracy groups, funded outside the country, with an agenda meant to destabilize the legitimacy of the country's own laws. The simple fact appears to be that under Egyptian law it is illegal for such groups to receive funding from foreign sources.

And it would be an interesting exercise in comparison to think of Egypt funding special-interest groups in the United States whose purpose is to destabilize the legitimacy of democratically elected governments for the goal of attempting to mobilize a change whereby a growing Muslim population would successfully insist on the installation of sharia law as a prelude to destroying democracy in America.

Wouldn't the American public, the judiciary, the administration, the political establishment and the news media go absolute insane with incredulous fury over anything like that? While it's entirely possible that this does indeed reflect a reality in the United States with undercover, coercive, invasive activities to alter the political scene, being undertaken, it isn't done openly.

Egypt, taking offence at the open machinations of the thirteen human rights and democracy-promotion groups, raided their offices, confiscated their equipment and ordered their personnel out. In a move that the regime's critics within the country characterized as more repressive than anything former President Hosni Mubarak would ever have embarked upon.

The United States, angered at the targeting of its U.S.-based democracy advocates has officially threatened to cut Egypt off from its traditional $1.3-billion annual military support. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, now leader of the military council, and once a trusted adviser of former President Hosni Mubarak, has seen the utility of backing off.

Swearing that it is his intention and that of the military council to ensure that their commitment to a transition to democratic rule and corruption-free elections remains unchanged. Despite the concerns of the pro-democracy homegrown contingent of protesters who began the Arab Spring protests that the military's true agenda is to remain in power, pulling the strings of an elected administration.

Something that would prove difficult to achieve in any event, given the decisions by the Egyptian electorate to usher in a Muslim Brotherhood majority bracketed by an even more determined Salafist party whose call for Sharia law and a new Egypt will make Mubarak's rule look downright gentle by comparison.

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Doctor, Please Help!

When it was over, he said, he stepped into a shower to wash off the blood and cried for over an hour.
Stress does that to people. Even doctors, who are supposed to step back from emotion and the personal, to immerse themselves completely in their medical professionalism, their purpose to heal, to assist people in physical duress to the best of their abilities as trained physicians. If anyone might be seen as performing his professional role without bias, it should be a doctor.

For doctors, in pursuit of their medical goals, treat the ill, the wounded, the dying without concern of who they are.

Of course there is the recent reports out of Bahrain that doctors treating Shia protesters who had earned the ire of their Sunni rulers, were being singled out for punishment as traitors to the regime. Doctors and nurses and other medical staff who were accused of fomenting problems for the autocratic regime, the minority sect oppressing the majority-sect Shia.

These medical professionals were arrested and are to stand trial. They are themselves Shia, little wonder they responded to the appeal.

The United Nations Human Rights Council - a generally blighted group if there ever was one, among whom Syria and Libya among others were members in good standing - has issued a report with the allegation that in Syria enemies of the al-Assad regime who were injured by government forces, were further abused by the military posing as medical personnel when they were taken to hospitals for treatment.

But it was not merely guards posing as doctors, but also evidently legitimate medical personnel who resorted to ill-treatment of wounded civilians. "Everybody would start beating them, including doctors and nurses", said one guard who had worked at a hospital.

The alternative then, was for doctors willing to place their own security on the line in order to respect their pledge as doctors to serve those in need of medical attention irrespective of who they are, what they represent, to set up medical operations in discreet, secret locations.

These underground 'hospitals', would appear in abandoned houses, where there were scarce medical supplies available, other than smuggling through what little that could be obtained, through sources in Lebanon. And then there is the story of 26-year-old Dr. Ebrahim Othman, the founder of an underground medical network in Damascus. He was not beloved of the regime, and he was killed for his indiscretions.

Witnesses and those who belong to human rights groups insist that any who attempt to assist wounded protesters themselves come under fire. "Anyone who is treating the wounded is regarded as if they are carrying a gun against the regime", explained a member of the Homs Revolutionary Council who works to co-ordinate supplies for the city's clandestine clinics.

Those who have allowed themselves out of desperation for medical treatment to be admitted to hospitals are beaten, and imprisoned. Some of them never emerge alive; their families are contacted and ordered to receive their bodies. The corpses showing the results of torture. And then there are the innocents caught in the crossfire; young children shot, or imprisoned and tortured.

And the Arab League observer mission, members themselves dodging gunfire and hesitating to venture too far afield where the regime's tanks are encircling neighbourhoods known to harbour the more ardent of the committed protesters, find a situation that is troubling to a degree, but nothing to get too excited about. At least they're not too dreadfully excited about it.

Doubtless they will report back to the Arab League that Syrian protesters are a hysterical lot, having fallen prey to mass paranoia.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Suspense of the Unknown

Now isn't that a classic? What's termed being between a rock and a hard place?

Having to carefully assess just which assumes greater moral and practical importance; saving the world from the volatile, irrational behaviour of a potentially nuclear-armed religiously-zealot country eager to bring the current world to a throbbing halt so the next world can take over which will exalt them personally - or having to absorb further financial hardships in an already-beleaguered global economy.

It does, quite, resemble that classic double-edged sword.

In responding to Iran's threat to close off the Strait of Hormuz through forceful mediation, not merely diplomatic and strategic intercession, the developed world faces the very real prospect of inflicting further financial damage upon itself through the heightened cost of energy. (Not to mention the cost of war.)

Should Iran attempt to cut off its nose to spite its face by stopping its oil exports and that of others, it would harm its own economy. But of course its economy is already in a stiff downward spiral due to fairly universal sanctions, which are on the way to becoming even more inimical to its financial stability.
"If sanctions are adopted against Iranian oil, not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz", promises Mohammad Reza Rahimi, an Iranian vice-president.
"Our enemies will only abandon their plots when we give them a strong lesson."
That strong lesson is being played out in the threats that have been timed to coincide with the country's war games in the Gulf of Oman. Complementary to the nuclear program which is paving the way for Iran's eventual success in developing nuclear-tipped missiles, are the naval vessels and exercises testing torpedoes and mine-laying.

Britain, France and Germany are agreed in their determination to mount an EU oil embargo. The U.S. is prepared to sign legislation blacklisting anyone doing business with Iran's central bank, and engaging in oil transactions. Iran is OPEC's second largest oil exporter, and it could be essentially devastated by these moves.

Of course the EU and the U.S. will also stand to be harmed by less oil-energy availability and increased costs.

Which the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia have claimed to be able to avoid by increasing their own output in a move to offset that loss of Iranian oil. A claim that seems doubtful since Iran is OPEC's second largest exporter. So oil will be scarcer, and the cost far greater, impacting deleteriously on everything from heating to transportation to production costs.

It's a tough game both sides are playing, with China and Russia on the sidelines, supporting Iran.
"The free flow of goods and services through the Strait of Hormuz is vital to regional and global prosperity. Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated."
This edgy flirtation with a breakout of violent hostilities and its long-term outcome which no one can possibly visualize with any degree of accuracy, infusing the world with additional uncertainties revolving around the growing need for energy at a time when so much instability is the order of the day, does not speak optimistically for 2012.

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N.H. Union Leader Editorial

Joseph W. McQuaid: Ron Paul is truly dangerous


Ron Paul is a dangerous man. While his domestic libertarian views are quite attractive to some voters fed up with politics as usual, it is Paul’s position on issues of our national security that are truly dangerous.

Those views have been largely overlooked by a news media more interested in the presidential “horse race” than in the candidates’ positions on issues. But we expect New Hampshire primary voters will examine the facts and act accordingly.

A Wall Street Journal columnist notes that Paul is “a leading spokesman for, and recycler of, the long and familiar litany of charges that point to the United States as a leading agent of evil and injustice, the militarist victimizer of millions who want only to live in peace.”

Perhaps this warped view is why Paul believes that al-Qaida terrorists caught in the United States ought to be treated as common criminals, not enemy combatants. He wants them read Miranda rights to which they are not entitled and he wants them tried and sentenced in civil courts rather than by military tribunals.

This is nothing short of nuts. What is needed to competently fight a war, and al-Qaida is indeed at war with us, is the ability to gather information. Telling the enemy that it has a “right to remain silent” is absurd.

Paul believes that if a U.S. citizen throws in with al-Qaida or associated groups overseas, where he plots American death and destruction, we need to somehow find him, arrest him, and bring him back to stand civil trial here rather than eliminate him, even if that is the only option.

We are in a much different kind of war than we have ever faced, but Paul doesn’t see it. He has repeatedly said that U.S. aggression is responsible for 9-11 and other attacks on America from radical jihadists.

He has repeatedly said that we should allow Iran to continue to develop a nuclear weapon. This is the same country whose leadership vows death to America, the “Satanic power,” and who wants Israel wiped from the map.

Never mind Paul being the favored candidate of the lunatic fringe (see white supremacists, anti-Semites, truthers, etc.). Never mind his refusal to disavow a third-party run (which would only help President Obama’s reelection).

His defenders say they admire Ron Paul’s “consistency.” It is true, Paul has been consistently spouting this nonsense. It is about time New Hampshire voters showed him the door.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Extremists Excluding Women

Lest there be any who may think that it is only Islamists who verge on the fanatical, with some among them steeply progressing from fanatically obsessed to maniacally extremist, they may wish to alter their perceptions, just a tad. There are, after all, Hindu extremists and Buddhist extremists who insist that the world recognize their warped and stringent view of the divine in a need to victimize and oppress.

And then there are also, unfortunately, the ultra-orthodox Jews who do their best to surpass all others in their urgent extremism that holds the certainty that women are nefarious creatures sent to mankind as a test from God to measure man's goodness; women who are in reality promiscuous temptresses who must be kept at bay and out of sight. They could perhaps, match wits with the Taliban.

It has finally dawned upon secular and reasonable-religious Jews that they have living amongst them warped religious minds who insist on subjecting women to the scorn and misery they deserve in having had the misfortune to be born female, an accursed, inferior gender. Necessary for the perpetuation of the species, but requiring separation from men lest they defile them.

Jewish extremists in Jerusalem neighbourhoods like Beit Shemesh, consider it their religious duty to accost schoolgirls wearing the school uniforms designed specifically for the orthodox in attendance at an orthodox school, but which dress code the extremists find to be unsuitable. The long skirts and long-sleeved shirts, mark these second-grade students as "prostitutes".

And eight-year-old children are accosted by these wild lunatics purporting to represent the pure will of God, who spit upon the girls and rain invective down upon them, cursing and threatening them. "My stomach hurts every time I need to walk to and from the school and I know those men will be there. They are scary", said one child whose daily school-walk ordeal had been video-taped.

None but the obsessed ultra-orthodox are Jewish enough; even those who are of the Orthodox Jewish camp are considered to be unfit to call themselves Jews, to these madmen. Now, finally, ordinary Israelis, proud to be Jews, proud of their Israeli citizenship, content to represent the majority, but appalled at the lunacy in their midst, are joining together to protest the extremists.

The police are pelted by stones and spat upon by the extremists when they take down signage ordering women off the streets, and order them to sit at the back of buses, segregating them from the men. It is time and past time for these extremists to be dealt with in a manner which signifies just how criminally disruptive they are to society, and what a blemish they represent upon the nation's conscience.

"We are fighting for the soul of the nation and the essence of the state. Today is a test in which the entire nation will have to mobilize to rescue the majority from the claws of a small minority that is chipping away at our most hallowed values." The words ring out in a concerned despair at the depth of the depravity of the extremists. President Shimon Peres fully understands how critical this issue is.

"The police kept coming, and the sign would just get put back up as soon as they left. We need a real change here, not just some superficial efforts to take down signs."

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Velayat-90 - Go Ahead, Test Us

Iran is set to hold its war games in the Strait of Hormuz, a 50-kilometre-wide passageway critical to shipping for the international community dependent on oil from the region, that the Islamic Republic of Iran claims to control as its very personal territory. The country is preparing to conduct a military exercise with its considerable fleet of vessels, including some 200 missile patrol boats with sea-skimming anti-ship missiles.

"These light naval forces have special importance because of their potential ability to threaten oil and shipping traffic in the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, raid key offshore facilities and conduct raids on targets on the Gulf Coast", explained Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington.

The Strait of Hormuz sees passage to roughly a third of the world's oil tanker traffic. This is a choke-point critical to the region's oil exports. Whoever controls the Strait, virtually controls the Middle East's economy, politics, power structure. And Iran contends that this is their personal bailiwick to have and to hold. And it will hold the Strait closed as punishment toward those who seek to punish Iran.

"If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure", promised Parviz Sarvari, of the Iranian parliament's National Security Committee. The Strait of Hormuz would be closed as part of the planned military exercise. See our strength, cower before us lest we deem it necessary to shut you out, and you will suffer.

"The importance of this waterway to both American military and economic interests is difficult to overstate", according to a report by geopolitical analysts at the global intelligence firm Stratfor. "Considering Washington's more general - and fundamental - interest in securing freedom of the seas, the U.S. Navy would almost be forced to respond aggressively to any attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz."

This is an edgy, dangerous poker game Iran is playing. It is entirely feasible that Iran is not merely bluffing, but plans to close the 'Gulf' for more than a mere few days. Hedging its bets that the U.S. too is bluffing, unprepared with its current financial frailty, to embroil itself in yet another costly war which, like the last two, may have no end in sight, costing American lives and treasury it can now ill afford.

A treasury drained in large part by its recent-past and current embroilment in other Islamic countries, the outcome of which may seem, in retrospect, not to have held the value in what was achieved, that was assumed to be possible. "It would almost certainly lose far more than it gained from such a war, but nations often fail to act as rational bargainers in a crisis, particularly if attacked or if their regimes are threatened."

And no outside observer could ever conceivably err in describing the provocative and volatile decisions made by Iran on the world stage as rational. The world, staggering as it is, in the wake of its global financial downturn, would face the prospect of crude ripping up to $500 a barrel, should the Strait be closed for any length of time, and conflict ensue.

Not a happy prospect in any dimension, for any concerned. Least of all for Iran, for if it did indeed carry through on its threat, it would invite onto itself the wrath of those upon whose fortunes it so carelessly tramples, risking considerable damage from retaliatory attacks. And would this bother Iran? Not particularly.

This is, after all, the fanatical regime that believes anything it does to enhance the prospect of the return of the Hidden Imam - and thus the ushering in of the faithful to Paradise while all others are doomed to perish in the perpetual anguish of living death - could only find comfort in martyring itself so that it may ultimately be raised up in triumph before the throne of Allah.

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Iran "Red Lines" Clarified

Israel, U.S. discuss triggers for military strike on Iran

The Daily Beast reports that the countries are discussing "red lines" in Iran's nuclear program, that if crossed would justify a preemptive strike on its nuclear facilities.

By Barak Ravid Tags: Iran Iran nuclear Israel US

Israel and the U.S. are discussing "red lines" in Iran's nuclear program, that if crossed would justify a preemptive strike on its nuclear facilities, the Daily Beast website reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, filed an official complaint with the administration following a speech by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta a few weeks ago, warning against a military strike on Iran.

The Daily Beast reported that Panetta's statements infuriated the Israeli government, which ordered ambassador Oren to file the complaint. The White House then relayed a message to Israel saying the administration has its own "red lines" concerning a strike on Iran, and that Israel does not need to act unilaterally. Israel's protest also resulted in Panetta reversing his stand in an interview with CBS, saying the U.S. will use any means necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets

Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets during a ceremony for newly graduated pilots at the Hatzerim Air Base, June 28, 2010.

Photo by: Reuters

Patrick Clawson from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said in the report that "If Iran were found to be sneaking out or breaking out then the president’s advisers are firmly persuaded he would authorize the use of military force to stop it.” However, he added that "we just don’t know how the president will react.”

The Daily Beast also reported that as part of the strategic dialogue between Israel and the U.S. that took place earlier this month, Israel presented new information about Iran’s efforts to build secret reactors for nuclear fuel production, and showed that these efforts were further along than the U.S. thought. Some of the intelligence was based on soil samples collected near the suspected sites.

Israel and the U.S. disagree about how far along Iran's uranium enrichment program has developed, making it difficult for the two sides to formulate "red lines" concerning the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

As published online at Haaretz, 28 December 2011

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Macabre Farce in Syria

Observers from Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere; generals, human rights observers, politicians, representing the Arab League, have descended on Syria to finally implement the agreement to observe on the ground how the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is handling the protests that have grabbed world attention of late.

Homs, where some of the worst shelling of the city by government forces has taken place, with casualties and killing proceeding apace, is set to be visited by some of the observers representing the Arab League officials. They will be dividing themselves into five groups when they are all assembled, to visit other cities as well. And they will be guided by Syrian representatives.

Their mode of transport will be that arranged by the Syrian regime. But they will be independent and neutral, and observe what has been transpiring. The Egyptian and Tunisian observers, of course, have their own protest occurrences in their own countries to rely upon for experience.

Where even now protests continue and the government forces there deal with them in somewhat similar ways to the Syrian forces. Irrelevant details.

Since they are being led by Sudanese Lieut.-Gen.Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, there is additional expertise in identifying human rights abuses and outright murder of those who protest; Sudan has much experience in this line of government control of those who wish to incite to riot.

As for the group from the Arab League arriving to view the situation in Homs, well they're in good hands.

None other than Gen.Assef Shawkat, President al-Assad's brother-in-law, one of Syria's most powerful military men is there to take charge of the procedure of observing and reaching conclusions. He will be most helpful to the process.

And he will take charge of the situation, awkward as it might seem, of escorting the observers to particular sites.

Perhaps not where lifeless bodies are lying in the streets and alleyways - outside mosques, and close to their homes where people ventured out thinking they must, and this would be the last thing they ever did - to observe these obvious foreign elements, terrorists, jihadists who have entered the country for the purpose of destabilizing normalcy.

"Our Syrian brothers are co-operating very well and without any restrictions so far", said team leader, Lt.Gen. al-Dabi. Assuring any who take interest in what he says that the mission will be fully capable of maintaining the "element of surprise", going wherever it wishes so it will be able to conduct a perfectly impartial process of interviews.

Soldiers of the Syrian army surround neighbourhoods where tanks patrol the perimeter streets. People who live there, Syrian civilians, cower in their bathrooms or basements, hoping to be spared by shots being fired indiscriminately. Food and water is running in short supply. The Arab League observers may observe this.

They also may not, however.

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Inflammatory, Defaming Rhetoric

"I think that somebody should say to him 'O.K., how much money did you make from the newsletters?' These things are really nasty, and he didn't know about it? Wasn't aware of it? But he's sufficiently ready to be president? It strikes me it raises some fundamental questions about him." Newt Gingrich (another somewhat slimy contender; no offence to slimy newts)
Now there's an unsavoury character; not Gingrich, Ron Paul. And this is the calibre of character that presents as a potential candidate for the presidency of the United States? Good grief, that's rather hard to take. But it's real; this man has prospects that he is exploring and he has reason to believe that he is found to be a credible candidate for the Republican choice to run against the current President.

This is a man without scruples, a bigot, a racist of impeccable credentials. There is a blazing trail of statements issued by him, a network of newsletters warning Americans of dire things to come should black and white begin to contest their rights; one depriving the other seen as just and meet. The man is a world-class slanderer, a conspiracy theorist of the highest order.

And he presents himself as a civil libertarian, championing peoples' rights.

The Texas Congressman Ron Paul is what one could term in the most understated way, a genuine 'piece of work'. That he can count upon a certain level of popularity among the electorate in any of the states is painful to contemplate, for one would ideally like to think far better of most peoples' level of intelligence.

That someone so base could conceivably come within a whisper of the highest office of the land is headache inducing.

He 'earned' one and a half million dollars annually through the circulation of a 'newsletter' which he now claims, under questioning duress, to have never quite read the contents thereof, although they are attributed to him, and appear under his signature. Paid subscribers were given advice by him on how they might survive "the coming race war".

Tax collectors would be coming around to collect from people, and they needed to know how to protect themselves from these machine-gun-wielding government employees. He would inform them how to proceed. "Given the inefficiencies of what [Washington] DC laughingly calls the 'criminal justice system', I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal."

How can anyone possibly get away with spewing this kind of malodorous garbage? Speculation about how many illegitimate children Bill Clinton may have fathered with a black woman, referring to the offspring as "woods colts", transcends offensive. The World Trade Center attack in 1993 represented "a set-up by the Israeli Mossad".

The man is a charlatan, delusional, yet presents as a presidential candidate for the Republican Party? They should be trembling in shame and horror at the kind of scum they seem to attract.

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Lacking Qualification? No Problem...

Federal Court Judge Judith Snider struck a triumphant blow for fairness in defence of human rights. How perfectly progressive. The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada is profoundly pleased with the outcome. And of course the individual who appealed to the court to see her side of affairs must be inordinately pleased.

An auditor with the Canada Revenue Agency, Tracey Patterson was ill done by when her applications for two positions were summarily dismissed. That was two potential promotions she lost out on. And it is just not fair. She said. The legal counsel for PIPSC said: "It is an important decision and it's a progressive decision in a social context."

Referring to the fact that Judge Snider ordered the CRA to reconsider Ms. Patterson's two applications for the advertised jobs. For in her great judicial wisdom she rendered inoperative the basic requisite that those applying for those positions must have relevant experience "for a period of time of not less than 24 months within the past five years."

Ms. Patterson was disqualified on the basis of her not being able to meet that minimum requirement for consideration for those two positions. "In my view there is no principled reason why family leave should be any differently treated under the Canadian Human Rights Act than maternity leave", stated Judge Snider.

So then, when we make choices which we know may impact deleteriously on future job prospects, we needn't bother ourselves about consequences, for there will be none. Irrespective of whether an applicant qualifies on the basis of required experience, she/he will be entitled nonetheless if that lack of experience is tied to 'family obligations' of one kind or another.

Ms. Patterson happened to have taken a year of maternity leave in May 2005. And she went on then to extend that to family leave until October 2009, after which she returned to work. She had previously taken maternity and sick leave between June 2003 and October 2004. She applied afterward for two different positions within the CRA in November 2010, was screened out of both.

Her qualifications having been assessed, she was found not have met the experience requirements, which were fairly basic. "Stated differently, she was denied an employment opportunity because she took leave to care for her family", emphasized the judge.

Well, yes, of course she was denied; anyone wishing to qualify for the position had to pass the initial imperative of relevant time-rated experience.

Yet the CRA had a duty, according to the judge, to accommodate the woman whose decision to care for her family led her to be absent from the workplace for a rather considerable period of time. Don't most people weigh options and consequences and make their decisions based on the priorities and values given to both?

Talking about having your cake and eating it too, huh? A classic example of asking for an inch and taking a mile.

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Munificent Health Salaries

Canada has a nation-wide problem, little doubt about that. An increasing burden on all provincial budgets goes toward supporting the health-care system. The federal government has assured the provinces that the current level of 6% growth in federal funding will continue for the next few years, after which sensible austerity measures will kick in.

The funding percentage increase will be linked to the country's prosperity - or lack of it, while the federal government has promised that the yearly increase will never be less than 3%.

Maintenance and administration of the health care system is a provincial responsibility and the provinces are jealous of their administrative autonomy in such areas as health and education. They tell the federal government "just send money, thank you kindly", and they'll look after the rest.

To date, they haven't done a truly outstanding job of that responsibility, and the cost of health care is steadily rising. It now represents, in Ontario, roughly 44% of the budget, and increasing.

Causing most of the provincial premiers to scream bloody murder at the unjustness of the federal government's decision - without provincial consultation. Consultation would have resulted in a roadblock, so the federal government decided it would do what it was elected to do - make its own decisions and advise the provinces accordingly.

Encouraging them to become more enterprising in the allocation of somewhat future scarcer funds; a reasonable enough expectation.

The bulk of the cost of the health care system comes down, understandably enough, to salaries; most of the infrastructure cost has already been borne, and it is maintenance and equipment that takes up huge dollars after salaries. Medical professionals earn a hefty salary, and they deserve to.

What they earn far outdistances what the majority of Canadian workers can ever hope to bring home. And hospital administrators are at the top echelon of the overpaid CEO scale of remuneration.

The suggestion has been made that the chief executive officers of the 154 hospitals in Ontario alone, might consider a limit on their compensation; the high-end earners come in at $745,000 and $612,000 annually, for example. The president of the Ontario Hospital Association claims that hospital executives earn their remuneration, and to offer them less would be incentive for them to leave.

If the exorbitant pay is all that motivates them perhaps they should.

A more reasonable salary for such top earners would help in some fairly interesting ways, freeing up some money to hire the medical specialists now graduating from the province's medical schools who are unable to find placements for themselves, despite their eagerness to work in the health care system, and despite that their expertise is needed, because hospitals haven't the extra cash in the system to place them on staff.

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Nations As Criminals

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey can be a most irascible man. Readily riled should anyone whisper of, much less seek to pass legislation recognizing the genocidal massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces across Ottoman-era Turkey during the First World War. It is estimated that one and a half million Armenians died because Turkey considered them to be traitors to the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey has spent a century denying it was ever involved in anything bearing approximation to anything as distasteful as genocide. There are those among the Turks, but not with Mr. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, who believe that it would be in Turkey's best interests to admit its culpability, and thus allow the matter to fade into history, after sincere apologies to the Armenians and suitable reparations.

Mr. Erdogan will have none of it, but he is certainly not alone. His attitude reflects that of his predecessors. This sensitive topic seems to drive official Turkey into paroxysms of denial. France, which studiously has worked behind the scenes to keep Turkey from being admitted into the European Union, has now mortally offended Turkey by passing a bill making it a criminal offence to question the disputed genocide.

Of course, this move by France to officially satisfy the demands of both history and its half-million French citizens of Armenian descent, leaves France open to counter-accusations by Turkey that France was responsible for genocidal massacres in independence-seeking Algeria. "What the French did in Algeria was genocide", Mr. Erdogan fumed.

The official total number of Muslims who died during Algeria's uprising is said to be around a million, revealed through an authoritative study of the war. In return a like number of French settlers were expelled from Algeria upon independence in 1962. France, charged Mr. Erdogan, "mercilessly martyred" 15% of the Algerian population.

On yet another front, Turkey is faced with another country finally recognizing the same charges against Turkey. Israel had long restively put off any such declaration - though it felt an obligation to the Armenians to express the truth - for fear of offending then-friendly Turkey. As Turkey has shed its long-term relationship with Israel under its new Islamist regime, Israel no longer feels constrained.

A simple, official statement is likely all that will proceed from Israel's decision, placing it squarely in the camp that condemns Turkey for not acknowledging this disgraceful human-rights abuse from its recent past. In France, in contrast, a prison term of up to a year and a $60,000 fine for any who deny the event, will become law if the bill is passed.

In the meanwhile, Turkey has cut off all diplomatic relations with France, while Mr. Erdogan foams at the mouth, and he is guaranteed to continue foaming as soon as Israel too, makes it an official national statement.

Sovereign nations officially recognising the Armenian Genocide include:

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Who Rules Pakistan?

Why the military, of course, aided and abetted by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency. The government is their shield from scrutiny, responsible for passing laws that the military will permit them to pass and the ISI finds itself agreeable with. The judiciary is said to be independent, but who knows? This is not a mutually agreeable situation, but it does represent reality.

The military has at its disposal a quite formidable cudgel in its sole possession of the country's nuclear arsenal which the government enjoys claiming the fiction that it has complete control of, and the military does its bidding. The military and the ISI are committed to Islamism and wrenching Kashmir from Indian hands; indeed inflicting any kind of mischief that would harm India.

That commitment to control of the geography extends to Afghanistan - and the military and the ISI have both formal and informal connections to violent Islamists, guarding and guiding them to a tangent of mutual interests. It will never do for a Prime Minister or President of Pakistan to consider himself to be independent and having authority over the military.

For one thing, the Chief of Army Staff and his high-ranking cohorts will not have it other than as an acknowledged facade of very thin dimensions. There is no organization within Pakistan with the power of the military and/or the ISI. While the government would dearly love to delude itself that power lies ultimately with the elected lawmakers, they know otherwise.

The government of Yousuf Raza Gilani also knows how threatened it is should it seek peace with India and should it become too close with the interests of the United States and the West in battling Islamist terrorism. Nowhere is Islamism and jihad as carefully nurtured as it is in Pakistan in its countless madrassas and terror training camps, supported by the military.

Nothing is forever, it is true, as has been amply testified to by the Turkish military which once proudly maintained its oath in honour of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, founder of modern 'secular' Turkey. It has now seen itself in complete rout, subjected to humiliation and arrest of its top generals and high-ranking officers, retired and currently-serving for purported coup attempts targeting the Freedom and Justice Party of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.

In Pakistan General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of Army Staff, has furiously denied talk of a military coup; for the Pakistani military will continue to serve democracy and the elected officials of Pakistan. "The army is fully cognizant of its constitutional obligations and responsibilities", he huffed indignantly.

President Asif Ali Zardari is said to have pleaded with the United States to help prevent a military coup which threatened in the wake of the rage manifested by the Pakistani military in the unspeakable adventure of the U.S. Navy SEALS raid that dispatched Osama bin Laden, where he lived for years in peace and security, co-located with an elite military training facility.

Presumably, to entice the United States to enter into a covert alliance with the elected government of Pakistan to protect it from its own military, the U.S. was offered the capture of the al-Qaeda principals still in circulation in Pakistan. As well, entry to Pakistan soil by the U.S. military would be assured to enable capture of terrorists.

Perhaps most enticing of all, the agreement would also permit the United States to work with Islamabad in securing safeguards for the country's nuclear weapons, ensuring they would never fall into hostile hands. News of this missive and its offers spread in Pakistan after it appeared in the Financial Times, and the level of xenophobic anti-Americanism has skyrocketed.

The government has been accused of treason and the ISI has launched a national security investigation. They may investigate whether there is any truth in the claim that Lieutenant-General Ahmad Pasha, head of the ISI, had visited Arab countries to curry their favour for the commission of a coup in Pakistan.

And, good gracious, look at this, former President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, who fell out of favour and was replaced with a genuine democratic election, is preparing to return from exile in London to launch a new political party...

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The Culture of Forgiving Aboriginal Crimes

"Being aboriginal should have some consideration but it seems that it was all the consideration. Now this stage is over, we are going to be looking for answers. If the judge can't send a message to the community, then we'll have to look for some other way" Joe Gualtieri
The lawyer claims her client, in his unassailable defence, must be excused from his indefensible act because he had been so profoundly affected by a culture of racism. Her client, a young man whose parents, grandparents and extended family had presumably suffered the effects of discrimination and the humiliation and loss associated with residential schools, should be offered the tender qualities of charitable mercy because of the trauma he suffered through the experiences of his forbears.

Richard Smoke, who assaulted Sam Gualtieri in the basement of a house he was building for his daughter, had illegally gained entry to the property, and saw fit to express his raging hatred for this representative of the wider community which had historically oppressed First Nations, through bashing his head with a piece of building lumber while the man lay prostrate on the ground before him.

Only the timely entrance of Mr. Gualtieri's companions stopped the assault from becoming a murder. In the words of Ontario Superior Court Judge Alan Whitten, the attack as it was described by witnesses represented a "senseless and vicious" act, which represented as "just a notch below culpable homicide". It was an attack that left the victim badly injured.

Mr. Gualtieri suffered broken bones, cuts and a brain injury severe enough to impair his memory, his balance, his speech and reading capability. Since recovering from that brutal attack he has been unable to work in his field of construction. Judge Whitten took note of Mr. Smoke at the time of the attack challenging an onlooker: "Do you want to end up like your buddy inside?"

"It is a very serious and grave offence. We are all fortunate that it was not worse", said Judge Whitten before announcing the sentence meted out to Mr. Smoke. "Mr. Gualtieri will live life as brain damaged man", the Judge observed. "There was no necessity for this crime ... it didn't advance any ideology or idea."

Mr. Smoke was part of a 'native warrior' contingent who had set themselves up at Douglas Creek Estates which became a "lawless oasis", where police were instructed not to intercede, and where politicians were loathe to denounce the occupation which had halted construction on a new subdivision, which property the province saw fit to purchase in an effort to still the protest.

The violence and unrest continued unabated, and a year later absorbed a nearby housing development which was precisely where Mr. Gaultieri had begun building a house for his daughter. And where Mr. Gaultieri entered the house to check on the property, with his work crew, when he heard that the protest had spread to that area.

It was, said Judge Whitten, the sad legacy of residential schools and the knowledge that concerns many Canadians that aboriginals are represented in disproportionate numbers in prisons which led him to consider a lighter sentence for Mr. Smoke than he would have otherwise arrived at. Which led Judge Witten to sentence Mr. Smoke to two years in jail, plus time already served.

Mr. Smoke will be spared incarceration in a federal prison and will likely be released before two years is up, then be on probation for three years. "I am totally disappointed. I was expecting him to get four years - and that would have been giving the guy a break. I feel like I have been injured again", commented Sam Gualtieri.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

The New Syria

"You cannot imagine the feeling of living without freedom. This is my own country but I live in it in fear. I am frightened even in my own home. My dream is to be able to tell you my real name, and for you to visit us in freedom as a journalist, without this disguise." Damascene activist
Only Syrians know what it is like to scurry about, hoping that sharp shooters' attention will be distracted elsewhere, and they will arrive home unscathed, not become another casualty for the UN to rack up in its rising toll of dead among the protesters. "Do you see the army? This is Douma, not Kandahar or Baghdad."

Not finding it in himself to believe that his country had become a rat's nest of military forces surrounding towns and villages to wipe out inhabitants who appear to them to be resisting the legitimacy of the regime. After Friday prayers, the faithful seek to exit their mosques, to make their way quietly along the streets.

Preferably, to gather, still quietly, but holding aloft signs stating their preference for an al-Assad-free Syria. Which bold statement garners them the deadly ire of those forces still faithful to the regime. The locals set up barricades hoping to detain the military vehicle advances. Knowing full well that on the roofs of surrounding buildings are the sharp shooters.

Huddling in the mosque doorway, men gauge their chances, and courage in hand, leap out in straggled groups, to rush in ragged patterns out of the "kill zone", to reach the safety of the alley where their presence can be hidden. Once there, they shout "freedom!" and "down, down, down with the regime!"

It is a play of human drama, danger and wretchedness that brings to mind the similar details outlined in Oriana Fallaci's novel taking place in Lebanon, titled Inshallah. Just alter the place-names and these events could be taking place almost anywhere in the Middle East, with its ethnic and tribal factions, its sectarian rivalries.

The Syrian National Council keeps a running tally of the deadly casualties, the numbers of their "fallen heroes". Ideally, they would dearly like to persuade NATO of its humanitarian obligations; to replicate what they managed to pull off in Libya with the "no fly zone" in protection of civilians. One might assume, incorrectly, that this is precisely what the Arab League should be engaged in.

But no, members of the Syrian National Council opposition movement do not engage in serious discussions visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf States; they visit places like Canada, where they seek to meet with government officials, thanking them for agreeing to freeze the Syrian regime's assets, and looking for official recognition for themselves.

"We asked the Canadian government to help convince some countries, some governments in the UN Security Council to bring forward a resolution that will help in the protection of civilians in Syria", said SNC representative Obaida Nahhas. Even if Canada thought it useful and feasible to consider international military involvement in Syria, China and Russia would not.

The Syrian National Council seeks peace, stability, security, liberty and freedom for its countrymen. And if they became the de facto government, dedicated to administering Syria as a democracy, Arab-style, would they end hostilities with Israel and sign a peace accord, they were asked. How awkwardly inconvenient, where did that question come from?

Diplomatically, the response carefully avoided mentioning the name of the Zionist Entity. Instead, responded Ahmed Ramadan,"The new Syria will be a true factor for stability in the region, particularly with its neighbours. The new Syria will demand the return of the territories under Israel occupation", was his closing statement.

How, then, is the new Syria different from the old Syria?

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IRB So Incredibly Ill Prepared To Judge?

Of all those requesting consideration for refugee status, one might assume that anyone of Iranian origin who had defied the regime might be considered a shoe-in for acceptance. Yet the Immigration and Refugee Board claimed to have found Behzad Khalilzdeh's account of the potential danger he faces in returning to the country of his birth questionable.

He was a newspaperman in Tehran, a reporter with a penchant for writing the truth. And the truth was, as he discovered, dangerous enough that even without it having been published, his life was endangered because of information he had received which damned the government.

It was, in fact, the truth revealed to him by a confidential insider source in the government that the death of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in Evin prison was not as claimed by Iran's vice-president, an unfortunate death due to stroke. The Iranian-Canadian, on a fact-finding mission in Tehran, had been arrested as a spy, imprisoned, tortured, raped and murdered.

And it was just these details that Behzad Khalilzadeh had written of and was prepared to have published under his byline. His editor at the paper, no doubt thinking of his own survival and that of the paper, thought otherwise, and withheld the story. Which did not stop security agents of the government from visiting Mr. Khalilzadeh to threaten him.

"They said, 'If you want to put this in the paper, we are going to kill you', they said they were going to put me in jail for life. They threatened me. I was scared of them." And so he hid, then fled to Turkey, from there travelled to Canada on a forged passport, and declared himself a refugee. Feeling that his link to a story that had headlined in Canada would garner him support.

"I came because this is a free country. I thought they would believe me and help me and appreciate what I did", he said. But the Immigration and Refugee Board claim that his account lacked evidence. Incredibly, they refused to believe that Iran would still - eight years after the event that brought Canada and Iran to a counter-accusing match at the UN - seek him out on return.

On appeal to the Federal Court of Canada, the case was dismissed. "It was reasonable for the panel to find that there was no tangible evidence that the Iranian authorities were looking for the applicant ... and that, even if this were the case, no evidence was put forward regarding the nature of the penalties that the applicant would face today", wrote Federal Court Justice Luc Martineau.

It's hard to believe that the IRB officials and a justice of the Federal Court live such protected lives. Have they not extended one iota of curiosity to inform themselves of the situation of those in Iran who earn the wrath of the authorities? Are they completely oblivious to this police state that subjugates and oppresses its people, and threatens its neighbours?

"Anybody who [the Iranian authorities] believe had the slightest information on this situation would be pursued. Back in those days, when this was happening, it is impossible not to believe he wouldn't be targeted. Even today they would be targeted because [Iran] is trying to change their story on what happened", Lawyer Annie Belanger.

This appears an obvious case where the minister responsible, Jason Kenney, should be intervening on behalf of Mr. Khalilzadeh.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Encouraging Vandalism

Finally, the Toronto G20 protest confrontation with police is producing some results in holding those who encouraged vandalism in the name of anti-capitalism sparked by anarchist ideology is coming to a head.

It's hard to feel too much sympathy for people who seem to hold responsible positions in society but yet subscribe to the ethos of anarchy, going out of their way to encourage others to wreak havoc at sensitive times within society. In fact, they imperil the free-speech-and-civil-protest rights of others by ratcheting mass protest up too many notches toward dangerous violence.

Leah Henderson, part of a group of six people pleading guilty to counselling the commission of mischief during the 2010 world leaders' summit, has been sentenced to ten months in jail. She was admonished by Justice Lloyd Budzinski, for her approach to civil disobedience: "The approach was to place your beliefs above the rights and safety of others."

The trained paralegal, self-identified as an anarchist, faced arrest when undercover police managed to infiltrate a G20 protest planning meetings. She was observed to be an individual of authority at the meetings, encouraging others to violent protest by smashing business windows and to commit other messages of violence in rejection of the status quo.

Her failed defence was no evidence that any of those she counselled were guilty of taking part in the violent downtown Toronto riots, where Black Bloc thugs attacked businesses and torched police cars. She was found guilty on the basis of her actions geared toward encouraging her listeners to commit violent confrontation.

"The accused's actions are antithetical to the rule of law [and] caused harm to the freedom of expression rights of all lawful and peaceful protesters", said Crown attorney Jason Miller. Her actions did not accord with constitutionally protected freedom of speech.

Ms. Henderson, given the opportunity to address the court, professed to being "deeply and profoundly affected" by her arrest and the process that followed. Her reaction, betraying the deep naivete of one who believes that counselling to violence is inoffensive and and supportable by good intentions.

Those good intentions obvious in her statement of rejection of the country's legal system supportive of "the distorted mirror that hides the lies of capitalism."

"This entire prosecution is born from the politics of fear", she fumed.

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Calling On Jean Chretien

Presumably the legal experts at the Federal Court of Canada know how to apply the law in neutral fairness to ensure that best outcomes prevail for the country, under Canadian jurisprudence. But it is a bitter pill to swallow when their judgements, while upholding the letter of the law, appear to bring justice into question through allocating the satisfaction to those who appear undeserving of it.

Take, for example the decision to have former Prime Minister Jean Chretien awarded $200,000 of public, tax funding to cover a good portion of the legal costs resulting from his court challenge of the findings of the Gomery Commission into the sponsorship scandal.

Under Jean Chretien's watch, indeed under his express decision-making and perquisite-awarding, a substantial sum of tax money went into the coffers of Liberal supporters making a mockery of what was posited as a well-intentioned attempt to persuade Quebecers to remain within Confederation.

Judge Gomery did little to hide his disdain for the small-town-cheap style of the Right Honourable Jean Chretien, whose orientation and obvious ease at swilling at the public trough - offering opportunities to likewise partake of easy pickings was extended to his political supporters - was so blatantly rapacious. He was, yes, publicly biased.

Judge Gomery had charged that Jean Chretien shared responsibility in the scandal that ensued relating to the huge waste of tax-funded enticements that rained down on Quebec businessmen and the Liberal party in their unwholesome raiding of the public treasury under the direction of the PMO. Jean Chretien insisted that the political crisis of near-separation warranted intervention.

Which came in the form of liberally sprinkling millions of dollars around the Quebec landscape in a truly jaundiced and cynical and in the final analysis, absurd impulse to persuade Quebecers to cling to the Liberal party which controlled the swilling trough and was not loathe to spill some of its excess for love of the province.

It was Jean Chretien's blighted oversight and his casual contempt for those who dared assume to question the veracity of his intent, and the outcome of the looting of the treasury that brought the Liberal party to collapse. Not that this was an event, first of its kind, under the leadership of Jean Chretien for he had availed himself on previous occasions in a manner unworthy of his office.

The 'Little Guy from Shawinigan' has a thin skin for personal criticism, though it was his predecessor's presumed dirty dealings with Airbus and Karl-Heinz Schreiber that had him order an RCMP investigation into allegations of bribery benefiting former prime minister Brian Mulroney. Who himself did rather well, suing the government, as a result.

This is becoming a tedious tradition, former prime ministers attempting to shield their presumed 'good' legacies from being tainted by the perceived 'bad' legacies their stint in office inconveniently and outrageously revealed.

Personally, I'm with the current governing body which is scandalized by the prospect of using more tax funding to prop up a former, inept-toward-illicit-dealing prime minister, through returning a little bit of a fortune spent on legal fees by Jean Chretien.

"It is appropriate in this case that the lump sum award represent a significant contribution to the costs incurred by Mr. Chretien while remaining within acceptable standards for party-party costs representing a compromise between compensating the successful party while not unduly burdening the unsuccessful party", explained the ruling of Judge Francois Lemieux.

Good enough, in observing the interpretation of the letter of the law. A palatable end to the story would be better borne out with the adoption of a solution proffered by the current PMO: "It is our belief that the Liberal party must pay back the millions of dollars stolen from taxpayers through the sponsorship scandal. We call on Jean Chretien to give this $200,000 to taxpayers on behalf of the Liberal party".

Hear, hear.

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Fabled Baghdad

Iraq is dissolving into unmitigated chaos and sectarian strife. A reflection of the lasting pacifying effects of the painstaking diplomacy that took place between the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish communities with the United States acting as goodwill interlocutor. The United States, understandably, wishing to leave Iraq in fine mettle, for the future of democracy in the Middle East, and to assuage a national conscience that their sacrifice of U.S. military and American Treasury was not for naught.

It was, alas, for naught.

There is that about the volatile cocktail of tribalism, religious sectarianism, ideologies, honour, brinksmanship, and human nature, that produces stark instability. There is no shared vision for a united country, a proud nation that has a deep and abiding desire to work one in tandem with the other for the greater good of the people that they represent. Each faction, is entirely concerned with their own paramount self-interest.

And so, immediately upon withdrawal of the United States whose elected administration felt secure in the notion that reason is all-prevailing and in the greater interests of national unity the frail co-operative union they helped usher in, to conclude the Saddam Hussein chapter, would prevail.

And they could withdraw in good conscience, exhausted both militarily and financially.

Surely, they knew better. Hoping that if they articulated forcefully, loudly enough their confidence in the stability of the country and its democratic future, they would impress its importance upon those whom they knew were prepared to see the country implode again.

That withdrawal was the signal, none too soon, for the Shia majority, that their time had come. And Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lost no time in making his move, accusing his Sunni counterpart of having planned and had executed violence directed against the Shia. Unleashing in the process the long-simmering, occasionally erupting hatred between the two.

Which resulted in no fewer than sixteen bombings in various part of Baghdad, hitting mostly Shia enclaves. Almost a hundred killed and 217 wounded. Oh, the Sunni areas were not completely spared; they too were hit. Place your bets; the Sunni Islamists, some of them aligned with al-Qaeda, against the Shia militias, most aligned with Iran.

And the peaceful, intelligent, hard-working, perplexed and concerned Kurds minding their business and doing it very well. A sovereign, separate Kurdistan must look most appealing at this juncture, complete with the oil riches located within that geographic location. They wish.

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Utter Compulsion

There is something utterly compelling about books like Trekking in the Everest Region, Living Arctic, Into Thin Air, Icebound, the Arctic Grail, The North-West Passage by Land, Ice: Stories of Survival From Polar Exploration, and The last of His Kind. They grip the imagination, holding the reader spellbound in fascination for the daring, foresight and courage of the human will to explore this world we inhabit.

Humankind's curiosity to know as much as possible about the world's far frozen reaches and the majestic heights, the geological formations, hostile and forbidding, but irresistible, leading people from northern nations to discover, explore and engage with the realities of raw nature never fails to amaze.

Those intrepid explorers who set out with faith in their capacities and abilities to survive the most formidable existential odds; man against nature at its most unpredictable, inclement. Where indeed, humankind and even other forms of animal or bird life avoid being trapped in an environment they will never be able to extricate themselves from alive. These relatively few who set out with mountain conquest in mind, intent on summiting the most impossible heights must be imbued with a special gene rendering them immune to the fears that usually grip others far less adventurous.

That they do fear the unknown but yet convince themselves that the draw of their will to survive equalling the wish to discover and to know, along with the perceived integrity of their search far outweighs the potential for disaster places them in a very special category. To read about their adventurous exploits is to experience a wan reflection of what it is they face against the imperious contours of the Earth's crust, the hostile environments that nature has bestowed upon vast, isolated areas of this Planet we call our home.

The ferocity of their dedication to searching out the mysteries of Earth's natural formations, mapping them, surviving countless ordeals to bring back news to the more timid of us - which describes the huge majority of people - is matched only by nature's own ferocious determination to demonstrate, time and again, her imperial mastery over humankind's ingenuity and stolid perseverance.

The book I've just completed reading, by a master American mountaineer, David Roberts, writing of his mentor, Bradford Washburn, in The Life and Adventures of Bradford Washburn, America's Boldest Mountaineer; The Last of His Kind, is a lesson in the stubborn resolve and fascinating life-work of one such man. As an explorer extraordinaire, master alpine photographer, geologist, and science museum curator, Bradford Washburn was indeed one of a kind in his huge sense of curiosity, his perfectionism, his assurance that determined will would conquer all.

Leaving behind a legacy comprised of new methods of mountain exploration, concise mountain, glacier and icy-canyon photographs, and detailed instructions to match his experiences with the new generation of enterprising, committed young men and women who are compelled to repeat his, his climbing peers', their predecessors' and successors' fabulous exploits.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Restoration of Honour

Strange values to cling to, engrained over hundreds of years, instructing the faithful that their first oath of fealty is to family-clan-societal 'honour'. Honour being invested in the male control of a female's genetic inheritance whereby nature - the Almighty, to believers - invested in the female of the species the honour of bringing forth new life.

In some societies she who rocks the cradle has the power; in rabidly patriarchal ultra-religious societies, he who controls the womb is the power.

And so it is that another form of honour killing has been revealed. Leaving the original impression given the West intact, that full control of female sexuality and gestation is so integral to male cultural imperialism that girls and women who have the effrontery to defy their male relatives' dictates with respect to modesty flirt with death. But adding another proviso, giving it greater depth.

The primitive notion that women may be kept as chattel, valued not as human beings in their own right, but for their ability to conceive and bring forth a new generation represents a controlling social instrument that maintains women as gender slaves, facing the penalty of death for disobedience. Disobedience can come in the form of having been raped, for this too is a fault of women, not men.

But in a story unfolding in England where Britain's Court of Appeal ruled that a baby at risk of being slaughtered by its grandfather should he become aware of its out-of-wedlock-birth, must be left for adoption, to spare its life we learn of additional honour remediations. The baby's Muslim mother had a love affair with an already-married man. To his credit, he would have taken the baby. But the chance of the mother's father discovering the truth would have been too great.

"In the particular circumstances of this case, the judge rightly regarded the risk of physical harm to [the baby] and [its mother] as being of major importance. Here the evidence was, in our judgement, compelling," was the opinion of the appeal court in its final decision.
"[The baby] was conceived in a relationship which was unacceptable to [the mother's] traditional Muslim family and conducted in secrecy.
"When she realized she might be pregnant she ran away from home for fear of the reaction of her family and, in particular, her father.
"Shortly after her pregnancy was confirmed, [the mother] took steps to have her baby adopted at birth."
The mother did return to her parents' home, concealing her pregnancy as it advanced by the wearing of loose clothing.
"As soon as [the baby] was born, she was relinquished for adoption because [the mother] genuinely feared for [the baby's] safety should [the grandfather] become aware of or be forced to acknowledge her existence.
"[The mother's] evidence supported as it was by her actions and the evidence of [the father] and an experienced police officer, drove the judge to conclude that refusal of the order would carry with it a significant risk of physical harm. In our judgement this conclusion cannot be criticized."
In their great wisdom, the judges imposed a wide reporting ban on the publication of names and locations linked to this case because of the obvious above-related danger. To the father of the pregnant daughter, it would have represented a deep and abiding personal shame, an outrage to the values of a Muslim family, blotting that family with an indelible shame.

The death of the baby would have helped to lift the dishonour to the family name. But, even more shocking to Western sensibilities - the values and sensibilities of any intelligent being in fact - was the pregnant woman's mother's testimony. She had informed police that should her husband discover the truth of the matter "he would consider himself honour-bound to kill the child, the mother, the grandmother herself and the grandmother's other children".

In other words, to wipe the slate clean in its entirety, and to restore honour to the paterfamilias of this Muslim family, his entire family would have to be sacrificed to his sense of outrage over one of his female possessions' intolerable acts of disobedience. Having committed an outrageous sin, and bringing shame to Islamic values, his daughter, her child, his wife, her children must be destroyed.

To put a moral balance on the story, the child has been adopted by a Muslim couple originating from a different community, albeit the same country as that of the mother.

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Arab League Observers in Syria

What a relief. Finally, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has agreed, under huge pressure and with some reservations, to having Arab League 'observers' enter the country to see for themselves what he has claimed all along, that terrorists, al-Qaeda-connected Islamists, have been wreaking havoc, shedding blood, attacking his troops since March.

And his regime has been courageously facing down this external threat to the stability of his country, while fending off unfair accusations of regime brutality against its own. Why, only yesterday al-Qaeda terrorists had managed to infiltrate a heavily-guarded area of Damascus close to a police station, setting off several car bombs and killing 60 civilian Syrians.

Obviously, the observers - the advance team comprised of military and human rights observers amounting to some twenty seasoned conflict surveyors, followed by another hundred observers in several weeks' time, prepared to fan out throughout the country to do the work assigned to them, will soon conclude that the accusations have been wrong, and Bashar al-Assad's contentions quite correct.

Who would not have confidence in the calibre of the advance team sent out to set up the network and look after the logistics of doing so? In the name of freedom, honour, and Arab-style democracy they are all set to perform and do their duty to the merit of the Arab League. Which in their wisdom selected Lt.-Gen.Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, former head of intelligence of the regime of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, to lead the advance team.

This would be, of course, the very same President Omar al-Bashir who presided over the mass slaughter, rape, destruction and homelessness of the people of Darfur. And for which atrocities the International Criminal Court has sent out a warrant for arrest on the basis of his having ordered, through the activities of the Arab Janjaweed, human rights atrocities against Black Sudanese, Darfurian agriculturalists.

When the slaughter of all these people was ongoing, it was a matter of no concern to the Arab League, for they were neither Arab nor Muslim. President al-Bashir of Sudan is both, therefore the accusations and condemnation of the world at large and the International Criminal Court in particular is of no particular concern to the Arab League, of which al-Bashir and Lt.-Gen. Mustafa al-Dabi are proud and free members.

Trifles, obviously.

Lt.-Gen. Mustafa al-Dabi is now present in Damascus with his advance team skilled in military affairs and human rights obligations. They will be able to judge for themselves, presumably, neutrally, the latest atrocity where over a hundred civilians were besieged, trapped, gunned down in a village close to the Turkish border, with none left alive.

They may have the opportunity to see the 37,000 Syrians remaining in detention after summary arrest for illegal protest. They will not have the opportunity to question the estimated 617 who died under torture, including 39 children whose misfortune it was to be arrested along with adults, tortured and sent to their very early deaths.

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