Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kudo's for RobinHood whistle-blower on secret Swiss Bank Accounts

The CBC's Diana Swain, Investigative Reporter, took us inside the world of mega-bank accounts stored in Swiss Bank Accounts. avoiding taxes by their owners in various countries, including Canada.
It was a former HSBC Private Bank employee whose job was to provide security for these accounts who turned whistle-blower on the evasion, after repeated attempts to get his bosses to change the system.
Although he has fled to Nice, France, to escape prosecution by the Swiss authorities, a prosecutor there, when shown the information on some 80,000 accounts that RobinHood secretly loaded into his private computer, tells the CBC's Swain that he believes his source is credible.
Also interviewed by Swain was Don Johnson, former cabinet minister in Pierre Trudeau's government, and former head of the OECD, who asked whether keeping these large funds out of the reach of tax collectors was "right," implying his support for a change in bank practice and ethics.
So far, Canada Revenue, upon issuing an invitation to Swiss account holders who may have used these accounts to avoid paying taxes here in Canada, has received some $600 million voluntarily and expects at least that much more to come in voluntarily.
Both the British and the Italian governments have asked for and received their own copies of the details of the accounts, enabling them to pursue their citizens who may have hidden vast sums from the tax collectors in those countries. One can only assume that there will be other countries learning about their citizens who have avoided paying taxes on these large accounts, as the details become public.
It is the confidentiality of the Swiss Bank owners and operators that is a significant part of the problem here. Their complicity in protecting their clients from taxes in their native countries has led those clients to welcome the anonymity previously guaranteed by the Swiss banks, whose faces are now covered with the proverbial "egg" of public embarrassment. Some people even have threatened the life and safety of the whistle-blower.
Link this story to the European strikes in Spain, Germany and Ireland today where ordinary citizens are protesting their governments' attempts to reduce debt by various measures mostly directly at ordinary workers, and not directed at the banks who have failed their clients and we see a growing consciousness in the public arena that spells real trouble for the large financial interests on the continent.
Will that discontent, verging on civic disruption, move across the Atlantic to both Canada and the U.S. where large corporations and financial sector corporations especially, have betrayed their clients, most especially in the U.S. and profited through their addictive pursuit of personal and corporate greed?

Thanks and Farewell to Cito Gaston

By Charles Pascal, Toronto Star, September 29, 2010
There's something about Cito's reluctance regarding position power that makes him very special. Something about so many other “second-in-commands” who lust after being in charge, that doesn't always work out — in baseball, politics and just about every other kind of public or private organization.

When Cito took over, he seemed to have an instinctual understanding that leadership was about balance. He stayed away from the emotional highs and lows, understanding that 162 games was a marathon, not a sprint. He has treated players with respect, like great leaders do, adapting to the individual differences of those they lead.
He's been a remarkably fair leader and seems to understand that equity doesn't mean sameness, that, indeed, different people need different things from their leader.
But he's no patsy when it comes to addressing the tough stuff that arises from the ebb and flow of an occasional player's über ego, fuelled by the combo of money and testosterone. Cito would do quite well dealing with the challenges of the egos and unfulfilled ambitions of occasional members of the political caucuses across Canada.
Reluctant, modest, moderate and obviously has only to read his letter to the fans on taking the Blue Jays to the field for the last time today as Manager.
It was this Cito Gaston, the first black manager to win a World Series Championship, and to do it in back-to-back years who evokes the praise that is being heaped upon him. Who can not recall his quiet and temperate and steady hand, especially with all those massive ball-player ego's winning those two rings with and for his players, and for his fans.
His is the stuff of the kind of magnanimity that Lincoln demonstrates, as portrayed by Doris Kearns Goodwin in his Lincoln biography. When things seemed the toughest, and when others had defeated Lincoln, he would show up at their victory party, gracious and honourable and respectful and even congratulatory beyond the perfunctory to their astonishment. And who can forget that kind of magnanimity.
Canadians think of the U.S., often, as the brash, bold, arrogant and take-no-prisoners macho archetype of nations, only jammed right up against the 49th parallel making for an uncomfortable continental bed-mate. And then there are Lincoln and Gaston, both sons of the republic we are so loath to despise.
And their models of leadership, without paying intense regard for their policies, is what shines when all is said and done.
Canada will do almost anything to avoid being considered "American" in the stereotypical way. And yet we gobble up their entertainment, their sports spectacles, their political debates, their consumer products, their movies and television programs, their fast food adn their fancy cars. And we love it when Americans pay us the compliment of coming to our country to actually live, even though we know our's is only their adopted country.
As adoptive parents, Canada is a haven for these displaced native Americans. When there is a war with which they can't agree, we historially have welcomed them, and they have paid us back a hundred fold. When they disagree with us, we try to push back, but our heart isn't in it because we know they are not going away, and like a big brother, we also know that if we are in trouble, they will always be there for us.
So as Cito Gaston expresses his unqualified gratitude for his welcome and his life in his adopted city of Toronto, we also want to express our unqualified gratitude for his leadership and mentorship and example in our slightly less "neon" of communities. He certainly fit right in!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In Praise of and Thanks for Noam Chomsky

 Noam Chomsky

One does not have to listen very long to Noam Chomsky, emeritus professor of Linguistics at     
M.IT., in order to acertain whether one is a disciple or considers him anathema.
Count this scribe, proudly, in the former camp, while the "corporate" member of the family, a thirty-something daughter, considers him so repulsive that she refused to attend a lecture he gave at McMaster where she was taking a graduate degree in Labour Studies.
Appearing this morning on NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook, Chomsky, amid much "storm interference" surely the play of the Tea Party gods,  made some very perception-shaking observations.
First, there are some 48 candidates running for the Republican party in November's election, only one of whom (already defeated in his primary) considers global warming to be real.
The other 47 candidates reject categorically what the rest of the world considers "accepted and reasonable science" that the planet is warming through the intervention of human beings. (It is thereby dubbed an "anthropocentric"  phenomenon because it originates with humans.)
Consider the impact of that fact: that there is some certainty that a fair number of these people will be elected to the U.S. Congress and will likely work to block any attempt "by other more enlightened political leaders" like Obama and his administration, to address this very serious threat. As Chomsky puts it, "We can put off dealing with this to our grandchildren's generation, but we do so at our peril."
Next, when asked about his perceptions of Obama's presidency, he commented, after reviewing a piece he wrote in 2008 prior to the presidential election of that year in which he warned against being wowed by an illusion, that he was neither disappointed nor surprised, and that Obama "was and is a creature of the financial interests of this country."
Chomsky pointed to Obama's lieutenants, Larry Summers and Tim Geitner, along with former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, whose blinking prevented them from seeing the $8 billion housing bubble that was bursting in front of their eyes in 2006-7.
The financial melt-down has created extreme distress, palpable fear and extreme anger, for which we all need to be sympathetic according to Chomsky, because the middle class has lost most of its security, while a few at the top have become very wealthy. So he urges authentic sympathy, and respect for the distress of the middle class, but certainly not adherence to the Tea Party Candidates whose intellectual contribution is virtually empty and who provide some hint of the kind of popularity, if they were to find a charismatic leader, to the political conditions in Germany in the late 1920's and early 30's. Although Chomsky thinks the conditions are quite different, the analogy is not irrelevant.
Could the U.S. be sliding into a moment when some charismatic leader could take over the leadership of the Tea Party movement and utterly swamp the little rump of a boat that the mainstream Republican party has become, and ride into power either in the elections of 2010 or more likely 2012?
The anger and the distress are certainly present in large quantity; the perception of Obama that he has not solved everything is certainly present and growing both in the polls and in the media; the unemployment figures hover around 9-10% leaving millions wondering if they will be next to lose whatever job they might be clinging to. The media is glued to an exciting personality, almost as if their reporters have been reared in a "star-addicted" culture in the universities that best exemplify that culture, thereby reducing all reporting to a clash of personalities not of healthy and strong ideas.
There is a dramatic difference between the clash of personalities and the clash of ideas. And democracy functions best in a climate of the latter, certainly not the former. In fact, the danger of personality coming to dominate the political discourse is so great that it makes the contemplation of a charismatic "tyrant" all the more frightening.
In the light of serious political reporting, and its future, it is most gratifying to note that respected long-time career journalist, Howard Fineman has moved from Newsweek to The Huffington Post as senior political editor. He is glad to move to "where the action is" as he puts it, in the on-line world of journalism. He will continue his appearances on the MSNBC shows, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and Countdown with Keith Olbermann, thankfully.
A lawyer/journalist, Fineman's voice serves as a responsibile antidote to the dangers Chomsky raises.
And yet, Chomsky continues to point his ascerbic eye, intellect and wisdom squarely at the targets of vaccuity and duplicity and hypocrisy whenever and wherever he finds them.
Some of us can only dream of carrying his work on for the next few years on both sides of the 49th parallel.

Monday, September 27, 2010

National end Poverty? Never

By Louis Monsebraaten, Social Justice Reporter, Toronto Star, September 26, 2010
The Senate report, entitled: In from the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness, says a staggering 3.4 million Canadians are trapped in poverty by government social programs that are “substantially broken.”

Among the report's 74 recommendations is a call for Ottawa to set a goal of “poverty eradication” and to work with the provinces to create a national child-care system, a federal housing strategy and to ensure income support for people on welfare meets the poverty level.
The report also recommends developing a national income support program for the disabled, increasing the National Child Benefit to $5,000 by 2012 and boosting the Working Income Tax Benefit so those in low-wage jobs can escape poverty.
Whenever one hears about another initiative in Canada to "eradicate poverty" by the federal government, one is reminded of the unanimous bill passed, at the urging of then NDP leader Ed Broadbent, and only in the last few years has he noted his regret that nothing was ever accomplished.
Honourable intentions, lipservice, speak-easy words without real accountable action...and the costs of what we are not doing is far higher, one suspects, than really doing something like a guaranteed annual income for all Canadians. Canadians, on this issue, have been tinkerers, tweeking at the periphery of the core issues of poverty without really addressing those issues at their core. We prefer to "treat the symptoms" rather than eliminate the "disease."
It is like the old story about a man finding some children at the bottom of a waterfall who began furiously trying to haul them all out, when another came along and said, "I'm going to the top of the waterfall to see why they are falling in!" We prefer to work hard, like beavers actually, at the bottom of the waterfall, to climbing up the rocks to discover why they are falling in, so that we might prevent that.
Everyone knows that this is a system skewed to the powerful, to the rich, to those whose name and history bring them comforts, and education and healthy meals, and healthy lifestyle our attitudes, in our taxes, in our peacemeal "assistance" programs and in our detachment from the people who are obviously at the bottom of the income, education and health ladder.
It is as if there are pockets of third world Canadians among our communities, and because they are spread out, trying to hide themselves from the glare of the eyes of the "first world" who live at or near the top of the ladder, we are not obliged to extend a national, committed and non-patronizing hand "up."
Canadians hate whatever they designate as laziness, lack of ambition, and sloth. And we also believe, collectively, that if "they would only get up off their asses and get a job, they would not have to live like this!"
And that comletely denies the depth of their poverty...because it is a poverty of spirit, and a poverty of body, and a poverty of expectations, and a poverty of perceived options, and a poverty of family traditions and history, and a poverty of good food and good food preparation skills, and a poverty of good exercise awareness and a poverty of healthy friendships...and that would mean supportive friendships....
And the depth of this deprivation will not be turned around by a few meetings that tweek a few tax rules or add a few dollars to the"national child benefit."
Eliminate poverty...and enrich the life of the country in that direction, not only fiscally, because it would certainly accomplish that end but also socially and culturally. Such an accomplishment would reduce health care need and costs, and reduce the need for prisons, and reduce or eliminate the need for social assistance. But most importantly, it would dramatically alter the self-perception all Canadians have of our country for the better.
And it is an achievable goal. And it is not rocket-science.
And it will never receive the kind of attention it (and the people affected) deserve in my lifetime or in the lifetime of my grand children.
No one can be truly surprised by this report from The Star's Carol Goar less than one week from the date of the above report.
By Carol Goar, Toronto Star, October 1, 2010

They braced for a disappointment, but the brush-off was more callous than they anticipated.
This week, the government delivered its response to the Senate’s 2009 report, In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness.
It rejected every one of the report’s 74 recommendations. It ignored the senators’ evidence that Ottawa is spending $150 billion a year on social programs that merely perpetuate poverty. It concluded with these all-too-familiar words: “The best long-term strategy to fight poverty is the sustained employment of Canadians.”
The glimmer of hope that anti-poverty activists, people with disabilities and overburdened charities had nursed since last December when the Senate’s social affairs committee released its comprehensive plan to eradicate poverty, went out.
“The government has turned its back on low-income people in Canada,” said Campaign 2000, a national coalition of children’s advocates that has been working for 19 years to keep Parliament’s resolution to end child poverty by the year 2000 on the national agenda.
“The government seems unwilling to make any commitment to work with the provinces to develop a poverty elimination plan for Canadians,” said Citizens for Public Justice, a faith-based network of 1,500 people dedicated to creating a society in which everyone can live in dignity.
“What we got from the government of Canada was: Get a Job,” said a bitter Tony Dolan, who chairs the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, many of whose members can’t work.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Roadways: a lab for global training in collaboration?

With a spate of accidents involving cars and bicycles and their riders in Ottawa, the city is considering a more aggressive approach to structural changes in the lane design of city streets, creating a specific lane for cyclists, at least for one east-west cross-town corridor.
Associations representing cyclists are considering an education campaign to educate car-drivers and cyclists to the laws the etiquette and the dangers of cycling among the frenetic traffic patters of an urban metropolis.
My wife and I, while living in a much smaller and less frenetic (for the most part) city, and seeking to enjoy the pleasures of cycling, have taken to wearing an orange vest designed for construction workers for their safety. If we happen to get a little distance between us, each can easily see the other, and hopefully motorists can also see us.
This is another of the major transitions taking place in large and medium-size urban landscapes: people are using more bicycles for pleasure, for better health and for transportation to and from work and education centres.
What is not transitioning as quickly as the numbers of cyclists would warrant is the experience, and the caution and the attentiveness to the cyclist from motorists. Having had a century of  complete ownership of the roadways, motorists have not grown up with cyclists, and both their ubiquity and their fragility in the face of two or three tonnes of high-powered moving heavy metal.
Both cyclists and bikers (riders of motorcycles) are totally vulnerable to motorists and their driving habits. The culture among those who ride motorcycles is summed up: "Ride as if every other driver is out to kill you!" because that is the only way to stay relatively safe.
Bike Lanes on all city streets is one solution that would relieve some of the risks. Education campaigns, while voluntary, would likely enhance the awareness of motorists and cyclists to the potential dangers posed by each user of the city's roads. Even if they were compulsory for both cyclists and motorists, as a component for a driving license, there would still be occasions  for unexpected moves by members of both groups.
Enhanced, colourful clothing, either lime green or loud orange, would be a help, but that is not a permanent solution either.
Our culture has an unwritten and even unstated rule that goes something like this: the big are strong and the small are weak. It is a very male perspective. It starts when young boys are growing up and make their fathers and mothers proud of their "healthy" bodies through the appearance of their size and strength. It continues, unabated, throughout adult life, with the suburbs boasting 5000 square foot mega-homes built for the ego's of developers, real estate brokers, city politicians with a gleam for tax dollars dancing in their eyes, and, oh yes, also of upwardly mobile executives demonstrating their climb up the ladder of fiscal success.
While some cars are designed as smaller than the "hearses" of the 1950's, their power is nevertheless still more than enough to wipe out anyone riding a two-wheel vebicle, with or without a motor.
Long established habits die very hard, and driving habits are probably even harder to change than those of smokers or heavy drinkers whose individual health is threatened by their habit (or addiction).
In European cities, and in a few North American cities, the transit system includes public cycle rentals, making it possible for cyclists to rent in one location, and drop off in another. These bicycle stations look like parking holders for a couple of dozen bicycles, with or without attendants to conduct the business side of the transaction.
Energy costs, global warming, and better bicycles will all contribute to increased numbers of cyclists in all cities, and the phenomemon will continue around the calendar, including winter months. In large cities, bicycle courriers weave their way among the cars, trucks street-cars and busses daring their four-wheeled compatriots to cut them off.
However, the motorists hold the real keys to making the roads safer for two-wheeled vehicles and their riders. Responsibility for safe operation continues with the cyclists and the bikers, but those operating motor vehicles of the four-wheel variety have history working both for and against them. It works for them because they have had the free-run of those strips of ashphalt the make moving about more efficient in all cities; it works against them, because they are the ones who have to make the major adjustments as the numbers and the political power of those numbers demand more safe riding conditions. It is highly unlikely for city planners and politicians to create cycle lanes for all streets or even all major streets, given the costs and the economics. It is also unlikely that some streets would be used exlusively by cyclists, except for devliery vehicles, and safety vehicles like ambulances, garbage collection, police and fire vehicles.
And if anyone thinks changing a smoker's habit from use to abstinence is hard, when the dangers of smoking are so documented, imagine the difficulty any city, province or national government is going to have to change the way our roads are used, making it safe both for two and four-wheeled units to move in harmony, rather than in "angry and aggressive and offended and offensive" conflict.
And if that is not an adequate and loud metaphor for the need for collaboration everywhere in the economy, in the schools, in the workplace .....then I am hard pressed to find the reasons it isn't.
Co-operation and collaboration on city roads could be the benchmark, measured in reduced numbers of incidents/accidents/deaths/injuries, for cities to train all of us in the more healthy perspectives of sharing that we need to save the planet and to feed the starving and to heal the dying. Perhaps if we could come to a consciousness that includes "others" in our picture of both efficiency and safety on our roads, we would be more likely to ante up and make the necessary adjustments to the larger and even more pressing global needs of our fellow pilgrims on the planet and enhance our own chances of survival and new perspectives at the same time. Big cannot remain as the definition of power any longer, in all applications.
Are you listening, big corporate CEO's?

Canada shamelessly lobbies for UN Security Council Seat..too little, too late?

By Olivia Ward, Toronto Star, September 26, 2010
Will Ottawa emerge the winner?

On the plus side, Canada is the only non-European state in the running, which might attract “fairness” and anti-European votes. After a Moscow visit by Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, Russia declared itself on side, a hint that it might carry former Soviet allies. And Ottawa’s record for weathering the recession has won acclaim, while Portugal has foundered.
But Harper’s strongly pro-Israel policy has alienated Arab countries. And although there are claims of “secret agreements” of support from some African states, those squeezed out of Canadian aid will not be in the cheering section.
Small island states at risk of disappearing as the climate changes are unimpressed with the Harper government’s stance on global warming. And Ottawa’s failure to back overwhelmingly endorsed UN measures on water as a human right and aboriginal rights has also raised eyebrows.
It is time for Canada to listen to John Ralston Saul's observation that nonentities have inhabited the External Affairs Minister's Chair for too long. There was a time, (a phrase so unwelcome in today's frenetic and "now" and "trendy" vocabularly and culture) when people of the stature of Lester Bowles Pearson not only served as Minister of External Affairs, following his post as history instructor at the University of Toronto, but also won the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the creation of a Peace Keeping role for Canadian military personnel. Canada was a leader on the world stage then and a seat on the Security Council was almost a given.
Now after decades of disinterest, both in the governments of the day and more importantly, in the minds and hearts of the voters in Canada, in what happens at the U.N. and some considerable "bushifying" of Canadian stances on world issues like global warming, and foreign aid, including the failure to attain the goal set by that same Mr. Pearson, of .07% of GDP for the total of our foreign aid commitment, and the refusal to include abortion in it the latest assault on African women whose only hope is to secure a therapeutic abortion (a treatment available to Canadian women, albeit a target of the Harper neo-cons for elimination just like the gun registry).
But in a place where quid pro quo is business as usual, there’s no free lunch. “Canada won’t have an easy time,” said Matthew Lee of the Inner City Press, who has covered the UN for more than a decade. “It has a conservative government, and this isn’t a conservative place.” (From the Olivia Ward piece noted above.)
It is the Canadian government's short-sighted, micro management of the "water rights" issue that really is galling to this observer. Why in the name of all that is reasonable, equitable, fair, just and sensible would the Harper luddites refuse to sign on to the U.N. Declaration of Clean Water Access for all peoples in the world? As a step that might interfere with the nation's right to do with its water what it chooses, the declaration is a non-issue. It clearly states that national water rights will be respected. If the Harper gang envision massive sell-offs of water to serve another of the American addictions (as we have done with the tar-sands oil project becoming the largest supplier of oil to our southern neighbours, who categorically refuse to embrace cap and trade, or higher prices for gasoline for their insatiable internal combustion engines) in the event of another Republican sweep of congress, the Canadian people, one has to hope, stand ready to draw another line in the sand in opposition to such a move.
There is also little to justify the Canadian government's washing its hands on climate change and aboriginal rights, both now fully accepted as international issues of common concern among the community of nations. This is just another bit of evidence that Canada is out of step with the world, under the current government.
Last minute shmoozing, with private dinners, and billion-dollar bills for hosting the G8/G20 last summer, and a strong banking system thanks to nothing the Harper government has ever done to create that system....that may not be enough, this time, to secure Canada a seat in the "basement" where the Security Council holds its meetings, after the renovations to the U.N. structure in the age of terror attacks.
Perhaps, the signing of the F-35 fighter jet contract with Lockheed Martin was also seen as another short-sighted, quick-fix ploy to attract positive votes for this Security Council seat, but cow-towing to the Americans in the shadow of a decade of George Bush, before Obama has had time to restore the U.S. standing in the international community fully, is not likely to be seen as a kind of insurance policy for attracting votes today that it might have been decades ago in a far different geo-political environment.
The betting here is no better than 50-50 that Canada will gain that coveted seat, inspite of the years of outstanding work by Canadians like Stephen Lewis on behalf of the U.N. on the AIDS issue in Africa.
UPDATE....Canada withdraws from seeking Security Council Seat
By Canadian Press, in Toronto Star, October 12, 2010
Canada has abruptly pulled out of its battle with Portugal for the one remaining seat on the influential United Nations Security Council.

Canada’s UN Ambassador John McNee made the surprise announcement after a second round of balloting in which Portugal received 113 votes and Canada just 78, both short of the 128 votes required for victory.
Germany claimed the other available seat with 128 of 191 ballots cast. Portugal came second with 122 votes, while Canada collected 114.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Toronto Anglican Bishops issue rush-hour invitation to church

Regaled Anglican Bishops plead for more people in pews on Toronto street corners
By Curtis Rush, Toronto Star, September 23, 2010
Competition is what the Anglican bishops say is what has pushed them out into the streets to meet with people.

Bishop Philip Poole, who was stationed in Mississauga, said, “We’d be lying if we said that attendance is soaring and that all is well.”
Mostly, however, people are growing more secular and devoting less time to church, the bishops say.
“Competition is everywhere,” Johnston said. “The pace of life is a lot busier. We’re just hoping to make them stop and think.”
If last year’s event is any gauge, more people will be in the pews come Sunday.
After last year’s event, Johnston says Anglican churches in the Toronto diocese saw 1,800 more people coming up the church steps the following Sunday.
The bishops, however, said the objective is not just to get more business for their own churches. They say it’s to encourage people to get involved in their own houses of worship and put religion back into their lives.
Meeting with people, with a pamphlet and an "invitation" to come back to church is not "meeting with people." What it is, rather, is hawking your own organizational failures to meet the needs of people who dearly wanted to meet with you when they did attend, but you were all too busy with your "official meetings" and your "policy discussions" and your "sexual orientation training sessions" and your "retreats" and your "political correctness" as dogma.
I practiced active ministry in both the Anglican and Episcopal churches from 1991 through 2000 in both Canada and the U.S. and resigned over several issues including my own errors in judgement, none of them resolved, after repeated attempts on my part to open discussion, mediation, arbitration and dialogue. And what I found, amid a culture of female "take-over" and "male self-emasculation" were the following:
  •  bishops telling their priests to "fill the coffers and pews" as any CEO would direct his sales staff at General Motors, and
  • bishops declaring their diocesan vision of "10% more people and 15% more dollars" and
  • advisors telling their bishops not to attend large televised community prayer vigils at times of serious crises "because they were merely publicity stunts by the Romans" in the words of one Canon and
  • bishops refusing to attend ecumenical events featuring Archbishop Desmond Tutu in North America speaking to the youth of the area, and
  • Canons writing letters to their priests that all non-married priests must henceforth remain celibate, and
  • bishops hosting conferences about the ordination of gay and lesbian priests, only to cover their own back sides because they were unalterably opposed to such a step themselves, and
  • treasurers acting as gate keepers through their tight-fisted clenching control of the purse strings, without a thought to the kind of ministry their neighbourhood needed and
  • parishes sitting on trust funds of half-a-million to one million-plus dollars, while ignoring the legitimate needs of the people in their neighbourhood, with impunity
  • Archdeacon sycophants to their bishop superiors, while all the time bemoaning their own failure to achieve the election to that office
  • and clergy refusing to vote for peers, candidates for Bishop, whom they knew would set standards and would enforce those standards, preferring more "controllable" or as they would put it, more "flexible" candidates whom they knew they could control and
  • female priests demanding changes to the canons without regard to the individual responsibilty of women for their own decisions, as if the church were the protector of those women and
  • literal interpretations of scripture being elevated to "gospel" and ultimate truth status
  • a complete lack of comprehension and use of the language of poetry by both clergy and laity
  • a formal, frozen attitude between and among parishoners, broken only with the most assertive training in community building and care of one another especially in times of personal crisis and loss
  • a culture of "insiders" who call themselves cradle Anglicans and outsiders who came into the church after beginning life in a different or no church
  • a culture of marriage breakdown and alcoholism among some clergy covered by the mask of the clerical collar, silence and whispered rumours
  • a culture of corporate "numbers counting and accounting" and authority that supercedes pastoral ministry
  • an complete absence of due process for the resolution of difficult situations
  • training in "holy hand-holding" without any training in conflict resolution for priests
  • training in academic exegesis and history and systematic theology without a corresponding time on pastoral education, except for those who made it their personal choice, at considerable expense and fatigue
  • a culture of fundamentalists' fear, loathing and contempt of those espousing a liberal theology, as I was
  • active removal of clergy by power-hungry laity (self-proclaimed "friends of the bishop") whose need for control and power subverted the will of the parish
  • and above all a complacency that "ours is the Right Religion" above all others, without a clear scholarly articulation of just what that "faith" represents by scholars in the church
There is no surprise that bishops have come to this, and I urge any who encounter their mitred holy leaders to confront them with real questions, so that they, the bishops, might actually learn to "LISTEN"....and that might begin a process of actually MEETING with people...and that cannot be accomplished in a stampede to or from the transit system in a huge metropolis.

Ignatieff one step closer to "leadership" gravitas

By Jim Travers, Toronto Star, September 23, 2010
With decisive help from Jack Layton’s NDP, Liberals rescued the registry from Conservatives last night by narrowly winning a weak argument. Backed by gun crime victims, police chiefs and metropolitan voters, Michael Ignatieff forced a nervous caucus to accept that, on balance, saving the registry Jean Chretien introduced in 1995 is worth the rural political risks.
For Michael Ignatieff, the vote was partly about whether he could command the leadership moral force to insist that his members of parliament accept the discipline that he sought, while demonstrating that Liberal ideas still have value, even if the last fifteen years of the registry have been both costly and somewhat ineffective. His hand is different than Jack Layton's. Whereas Layton could permit members to vote their conscience, hoping that enough of them would "see the light" and vote to retain the registry, Ignatieff could not afford that luxury.
When asked, as he was more than once, "Will all your members show up to vote with the party to continue the registry (and defeat the private members bill that would scrap it)?" he could and did answer, "Yes!"
And then he delivered!
And it is in the delivery that his leadership actually began!
This was one small step for a man, and one giant step for the party.
Recall it was the Liberal party, under Ignatieff's leadership that called for a "coalition if necessary but not necessarily a coalition" in late 2009, and then the idea withered on the vine before it could become incarnate.
Also recall, it was the Liberal party who suffered serious electoral set backs because of the sponsorship scandal and as a consequence of the conservative character assassination of Stephane Dion's person and leaderhip.
Harper's single most important political "credo" is that he wants to destroy the Liberal party forever and will do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal.
A bus tour does not a leader make. A single vote demonstrating party discipline does not a Prime Minister make. However each is a step up the mountain, closer to establishing the kind of credibility, gravitas and political savoir-faire necessary to begin to speak publicly of a Liberal vision to which both Mr. Ignatieff and his foot soldiers can commit, during an election campaign and subsequently, should they win the election.
(There is also the appearance of "working together" with the NDP should an election produce a minority parliament with a Liberal Prime Minister.)
In securing the gun registry, Ignatieff also demonstrates his capacity to narrow the divide between urban and rural, a divide that Harper seeks to exploit. While there are inequities that need to be fixed in the registry, the larger argument for a Canadian point of view, on any single issue, through an open commons vote, signals something for which Canadians yearn...strength at the centre, when all about us is flying off the rails.
It is a slow process, even with instant communication, in a 24-7 cyber world, to build the kind of respect, confidence and credibility in a political world deeply embedded in a culture of whining, bitching and fragmentation and Ignatieff shows signs that 'he gets it'....about time!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Denver Bronco Receiver: Dead by Suicide, alone

Kenny McKinley
From The Huffington Post, September 21, 2010 ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley, who is thought to have killed himself with a gunshot to the head, had made previous statements about committing suicide, according to a sheriff's investigative report released Tuesday.
On the injured reserve list because of a knee injury suffered early in training camp, McKinley missed both the game and his teammates. And, as we all know, and most psychiatrists will confirm, men in organizations like the military and sports teams are reluctant to speak to anyone about mental or emotional difficulties because to do so would be considered, in the male mythology, as weakness.
And to be "weak" or a "wimp" as a male is worse than dropping a winning touchdown pass in the last second of the Super Bowl. It is the mark of having reached the bottom. It is a sign that you are no longer a real man.
And, whatever men may say, there is no fate worse than not to be considered a real man.
And real men are not supposed to cry, certainly not in public.
And real men are not supposed to have any problems, again, certainly not in public.
And real men are not supposed to be lonely, or depressed, or disappointed or frustrated, and certainly not in public.
And real men are not supposed to express those feelings of loneliness, depression, disappointment or frustration because to do so would be a sign of being "unbalanced" or "unstable" or "not reliable" or "untrustworthy."
For males to learn the words for their emotions, (and the experts say that male children have repressed all emotions except anger by the time they reach nine years of age) and find the capacity to use those words in honest, mature and open (not defensive) manner would truly be a revolution long overdue.
As one family practitioner put it, when reminded that men can and do learn the vocabulary for their emotions, "Oh yes, but women do it so much better!"
As if in the realm of the emotions, women are the superior gender. It is true that women are not afraid of their emotions, and that they seek comfort and solace from their "sisters" whereas men slink off into a bar, or a corner to heal their emotional wounds, because there is no place for them to surface and still retain their respectability. It is also true that women experience their emotions as a matter-of-fact of daily life, and those emotions guide their responses.
Men, on the other hand, reject their own emotions and reject the show of emotions as part of the daily lives of men and women, whether at work, at play or at home. It is as if such emotions are dangerous, and men, in their proud denial, only make the dangers of their own emotions greater through their denial. When denied, those emotions take on a kind of "dark side" making them more restless, more scattered and more unpredictable.
And there is not now, and never has been, a man alive who has not needed, and failed to seek, the kind of emotional support that would have, perhaps, found other options for and with Kenny McKinley, and for all the other men whose lives have been terminated by their own hands, unnecessarily, but for the culture of denial and fear of the very emotions that give those men the capacity to experience their lives in a more rich and fulfilled way.
Kenny McKinley leaves a son now without a father, because, in part, he could not permit his own emotions their fair voice. Joking in the locker room, for which he will be remembered by his teammates, was merely a mask for his broken heart. And all of us need to be able to discern the difference between the mask and the reality of another's heart, especially of those near and dear to us.
Here is a response from a female reader:
Random thoughts about both genders suffering from looking responsible and acceptable with stoicism:

The preferred mask often presented in public by both men and women is one painted with positive words, positive behavior, and positive emotions. When certain emotions are perceived only as darkly negative, such as anger, both men and women reduce their capacity to understand the cause of their emotions and in turn, relationships become crippled because no one has language to articulate what is really going on inside in safety and trust. To be able to discern the differences between mask and reality, macho-positive-all-action-no-reflection-no talking-no emoting-buck-up responses within both genders will need to be held at bay while exploring the vulnerable side that says John Powell put it in his small but effective book, "Why I don't tell you who I am"... "If I tell you who I am you might reject me and that is all I have."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Former jihadist petitions bin Laden to stop fighting!

Exerpt from Letter to Osama bin Laden by Noman Benotman, from the Quillian website, September 21, 2010
In light of all these points, I recommend that al-Qaeda announce a unilateral halt to its military operations for a period of six months, for the following three purposes:
- To take a step back from fighting to study and consider the organization’s vision, approach and strategy; for instance by attempting to answer the following questions: How would a suspension of al-Qaeda’s military activity affect Islam and Muslims around the world? Will it hurt their interests or will it allow them to make greater progress towards achieving peace and the freedom to practice and preach their religion? What would Islam lose if al-Qaeda were to end its violence?
- To explore public opinion in Muslim communities around the world and their position vis- à-vis al-Qaeda, in terms of support or rejection on both the ideological and operational levels.
- To seek the guidance of those scholars such as Sheikh Salman al-Auda who have rejected your approach and concept of jihad, as well as others who are ‘accepted as speaking with the voice of the
Ummah’ (Talaqqathum al-umma bil qabul).
I believe that adopting this strategy will also be the first step towards ending the occupation of Afghanistan and establishing peace and security in the region.
In urging you to halt your violence and re-consider your aims and strategy, I believe I am merely expressing the views of the vast majority of Muslims who wish to see their religion regain the respect it has lost and who long to carry the name of “Muslim” with pride.
In peace,
Abu Muhammed Al-Libi
Noman Benotman
10 September 2010
1 Shawwal 1431 AH
There words, if they succeed in their purpose, could do much to restore the world to a minimal peace, as it was prior to September 11, 2001.
Certainly, all the U.S. bombs, and all the hundreds of thousands of ISAF fighting forces have not moved the Al Qaeda leadership to change their view of their apocalyptic role in converting the world to Islam through outright force of arms.
One is prompted to recall the wisdom of Karen Armstrong's book, The Case for God, in which she points out that extremists of any faith persuasion seem to move to a more stringent and defensive position whenever they are attacked. Fear always grows exponentially in the face of more threat.
It is a point of both wisdom and fact that the American government, especially under George W. Bush, was unwilling even to consider, because of their embedded and unshakeable motive of revenge on behalf of the American people for the attacks of 9/11.
Revenge, even the outrageous revenge of a crack-pot so-called christian "pastor" threatening to burn the Qur'an in Gainesville Florida, is always a regressive, unproductive and venal act. It demonstrates only the bankruptcy of the perpetrator, and the complicity and co-dependence of the organization, even the government or the church or any group that supports its enactment.
And religion seems to be a warm, fertile incubator for revenge, and that includes all religions. In the name of God (however that figure may be defined) acts of revenge, vengeance, hostility and punishment have been inflicted by sometimes a few on a single "outcast" and sometimes by more on larger groups whose actions, beliefs and attitudes were not in compliance with those of the perpetrators.
We of all faith persuasions, and those of no faith persuasion, hope (and pray) that the words of Mr. Benotman will penetrate both the consciousness and the unconscious mind of Osama bin Laden, and that such penetration will occur in short order rather than over a longer, more tragic period of time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Time for an Election, Mr. Ignatieff

By Harroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, September 19, 2010

King Stephen wants his orders obeyed. Those who don’t are fired, transferred or demonized. Or they quit. The list is long:
Linda Keene, nuclear regulator. Bernard Shapiro, ethics commissioner. Peter Tinsley, military police complaints commissioner. Kevin Page, parliamentary budget officer. Richard Colvin, the diplomat who exposed the Afghan detainee abuse. Paul Kennedy, RCMP watchdog. Pat Stogran, veterans’ ombudsman. Marty Cheliak of the RCMP and the police chiefs from across Canada, who both backed the gun registry. Remy Beauregard, head of Rights and Democracy, who died of a heart attack after being hounded into line.
Nor does Harper change his mind easily, leaving his ministers to justify the unjustifiable: Stockwell Day to rationalize $9 billion for jails for nonexistent inmates from unreported crimes; Peter Mackay $16 billion for fighter jets for phantom enemies (“the F-35 will allow us to see threats before they see us”); and Tony Clement $30 million extra on a new census that would be worse than what we have.
And there was Michael Ignatieff, last night, speaking with Peter Mansbridge about the "enough is enough" phrase of his own choosing, and not quite saying that it is time for an reminding his host that he is one of three opposition leaders.
Is he leaving it to his listeners to make the call? Is he wandering around in his own mind about how to induce a confidence vote to bring the government down? Is he already putting out those necessary emmisaries to the other party leaders to bring about the needed number of votes to achieve the inevitable? Is he waiting until the party coffers have been filled completely, so that the Liberals can run an effective campaign?
As Mansbridge wondered, "Are you waiting for all the stars  to be aligned in your favour before making the decision?" In other words, is he waiting for the perfect moment in order to make the call?
And in politics, while there are a few "perfect storms," it is really the job of the leader of the opposition to build enough public trust in his/her judgement that if and when he calls for the government's overthrow, the public is in agreement and the government falls and an election ensues...and if the case can be and is made, the opposition forms the next government.
Clearly, whatever it takes, in a situation requiring clear, unequivocal thinking, judgement and leadership, the country needs a new government and the Liberals are the country's single best hope for that change. (That is not to say the Layton NDP is not competent, only to note the obvious that Candians are not likely to move from a "conservative" minority to an NDP minority, let alone an NDP majority.)
And this situation requires not merely a change in the leadership of the conservative majority, as the party hacks might like to speculate, and an attempt to make that change prior to permitting a vote in the house of commons that would, in their mind, bring about the fall of the government.
This government is defined in the public mind as the government of Stephen Harper, and all those who signed on to serve in his cabinet are now tarred with the brush of his choosing, and the public has come to see that brush as painting them all with a "black" seemingly unredeemable and also non-removeable terminality.
Like Mike Harris in Ontario, he makes all the decisions; his face is the face of the government; his decisions are the legacy of his place in history, and all those minions who serve at his pleasure do so knowingly, faced now with the prospect of falling with him on his sword. And certainly his sword is large enough for them all to find a place on it, given the list of credible, intelligent, responsible and now M.I.A. public servants whose careers have been terminated by that very sword.
And if Mr Ignatieff does not have the stuff needed to bring the government down, by selecting both the issue and the arguments that would persuade one other party leader (and really only one is necessary), and if the conservatives, with their huge war chest, do their usual character assassination of Mr. Ignatieff, as they did so successfully with Stephane Dion before him, and if the government persists in self-destructive decisions that are also not in the best interest of the country...then we will all know that, as some respectable historians have observed in the past, the country is virtually ungovernable...and that we have not produced the leadership necessary to continue a long and honourable history of "muddling through" (as Arthur Lower put it).
Perhaps, "muddling through" is no longer acceptable as the only option; perhaps now we need some clarity of national purpose, not merely clarity in the Party Quebecois' question positing separation. Perhaps some clarity, coming as it must from the courage of our political leaders, would be a welcome sign of strength and of leadership and of a new direction for the country.
And Mr. Ignatieff has captured the spirit and mood of the country in his assertion that he can not see a combat role for Canadian forces after 2011 in Afghanistan...because enough national blood has been shed in an honourable cause, conducted honourably by Canadian forces and their leaders, in coalition with other forces under ISAF. Maybe that is a sign of his capacity to capture the spirit and mood of the country in our need for replacing Harper and his totally insensitive, uncompassionate and arrogant government.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Premature Obituary (PO) for Democrats in November vote

By Mitch Potter, Toronto Star, September 17, 2010

Yet one highly placed source familiar with the finer points of Canada-U.S. relations told the Star that a Republican resurgence may very well ease Ottawa’s battles on two key fronts — trade and energy.
“The whole Buy American impulse could actually become less of a problem as Congress shifts to the right,” the source said, speaking on background. “If we see a critical mass of Republicans in the House, the conversation can shift away from the Democratic Rust Belt mantra of job protectionism to getting out of the way and letting business do its thing. That would make it much easier for Ottawa’s argument that our integrated economies create jobs on both sides of the border.”
On energy — which more than ever is the focus of Ottawa’s lobbying efforts in Washington as the anti-oil sands movement gathers momentum — it’s a foregone conclusion that Team Obama’s efforts toward a single epic climate bill now are dead.
Short-term political gain, in the form of increased respect for and sales from the tar sands, making the Canadian dollar even more embedded as a petro-dollar, and increased sales of products to the U.S. economy is not in the Canadian long-term interest at all. We do not want a more fully integrated economy with the U.S. and the Canadian government's position on global warming and climate change is aardvaarkian in the extreme.
While we all know that some $2 billion in trade already flows across the 49th parallel, most of it going south, and this is not a complaint about those figures, this "Washington insider" take on the upcoming elections in the U.S., obviously from a Republican source, is more an indication of the kind of short-term thinking and reporting that characterizes much of today's political discourse and reporting.
Long-term, the tar sands is not a good project for either Canada or the U.S. although, in the short term, there are some transitional advantages to both countries. In Canada, there is the obvious fact that we are the largest supplier of fossil fuels to the U.S., and that is both short-term "good news" and long-term "bad" news for Canada. As the U.S. transitions away from dependence on fossil fuels, and the quicker the better, such sales will no longer be sustainable. And in that instance both countries will, hopefully, have made the long overdue transition to renewable fuels.
With respect to increased sales of manufactured products to the U.S., there is certainly no guarantee that Republicans will be more "global" in their approach to imports than Democrats, especially when, in the medium and longer term, the current policies including infra-structure stimulus and tax-breaks to innovative business ventures will prove both viable and worthy of congressional support, even if controlled by Republicans.
But let's not write the obituary of the Democrats in the November elections just yet.
The Tea Party wins this week do not spell sweet for Republicans, since, as one caller to NPR's On Point yesterday put it, "The Republicans may well be swallowed up by the Tea Party, an indivious collection of intellectually empty and socially irresponsible organizers and candidates who, while providing primary focus and target for American frustration, will not be able to govern, if elected, and more likely will not be electable when the voters see what they offer, in comparison with what the Democrats under Obama have already accomplished in a toxic, hostile political environment.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pass Bill C-440, and accept U.S. Military who opposed Iraq war.

By Colin Perkel, Canadian Press, in the Toronto Star, September 17, 2010
The federal government has maintained the U.S. military is a volunteer defence force, in contrast to the forced draft that many young Americans faced in the Vietnam War era.

Still, the House of Commons, in a non-binding motion, called on the government in 2007 to allow those who refused to serve in Iraq on conscientious grounds to remain in Canada.
Bill C-440, currently before the Commons, would force the government to allow the deserting soldiers to apply for permanent residence in Canada.
These lines are from a story about Michael Moore, famed liberal film-maker who was speaking at the Toronto International Film Festival about Canada's refusal to grant amnesty to American military personnel who disagreed with the Iraq war.
The argument that the U.S.military "is a volunteer defence force" rather than a "drafted force" as was the case during the VietNam war is a distinction without a difference, especially since our country did not enter that war and we consider it one of our proudest moments, and one of the most honourable legacies of then Prime Minister Jean Chretien that Canada did not join the fight.
Think, for a moment, about the hundreds of thousands of "voluntary" recruits who enlisted in the U.S. military in the years prior to the 2003 declaration of war on Iraq. They did not envision, nor could they have imagined, that they would be called upon to fight in a war that was without precedent in its design as a pre-emptive strike against a country that posed no danger of attack on the U.S., in its presentation to the American people, based as it was on lies told over and over by the administration about the existence of weapons of mass destruction, and in its scope, as only in 2010 are combat personnel being removed from that country. Some of the personnel have served two or three deployments to the Iraq war theatre.
Yesterday in the Huffington Post, a story by Greg Mitchell depicted the sad tale of one American army recruit, a female translator who was assigned to the interrogation of prisoners, who took her own life partly as a consequence of her abhorence at the tactics that were being used in the interrogation process. The story appears because September 15 was the anniversary of her death the story of which has still not been officially disclosed to her parents in Oklahoma.
The Canadian government should pass bill C-440, as a sign of our national commitment to those men and women who refused to follow orders, after having enlisted in a war that will besmirtch the global reputation of the United States for at least the next century, came to this country as conscientious objectors, in a courageous move of non-violence, and even it could legitimately be argued, in a move of honourable and legitimate protest against unnecessary violence, bloodshed and death, both of American military personnel and of Iraqi men, women and children in a war that should never have been declared or fought.
In fact, so strong were the arguments against this war that the current sitting president succeeded in becoming the Democractic candidate for president, over his then rival Hillary Clinton, largely because of his clear, unequivocal and early opposition to that war in Iraq.
Canada, here is another opportunity to declare our unique sovereignty in a courageous, honourable piece of legislation, which, although late, is nevertheless still worthy of the Canadian people and our government.
Michael Moore is right; we should be ashamed of how we have treated these men and women. We ought to be honoured to receive, accept and integrate them into our national life, and we should do it with thanks, in humble gratitude.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No fighter jets, not now and not this way!

No, Mr. Harper! You do not make the rules!
And the government's statement today, according to CBC's The National, that "the deal is done" is worthy of a federal election. Canadians do not want to spend this money on fighter jets, not now, and we hope, not ever!
This government must not be permitted, not by the skin of our nationally "chinny chin chin" to purchase those 65 F35 Fighter Jets, at a purchase price of $9 billion with a service contract ballooning the purchase to $16 billion by reasonable estimates.
There is no war, especially with the Russians, even over the Arctic. And your "Wag the Dog" phony attempt to demonstrate there is danger, when the Russians were conducting normal manoeuvres by flying over the Arctic, does nothing to enhance the credibility of your argument nor the integrity of your government. And there is no support in Canada for statements made today in Moscow by Foreign Affairs Minister Canon that Canada will defend (presumably by force) her sovereignty over the underwater mountain range for which Russia also claims sovereignty.
There is no proof that this, or any other fighter jet, is being purchased at "fair market value" because the purchase was not even tendered. And long-time procurement experts contend that such a move would be regressive in Canada's purchasing development.
And to watch the fanfare of cabinet ministers, almost a Cecil B. DeMille production, with flags for potential jobs through tenders from various suppliers across the country jumping off the screen in the committee room where the purchase was being "questioned" by the opposition, was an insult to the intelligence of the Canadian people. One has to wonder just how insulted the members of the parliament from the opposition parties were by the charade.
No war, no tender, no real initiative for the purchase from the military except from one or two retired personnel, and a budget debt and deficit that would be staggering, if not eclipsed by the U.S. fiscal performance...and even parliament does not get the opportunity to formally debate the purchase, if one day of hearings is all it takes to "ram" the move through, presumably by an already signed contract with Lockheed Martin of the U.S., the cost of extrication from which probably is astronomical...and the Canadian people are supposed to lie down and calmly wait for this Harper steamroller to roll over our body politic like a humvie over the deserts of Afghanistan.
Well, Mr. Harper, this is a verbal, prosaic IED, and improvised explosive device, which your humvie has detonated...and with any kind of luck, it will take more than medics to revive your government after the shrapnel of its words, thoughts, arguments and passion have taken their toll on your ministers and your PMO.
You deserve defeat; you deserve defeat in resounding terms, so that the echoes are heard down the decades remaining in the tweny-first century. And I will petition every Canadian, through every means at my disposal to bring the full weight of our collective voices raining down on your arrogant, phony and pig-headed decision.

Majority for Liberals not off table

Chantal Hebert, Toronto Star, September 15, 2010
Over the past few weeks, Harper has been laying out the case for a majority government, arguing that a possible alternative would be an unpredictable Bloc-supported Liberal/NDP coalition.
The Canadian voter must not be seduced by the Prime Minister into falling into the trap of his picture.
To speculate that the only or the primary option to a Conservative majority in the next election is a coalition in which the Bloc is a participant is a bogey-man that plays to the fears of Canada outside Quebec.
In Opposition, Harper was happy to align with the Bloc, if necessary.
In government, he paints a spectre of "separatists participating in the setting of policy" in order to cast a shadow over a potential vote for the other three parties.
As a fervent Canadian nationalist, I would much prefer a coalition of the three parties to a majority Conservative government under Harper.
Also, the option of a Liberal majority, while remote, is certainly not unthinkable.
Ignatieff needs to be more clear in his articulation of important policy options. He has said his government, and his party would reject a tax cut for corporations. However, in an interview with Peter Mansbridge of CBC's The National, yesterday, he would not rule out cancelling the $16 billion, untendered contract for the F-35 figher jets. "We will take a long hard look at it" while pointing out that the Conservatives could not answer three basic questions: Do we need this specific plane? Did we get fair value, since the contract was untendered? And can we afford it in this tight economic squeeze?
That is not the same as Jean Chretien's memorable, "We are going to cancel the contract for the helicopters!"
before taking power in the 1990's.
Nuancing his options, to protect his flanks, and to preserve his integrity....not an option any more. He is the leader of a potential national government party. He must demonstrate his capacity both for nuance and for decision-making. And in the world of instant mistakes, magnified out of all proportion, it is perhaps reasonable that an academic would choose the lower road, in order not to offend any part of his constitutency.
Nevertheless, there are defining issues for a neophyte political leader, especially in a time when Harper is willing to pontificate, "I make the rules!"
We want subtlety, and nuance and careful attention to both the fine points and to the big picture. It is now Ignatieff's time to paint some broad brush strokes, so that the average voter can grasp his "mettle" and begin to have confidence not only in his warm fuzzy personality, but also in his capacity to articulate specifics in his national vision.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Re-focussing the health care equations

The OECD ( The Organization of Economic Development) based on Paris has reported that Canada, while having stable "conservative" banks, is facing a crisis in its health care budget and recommends that with the date for renegotiating the terms of the pact between the federal and provincial governments looming in 2014, it is time to change the way the system operates.
They are recommending the introduction of both co-pay and greater participation by the private (for profit)system, in order to create increased competition as two ways to help fund the health care for a bulging number of senior citizens where a large proportion of health care dollars are spent.
First, the co-pay. It is a matter of certain national pride that no Canadian "pays a cent" directly for a visit to the doctor. Is there statistical evidence that because we do not pay, and do not know the specific cost of the specific care, the patients abuse the system? Perhaps.
Could Canada come to accept a co-payment with each doctor visit? Probably.
Could Canada come to accept the provision of care from the private sector? Probably.
Are we letting perfection be or become an enemy of the good? In some cases, there is some evidence that this may be our "speck in our national eye" while we decry the private insurance company provisions of care (the plank in their eye) "American" way of doing things, in our grasping at national pride.
However a far greater correction in the funding of the system would come from changing the way doctors bill the system (per patient visit). When the system is based on the frequency of visits, the system pays on the basis of "sickness" or "illness" and not wellness.
Why can we not create a new equation to measure the effectiveness of a doctor's preventive interventions and measure the overall health and wellness of the patients in his/her care? How many patients under a doctor's care lost weight, stopped smoking, ate healthier diets, exercised more, joined supportive and creative activities, wrote books (or even blogs) and thereby at least theoretically, enhanced their lifestyle and reduced their dependence on the national health care system?
What are the terms of a social contract with those of us above sixty, for example, that would assure us of access to modest, appropriate, quality care as we age, without bankrupting our childrens' and our grandchildrens'  access to the same quality of care, when needed? That is a social contract which requires the detailed attention, research and debate initiated, hopefully, by all political parties worthy of the name "national party" prior to the next election, in order for medical practitioners and patients and health care planners to be able to adjust to the new realities post 2014.
And in that new social contract, personal responsibility must be an integral "x" factor to be included in the equation.
Individual and family responsibilty for health, wellness and well-being are not something we can either take for granted, nor afford not to include in the new cost and pay equations.
Smokers, heavy drinkers, abusers of non-prescription drugs, the un-and underemployed....many are suffering from high levels of stress and many of those stressors are exacerbated by the conditions of their employment, but the conditions of the market place which places boundless pressures to "extend" our own credit beyond our capacity to sustain such debt.
But, will there be a critical examination of the underlying structure of individual and family life-style as part of the re-creation of the health care funding formula? One has to doubt such "linking of the dots" in a society that prefers "specialization" and separate files for every public issue.
It is our collective acceptance of this separation of issues into disconnected files, like the separation of the various "internal systems" in the body (neural, digestive, reproductive, breathing, skeletal, psychiatric etc.) without a co-ordinating dot-linking doctor to put the pieces together in one template for each individual that may have assisted the formal training of doctors but certainly complicates our treatment, and imposes additional and unnecessary costs on the system. However, that system of dividing the parts from the centre or the core, misses some very fundamental and necessary each system is impacting the whole person.
It is the whole person that the health care system must address...and equations to strive to reach the inclusion of that "entity" in the calculations are neither evident in the public mind, nor seemingly contemplated by those making the recommendations and doing the research.
There is also far too much focus on the economics, the financial models available, and not enough focus on the best, most balanced and most effective premises, principals and ethical insights integral to our national health goals.
Here is a very welcome postscript from the meeting of Health Ministers.
By Joanna Smith, Toronto Star, September 15, 2010
ST. JOHN’S, N.L.—The federal health minister says the solution to the soaring costs of health care in this country is to help make sure people avoid getting injured or sick in the first place.

“If we are going to sustain health care in the long-term in Canada, we need to put some energy into . . . childhood obesity and start dealing with preventable illnesses,” Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said following her annual meeting with her provincial and territorial counterparts in St. John’s, N.L. on Tuesday.
“If you look at the chronic conditions and illnesses in Canada, many of those are preventable, which are going to be causing us a huge strain on our health care system if we do not start addressing them now.”
The health ministers signed a declaration agreeing to make prevention a priority in the battle to guarantee the sustainability of the health care system.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Tresor Publique Arena" or "Arena du Porc" for Quebec City?

With Quebec Premier Jean Charest's commitment to fund 45% of the proposed costs of a new state-of-the-art arena staring him in the face, along with the ambition of his friend, Pierre Karl Peladeau, Quebecor CEO to head the proposed NHL franchise, (he also wants to bring a Fox-friendly, conservative-friendly television network to Canada)  also staring him in the face, Stephen Harper, the current Prime Minister of Canada is about to commit some $200 million public dollars to the arena project, in a blatant purchase of the votes from the Quebec electorate in the next election. (Is there a case of conflict of interest that might be considered here, given the close connection between Quebecor and the PMO?)
Reports abound that the five Conservative MP's from the city will abandon their political party if the funds are not forthcoming; the Mayor of Quebec city is reported to have set his legacy sights on the erection of the new facility and vows political revenge if the federal funds are not available.
And yet, the feasibility studies for the revenue viability of the project work only after all construction costs have come out of public funds, some provincial and the rest federal. There is no private commitment of capital for the project.
Talk about porking-the-barrel of electioneering!
In the Canadian hockey-crazed cultural context, there are few people who do not wish to see more NHL teams north of the 49th parallel; however, if this were to become "feasible" in the eyes of the PM, the rest of the country's several mid-sized cities would have a legitimate claim to federal funds for new arenas, based on the Quebec city precedent.
Naturally, the opposition parties are urging Harper to move ahead with the federal commitment to the project. They would then be able to paint him with the "pork-barrel" label, to the accompaniment of large doses of print and electronic headlines and news stories throughout the province supporting their charge. On the other hand, would the media in Quebec perhaps welcome the monies?
And we are told that this is an intelligent man (Harper) who is above "old-style" bag-men politics, scorning the Liberals for their sponsorship scandal....and yet, the only real difference between their sloppy and pitiful envelops of cash in restaurants for political hacks and the federal funding of this project is that this one will presumably involve a formal cheque in the name of the people of Canada to the City of Quebec (and thereby to the many construction companies and workers in that province).
And we also all know there is not another city in Canada that would be elegible for such largesse, especially at a time when there are no funds for medical treatment of Canadian veterans, and no monies for extended EI benefits (just this week cut back by 5 weeks) and reduced funds for health care, and no funds for housing for the homeless, and no funds to alleviate child poverty adn no funds for clean water for First Nations people.
So, go ahead, Mr. Prime Minister, and pledge your government's support for the outstanding 55% of the costs of the Quebec arena and watch the people of this country formally and fully acknowledge that your hands are just as filthy as all the other politicians who have tried to "buy" their own election with Quebec voters using the funds forked over by hard-working Canadians from all ten provinces and three territories. Of course, you will argue that it was economic and cultural development that prompted your decision if you proceed.
And we will all know what a sham that argument really is!
We have memories that recall the extensive cost overruns for the Montreal World's Fair, and the Olympics and we are not nearly as amenable to this prospective decision as we might have been then.
Fooled once, shame on you! Fooled twice, shame on me! Only we have lost count of the real number!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Say "No" to stripping lakes of enviro-protections

From the Council of Canadians website, September 9, 2010
The Council of Canadians and MiningWatch Canada delivered almost 15,000 petitions against Schedule 2 to the Confederation Block where Environment Minister Jim Prentice has his Parliament Hill office this week. The delivery was made in advance of a federal Cabinet decision on the future of Teztin Biny (Fish Lake), a freshwater lake that is facing the threat of destruction under Schedule 2.

Schedule 2 is a loophole in the Metal Mining Effluent Regulation (MMER) of the federal Fisheries Act that allows metal mining corporations to use lakes and rivers as toxic dumpsites. Once added to Schedule 2, healthy freshwater lakes lose all environmental protections.
The federal government is expected to announce its decision on Taseko Mines Limited’s proposed “Prosperity Mine” project as early as Friday September 10. Located in British Columbia, southwest of Williams Lake, the project calls for an open gold and copper mine in the heart of Tsilhqot'in First Nations territory. While the province approved the proposal, a federal review panel rejected it last month saying it would have “significant adverse environmental effect and significant cumulative impact on fish and bear population and habitat around Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), Fish Creek and Little Fish Lake.” Generations of the Tsilhqot'in people have opposed the project, which would jeopardize a sacred site of great cultural and historic significance. The lake and its surroundings have been an important source of food security for the Tsilhqot’in who have lived, fished and hunted in the area for thousands of years.
In case you might think that democracy-in-action is not alive and kicking, here is a story to set your doubts aside.
Saving rivers and lakes from mining dumping is not an insigificant or petulant ideal. It is a national ideal!
And all Canadians, whether members of the CofC or not share responsibility for their protection.
Congrat's to the Council....and to Minister Prentice, this would be a good time to shed your government's corporate agenda, in favour of the environment.
That might even make you a little more eligible for the leadership of your party, if and when it becomes available!

The Darkness of Evil Denied in Gainesville, Florida

In a climate of fear, hate-mongering and sensationalist statements from the right wing of the political spectrum in both Canada and the U.S., someone who calls himself "pastor" has decided to burn the Qur'an on the anniversary of 9-11 in Gainesville Florida.
It may well be that this man, like so many other "christian" leaders, has more than a few screws loose. It may be that his fifty-something congregation (size not age) agrees with this decision. His assistant, wearing his pistol on his hip, appeared on Chris Matthews last evening trying to suppport drawing a line in the sand against Islam.
As the "pastor" says, "When do we stop accepting the violence of Islam?"
Well, for a little man, with little faith, in a little church, he has certainly stirred the international "pot" of political and religious leaders from Petraeus to the Pope along with Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair and even Defence Minister Peter McKay in Canada. By noon today, both Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon had come out against the burning.
Silent are the Republican leadership; silent too is former presidential candidate John McCain, along with former president George W. Bush. Still silent is Colin Powell as is Condoleza Rice and Carl Rove and Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich, a presidential hopeful in 2012?
Sometimes the news is in the silence, not in the headlines. Just as, sometimes the real art in the canvas is in the "dark spaces" not only the "spaces of light".
In this case, the darkness of the mind and heart and spirit of the "pastor" is where the evil lurks, and he is projecting his denied evil onto the backs of the soldiers in Afghanistan. It is one of the most nefarious moves to be made under the banner of christianity in the last two weeks....and the results could be explosive.
But he is waiting for "God" to give him clear directions, if he is to change his mind...
Was it God who directed him in the first place?
Some God! Some direction! Is it the same "God" who is giving directions to Ben Ladin?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Seduced by short-term fixes...leaving long-term deep-ression

McGuinty's corporate tax cuts, reducing tax rates already lower than in the U.S., are linked to wage cuts at the lowest end of the wage scale. "Robbing Peter to pay Paul" is an old axiom; only recently, however, using the Bush model in the U.S. "Peter" has become the poor and "Paul" has become the rich political benefactors whom no politician wishes to offend.
It used to be, not so long ago, that if a politician of any political stripe wanted to get elected, s/he paid attention to the needs, wishes and aspirations of the poor for the simple reason that they were by far the largest block of votes. Of course, there were the rich donors to the political war chest, but they also recognized and even supported the principle that poor votes meant as much as rich votes, when they were dumped out of the ballot boxes on the counting room tables.
Now, it seems the pharmaceutical companies, and the oil and gas companies, and the military hardware and software companies, and of course the banks, and (especially in the U.S.) the insurance companies are "buying" the politicians with impunity, immunity and even public nonchalance. And the politicians are not even ashamed of this nefarious development.
Democracy has devolved into a virtual oligarchy, with the corporate interests wielding a huge stick, and the politicians cowering before their masters. It is demonstrated in the "smaller government" and the "law-and-order" agenda and the tax policy, in Europe the raising of the retirement age "to pay for the deficit in the social security net,"  adn in the U.S. with the abondonment of the public option in health care reform.The governments seemed to have entered into a secret marriage ceremony with the corporate interests.
And then we hear the political cry, "It is the small businesses that are the engine that runs the economy, and they are the ones that will do the necessary hiring to get us out of the enemployment slump." And, for those of us who are trying to decipher this logic, we are wondering if even those small business owners are getting the same political favouritism being extended to their "big brothers" in the corporate board rooms.
The universities have become the recipients of those corporate interests seeking research that complements their mission statements, from neophyte scholars whose research puts them on track for the holy grail of the "earned doctorate" especially in the maths and sciences, the electonics and the pharmaceuticals. And now we have to conduct research on the sources of funding for all research in the sciences because knowing the source of the funds will help to determine the objectivity, and the reliability of the research. Omitting such funding documentation leaves the other students who might access the research in the dark.
And then there are the governments seeking to fund the kind of research for which they wish to be the case of the Canadian government, that means science, engineering and technology is currently living under a halo of extra funding while arts grants are much more scarce. After all, there is much more "sex appeal" and thereby political capital to gain from funding hardware and technological processes than there is in funding historical or literary research that discloses the secret documents of a specific regime (for example the Harris government about which many would like to know the full story) or the unique insights of the kind of literary scholars like Northrop Frye whose literary criticism has become a much used and much appreciated piece of scholarship around the world, to Canada's long-lasting credit.
We are a ship driven, it seems, by money toward the acquisition of more money, for those whose hands are already "drunk" with cash while, at the same time, we are becoming drunk ourselves on moving in this direction without so much as a "wait-a-minute" and "could we hit the pause button and re-think our course."
There is no pause button on this machine and no re-think button and no apparent "fools" willing to put their neck out and look silly in the face of the tsunami of conventional-robotic-nonthink....
This process demeans poverty in favour of the rich; it elevates technology at the expense of critical thinking; it debases human individuals while shining halo's on big cash grabs, and big tech-advances, and big-drug-'discoveries' and reduces the feasibility that the process can or will be even slowed, certainly not stopped.
We are driven by short-term thinking (which incidentally sinks most small business entrepreneurs) and short-sighted visions, and short-term health fixes by a mind-set of instant (if superficial and non-substantive) gratification...
And we think and some even believe that we have matured, into health adults over the last half century!
That's a bad joke!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sabre-rattling by Iran against Israel, again

From MSNBC, September 6, 2010
Iran's president said Sunday that any Israeli attack against his nation would mean the destruction of the Jewish state.

The two nations have exchanged numerous threats and warnings in the confrontation over Iran's nuclear program, which Israel, the United States and other countries believe is aimed at developing weapons, despite Tehran's denials.
"Any offensive against Iran means the annihilation of the Zionist entity," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a visit to the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. "Iran does not care much about this entity because it is on its way to decay."
He said he doubted Israel or the U.S. would dare to stage such an attack because "they know that Iran is ready and has the potential for a decisive and wide-scale response."
Everyone, everywhere realizes that this man, while apparently speaking for the regime in Iran, is bent on the destruction of the state of Israel. This is just another of his many threats against the country. Listening, yesterday to a different voice, a radical Islamic cleric in London, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN's GPS, I witnessed the same kind of contempt for the existence of the state of Israel.
Tony Blair, in his recent interviews with both Christiane Amanpour (ABC's This Week) and Peter Mansbridge (CBC's The National) commented that the balance of power in the Middle East would be forever altered if and when Iran acquires  nuclear capability. Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic poses a rather impending time line for an attack by Israel against Iran, should all other attempts to move Iran away from development of a nuclear weapon fail, probably sometime around May, 2011.
There are those in the U.S. who speak of "war fatigue" among the American people, thereby reducing the coverage of the termination of "the war footing" in Iraq to a minor blip; however, one has to wonder if, given  credibile evidence of the actual development of those nuclear weapons by the Iranians, coupled with the urging of several of the Arab states in the Middle East for the Americans to "do it" (to undertake the strike against Iran) if those same American people would not accept a U.S. military offensive against Iran.
There are certainly those in the Jewish community who believe that, after all the attempts to stop Iran from nuclear capability fail, the Jewish government will itself take the necessary step of "self-defense" and strike Iran.
That poses a dubious, perplexing conundrum for the U.S. president. If he does not declare war on Iran's nuclear installations, Israel most likely will. If he does make the decision to attack Iran, the blood of the attack will be on his hands and on the hands of the American people. Wiping Israel off the map, the declared intention of the Iranian leader, is not an option for the West, particularly for the U.S., Israel's strongest ally.
Would Canada be asked, and if so, would we agree, to join in a U.S. attack against Iran?
Will the sanctions, albeit more stringent than those of the past, be effective against Iran? There is much legitimate skepticism about their potential effectiveness.
Will Iran see the "insanity" of its position? Not likely.
Will the Israeli's step down from their "self-defense" posture? Unlikely.
Will the U.S. step into the breach? Given the long history of the U.S. favouring military action on so many fronts? Highly likely.
Will the rest of the world sit on its hands, and let the U.S. act alone? Once again, highly likely.
Will  the U.N., including the IAEA, find an acceptable solution to the potential for war over Iran's nuclear capability? Again, unlikely.
Is military action (whether nuclear itself or more likely conventional) the only way for this dilemma to be resolved? And, will such action truly "resolve" the problem of the hatred of the Iranian government for the state of Israel? NO!
What can the ordinary people of the world do in the face of such heinous prospects? Very little, it seems.
What will be the geopolitical, military, economic consequences of such an attack on Iran, or of Iran's potential attack on Israel?
What will be the account in history, if either, or both attacks actually occurs? Who knows?
This is not a precipice from which there is an open, visible path back...UGH!