Monday, January 31, 2011

Sanctimonious Can. gov't. ads...crass and unseemly

It is almost impossible to escape the "wall-to-wall"coverage of the Egyptian uprising, on Canadian and American television. It is also virtually impossible to escape the punditry that attends the coverage. However, buried in the evening's coverage, especially the CBC's, are some Harper governments ads that ought to arouse a sleepy citizenry.
First, there is the "baby safety" ad, that talks about how dangerous are 'soft mattresses' in babies' cribs, making it more likely for the baby to die in such situations. It is not the content of the ad, but the timing that perturbs this observer. Riding the crest of election talk, here are the Harper Conservatives using public money to attempt something to which no Canadian could possibly object, baby safety. Elections are not about baby safety, they are about policies that govern the population, and making itself seem like the all-caring Mother/Father/Grandfather, in such a crass manner, is not only unseemly; it simply smells! Using our money to tell us that they support baby safety, making it seem that we can be comfortable with giving them a majority....that's political propaganda beyond Orwellian proportions!
It reminds one of the same sanctimonious government's policy to create 27,000 new prison cells, because they are the "law-and-order" government when crime rates are falling, yet they contend 'many crimes are not being reported.' Is this their version of the neo-con 'nanny state' protecting us from our worst fears?
And then there is the advertising for all the wonderful things that have happened to Canadian individuals and companies, as a result of the government's "Action Play" for Canadians. We have seen those ugliest of graphic designs shouting the multiple projects across the country for months if not years. And here again, is the federal government continuing to spend our money virtually in a campaign ad that solicits additional support for the government, in the event of an election call and writ.
Embarrassed by their own political chicanery in their ads last week that took Ignatieff's "Yes! Yes! Yes!" completely out of context, this government is without shame and is utterly classless in its brazen use of public funds to serve its own selfish interests, while all the time using phrases like "we have kept the faith, and we have delivered on our promises and we have not served ourselves" in the multiple Harper speeches of the last few days.
Five years is five years too long for the life of this government. We need a new government, and with it a new vision that focuses on the living conditions, increasing living costs and employment conditions of many Canadians. And for the NDP even to think of cozying up to Harper, to put the political squeeze on Ignatieff, as suggested by a Nanos Reseearch executive earlier today on CTV, would be the height of hypocrisy. If there is a political alliance to be made by the NDP, it is with the Liberals, in policy, and in campaigning.

Rich-poor chasm...and the Egyptian uprising

By David Kirkpatrick and Mona El-Naggar, New York Times, January 30, 2011
The widening chasm between rich and poor in Cairo has been one of the conspicuous aspects of city life over the last decade — and especially the last five years. Though there were always extremes of wealth and poverty here, until recently the rich lived more or less among the poor — in grander apartments or more spacious apartments but mixed together in the same city.

But as the Mubarak administration has taken steps toward privatizing more government businesses, kicking off an economic boom for some, rich Egyptians have fled the city. They have flocked to gated communities full of big American-style homes around country clubs, and the remoteness of their lives from those of average Egyptians has become starkly visible.
The new rich communities and older affluent enclaves closer to the city were seized with fear over the weekend after a rash of looting Friday night.
At the ravaged City Centre mall, looters had pulled bank A.T.M.’s from the walls, smashed in skylights and carted away televisions, and on Sunday a small crowd was inspecting the damage and debating the causes.
A group of men standing guard said they had watched the police abandon the mall as if on command Friday at 11 p.m., and the first looters arrived in cars shortly after. They argued that the government had tried to create the impression of chaos. Others blamed hordes who poured in from impoverished neighborhoods, or Bedouins who they said came in from the desert.
Ayman Adbel Al, 43, a civil engineer inspecting the damage with his two teenage sons, blamed Mr. Mubarak, arguing that he had allowed the growing class divisions in Egyptian society to build up for years until they exploded last week. “I can say that I am well off, but I hate it, too. It is not humanitarian,” he said, showing a picture of himself with his family at the protests Saturday. The only people who wanted Mr. Mubarak to stay in power, he argued, were rich people “afraid for their money.”
Everone, it seems, is looking for the root causes of the uprising in the Middle East. Could the growing chasm between the have's and the have-not's be a signficant factor in this development?
And if it is, what geographic boundaries will contain the profound and legitimate resentment of the poor in every country, against the growing affluence and influence of the so-called rich? Likely none.
There is a growing perception, based on the events of the last decade-plus, that governments, including those in democratic countries, have growing increasingly tone-deaf to the cries for justice, equality and legitimate rewards for legitimate hard work.
In Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, just this past week, we saw a street protest, (of a few hundred people) against the former Stelco (now USSteel, Canada) where current employees were protesting the removal of pension benefits from retired workers and their spouses, and the refusal to continue pensions for new hires.
One current employee of twelve years, interviewed by CBC television, commented that his now-deceased father had worked for 37 years for Stelco and his pension was about to be rescinded from his elderly mother. He was marching to protest that decision.
The economic conditions of that family, while not nearly as dire as the conditions under which many Egyptians are living, are becoming increasingly desperate. Consequently, the decisions of the rich and powerful, often not in the interests of the poor and the voiceless, are pressing in on ordinary people everywhere, often with impunity.
In England, too, we see growing protests among the university students against steep rises in tuition fees, for students in the middle of their college years.
Many states in the U.S. verge on bankruptcy, and the spectre of major cuts to social programs is looming on the horizon, programs needed for survival of many of their people.
Meanwhile, the percentage of the national incomes of many countries held by a decreasing percentage of the people continues to grow. That is neither sustainable nor just, and it could be only a matter of time before the poor everywhere, linked to the hungry, the sick and the jobless (of all faiths, and of no faiths) draw their own line in the sand, albeit under slightly different conditions in each country.
We in the west are not immune from the growing disparity between those who have and those who, increasingly, have much less than previously, and our political leaders, at least those who seem to favour their wealthy supporters over their masses, will become the targets for legitimate protest, regardless of whether there is a 'democratic' government or not. The ballot box may become the first line of protest for some countries, while the street will become the stage for other expressions of legitimate political power.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Israel anxious watching Egypt

By Ethan Bronner, New York Times, January 30, 2011
The street revolt in Egypt has thrown the Israeli government and military into turmoil, with top officials closeted in round-the-clock strategy sessions aimed at rethinking their most significant regional relationship
Israel’s military planning relies on peace with Egypt; nearly half the natural gas it uses is imported from Egypt; and the principle of trading conquered land for diplomatic ties began with its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt more than with any other foreign leader, exceptPresident Obama. If Mr. Mubarak were driven from power, the effect on Israel could be profound.

“For the United States, Egypt is the keystone of its Middle East policy,” a senior official said. “For Israel, it’s the whole arch.”
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Mr. Netanyahu has ordered his ministers and their officials to stay publicly silent on Egypt while events there play out.
Many analysts here said that even if Mr. Mubarak were forced to leave office, those who replaced him could maintain Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel since it is the basis for more than $1 billion in annual aid to Cairo from Washington and much foreign investment.
But others noted that the best organized political force in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is hostile to Israel and close to Hamas, the Palestinian rulers in Gaza whose weapons smuggling the Egyptian government works to block.
As the government evacuated the families of envoys from Egypt over the weekend, public affairs broadcasts and newspapers in Israel focused heavily on the unfolding events there. Most of the predictions were dire. Two of three newspapers with the largest circulations, Yediot Aharonot and Maariv, had identical front page headlines: “A New Middle East.”
It was an ironic reference to the phrase used frequently in the 1990s by President Shimon Peres and other advocates of coexistence who argued that if Israel made peace with its neighbors, a more prosperous and enlightened region would bloom. Events of the past five years — the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran’s influence in Iraq and the shift by Turkey toward Iran and Syria — have turned many Israelis rightward, fearing that the more time passes the more the region is against them.

Singapore 101 by Thomas L. Friedman, (NYT)

By Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, January 29, 2100
Singapore is tiny and by no means a U.S.-style democracy. Yet, like America, it has a multiethnic population — Chinese, Indian and Malay — with a big working class. It has no natural resources and even has to import sand for building. But today its per capita income is just below U.S. levels, built with high-end manufacturing, services and exports. The country’s economy grew last year at 14.7 percent, led by biomedical exports. How?

If Singapore has one thing to teach America, it is about taking governing seriously, relentlessly asking: What world are we living in and how do we adapt to thrive. “We’re like someone living in a hut without any insulation,” explained Tan Kong Yam, an economist. “We feel every change in the wind or the temperature and have to adapt. You Americans are still living in a brick house with central heating and don’t have to be so responsive.” And we have not been.
Singapore probably has the freest market in the world; it doesn’t believe in import tariffs, minimum wages or unemployment insurance. But it believes regulators need to make sure markets work properly — because they can’t on their own — and it subsidizes homeownership and education to give everyone a foundation to become self-reliant. Singapore copied the German model that strives to put everyone who graduates from high school on a track for higher education, but only about 40 percent go to universities. Others are tracked to polytechnics or vocational institutes, so the vast majority graduate with the skills to get a job, whether it be as a plumber or a scientist.
Explained Ravi Menon, the Permanent Secretary of Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry: “The two ‘isms’ that perhaps best describe Singapore’s approach are: pragmatism — an emphasis on what works in practice rather than abstract theory; and eclecticism — a willingness to adapt to the local context best practices from around the world.”
It is a sophisticated mix of radical free-market and nanny state that requires sophisticated policy makers to implement, which is why politics here is not treated as sports or entertainment. Top bureaucrats and cabinet ministers have their pay linked to top private sector wages, so most make well over $1 million a year, and their bonuses are tied to the country’s annual G.D.P. growth rate. It means the government can attract high-quality professionals and corruption is low.
America never would or should copy Singapore’s less-than-free politics. But Singapore has something to teach us about “attitude” — about taking governing seriously and thinking strategically. We used to do that and must again because our little brick house with central heating is not going to be resistant to the storms much longer.
“There is real puzzlement here about America today,” said Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, “because we learned all about what it takes to build a well-functioning society from you. Many of our top officials are graduates of the Kennedy School at Harvard. They just came back home and applied its lessons vigorously.”
Imagine, a country where politics is not treated as sports or entertainment, but taken seriously, with little corruption and a focus on attracting high-quality professionals, while regulating the ravages of the free market!
Maybe there is more than a little that Singapore can teach North America about the seriousness of trying to govern successfully in a very complex and fast-changing world. Start with a reality that we are not so insulated from the winds that are blowing around the globe, and that our house is a little less secure than we once thought it was. That would inject a little humility into our public discourse and our public attitudes to both issues and politicians seeking our support.

Siddiqui: perspective on protests

By Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, January 29, 2011
(Also) laid bare are the Orwellian phrases used by Western, especially North American, governments and the media to hide the truth.

The despotic regimes in our camp have been marketed as “stable,” “moderate” and “modern,” which have been battling antediluvian extremists, anti-American and anti-Israel “Islamists” and “terrorists.”
Some regimes have indeed had the stability of the graveyard. Even that’s no longer assured.
There’s nothing “moderate” about regimes that treat their citizens no differently than Iran. Hosni Mubarak has been no less a tyrant than Baby Doc or Papa Duvalier. Or Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia. Or Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen. Our friends, all.
There’s nothing “modern” about rulers who are corrupt to the core, preside over vast nepotistic networks and provide little or no transparency to finances or governance.
What of the hordes we are warned about and against whom our allies were ostensibly the buffer?
From Tunisia to Yemen, Algeria to Egypt, they have the same demands — oust the despots and the thieves; end the oppression; give people basic freedoms and the basics of life so some don’t have to self-immolate themselves in protest.
The crowds in Cairo chant, “Silmiyah, Silmiyah” (peaceful, peaceful), telling each other not to give the security thugs the excuse to crack open some more skulls.
They all want what we want — freedom, democracy, equality, equal economic opportunity, dignity.
And if many among them hate us, it’s not because they hate our values but because we thwart their quest for our values. It’s our gas canisters, water cannons, guns and bullets that are being used on them.
They are not the crazy bearded mullahs who were said to be waiting in the wings. They are instead a diverse lot, led mostly by young, educated, secular democratic activists of the emerging civil societies empowered by the Internet and social media.
They are not shouting for the sharia but rather chanting: “The crescent and the cross against torture and murder;” “Muslims and Christians, we all demand change.”
The world we once knew, spotted, dotted and impregnated with the words of our leaders generating perceptions that made their positions both tenable and tolerable, even if those words and positions were suspect, has gone. We now are learning about the shaping of our perceptions by the political classes, including some in the media itself, and that shaping ignored much of the reality behind the scenes, as it were.
Today, there is no "behind the scenes" for political leaders anymore. The world has become one open microphoned and photographed and instantly-disseminated  human drama, only the names and the streets and the countries change. Today, we are watching and listening to the words of the people on the streets, where the technology has been permitted. (In China, by contrast, there is barely a word about the Egyptian protests, and even the access to the social media there has eliminated the word Egypt from access to the people.)
Dictators whom the west supports will no longer be as easily supported with western dollars, given the identification of the people of the west with the people under seige. If our money is going to support dictatorships, we are less likely to agreed to such 'spending.' If our leaders are propping up what they have called 'moderate' governments, which are really poorly disguised tyrannies, those tyrannies will be shown for what they really are. And if our money is buying military materiel to be used by those despots, then it is time our money is blocked from such end uses.
The hands of the leaders of the governments of the west, if Siddiqui is right, are stained with their own actions. And eventually they will have to account for those actions. And it will not likely be 'pretty' as the cliche puts it.

Egypt like Nile: soft until the flood of anger?

By Sandro Contenta, Toronto Star, January 29, 2011
Youssef Farag, 56, put it this way: “The people of Egypt are like the Nile. They are soft, but when they become angry, the flood takes everything.”

“The fear is gone,” said Mohammed Abdel Latif, 52. “I’m not poor. I own a business. On Thursday I was saying: ‘Let me be safe. I won’t go out on the street to protest.’ Today, here I am. I thank the young people for waking up my generation.”
Latif had a message for Western governments, which for decades have backed a president who outlawed opposition parties and manipulated elections: “If you want true friends in the Middle East, befriend the people, not the rulers. If the United States, Europe and Canada decide that Mubarak is no longer their man, he is finished.”
The U.S. alone gives Egypt $1.3 billion (U.S.) a year in military aid.
With calls for a general strike for today, and with some if not many of the police removing their uniforms and leaving them in the street, to be picked up by the protestors and waved on sticks, the announcement by Mubarak of his new vice-president is not likely to be enough to quell the rage among the people.
We hear both the U.S. and Canadian spokepeople urging the President to make changes, to take this opportunity to bring fundamental change to the ruling of his country, without formally or publicly siding with the protestors.
Now that at least 1000 prisoners have escaped prison and taken arms, there are some signs that what started as a peaceful protest will change course to become a blood battle; currently (6:33 a.m. EST) the count is 74 dead.
Is the soft Nile now in full flood, and will it's flood remove the president, apparently the sole object of the torrent of anger sweeping the streets?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egyptian protests: slammed by Saudis, encouraged by Iran (CNN)

From the CNN World website, January 29, 2011
Saudi Arabia slammed protesters in Egypt as "infiltrators" who seek to destabilize their country Saturday while an Iranian official called on Egypt to "abide by the rightful demands of the nation" and avoid violent reactions.

Saudi King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and "was reassured" about the situation in Egypt, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.
"During the call, the king said, 'Egypt is a country of Arabism and Islam. No Arab and Muslim human being can bear that some infiltrators, in the name of freedom of expression, have infiltrated into the brotherly people of Egypt, to destabilize its security and stability and they have been exploited to spew out their hatred in destruction, intimidation, burning, looting and inciting a malicious sedition,'" the news agency reported.
Saudi Arabia "strongly condemns" the protest, it said.
Mubarak assured the Saudi king "that the situation is stable" and that the protests "are merely attempts of groups who do not want stability and security for the people of Egypt, but rather they seek to achieve strange and suspicious objectives," the report said.
Mubarak added that Egypt will "deter anyone who tries to exploit the freedom of (the) Egyptian people and will not allow anyone to lure those groups or use them to achieve suspicious and strange agendas," the news agency said.
In Iran, meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Egyptian authorities should respect the demonstrators.
"Iran expects Egyptian officials to listen to the voice of their Muslim people, respond to their rightful demands and refrain from exerting violence by security forces and police against an Islamic wave of awareness that has spread through the country in form of a popular movement,"the state-run Press TV quoted Mehmanparast as saying.

Trying to reconcile Parliamentary Oath with Bloc Quebecois

The Canadian Press, in Toronto Star, January 26, 2011
The Bloc Quebecois is putting up a big price tag — $5 billion — as the cost of its support for the upcoming federal budget.

It says Quebec has gotten a raw deal compared to other provinces in a multitude of areas, from regional development to tax harmonization.
Now it wants some of that addressed in the upcoming budget.
The prevailing wisdom these days in Ottawa is that, if an imminent election is to be avoided, it will depend on the NDP supporting the Tories’ budget.
That’s because the Liberals have already dismissed major elements of the government’s spending and fiscal platforms — and the odds appear slim of the Bloc’s demands being met.
The Bloc lists a variety of areas where other provinces have received breaks not offered to Quebec: a multibillion-dollar sales tax harmonization deal with Ontario and B.C., disaster relief funding for Manitoba’s Red River flood in 1997 but none for Quebec’s ice storm a year later; huge tax breaks for Alberta’s oil sector and billions for Ontario’s struggling auto industry but little for the forestry industry.
The party also includes, on its list of gripes, provincial transfers than are proportionally lower than they were in 1994.
When a political party, in a federal government, is exclusively advocating for a single province in that federation, and when that party holds by far the largest percentage of the seats from that single province, there is not only a perception but also a reality that that single province is unduly represented, unfairly weighted in the national equation...and there are many such equations. Holding the federal government to the provision of a $5billion compensation, for past grievances, makes a mockery of the notion that this is a healthy nation, from a governance perspective.
All the members of parliament, from the other politial parties, although seeking election locally, in their ridings and in their provinces, nevertheless, are obliged to focus on the needs of the whole country. Their perspective is "salted" with the multiple regions, and ethnicities and multiple industries and multiple ideological perspectives. Only the members from Quebec, specifically from the Bloc Quebecois, are both able and permitted to take and express a narrow, selfish, provincial, and ultimately and inevitably a parochial point of view. And that sways the balance in their favour, even if the federal govenment does not bow to this specific form of threat.
It is time for the people of Quebec to get off their selfish high-horse, and seek elected representatives from the national political parties, or to generate their own form of national political party, that speaks for the whole country, and that enters candidates in all provinces, and in all ridings across the country. There are three national political parties currently seeking the votes of the people of Quebec:
the Liberals, the NDP and the Conservatives.
If that menu does not meet the needs of their political palate, then, at least in the federal arena, they ought not to have the choice of voting against the interests of the country the rest of us know as Canada.
While my Canada includes Quebec, it seems that the Bloc's Quebec does not include Canada, the other nine provinces and the territories. Such a position makes it questionable as to how the members of the Bloc who have been elected to the Canadian Parliament are able to, in all conscience, take the oath of office, to sit as a member of the House of Commons.
From the House of Commons Practices and Procedures website
Before a duly elected Member may take his or her seat and vote in the House of Commons, the Member must take an oath or make a solemn affirmation of allegiance or loyalty to the Sovereign and sign the Test Roll (a book whose pages are headed by the text of the oath). When a Member swears or solemnly affirms allegiance to the Queen as Sovereign of Canada, he or she is also swearing or solemnly affirming allegiance to the institutions the Queen represents, including the concept of democracy. Thus, a Member is making a pledge to conduct him-or herself in the best interests of the country. The oath or solemn affirmation reminds a Member of the serious obligations and responsibilities he or she is assuming.

The obligation requiring all Members of Parliament to take the oath is found in the Constitution Act, 1867, with the text of the oath itself outlined in the Fifth Schedule.  The Act states: “Every Member of the … House of Commons of Canada shall before taking his Seat therein take and subscribe before the Governor General or some Person authorized by him … the Oath of Allegiance contained in the Fifth Schedule to this Act …” The wording of the oath is as follows: “I, (Member’s name), do swear, that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.” As an alternative to swearing the oath, Members may make a solemn affirmation, by simply stating:  “I, (Member’s name), do solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.”
While I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to know the law, it is not hard to grasp both the incongruity and the incompatibility of the oath with the publicly avowed position of the Bloc Members. True allegiance to the crown, and to the institutions of the country as represented by the Queen seems completely contrary to the purpose and the intentions of the members of the Bloc Quebecois, as it would to any person or group seeking the break-up of the country, and representing exclusively, the interests of a single province.
How have the 'constitutional experts' framed any opinion that permits the entry into the House of Commons of albeit duly elected representatives from a single province whose sole purpose and motive is to dismember the country? Is the criterion simply that they do not bring weapons or conduct their business in an illegal way, the minimal requirement of their legitimately taking their oath of a Member of Parliament?
For some, this will seem like an attempt to litigate an issue that has already been settled.
However, the issue of the purpose and intent of a person or a group of persons seeking entry into the House of Commons of Canada, it seems, might exclude those whose purpose and intent is NOT to serve the best interests of the whole country...or am I being too simplistic?
Once again from the House of Commons Practice and Procedures website:
Breaking the oath of allegiance is a serious offence and any Member whose conduct has been determined by the House to have violated the oath could be liable to punishment by the House.  Although there have been no cases of a Member having been found guilty of breaching the oath of allegiance, the Speaker was asked in 1990 to rule on the sincerity of a Member’s solemn affirmation.  Speaker Fraser ruled that the Chair was “not empowered to make a judgement on the circumstances or the sincerity with which a duly elected Member takes the oath of allegiance. The significance of the oath to each Member is a matter of conscience and so it must remain.” Since the Member stated very clearly in the House that he had “never mocked the Canadian Parliament nor the Queen”, the Speaker concluded that, in keeping with convention that the House accepts as true the word of the Member, there was no breach of privilege. He did note, however, that “only the House can examine the conduct of its Members and only the House can take action if it decides action is required”. 
Does the House of Commons simply not wish to enter into the issue of whether the Bloc has ever "mocked the Canadian Parliament or the Queen" and open the question to the light of both day and the night that might ensue? In terms of their adherence to the code of personal conduct, including such matters as how to address a member opposite, how to ask a question, how to research an issue, how to use the members offices...all of the housekeeping and protocol issues, there is unlikely to be a single discordant note in the record of the Bloc members themselves. It is the position of the aggregate that is being questioned here.
Mr. Harper is interested in removing the federal subsidy that flows to all political parties, in the form of $2 for every vote garnered in the previous election, as his way of cutting off the funding from the Bloc, and appeasing his western right flank.
This move would also play into his own party's hand, since, as the ruling party, it is poised to generate more contributions than any other party.
We strongly disagree with the Prime Minister's proposed move, both because it leaves public funding out of elections, thereby raising the spectre of the rich having an inside track on even submitting their names as candidates, and secondly, this is a far too devious a way to deal with the Bloc, merely by removing federal funding.
There is a substantial body of public opinion in Canada that believes that having the Bloc "inside" the political tent is far less dangerous that leaving them outside the political tent, of the country, given the apparent option of guns and bombs that presented itself in the early 1970's.
We do not believe that there are only the two options: inside as elected Members of the House of Commons, or bombs and guns. There are many other positions, such as proposing and executing a constitutional challenge to the Bloc, to the Supreme Court, given the requirements of the Constitution for M.P's to take the Oath, and having the court rule. Another would be to have an all party agreement that the country is not going to permit anyone, or any group to run and win a federal seat anywhere, if the political purpose of that person/group is to dismember the country. That is not a racist move; it is not unconstitutional; it is not Anti-Quebec, nor anti-Northern Ontario, or anti-Alberta where a separatist movement has been rumoured for decades.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Intifada in Egypt today? Are we facing the rise of multiple theocracies?

By Souad Mekhennet and Nicholas Kulish, New York Times, January 27, 2011

Demonstrators in Egypt have protested against rising prices and stagnant incomes, for greater freedom and against police brutality. But religion, so often a powerful mobilizing force here, has so far played little role.

That may be about to change.
With organizers calling for demonstrations after Friday prayer, the political movement will literally be taken to the doorsteps of the nation’s mosques. And as the Egyptian government and security services brace for the expected wave of mass demonstrations, Islamic groups seem poised to emerge as wildcards in the growing political movement.
Reporters in Egypt said on Friday that, after rumors swept Cairo late Thursday that the authorities planned to throttle the protesters' communications among themselves, access to the Internet, text messaging services and Twitter was not possible on Friday morning in Cairo, Alexandria and possibly other cities.
Heightening the tension, the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest organized opposition group in the country, announced Thursday that it would take part in the protest. The support of the Brotherhood could well change the calculus on the streets, tipping the numbers in favor of the protesters and away from the police, lending new strength to the demonstrations and further imperiling President Hosni Mubarak’s reign of nearly three decades.
“Tomorrow is going to be the day of the intifada,” said a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood here in Egypt’s second largest city, who declined to give his name because he said he would be arrested if he did. The spokesman said that the group was encouraging members of its youth organization — roughly those 15 to 30 years old — to take part in protests.
The United States and the Western world, it appears, will have to get used to the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood is going to join the protests calling for the ouster of Hosni Mubarek, after thirty-five years of one-man rule. A joke shared on NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook, put the Egyptian government in perspectice: "There are more 'mummies' in the government of Egypt than in all the pyramids in the country."
If the West fears AlQaeda, and it should, there will be trembling in Foggy Bottom today and for days and weeks to come. (Foggy Bottom is the home of the U.S. State Department.)
A small terrorist group, albeit with arms, training and considerable motivating anger and some religious zeal, will seem like chili powder compared with states falling like dominoes into the hands of the awakened Muslim people, who have already declared that secularists like Mohamed El Baradei are unaceptable even as interim leaders. They want religious Muslims to lead their countries and so the potential replacement of dictators allied with the west with Muslim leaders, no matter how they are elected, will pose a significant threat not only to the stability of the region, but also to the interests of the west, including the U.S. and Canada.

R.C. Bishop excommunicates Sister and hospital over abortion...Shame!

By Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, January 26, 2011
A prominent (Roman Catholic) bishop, Thomas Olmsted, stripp(ed) St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix of its affiliation with the Roman Catholic diocese.

The hospital’s offense? It had terminated a pregnancy to save the life of the mother. The hospital says the 27-year-old woman, a mother of four children, would almost certainly have died otherwise.
Bishop Olmsted initially excommunicated a nun, Sister Margaret McBride, who had been on the hospital’s ethics committee and had approved of the decision. That seems to have been a failed attempt to bully the hospital into submission, but it refused to cave and continues to employ Sister Margaret. Now the bishop, in effect, is excommunicating the entire hospital — all because it saved a woman’s life.
Make no mistake: This clash of values is a bellwether of a profound disagreement that is playing out at many Catholic hospitals around the country. These hospitals are part of the backbone of American health care, amounting to 15 percent of hospital beds.
Already in Bend, Ore., last year, a bishop ended the church’s official relationship with St. Charles Medical Center for making tubal ligation sterilizations available to women who requested them. And two Catholic hospitals in Texas halted tubal ligations at the insistence of the local bishop in Tyler.
The National Women’s Law Center has just issued a report quoting doctors at Catholic-affiliated hospitals as saying that sometimes they are forced by church doctrine to provide substandard care to women with miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies in ways that can leave the women infertile or even endanger their lives. More clashes are likely as the church hierarchy grows more conservative, and as hospitals and laity grow more impatient with bishops who seem increasingly out of touch. ...
With the Vatican seemingly as deaf and remote as it was in 1517, some Catholics at the grass roots are pushing to recover their faith. Jamie L. Manson, the same columnist for National Catholic Reporter who proclaimed that Jesus had been “evicted,” also argued powerfully that many ordinary Catholics have reached a breaking point and that St. Joseph’s heralds a new vision of Catholicism: “Though they will be denied the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist, the Eucharist will rise out of St. Joseph’s every time the sick are healed, the frightened are comforted, the lonely are visited, the weak are fed, and vigil is kept over the dying.”
When grown men and women put the life of the fetus ahead of the life of the mother, when the delivery of the baby threatens the life of the mother, because of some religious rule, or dogma, that reads scripture so literally and so simplistically, there is only one legitimate response....either leave that church or stop following the leadership.
It is time for religious leaders to awaken to their own dead and deadening princples. Religious fundamentalism, while perhaps ideal in a perfect world, is not operable where real people live. And whatever "God" is being worshipped, that cannot be reduced to such simplistic and rigid absolutism, that His struggles can be eliminated from the equation that faces each human being, in every country for at least two centuries.
To accept the church's position, as the Sister in charge in this hospital has been excommunicated for not doing, would have been to deny whatever responsibilities she also bore as a professional nurse. Similarly, a Roman Catholic doctor faces the same moral dilemma, and, if such a case presented itself to a member of my family, while the decision would be extremely difficult, there is no question about where I would come down, on the side of the threatened mother, at the expense of the fetus.
And no Catholic dogma, and no Catholic theologian is going to change my mind.
All we can do is to support both this hospital and this Sister, in her personal and professional pilgrimmage as an honourable disciple of a faith that make her hospital one all people can trust.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Middle East Protests...for food, work and freedom, enabled by technology

By Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, January 27, 2011
Following the toppling of the dictator (in Tunisia), there have been anti-government demonstrations in Algeria, Jordan, Yemen and now Egypt.

Add to this mix Lebanon (where a Hezbollah-nominated prime minister has replaced the pro-Western Saad Hariri) and also the Palestinian Authority (the preferred American and Israeli interlocutor, which has been shown in recent leaked papers to have been in collusion with Israel), and you can see another pattern:
Two pro-American governments toppled (Tunisia and Lebanon), and four pro-American regimes under siege (Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and Algeria).
In Egypt, tens of thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets against the autocratic and corrupt regime of Hosni Mubarak. They’ve been beaten, tear-gassed and had water cannons turned on them. Almost 1,000 have been marched off to jail, and six people have died....
The grievances are the same everywhere — oppression, corruption, lack of freedom, poverty, rising prices and high unemployment amid the opulence of the thieving ruling classes.

The revolts are not led by Islamic forces, as long feared/hoped. Or even by established political opposition parties. Indeed in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is playing catch-up.
The protesters in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and elsewhere in Egypt, as well as in Tunis, Amman and Sana, the capital of Yemen, have mostly been the young. Not unlike those in Iran who bravely led the 2009 marches against the Iranian regime after the stolen presidential election.
In fact, the American and Western model of dealing with the Arab Middle East is teetering. The support of military or monarchical regimes has been based on two pillars: keep oil in friendly and pliant hands, and back governments friendly to Israel.

So, it’s not surprising that after having played cheerleaders to the Orange Revolution (Ukraine), the Cedar Revolution (Lebanon) and the Green Revolution (Iran), Washington and other Western capitals have not known how to react to the eruption of people power in Arab lands.
If Mr Siddiqui is right that these protests are against corrupt governments (tyrannies), poverty, rising prices, high unemployment coupled with the affluent oppulence of the ruling classes, then the West needs to be especially careful not to perceive or project these uprisings as those based mostly on radical Islam. Because the West generally sees the Middle East as being populated by Muslims, and because these uprisings are occurring there in increasing numbers, there will be considerable risk of misrepresentation by the western media, in order to create a "fog of war" of a different kind from the one generated on the battlefield.
Furthermore, keeping oil in friendly hands, and supporting governments friendly to Israel will not longer satisfy as cornerstones to U.S. foreign policy in the region. And neither will providing arms to the region, for any side, serve to energize the developments in their indigenous and authentic form.
There is a certain inevitability to oppressed people being "freed" by the information available through the internet. They will not put up with oppression, if they think they can band together and overthrow that oppression. And the internet makes "getting together" far more easy and far more likely.
The Mubarek's of the world no longer serve the interests of their people, regardless of whether or not they have been friends to the U.S., to the West generally, or to Israel specifically. And their time is likely to be "up".
However, the chaos that will follow their demise will keep people like Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State for the U.S. up nights, wondering what kind of phone call she is really going to receive at 3.00 a.m. (remember her campaign for president ad's) telling her of the toppling of another Middle East, U.S. friendly dictator.
And, there is greater risk that some of those calls might even contain a threat to the supply of Middle East oil...something no one anywhere can fully contemplate, or economically absorb easily, without considerable turbulence to an already wobbly world economy.
Nevertheless, people will fight to find food, and fight to find work to provide food, and fight any forces that stand in the way of those imperatives. And there are a lot more of "the people" that there are "the dictators."
We are in for some interesting and turbulent times!
The Muslim Brotherhood, while not at the forefront of these protests, is trying to take advantage of them. In fact, it will likely want to share power with whoever comes to power in some or all of theses countries...and that could spell trouble for both the U.S. and for Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood is favourably disposed to Iran, and strongly opposed to Israel, and that could make the Iranian nuclear ambition much more complicated to prevent. The Muslim Brotherhood could also make the Middle East peace process much more difficult, if not impossible to bring to a peaceful conclusion, with two states, Palestine and Israel living peaceable side by side.
Interesting times, for sure, and not likely to be without danger.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union...leading through innovation, pragmatics and inspiration

By Mitch Petter, Toronto Star, January 26, 2011
Obama's post-Tucson State of the Union address was nothing if not vague — a hope-infused vision of American revival short on details of how simultaneous cutting and spending might come to pass.
Mr. Potter, I could not disagree more with your negativity. The speech was not intended to litigate the issues, but to bring them into focus in a realistic, pragmatic and motivating manner, to inspire concensus and healthy debate!
In one hour the President brought the hopes, dreams, aspirations and fears to the Congress in an inspiring, moving, even at times compelling reach for the centre of American politics, with his avowed warning that both Democrats and Republicans can fix their problems and succeed together or not at all. Blending history, and political threatre with broad strokes and finely tuned caution, the President vowed to :
  • veto any bill sent to his desk with a single earmark (thereby saving millions)
  • send a budget to congress that will contain funds to build and re-build transportation and technology infrastructure
  • work with Congress to amend, and not repeal the Health Reform Art, removing bookkeeping irritants from small business
  • create 100,000 new math and science teachers so that American can catch up to the best in the world
  • make no excuses for keeping poorly performing teachers now in the classroom
  • work with Congress to cut the costs of both social security and medicare, but not on the backs of the most vulnerable
  • reform government by eliminating duplication, using some examples like 12 agencies dealing with exports, one agency dealing with salmon in fresh water, and another when salmon are in salt water, and then adding, with perfect comedic timing, "I understand it gets even more complicated when they are smoked!"
  • freeze for the next five years the 12% of the budget that deals with discretionary spending
  • support Secretary Gates in his goal of reducing Pentagon spending, by not purchasing what is not needed
  • vowing to end the tax break for the most wealthy Americans
  • promote with goverment initiatives, the kind of innovation and initiative that spurred one Ohio drilling company to produce drills that helped to safe some 30 miners trapped underground in Chile
  • continue to fund Race to the Top, an initiative designed to improve school performance, whose specific proposals come from state governors and legislators of both political stripes
  • bring all combat troops home from Iraq and start the draw-down of troops from Afghanistan later this year
  • stand beside all people everywhere who are seeking an end to tyranny, citing Tunesia and Sudan where voting has occurred on the same land that has known only fighting for generations
  • strengthen NATO through enhanced defensive initiatives
  • visit South America in March to grow opportunities for trade and thereby American jobs with treaties that protect both environment and workers
  • reduce both debt and deficit through co-operative efforts with Congress, acknowledging there will be "debates over every single clause in every single bill" and "it will be messy" and "it will not be easy" but that is the essence of the American democracy and
  • noted not a single person in the chamber would choose to live in a different country to which everyone stood and applauded
Notably absent were three members of the Supreme Court, all three of whom are well known as conservative members of the bench. This is about as profesional and irresponsible as Speaker Boehner's refusal to attend the state dinner with Hu Jintao at the White House last week.
Obama has absorbed his 'licks' from the shellacking his party took in the November elections, and appointed key advisors from the centre of American politics, and set the table for some serious negotiations and debates with the Congress in a spirit of harmony and shared responsbility.
Every country in the world would be well served to have such a remarkable, intelligent, inspiring and focused leader of its government. And the world should be thankful that his like still choose to aspire to the highest offices of the country, when the sniping and the back-biting and even the rancour and danger of public office were never more evident than in the black and white ribbons worn by virtually everyone in the chamber to honour Gabriel Giffords for whom a single seat was left vacant during the speech while she recovers in a Houston rehab centre from an assassin's bullet.
Contrast the content and the spirit of the Obama speech with this from the Associated Press, in Toronto Star, January 26, 2011
OAK LAWN, ILL.—A car salesman in suburban Chicago has been fired for refusing to remove a Green Bay Packers tie that he wore to work the day after the Packers beat the Chicago Bears to advance to the Super Bowl.
John Stone says he wore the Packers tie to work Monday at Webb Chevrolet in Oak Lawn to honour his late grandmother, who was a big Green Bay fan.
The sentimental gesture did not impress his boss, Jerry Roberts.
Roberts says the dealership has done promotions involving the Bears and he was afraid the tie could alienate the team’s fans and make it harder to sell cars.
Roberts adds that Stone was offered five chances to take off the tie but he refused.
“I don’t know why he did it, I really don’t,” Stone said. “That’s hurtful. I thought I was a good salesman.”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Harper Struts...on hollow be replaced?

By Linda McQuaig, Toronto Star, January 25, 2011
The real story of the past five years isn’t Harper’s success — his poll numbers have hovered below 40 per cent — but the timidity of the opposition in mounting a spirited case for progressive policies that would have sparked wide public support, particularly after the 2008 financial crash exposed the fallacies of neo-conservative tax-cutting and deregulation.

Harper should be getting pummeled for his pro-corporate, anti-people agenda. Instead, he’s strutting about arrogantly accusing his opponents of being disrespectful, even as he heads a government that is the most disrespectful — to the vast majority of Canadians — in our history
With a meek and often cooperative opposition, Harper went on to introduce policies out of sync with values held by most Canadians. He’s favoured war-making (over peacekeeping), investing $16 billion in fighter jets (rather than social programs), locking people up (despite reduced crime), clamping down on dissent, weakening gun control, abandoning even-handedness in the Middle East.

He’s also turned a blind eye to torture and the rights of a Canadian in Guantanamo, shut down Parliament (rather than risk defeat), refused to tackle climate change, irresponsibly cut taxes (especially for corporations), while recklessly squandering $1 billion on G20 “security.”
Let's repeat one line of this outstanding piece of analysis....
Harper should be getting pummeled for his pro-corporate, anti-people agenda. Instead, he’s strutting about arrogantly accusing his opponents of being disrespectful, even as he heads a government that is the most disrespectful — to the vast majority of Canadians — in our history.
Ms McQuaig hits the nail smartly on the head, as the cliche goes. And how do Canadians reconcile this strutting, while the opposition seems to be failing to gain traction in the polling numbers?
Of course, there is the Liberal debacle in Quebec, in envelopes full of cash, that no political party should be involved in. Next there is the Bloc, another obstruction to either Liberals or NDP gaining momentum in Quebec. Then there is the walking backward into the leadership by Mr. Ignatieff, following Stephane Dion's pummelling both by the Conservatives and by his own party. Then there is the loud megaphone granted by the Canadian media to any sitting Prime Minister, drowning out the opposition protests, which, to be fair, have not been exactly clarion calls to action in themselves.
And now, inspite of all those obstacles, the Liberals are within 8 points of the Harper Conservatives, (really amazing, when you think about it!) and with some breaks and an outstanding campaign strategy, including clear messages of clearly articulated policies, accompanied by honest costing of those programs, both of which in terms that the avergage Canadian can fully comprehend, there should, could and possibly will be a Liberal government in Ottawa before this year is out.
There are some 100 newly minted Liberal candidates making their way around the Parliament Buildings, presumably as guests of the Liberal Party, and some of these individuals are more than ready, qualified and chomping at the bit for Cabinet Posts.... And already sitting in the Liberal caucus are some very competent and experienced veterans, like Scott Brisson, Ken Dryden, Bob Rae, Ralph Goodale, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Martha Hall Finley, Stephane Dion just to name a few.
In fact, these Liberals know that they have no 'divine right to govern' Canada.
They know that the country expects better from them, than has been delivered by Harper.
But as former mayor of Ottawa, Charlotte Whitten used to say about women being compared with men,
"Women have to be twice as good as men,to be considered equal; fortunately, that is not so difficult."

Similarly, Liberals have to be twice as good as Conservatives, to be given a chance to govern; fortunately, that is not so difficult.

UPDATE: Jan. 29/11 Radical Islamic Revolution must be stopped

Word from a variety of sources commenting on the suicide bombing in the Moscow airport is very disturbing. If the perpetrator(s) represent the interests of those in the Caucuses, specifically Islamists who seek both independence from Russia and the establishment of Sharia Law in their newly established Islamic countries, then the phenomenon that we are watching sweep across the globe, Islamic nationalism, fueled by Islamic extremism from a faith perspective, and represented in various situations by both individuals and groups armed with the most primitive of weapons, willing and eager to blow themselves up, while murdering dozens, hundreds or even thousands of innocent 'others' is only growing.
And our capacity to confront this new guerilla warfare is somewhat suspect, given the usual and historic preparations for conflict between nation states that include the army, navy airforce and airplanes, ships, and radar....we are having a little trouble transitioning to a more intelligence-based, and police and detective-operated approach to the problem, and in the course of our "high and mighty" attempts to engage the enemy, we have missed the mark, in many cases.
This conflict is, or appears to be from the outside, a matter of the potential for recruitment, brain-washing and then intensive (or not so intensive) training in the techniques of social interruptions, political assassinations including bombing passenger aircraft while in flight, and thereby creating as much publicity for the 'revolution' as possible.
And this seems, at least to this observer, as a global revolution, founded on religious radicalism, funded by secret and supportive sources, and executed by a small band, or many small bands of religious terrorists.
In Yemen, for example, we learn that the leader of the AlQaeda affiliate in that country, who operates a "university" for the training of terrorists, is a friend of the president, and is given many privileges of insider information almost as a confidante of the country's president. That is hardly a situation that engenders the notion of 'an ally' for the west in this fight. To the contrary, Yemen has the second highest number of guns per person in the population to the United States and is quite successful in recruiting more jihadists for the cause.
If we are facing, at it does appear, a relentless, determined, albeit fragmentary force determined to take over the world, one country at a time, and meanwhile, take as many lives of 'infidels' as possible, and create as much mayhem as possible on a very limited budget, then we are in this conflict for the long haul.
And that long haul could be for the next hundred years.
It is not religious bigotry or racism to suggest that we are unalterably opposed to this 'take-over' movement. When radical Imams in Great Britain preach openly on the street corners that these Islamists want to take over Buckingham Palace leaving the Queen two options, to convert to Islam or to leave the country, although I have never contemplated voluntary enlistment into the military, I am prepared to put my body on the line against such a movement. I, and millions of others, am not willing to permit such a development, no matter the cost.
And the west must develop a united front with a variety of strategic and tactical approaches to meet this violent revolution that continues to creep across the globe both openly and surreptitiously.
These are forces with which we cannot and must not negotiate.
By David Nowak, Asociated Press in Globe and Mail, January 29, 2011
The suicide bomber who killed 35 people at Moscow's busiest airport was deliberately targeting foreigners, investigators said Saturday, which would mark an ominous new tactic by separatist militants in southern Russia if he was recruited by an Islamist terror cell.

Federal investigators know the identity of the bomber, a 20-year-old native of the volatile Caucausus region, where Islamist insurgents have been battling for years for a breakaway state.

ArchiTEXT: introducing PLAY into corporate world! ..and beyond?

By Diane Jermyn, Globe and Mail, January 25, 2011 
Zahra Ebrahim, principal and founder of archiTEXT, an architecture and design think tank, is big on the p-word. As in “play.” The word is often viewed as profanity in the business world, she says, but it’s part of the culture at her Toronto studio.
“Creativity, innovation and social innovation are the buzzwords that all big business is transitioning toward, but the idea of play as an activity is something they’re very scared of,” Ms. Ebrahim says. “It takes a while for people to warm up to it.”
 Founded in 2006, archiTEXT’s mandate is to use architecture and design to help businesses engage a more diverse audience in their marketplace. The young staff, ranging in age from 21 to 32, includes people with backgrounds in economics, history, art, design and architecture.
“If we’re dealing with an established business, what’s challenging is to convince them to abandon this very safe structure and go to a new place where they’re not sure where it will take them,” Ms. Ebrahim says.
Ms. Ebrahim likes to get to “the why” of how a person thinks – why someone sells a particular product, why they care. This is not always exposed in the traditional business thinking process. “A lot of what we do is designed to be provocative and start conversations,” she says.
“Over the last decade there’s been a move from business thinking to design thinking,” Ms. Ebrahim says. “What we’re doing at archiTEXT is experimenting with it. The way that we come to any solution is we bring in dynamic thinkers because if you want a team of designers or architects, there are many other places you can go. But where we’ve really carved our niche is by bringing young thinkers into these dynamic groups.”
Born in Kenya, Ms. Ebrahim grew up in West Vancouver, then studied urban systems and architecture at McGill. For two years she served as innovator-in-residence at Canada's national design museum, the Design Exchange, and was the youngest professor at the Ontario College of Art & Design.
Her approach to design thinking is that it’s a messy process, unlike “clean business thinking,” which might include checklists.
With any luck, this is where the revolution is going to start. "What revolution?" you ask. The one that gets the establishment to think innovatively, creatively, without a flight plan, without a list of lists that require accomplishment every day, without a sterlity that infects business, politics, theology, and even social interractions.
Imagine the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, under the auspices of ArchiTEXT! Two thousand years of history would be looked at, framed, and bounced around from a variety of perspectives, none of which have been in "play" in all of the previous attempts to bring peace.
Imagine the negotiations between the Republicans and the Democrats over debt and deficit problems hosted and guided by Zahra Ebrahim and her group of unorthodox thinkers. And then start to think about the reverberations from those two negotiations.
Imagine Wall Street financial services markets meeting with the Unitarian Services Committee to plan the remediation and restitution required to atone for the rape of the financial services industry, and the economies of many of the western nations, if ArchiTEXT were the company at the heart of the process.
PLAY, that four-letter word is so anathema to the establishment that it is virtually worse than a swear word. It is the classic enemy of the straight-laced, buttoned-down, stiff-upper-lip attitude and culture of the people who swear by their values of "discipline," and "following precedent," and "keeping with tradition," and refusing to permit the kind of thinking, and subsequent actions that would never have been contemplated, and would never have been respected by that same establishment.
PLAY is to puritans as sex is to Baptists...solely as a necessity for procreation!
PLAY is to corporate leaders as booze to the temperance union of the 20's, forbidden!
PLAY is to political leadership as bungie-jumping for babies!
PLAY is to school teachers as acid and methamphetamines to the Officers of the War on Drugs!
Play must be collegial, and co-operative and lateral and the inverse of vertical. Everything about the establishment is vertical, in order to preserve the power of those at the top, for its own sake, and for the sake of preserving the status, position and honour of those at the top, who are now the recipients of those glutonous bonuses. Along with preserving their power, they must also preserve their culture of avoiding "messes" because "messes" invoke images of little children who have not yet grown "up"....notice the geometry of that word....And messes need to cleaned up "at once" in order to avoid the embarrassment that accompanies all messes!
Let's get real, and acknowledge that much of the world, including much of what goes on in most organizations is messy, but we choose not to look at those messes, because they are unlikely to be cleaned up any time soon. They have become 'normal' by our negligence and denial.
However, they are still there, and we choose to scorn their presence, if we acknowledge it at all.
Perhaps, if enough 'risk takers' are willing to engage with ArchiTEXT, and spread the word, there will be a ripple effect that grows into a tsunami of honesty, and new solutions for old problems, and new attitudes toward what is possible. And, to think one of these examples, born in Kenya, started in Canada! Ironic? perhaps but impressive!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Council of Canadians protests CETA (Can-EU Trade Agreement) in Europe

From the Council of Canadians press release, January 24, 2011
The Council of Canadians travelled to Brussels, Belgium and Strasbourg, France last week to raise awareness about the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the threats it poses to public water, social services and democracy.

Canadians have had no say on what the proposed deal should look like – or whether we should be negotiating at all. Leaked copies of the negotiating text and public statements about the deal make it clear that CETA offers little to Canadians while posing far too many unnecessary risks.
While in Brussels, the Council of Canadians joined other concerned organizations and union representatives as part of a Trade Justice Network delegation to encourage Members of the European Parliament to put the CETA negotiations on ice to allow for the negotiating mandate to be debated publicly in Canada and the EU.
During the week, the Council’s Director of Campaigns and Communications Brent Patterson and Trade Justice Campaigner Stuart Trew met with European civil society groups and parliamentarians to share a legal opinion on the impact CETA will have on tar sands development, as well as environmental policy more generally, and a new report on how the agreement could lead to more privatization of Canadian and EU public water systems. The report, titled Keep Europe Out of the Tar Sands!, Speaks to the massive environmental devastation in Canada caused by the tar sands and how CETA could be used to overrule positive measures aimed at restricting dirty fuels in Europe such as the fuel derived from the tar sands.
While in Brussels, Council representatives took part in a protest outside the European Commission, which was organized by the UK Tar Sands Network with participation from The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and Friends of the Earth Europe. The protest garnered national media attention in Canada, helping to raise awareness about the public’s growing concerns with the deal.

Head injuries in NHL and NFL are preventable

Sydney Crosby has not played in his team's last six or seven games, because he has a concussion from two hits to his head, one a blindside shoulder to his head from a player named Stekel from the Washington Capitols, another from a boarding incident initiated by a Florida Panther named Hedman. In neither case was the offending player even penalyzed, not during the game, nor afterwards by the league office.
Here is the best player in the league (and the world) whose career may be threatened (just intuition, there is no medical report yet to confirm how serious the injury is) in a sport where the business, dollars, and profit of the owners is more important than the health of its best players.
So much for extreme capitalism!
So much for a second sport, after North American football (specifically the NFL) in which the potential to injure one's opponent is now taken as a way to both attract attention and a way to ensure the defeat of that opponent, in the name of money....both the contract for the players in the stratosphere, the sales for the advertisers and the profits for the owners.
And then of course, there is the "blood lust" of the sports fans, whose insatiable appetite for violence is only partially satisfied by these rich gladiators, who believe that their pursuit of their "dream" is their ticket to happiness, regardless of the risk.
We at the do not believe that the interests of the long-term viability of these sports is served by the continual recurrence of these injuries to the best and the brightest stars in both leagues. While it is true that injuries are an integral part of all athletic events, it is also true that the supply of potential stars is not limitless, as is the greed, and the need for instant gratification of both the investors and the subscribers.
Here is one more stage where the "laissez-faire approach, without adequate regulation and oversight, leaves the field devastated with the ruined legacies of many of the best players. Furthermore, we heartily endorse all efforts to remove any attempt to injure and any attempt to strike an opponent's head indirectly or directly, regardless of motive, in both the NHL and the NFL. However, with respect to the credibility of both league managements, we are not convinced that their long-term strategy is not trumped by their short-term approach of "leave the game as it is" because that's what the fans pay for and that's what lines out pockets.
Is this not just another version of the serfdom that infects the marketplace, in which the employer has little regard for the well-being of the worker, so long as the profits roll in?
Some people are attempting to do something about this horrible legacy of sport injuries.
The mission of the Sports Legacy Institute is to advance the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups. SLI was founded in 2007 to “Solve the Sports Concussion Crisis,” and in 2009, SLI launched programs to also serve our military veterans. SLI is primarily focused on the study of the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, a condition caused by repetitive concussive and sub-concussive brain injuries. (From the Sport Legacy Institute website,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Small minded provincialisms show lack of class on both sides of 49th

There is a kind of provincialism that attends much of the "right" political attitudes, actions and words. One example of that isolationism is seen in the act of the new Speaker of the House of Representatives' refusal to attend the state dinner at the White House for Chinese Premier Hu Jintao this week. As former National Security Advisor to President Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, put it on CNN's GPS this week, the decision was unwise since the Republican party is a co-partner in government in Washington.
Snubbing the Chinese Premier because of who knows what issue, even including the outsourcing of jobs, and the exacting of technology transfers to the Chinese for permission to produce American goods in their country, or for not taking a strong enough stand against North Korea or whatever....the U.S. interests are not going to be better served by the Speaker abdicating his responsbility by refusing to attend. His presence is not an endorsement of the Obama administration; he presence is not a condoning of any specific act of either commission or omission on the part of the Obama adminstration. He absence is merely a reflection on his extremely poor judgement and reflects badly on himself, on his pary and his country. He ought to know better!
Another sign of provincialism is evident in the "parting of ways" between Keith Olbermann and MSNBC last Friday evening, when the announcement was made on the Countdown show of which Olbermann was the face and voice and much of the mind. To silence Mr. Olbermann, either by MSNBC former owner/managers (under the General Electric brand name) and/or the new owners, Comcast...just as the sale/takeover was approved by the Federal Communications Commission, looks suspiciously as if the new owners might have made it part of the deal that he had to be evicted prior to their formal takeover. Voices of the left, especially that of Mr. Olbermann are few and far between, and the money and influence of the right continue to grow to the exclusion of any rebuttal from the left. And to compare the 'opinion' shows from Fox, including O'Reilly, Hannity and Beck, where the facts barely matter, with the Countdown show, is like comparing the intellects of Palin with that of Obama....they are not even in the same ballpark. This is an unapologetic plea for Keith Olbermann to resurface and to continue his fight for the 'left' in his own unabashed and unapologetic way, where he can and will keep hope alive for a second term for President Obama, and hope alive for the resurgence of the American middle class. We are all watching!
Another example of narrow mindedness comes from the autobiography of Carol Simpson, a black news reporter whose story entitled, Newslady, is replete with stories of her being confronted with unabashed racism when, for example she showed up at a farewell party for one of the correspondents at ABCNews who was being transferred to Moscow, only to be asked by an executive of the company why she was not wearing a uniform and an apron and serving hors d'oeuvres. (Ms Simpson is proudly black!)
Depending on your perceptions, there is a kind of provincialism that accompanies the Canadian Prime Minister in all of his attitudes, actions and policies. One of the latest was his patronizing of the Canadian people and the leader of the Liberal Party for the atack ads that depict Mr. Ignatieff as 'not coming back to Canada for you' because he has apparently been working elsewhere (establishing a considerable reputation as a scholar on human rights, while teaching and writing at Harvard for two decades). Another was his pompous assumption that the Canadian people have grown comfortable with the government he leads. Another is his hands off approach to the environment (5 ministers in 5 years, none of whom made an ounce of progress because the Prime Minister is the real Minister of the Environment, as well as all the other ministers). Canada has become a laughing stock simply because the Prime Minister is not prepared to enter the arena with some form of carbon tax that would reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, and thereby increase the costs of production of those products whose production process emits large amounts of the dangerous gas.

Public Health Care needs new government to preserve it

By Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star, Janujary 22, 2011
Harper’s Conservative Party platform contains important caveats.

It says provinces should have “maximum flexibility” to deliver health care. This is a hint that Conservative governments won’t be overly worried if provinces try to introduce two-tier care.
It also calls for “a balance” between public and private delivery. Currently, virtually all Canadian hospitals are public.
More to the point, it talks of limiting Ottawa’s use of the federal spending power in areas of provincial jurisdiction such as health.
If that platform promise were honored, medicare – a social program based upon Ottawa’s ability to withhold federal funds from provinces that don’t adhere to national standards – wouldn’t exist in its present form.
Another slippery slope...don't really talk about the details on how the Conservatives would go about dismantling the National Health Care system, that has served so many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Canadians so well for so long, just let it slide into the oblivion that comes from a privatized alternative which then shifts the cost, and the profit, to those companies currently operating and new entries, anticipating their opportunity of another cash grab. Health is a constantly growing "market," to use the business model of conversation, which should never apply to its design or delivery. All of us will need more health care from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and ancillary providers, until we take our last breath.
And, so the provision of that service will cost each of us, and our families and our society considerable cash.
The source of that cash, and whether we pay on average, a similar, if not precisely exact same dollar, no matter our condition, our age, nor our location, or whether we are expected to "pay as we go" depending on the size of our need, and on our ability to pay is the question.
And while there are changes needed to certain aspects of the current system which is based, for example, on the doctor's number of patient encounters, and not on the "health" of his/her patients, nor on the quality of his/her care, the system must be preserved. It is one of the most characteristic features of the Canadian way of doing things, that we take national pride in our access to health care, even though some of have far greater access to far more services, in our own communities, than other Canadian citizens, who also pay their fair share of the cost burden.
What really galls me about the potential shift to privitized care is that someone, anyone, should make a profit off the inevitable sickness, pain, discomfort and disability of others. A reasonable remuneration, requiring constant upgrading of qualifications on the part of doctors, nurses and the multitude of technologists seems more than reasonable. There is the opportunity in that model to plan and to organize based on anticipated requirements, and the greed that so infests the corporate world, is a little less able to dominate that model.
If we turn the whole system over to the private corporation, whose sole motive is profit for the shareholders, then they will rape the users, just as the insurance companies in the U.S. are doing and have been doing for decades. We do not want a health care system whose cornerstone is profit for the corporations, and not care for the patients. We do not want a health care system dominated by those who seek to seduce those in pain to use their products and services, rather than a system based on the authentic needs of the patient.
We do not want some profit-driven executives determining the costs of any particular services, and who has access to those services, and to how much of those services the patient has access.
And in order to keep and to preserve, and to enhance our health care system, we need a new government, a government that is not dependent on the corporate monopoly that runs the U.S. system, even with the Health Reform Act passed under the Obama administration. And to attain that government, whether it is lead by Ignatieff or Layton, or both, is not only a national requirement, it is a national emergency.
We do not want more corporate takeover of our universities, and our hospitals and our religious institutions, and we need a national government that is committed to keeping the Canadian people at the centre of our focus, and of the national conversation, not the metallic, robotic profit-driven monsters who have taken control of the U.S.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chris Hedges: Prophetic Voice for the 21st century

Chris Hedges, author of The Death of the Liberal Class, appeared in a lecture on Big Ideas on TVO earlier tonight. He addressed the take-over by the corporate moneyed plutocracy of the institutions in the Unitd States. Among his many observations, were the following:
  1. big money knows that a Liberal Arts Education produces graduates who ask questions, and since they do not want those questions, they are eliminating Liberal Arts courses and departments from American universities
  2. both Republican and Democratic parties have been "bought" by big money, and the war to gut the middle class has been lost
  3. NAFTA has not delivered on any of the promises made by its supporters when it was introduced
  4. The U.S.military budget is not considered "part of the government" when it comes to consideration of budget cuts, to address both debt and deficit problems
  5. the Health Reform Act provided $400 billion windfall for the Insurance companies, who lobbied to block a public option to the bill
  6. Insurance companies are applying for and being granted exceptions to being required to provide coverage for sick children
  7. the churches have sold out to the corporate interests as have the universities, the political parties and the health care providers, including the hospitals and have thereby lost their voice to object
  8. anyone who wants to preserve a voice of integrity must never join any group, organization or political party, because to do so will corrupt that voice...that includes all writers, and commentators
  9. social chanage has only ever come from small groups of people stirring the public "pot" for change...including freeing the slaves, getting the vote for women
  10. if one supports his perspective, even a single act of integrity, in and of itself, is worthy of being enacted, regardless of whether the larger 'battle' is won or lost

Friday, January 21, 2011

Canada: 1 doctor for 438 in south; 1 for 3,333 in north...Shame!

By Shannon Proudfoot, Postmedia News, in Montreal Gazette, January 20, 2011
In southern Canada, one doctor cares for an average of 438 people, but in the country's northern regions, one physician is responsible for the health of as many as 3,333 people, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada.
The most acute shortages are in northern Saskatchewan, Nunavut and northern Newfoundland and Labrador, the latest report from the organization's Centre for the North research institute finds.
"We hear Canadians talking all the time about the fact that there's a shortage of doctors, we hear people talk about the fact that they can't get a family doctor," says Derrick Hynes, director of the centre. "If you look at this issue form a north-south perspective, it's even more pronounced."
Across southern Canada, each physician is responsible for between 384 and 625 patients on average, the report finds, but in northern Saskatchewan, the ratio is 3,333 to one, and it's 2,000 to one in Nunavut. The most recent census in 2006 counted just 10 physicians in northern Saskatchewan, 15 in Nunavut and 20 in northern Newfoundland and Labrador.
Read more:
This story reminds me of the statement made in a homily delivered by deceased Trinity College Professor, Romney Moseley, at an ordination service in March 15,1993, in a small church in rural Ontario. Most of the students in Toronto would not accept a posting to this part of the province; they insist on working in urban centres like Toronto, he said then.
And there is a significant divide in our deployment of professional services, just another bit of evidence of the imbalances that exist betwen the have's and the have-not's within our own country. We educate the best and the brightest in our southern Canadian universities and colleges and they, for the most part, stay in those areas, leaving the north, and the more rural areas depleted of resources, where they are most needed.
And we continue, as a nation, to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to pleas from those less well served, while proudly boasting of our accomplishments in the numbers and the qualities of our graduates.
In areas like teaching, social work, medicine, and law, why could there not be an incentive program, sponsored by the federal government, to fund the education of those who choose to work for a minimum number of years in the most remote and least serviced areas of the country.
Call it the Canadian Bridge Corps, making authentic bridges to those communities literally starving for attention, for decent health care, for decent social services and for decent education.
There is a spirit in the country to which the current federal government appears to be unaware.
It is the spirit of generosity, of compassion and of frontiership and courage. It is the spirit that built the country's expanse, its communities from the prairies and the forests, along the rivers and the lakes before there was adequate tranportation and adequate housing and schooling and health care facilities anywhere.
And there is no doubt about the continuing gaps in the needs of Canadian people who are not receiving adequate attention.
Perhaps a new federal government, a more compassionate and a more aware and a more socially-conscious centre-left government could actually begin to address some of these glaring needs. The costs of prevention would be far less than the costs of remediation after the disasters that our failures produce.

Memorial to Jewish Refugees Shut Out by Canada in Halifax

By Michael Lightstone, Haliax Chronicle Herald, January 21, 2011

Designed by the Polish-born son of Holocaust survivors, American architect Daniel Libeskind, the contemplative, motorized Wheel of Conscience was unveiled Thursday at Pier 21.
The exhibit honours the memory of European Jews seeking refuge from Nazism 72 years ago. They were aboard an ocean liner, the MS St. Louis, and were looking for sanctuary from state-sanctioned bigotry.
Canada and other countries shut the door.
If the St. Louis had been allowed to dock here, it would have berthed at the Halifax waterfront, perhaps just a stone’s throw from where the well-attended unveiling took place.
But since no port was open to them, more than 900 Jews were shipped back to Europe and many died in Hitler’s concentration camps.
Libeskind’s Pier 21 piece, created with a grant to the Canadian Jewish Congress from the federal government, has moving gears to symbolize the connection between intolerance and xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
Photo by Andrew Vaughan/CP shows Daniel Liebeskind (Architect) and Jason Kenney with Wheel of Conscience unveiled January 20, 2011 to be located on Pier 21 in Halifax.
Does this story remind us of the "hardening" toward political refugees that we see in Ottawa, according to Cabinet Minister Vic Toews?
This country prides itself on being "open and welcoming" to those less fortunate who seek the freedom and the justice and the opportunity that Canada is alleged to afford and yet, we have a history replete with racism and bigotry and hatred and we are not doing enough to represent that history to our students and our political classes.
Recently, reports of vandalism against the homes of Jewish citizens of Montreal were on the front pages.
A rabbi, interviewed by CBC, was seen and heard crying the words, "I do not understand why I am hated for being who I am!"
Neither does anyone else "understand" this hatred, this bigotry and this violence against other human beings, "because they are who they are".
From the Chronicle Herald piece, cited above
In a recent opinion piece, Canadian historian Irving Abella, master of ceremonies at the Pier 21 event, wrote in the Globe and Mail that there is "redemptive irony" in the unveiling.

"The very place where Jewish refugees would have landed and found safety, only to have the gate slammed in their face, will now host a permanent monument to their memory," he said in his commentary.
As for the man who invented the Wheel of Conscience, Libeskind’s method of creating things for his clients is straightforward, he once told the New York Times.
"I put myself in the spirit of the place," he said. "My goal is to invent something memorable that isn’t obvious but is connected to the roots of the place."
He told reporters after the Halifax unveiling that the tragedy of the St. Louis "cannot be unmade." But hatred and injustice continue in society today, said Libeskind.
"The issues of bias and racism and of anti-Semitism are not gone into the past — they’re all around us in our world," he said.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Day with Earle Birney

In 1977, I was teaching English to grade twelve students in northern Ontario, when a 'gift' dropped in to our school in the form of Canadian poet, Earle Birney.
He addressed some 200 students in the school auditorium, and as I recall, the most memorable moment of the morning came when, in his discussion of the dangers of pollution (yes! way back then!) he paused and said, holding a hand microphone, "We are going to drown in our own shit if we are not careful!"
Only then did the students realize that, the microphone had developed a "short" circuit and his words were silent, except to the front rows and those seated on the stage. He enjoyed the humour of the moment along with the rest of us.
Later in the day, we spent an hour or two in the bar of the Empire Hotel where he recounted his troubles with a lawsuit over his writing of the poem, David. In the poem, two boys are climbing the Canadian Rockies when the guide loses his footing, falls and begs his friend to push him the rest of the way down the mountain.
(For a full copy of the poem, see blog for January 20, 2011 entitled, David, by Earle Birney)
Some person(s) had apparently done a records search in a town in Alberta and found that a young man had in fact, fallen to his death on the mountain, and as a result of this search had either threatened or actually filed a suit, claiming the Birney must be the 'murderer'.
"Why would I write a poem about an event in which I was personally involved?" he asked energetically through both his long white beard and a few drinks from his glass. "If you believe those events in the poem, then, as far as I am concerned, the poem has succeeded. But to think that I would leave myself exposed, as these people claim, is ridiculous!"
There are moments in our lives that are impossible to forget, and their clarity remains decades after the events themselves. This is one of mine and to Mr. Birney, I will always be grateful that I was invited into a small corner of his prolific life.

David, By Earle Birney, 1942

David by Earle Birney, 1942 from
(Ed. Note: I can only hope that you, dear reader, will be as moved by the experience of reading this "loss of innocence" experience as I have always been whenever I return to its gripping tale and landscape.)

David and I that summer cut trails on the Survey,
All week in the valley for wages, in air that was steeped
in the wail of mosquitoes, but over the sunalive week-ends
we climbed, to get from the ruck of the camp, the surly

Poker, the wrangling, the snoring under the fetid
Tents, and because we had joy in our lengthening coltish
Muscles, and mountains for David were made to see over,
Stairs from the valleys and steps to the sun's retreats.

Our first was Mount Gleam. We hiked in the long afternoon
To a curling lake and lost the lure of the faceted
Cone in the swell of its sprawing shoulders. Past
The inlet we grilled our bacon, the strips festooned

On a poplar prong, in the hurrying slant of the sunset.
Then the two of us rolled in the blanket while round us the cold
Pines thrust at the stars. The dawn was a floating
Of mists still we reached to the slopes above timber, and won

To snow like fire in the sunlight. The peak was upthrust
Like a fist in a frozen ocean of rock that swirled
Into valleys the moon could be rolled in. Remotely unfurling
Eastward the alien prairie glittered. Down through the dusty

Scree on the west we descended, and David showed me
How to use the give of shale for giant incredible
Strides. I remember, before the larches' edge,
That I jumped on a long green surf of juniper flowing

Away from the wind, and landed in gentian and saxifrage
Spilled on the moss. Then the darkening firs
And the sudden whirring of water that knifed down a fern-hidden
Cliff and splashed unseen into mist in the shadows.

One Sunday on Rampart's arête a rainsquall caught us,
And passed, and we clung by our blueing fingers and bootnails
An endless hour in the sun, not daring to move
Till the ice had steamed from the slate. And David taught me

How time on a knife-edge can pass with the guessing of fragments
Remembered from poets, the naming of strata beside one,
And matching of stories from schooldays ... We crawled astride
The peak to feast on the marching ranges flagged

By the fading shreds of the shattered stomcloud. Lingering
there it was David who spied to the south, remote
And unmapped, a sunlit spire on Sawback, an overhang
Crooked like a talon. David named it the Finger.

That day we chanced on the skull and the splayed white ribs
Of a mountain goat underneath a cliff, caught
On a rock. Around were the silken feathers of hawks.
And that was the first I knew that a goat could slip.

And then Inglismaldie. Now I remember only
The long ascent of the lonely valley, the live
Pine spirally scarred by lightning, the slicing pipe
Of invisible pike, and great prints, by the lowest

Snow, of a grizzly. There it was too that David
Taught me to read the scroll of coral in limestone
And the beetle-seal in the shale of ghostly trilobites,
Letters delivered to man from the Cambrian waves.

On Sundance we tried from the col and the going was hard.
The air howled from our feet to the smudged rocks
And the papery lake below. At an outthrust we balked
Till David clung with his left to a dint in the scarp,

Lobbed the iceaxe over the rocky lip,
Slipped from his holds and hung by the quivering pick,
Twisted his long legs up into space and kicked
To the crest. Then, grinning, he reached with his freckled wrist

And drew me up after. We set a new time for that climb.
That day returning we found a robin gyrating
In grass, wing-broken. I caught it to tame but David
Took and killed it, and said, "Could you teach it to fly?"

In August, the second attempt, we ascended The Fortress.
By the Forks of the Spray we caught five trout and fried them
Over a balsam fire. The woods were alive
With the vaulting of mule-deer and drenched with clouds all the morning,

Till we burst at noon to the flashing and floating round
Of the peaks. Coming down we picked in our hats the bright
And sunhot raspberries, eating them under a mighty
Spruce, while marten moving like quicksilver scouted us.

But always we talked of the Finger on Sawback, unknown
And hooked, till the first afternoon in September we slogged
Through the musky woods, past a swamp that quivered with frog-song,
And camped by a bottle-green lake. But under the cold

Breath of the glacier sleep would not come, the moonlight
Etching the finger. We rose and trod past the feathery
Larch, while the stars went out, and the quiet heather
Flushed, and the skyline pulsed with the surging bloom

Of incredible dawn in the Rockies. David spotted
Bighorns across the moraine and sent them leaping
With yodels the ramparts redoubled and rolled to the peaks,
And the peaks to the sun. The ice in the morning thaw

Was a gurgling world of crystal and cold blue chasms,
And seracs that shone like frozen salt-green waves.
At the base of the Finger we tried once and failed. Then David
Edged to the west and discovered the chimney; the last

Hundred feet we fought the rock and shouldered and kneed
Our way for an hour and made it. Unroping we formed
A cairn on the rotting tip. Then I turned to look north
At the glistening wedge of giant Assiniboine, heedless

Of handhold. And one foot gave. I swayed and shouted.
David turned sharp and reached out his arm and steadied me
Turning again with a grin and his lips ready
To jest. But the strain crumbled his foothold. Without

A gasp he was gone. I froze to the sound of grating
Edge-nails and fingers, the slither of stones, the lone
Second of silence, the nightmare thud. Then only
The wind and the muted beat of unknowing cascades.

Somehow I worked down the fifty impossible feet
To the ledge, calling and getting no answer but echoes
Released in the cirque, and trying not to reflect on
What an answer would mean. He lay still, with his lean

Young face upturned and strangely unmarred, but his legs
Splayed beneath him, beside the final drop,
Six hundred feet sheer to the ice. My throat stopped
When I reached him, for he was alive. He opened his grey

Straight eyes and brokenly murmured, "over... over."
And I, feeling beneath him a cruel fang
Of the ledge thrust in his back, but not understanding,
Mumbled stupidly, "Best not to move," and spoke

of his pain. But he said "I can't move ... If only I felt
Some pain." Then my shame stung the tears to my eyes
As I crouched, and I cursed myself, but he cried
Louder, "No, Bobbie! Don't ever blame yourself.

I didn't test my foothold." He shut the lids
Of his eyes to the stare of the sky, while I moistened his lips
From our water flask and tearing my shirt into strips
I swabbed the shredded hands. But the blood slid

From his side and stained the stone and the thirsting lichens,
And yet I dared not lift him up from the gore
Of the rock. Then he whispered, "Bob, I want to go over!"
This time I knew what he meant and I grasped for a lie

And said, "I'll be back here by midnight with ropes
And men from the camp and we'll cradle you out." But I knew
That the day and the night must pass and the cold dews
Of another morning before such men unknowing

The way of mountains could win to the chimney's top.
And then, how long? And he knew ... and the hell of hours
After that, if he lived till we came, roping him out.
But I curled beside him and whispered, "The bleeding will stop.

You can last. " He said only, "Perhaps ... For what? A wheelchair,
Bob?" His eyes brightening with fever upbraided me.
I could not look at him more and said, "Then I'll stay
With you." But he did not speak, for the clouding fever.

I lay dazed and stared at the long valley,
The glistening hair of a creek on the rug stretched
By the firs, while the sun leaned round and flooded the ledge,
The moss, and David still as a broken doll

I hunched on my knees to leave, but he called and his voice
Now was sharpened with fear. "For Christ's sake push me over!
If I could move ... or die ..." The sweat ran from his forehead
But only his head moved. A hawk was buoying

Blackly its wings over the wrinkled ice.
The purr of a waterfall rose and sank with the wind.
Above us climbed the last joint of the Finger
Beckoning bleakly the wide indifferent sky.

Even then in the sun it grew cold lying there ... And I knew
He had tested his holds. It was I who had not ... I looked
At the blood on the ledge, and the far valley. I looked
At last in his eyes. He breathed, "I'd do it for you, Bob."

I will not remember how or why I could twist
Up the wind-devilled peak, and down through the chimney's empty
Horror, and over the traverse alone. I remember
Only the pounding fear I would stumble on It

When I came to the grave-cold maw of the bergschrund ... reeling
Over the sun-cankered snowbridge, shying the caves
In the névé ... the fear, and the need to make sure It was there
On the ice, the running and falling and running, leaping

Of gaping green-throated crevasses, alone and pursued
By the Finger's lengthening shadow. At last through the fanged
And blinding seracs I slid to the milky wrangling
Falls at the glacier's snout, through the rocks piled huge

On the humped moraine, and into the spectral larches,
Alone, By the glooming lake I sank and chilled
My mouth but I could not rest and stumbled still
To the valley, losing my way in the ragged marsh.

I was glad of the mire that covered the stains, on my ripped
Boots, of his blood, but panic was on me, the creek
Of the bog, the purple glimmer of toadstools obscene
In the twilight. I staggered clear to a firewaste, tripped

And fell with a shriek on my shoulder. It somehow eased
My heart to know I was hurt, but I did not faint
And I could not stop while over me hung the range
Of the Sawback. In blackness I searched for the trail by the creek

And found it ... My feet squelched a slug and horror
Rose again in my nostrils. I hurled myself
Down the path. In the woods behind some animal yelped.
Then I saw the glimmer of tents and babbled my story.

I said that he fell straight to the ice where they found him,
And none but the sun and incurious clouds have lingered
Around the marks of that day on the ledge of the Finger,
That day, the last of my youth, on the last of our mountains.

Earle Birney