Thursday, June 30, 2011

Christine Lagarde: new IMF 'head'...could be a signifcant shift

By Tavia Grant and Kevin Carmichael, Globe and Mail, June 29, 2011
 For decades, the IMF, World Bank and OECD have helped steer the global economy. And they’ve done it largely without women.
Christine Lagarde’s rise to the top post of a global economic institution has catapulted her into a job no woman has done before, and highlights the maleness of the circle of senior officials at the agencies and central banks guiding the global economy.
Lagarde chosen to lead IMF The dearth of women in senior roles reflects a glaring absence of women at all levels of the economics field. While women are making professional strides in other academic fields, change has been much slower in the dismal science. From Bay Street to the Bank of England, women are still far less likely to become tenured professors in economics, chief economists or heads of large think tanks.
At Canadian universities, only 8.3 per cent of full professors in economics are women – the lowest portion of any social science. That number is 10.7 per cent in the U.S. At the Bank of Canada, five of six members of the governing council are men while the Bank of England has no women on its monetary policy committee.
In Ottawa, no woman has ever risen higher than associate deputy minister at the Finance Department, the rung below the top bureaucratic job in the government’s premier ministry for economic policy. Louise Levonian, a Queen’s University graduate and a 15-year department veteran, is an associate deputy minister, sitting third on the depth chart behind Deputy Minister Michael Horgan, and Paul Rochon, who is Canada’s chief negotiator at the Group of Seven and the Group of 20. But of 16 senior policy positions at the department, only four are filled by women.
The scarcity is even more stark in the private sector.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty regularly consults with private-sector economists to garner insights on the economy. Eleven of the 12 economists at his last meeting were men (Sheryl King, head of Canadian economics for Merrill Lynch, was the exception).
Globally, before Ms. Lagarde, who is a lawyer, not an economist, no woman has ever led the IMF, the World Bank or the OECD.
Some of the reasons are straightforward – it can take 65-hour weeks to be a chief economist, or endless late nights to become a full-time professor – while other factors turning women off economics are more complex.
The lack of women in academic economics is an issue not just for the women who aren’t advancing; it also impoverishes the research and work produced. “A lot of social problems aren’t being analyzed to the extent they would be, or paid attention to, to the extent they might be,” says Barbara Fraumeni, chair of the American Economic Association’s committee on the status of women in the economics profession.
Women tend to pursue different areas of economics than men, in areas that help shape social policy such as health, education, labour and international development. A list of current research posted on the Canadian Women Economists Network website includes income inequality among seniors, kindergarten subsidies, the institution of marriage and the informal sector.
Historically, economics and politics have been "male preserves" and keeping it that way has resulted in a "male perspective" on many public issues. As a result of this "slant" the media often follows suit. For example, questions of health, education and workplace culture are very often relegated to the "family" section of the newspaper, as if these issues did not command the same kind of attention, interest and public scrutiny as, for example, tax policy, defense, foreign affairs, and perhaps even race relations.
There is a giant divide in the perceptions of what is really important, because the skewed perceptions makes important issues, sometimes even more important than those issues that dominate the front pages, fall between the cracks and end up on page 19, buried amid the ads for, ironically, men's suits.
Child poverty, for example, is an issue in North America that has no "sex appeal" because it concerns only how much food a young person consumes; and yet, without adequate nutrition there is likely to be inadequate supervision (an assumption that is not intended to slam the parents, only to note the obvious stress that accompanies hunger), perhaps inadequate heating and inadequate places for study and the list goes on. And the results show up in the classroom where grades plummet and interest flags and eventually enrolment drops. And while occasionally, a program like 60 Minutes on CBS will focus on such a story, it rarely gets the kind of public policy attention it deserves.
However, women editors and women economists and women politicians can see the significance of such an issue immediately, and can most likely find any information about it in the "family" section of the papers.
However, if we are not feeding our children we are committing our own sabotage.
Similarly, enrolment and curriculum patterns in elementary and secondary schools are rarely the subject of investigative journalism, but the budgets of school boards always command a front page story. And the truth is that such a bias hurts the potential for public scrutiny of school issues to parent councils, parent nights, and barbeque and cocktail parties. Concentrating on the number of students in a classroom is barely touching the surface of the important issues in any school and educators, for the most part, are public servants paid by public dollars (billions of those dollars) and the male culture considers it unimportant.
And consequently, when males start to do less well than young female students, we think such a demographic belongs on the "family" pages, and not on the front pages, when the future is being shaped by their academic resistance.
It is not more women in principalships that is the issue; we have already crossed that threshold. It may be that we need more male elementary teachers, and that issue is certainly linked to the "wimp" or "fag" factor that attends public perceptions of that role, as well as the larger pay cheque that  accompanies law, accounting, engineering and business management.
However, not only does economics suffer from a dearth of female practitioners, we all do. Their perspective would significantly change the "rules" by which the depressing science operated and instead of the publicly held perception that "we serve the economy" the inverse might become our reality: the economy serves the people.
And such a change would bring the male anti-environmentalists out of their comfortable closet; and such a change would bring economics to the kitchen table, and make poverty a real issue in all the capitals of the world, where it belongs. And such a change would also stress the importance of the human side of public issues, not only the abstract, intellectual, or objective side.
There is a place for the human stories in the public dialogue, and that place is not restricted to the "People" magazines, the tabloids or the family and life sections of the news papers.
We congratulate Ms Legarde on her appointment to the IMF and we will watch carefully just how her appointment shifts conventional opinion at the G-20 for example, in how such a group discusses fiscal and monetary policy and how co-operative the big powers actually become.
Increased collaboration could well be her greatest legacy.

Toronto Stock Exchange not merging with to Canadian bank bid

Dana Flavelle Business Reporter, Toronto Star, June 30, 2011 
The owners of the Toronto Stock Exchange have agreed with the London Stock Exchange Group plc. to terminate their $3.7 billion merger agreement.
Based on proxies filed by TMX Group Inc. shareholders as of Tuesday’s deadline, the merger was unlikely to receive the two-thirds majority required to proceed, the TMX and LSEG said in separate statements Wednesday.
The termination is a victory for rival TMX bidder, Maple Group Acquisition Corp., a bank-led consortium that argued Canada’s financial interests were better served by a Canadian owned stock exchange.
The TMX said it would now focus its energies on pursuing other growth objectives and would review Maple Group’s offer.
“The TMX Group management and board believe that the TMX-LSEG merger would accelerate our business strategy and create shareholder value, while enhancing the performance of Canada’s capital markets,” TMX Group CEO Tom Kloet said.
“Although we will not join forces with LSEG, our business is strong and I have enormous confidence in the continued success of our company.”
In terminating the merger agreement, TMX Group has agreed to pay a $10 million expense fee to LSEG, as well as a further $29 million fee to LSEG if the deal with Maple Group is consummated within certain time limits.
“We are clearly disappointed that, despite a majority of both LSEG and TMX Group shareholders voting for our recommended merger, the two-thirds approval threshold for TMX Group shareholders was not met and hence the merger will now not proceed,” said Xavier Rolet, chief executive officer of the LSEG.
“We believe the merger would have been a unique opportunity for TMX Group shareholders to be partners in a truly international group, co-located in Toronto and London, focused on growth and opportunity,” Rolet said.
He said LSEG will continue to pursue other growth opportunities.
The announcement comes a day before TMX shareholders were scheduled to vote on the merger at the company’s annual general meeting in Toronto.
It also paves the way for Maple Group to continue wooing TMX shareholders to its rival offer. The bid by the bank-led consortium was conditional on TMX shareholders rejecting the London merger.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Israel: 250 billion barrels of oil reserves/Saudi Arabia: 260 bbls....hmmm!

By Neil Reynolds, Globe and Mail, June 28, 2011
Increase text size The London-based World Energy Council says Israel’s Shfela Basin, a half-hour drive south of Jerusalem, holds 250 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil, possibly making the energy-vulnerable country (as expressed by The Wall Street Journal) “the world’s newest energy giant.” With reserves of 260 billion barrels, Saudi Arabia would remain the world’s No. 1 oil country – though not, perhaps, for long. Howard Jonas, CEO of U.S.-based IDT Corp., the company that owns the Shfela Basin concession, says there is much more oil under Israel than under Saudi Arabia: Perhaps, he says, twice as much.
Even with a mere 250 billion barrels, the Shfela Basin (or 238 square kilometres of it) would make Israel the third-largest holder of shale reserves in the world – right behind the U.S. with 1.5 trillion barrels and China with 355 billion barrels. Assuming for the moment that Mr. Jonas is correct in his calculations, the U.S. and Israel would together hold shale reserves in excess of two trillion barrels: Enough oil to fuel these two countries (at combined consumption of eight billion barrels a year) for more than 200 years.
And the discovery of further vast energy reserves in the United States and Israel progresses at an accelerating (and now often frenzied) pace. With shale, everything depends on technology – and the prospects are encouraging. In the Texas shale play known as Eagle Ford, for example, 12 companies will drill 3,000 wells in the next year, all of them within spitting distance (as The New York times put it) “of a forsaken South Texas village” notable only for its derelict gas stations and rusting warehouses. Elsewhere in the country, thousands more wells will be drilled with new technology that cuts drilling time, per well, to 25 days from 65.
According to the Times, 20 of these shale oil plays could increase U.S. oil production by 25 per cent in the next 10 years. “This is very big and it’s coming fast,” says U.S. energy expert Daniel Yergin, chairman of the energy research company IHS CERA. “This is like adding another Venezuela or another Kuwait – except that these fields are in the U.S.”
The U.S. now produces nine million barrels of oil a day. It consumes 18 million barrels. The American oil gap, thus, is nine million barrels. Assuming that shale oil production increased overall crude production by 25 per cent (2.2 million barrels), this gap would fall to 6.8 million barrels.
But North America is a single market for oil and gas – and Canadian petroleum producers expect to increase production in the next five years by 1.3 million barrels a day (to 4.7 million barrels). Add this increased supply to the North American market and the U.S. oil gap falls to 5.5 million barrels.
But further still: High oil prices and low natural gas prices imply substantial substitution of gas for oil – most easily in oil-fired production of electricity. U.S. energy analyst Irfan Chaudhry calculates that this kind of substitution could reduce U.S. oil consumption by two million barrels a day. (Mr. Chaudhry says $26 worth of coal now produces as much electricity as $100 worth of oil – as does $24 worth of natural gas.) Subtract this gas-for-oil substitution from the U.S. oil gap and it falls to 3.5 million barrels a day.
It will take years – probably decades – for Israel to reach maximum production from its vast reserves of shale oil. But odds are that the Shfela Basin will change the global balance of power long before then. Indeed, it will effectively change the balance of power the day it exports its first barrel of oil. This shouldn’t take long. With such investors as Lord Rothschild (the banker and philanthropist), Rupert Murdoch (the media magnate) and Dick Cheney (the politician), Israel should be pumping oil within three or four years. Also on board is Shell Oil’s remarkable top scientist, Harold Vinegar, who says the Shfela oil is not only abundant but premium quality as well: “The equivalent of Saudi extra-light.”
Israel knows the perils of relying on tyrants for oil: Russia suspended its delivery of oil to Israel during the country’s 2006 war with Hezbollah. Israel needs first to secure its own energy independence. But one day – count on it – Israel will match Canada in oil exports to the U.S. and thus free its long-time friend from needing to deal with tyrants.
If Reynolds is correct, not only will Israel be free from tyrants with its own oil but it will also thereby shift the balance of power in the middle east. And Israel has prominent friends with very deep pockets, and with the current prices of oil hovering around the $100/pbbl mark, there will be shortage of investors ready and willing to help her remove those reserves.
Gives one pause when, on the surface and in the immediate moment, for example, a spike in the price of oil hits consumers hard, while at the same time drives up the incentive to search for and to extract new energy reserves. And the media is so focussed on the immediate or immediately-passed nanosecond, we often lose sight of the long term prospects. There is a danger that in following the daily/hourly/minute-bu-minute news reports, we fall into the trap that besets so many businesses, of not seeing the forest because the leaves are in the way.
Perhaps longer-term and macro trends are just as important as the micro/immediate details and we need to know when and how to shift our perspective and the glasses we are using at any given moment. And, ideally, we need to develop a capacity to shift into a perspective that holds both perspectives in a healthy and vibrant tension.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Canada: between two harsh giants, both devolving and eroding

By Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail, June 28, 2011
According to the Maclean’s (magazine) survey, Wilfrid Laurier is the greatest prime minister. Then comes John A. Macdonald, who is followed by five Liberals in this order: Mackenzie King, Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chrétien and Louis St. Laurent. Finally, we get more conservatives: Robert Borden is ranked eighth, followed by Brian Mulroney and John Diefenbaker.

Then there’s Mr. Harper. He’s condemned by those polled for his overly partisan and authoritarian approach to government. Says Trent University’s Dimitry Anastakis: “Harper has distinguished himself most in being the most polarizing, opportunistic, shrewd and partisan prime minister in decades.”
Even the conservatives who were surveyed rated him rather low. A disadvantage, of course, is that he’s the incumbent. Time tends to soften the image. Mr. Chrétien finished ninth in the survey when he was PM; today, he’s sixth. Another difficulty for Mr. Harper is that he lacks a stellar and memorable policy achievement. His most notable successes are in the realm of political warfare.
And here you thought I was the only critic of the current prime minster!
Not so; and the people surveyed for this historical analysis teach history in Canadian universities and have the benefits of far greater reading and reflection and scholarly analysis than your scribe.
(Also from the Martin piece)
The rankings, drawn from a survey of 117 specialists in Canadian history and politics, are a reminder of how Liberal leaders, men of the middle, have dominated and shaped the country.
Our history in Canada is not so much a matter of right versus left, but rather one of moderate versus immoderate. If we are a country of "middling leaders," that is because we know all too well the harshness of both the giant to the south and the coldness of the Arctic giant to the north. We are geographically the "meat-in-the-sandwich" on the North American continent. And the two forces above and below are extreme, in their respective qualities:
  • its blatant racism,
  • Darwinian capitalism,
  • unapologetic classism
  • rampant legalisms,
  • unabashed militarism (supportive of and supported by dozens of wars including their war of independence),
  • over-the-top star culture,
  • and her rancid and toxic fundamental, evangelical prostestantism
and the
  • her history of unrelenting cold
  • her history of bleak landscapes of ice
  • her untouchable "northwest passage" filled with ice
  • her unforgiving living conditions for human beings
  • her historic separation and alienation from the rest of Canada and the world
And yet both of these stereotypes are rapidly eroding under conditions of comparable entropy, atrophy and to some extent unsustainability.
America can no longer afford either her military or her penchant for military engagement and consequent failures (VietNam, Iraq X2, Afghanistan and potentially Libya). She has passed both the Imancipation bill in 1865 freeing slaves following the Civil War and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, giving the vote to blacks finally.
She has also birthed and engendered Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X, Medger Evers, John Lewis and now elected Barack Obama. So at least on the surface she is moving, glacially, in the right direction. Nevertheless, her addiction to money, the pursuit of profit and the accompanying culture that fosters a dog-eat-dog domestic economy and political culture dependent on the ravages of tsunamis of cash has grown exponentially in the last two or three decades since Ronald Reagan was President.
America's Supreme Court just yesterday struck down as unconstitutional, a California law passed in 2005, under then governor Arnold Schwartzenegger, banning the sale or rental of extremely violent computer video games from those under eighteen. In the judgement, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote:
 California's argument would fare better if there were a long-standing tradition in this country of specially restricting children's access to depicctions of violence, but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read --or read to them when they are younger--contain no shortage of  gore. (quoted from a story in the Globe and Mail, June 28, 2011 by Dakshana Bascaramurty)
As if the reading of The Grimm's Tales bore the least resemblance to the physical and emotional engagement of grabbing a joy-stick and literally firing to kill humans, animals and other assorted phantasmagoric creatures in the games, not to mention the physical and emotional experience of participating in rape and other sexual assaults. Has the justice stopped breathing the oxygen flowing in and out of the lungs of the rest of the society adn found a more ethereal supply for himself?
And then in America there is the cultural addiction to the making and destroying of pop idols, for the sole purpose of generating profit for those who manage and who manipulate these innocent and empty souls, with a marginal talent for singing, or dancing or even entertaining often at 8 or 10 years of age, linked to the "stardom" of Hollywood, the NFL, the NBA, and even the NHL. Magazines, television programs, video games, CD's and digital music collectively constitute a billion-dollar industry around whose edges roam the scavengers of the drug and sex trades. However one generates profit, in the millions, and even in the billions is the definition of success...the list of billionaires grows daily in the U.S. and it is published as a mark of pride in the capitalist system succeeding, when in reality it ought to be a sign of the shame that so many children go to bed each night without food, without light to do their homework and without heat for their room, often without even a bed for themselves.
But it is America's born-again culture, that separates those who are saved from those who are not, in the minds and hearts of the elites (obviously saved), and that generates more hatred, contempt, distrust and even bigotry against the "other" in American towns and cities, and does so with impunity and the freedom of religion that is enshrined in the American constitution. Also enshrined is the right to free speech that supported the Supreme Court decision above, and the freedom to bear arms, Amendment Two, really supporting a militia two centuries ago, and clearly not meant for today's bedside table pistols for self-defence and the culture that supports such insanity. And among the "saved" are those anti-abortionists who will use their guns to kill nurses and doctors who work in clinics where therapeutic abortions are performed, as acts of religious vengance, believing as they do, that they are "doing God's work" in their killings.

And the ARCTIC is slowing melting into the seas, leaving the polar bears without habitat, and without food and the planet without the cooling influences of that large ice pack.
And so, Canada, we will have to adjust our perceptions of our place in the world, just as our own country becomes as harsh and as inhospitable and as unforgiving as both monsters above and below us have been for centuries. Thanks to Stephen Harper and his gang.

Post Offices Diversify in electronic age..successfully!

By Vanessa Lu, Toronto Star, June 28, 2011
(Postal services include more than letters in several world post offices.)
  • Trinidad and Tobago: Citizens travelling to the U.S. can pay their visa fees at the post office before booking an appointment at the embassy.
  • Australia: A post office of the future in Brisbane will include a 24/7 zone, where customers pick up parcels any time, as well as a self-service terminal to weigh and post parcelt, foreigh exchange and a range of rravel services are also planned.
  • India: Customers can send electronic or instant money orders to post offices across India using their debit or credit cards. Electronic orders are disbursed within 24 hours, while the more expensive instant money order it disbursed with a minute.
  • Israel: The postal bank offers foreign exchange transactions as well as simple banking. The  bank does not permit overdraft and no interest is paid on the account.
  • Germany: Businesses can pay DeutschPost (DHL) to design publications and flyers for deliveries. Customers can buy stamps online and print them on their computer or their mobile phones and get a code to write on the envelope.
  • South Africa: Drivers can renew their motor vehicle licenses at many outlets. In some regions people can pay traffic fines or check if they have outstanding fines with their car registration number

Death of local news...not replaced by internet

By Chris Hedges, from, June 28, 2011
We are losing a peculiar culture and an ethic. This loss is impoverishing our civil discourse and leaving us less and less connected to the city, the nation and the world around us. The death of newsprint represents the end of an era. And news gathering will not be replaced by the Internet. Journalism, at least on the large scale of old newsrooms, is no longer commercially viable. Reporting is time-consuming and labor-intensive. It requires going out and talking to people. It means doing this every day. It means looking constantly for sources, tips, leads, documents, informants, whistle-blowers, new facts and information, untold stories and news. Reporters often spend days finding little or nothing of significance. The work can be tedious and is expensive. And as the budgets of large metropolitan dailies shrink, the very trade of reporting declines. Most city papers at their zenith employed several hundred reporters and editors and had operating budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The steady decline of the news business means we are plunging larger and larger parts of our society into dark holes and opening up greater opportunities for unchecked corruption, disinformation and the abuse of power.

A democracy survives when its citizens have access to trustworthy and impartial sources of information, when it can discern lies from truth, when civic discourse is grounded in verifiable fact. And with the decimation of reporting these sources of information are disappearing. The increasing fusion of news and entertainment, the rise of a class of celebrity journalists on television who define reporting by their access to the famous and the powerful, the retreat by many readers into the ideological ghettos of the Internet and the ruthless drive by corporations to destroy the traditional news business are leaving us deaf, dumb and blind. The relentless assault on the “liberal press” by right-wing propaganda outlets such as Fox News or by the Christian right is in fact an assault on a system of information grounded in verifiable fact. And once this bedrock of civil discourse is eradicated, people will be free, as many already are, to believe whatever they want to believe, to pick and choose what facts or opinions suit their world and what do not. In this new world lies will become true.
I, like many who cared more about truth than news, was pushed out of The New York Times, specifically over my vocal and public opposition to the war in Iraq. This is not a new story. Those reporters who persistently challenge the orthodoxy of belief, who question and examine the reigning political passions, always tacitly embraced by the commercial media, are often banished. There is a constant battle in newsrooms between the managers, those who serve the interests of the institution and the needs of the advertisers, and reporters whose loyalty is to readers. I have a great affection for reporters, who hide their idealism behind a thin veneer of cynicism and worldliness. I also harbor a deep distrust and even loathing for the careerists who rise up the food chain to become managers and editors.

I believe it was Senator Patrick Moynahan from New York who reminded his colleagues in the Senate, "You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts."
It is this split between what really amount to self-interest, among those who lead most institutions, as compared with those who toil as workers in those institutions, that provides an unbridgeable divide. Those who are managers/leaders are dependent on their the news business that means the advertisers. Those who report, who write the columns are ideally slave to the truth of their facts, and often those facts are not comfortable to those advertisers.
And a similar conflict occurs in most insitutions: in industrial corporations, the shareholders' interests (dividends) are primary, those of workers a much lower secondary. In churches, the interests of donors certainly always trump those of the penitents in the pews. Those differences are significant and often cannot be truly bridged. Numbers of bottoms sitting in pews converts to numbers of dollars on the plates, converts to an increase in both of those numbers, irrespective of the pablum that is flowing from the pulpit.
I recall, in another life, a stint as a radio editorialist in a medium-sized Northern Ontario city, where a peripheral mall was being proposed, while the downtown was languishing in need of an equally high octane infusion of money, imagination and commercial know-how. Of course, those proposing the mall on the city's bypass had deep pockets (this was mid-eighties) and were engaging in a serious political battle with the forces favouring the downtown development. Both proposals had "anchor" department store commitments, and both would attract local as well as ancillary business from approximately a 100 mile radius, since there was no similar shopping opportunity within that circle.
You may already have guessed that I supported the downtown development. I pounded the case for its preferential approval over the peripheral mall, believing then, as I do today, that only one such development would be feasible in such a city for at least the next century. One day, I was asked to 'go for a walk' literally and metaphorically, by the radio station manager, who politely and firmly told me that his advertising revenues were threatened if I were to continue with my current opposition, on his airwaves. Apparently, the peripheral mall developers would pull all their advertising dollars, if I were allowed to continue my editorial stance on their station. And that threat meant hundreds of thousands of dollars, an amount the station manager could not do without.
I was toast, at that station, and the peripheral mall won the approval of the city council, and the downtown still struggles, in a boutique/office/theatre and restaurant mix, without the retail trade that parades through the peripheral mall every day.
Dollars have trumped the best interests of any city, and those dollars are not usually from the 'inside' of the city. Usually, at least in Canada, those dollars come from the outside, and include such megacorporations as Wall-Mart, whose stampede across North America has left millions of local shops a mere memory in most localities, for the simple reason that people save a few pennies, and they will go anywhere for a few pennies saved, regardless of the larger price of the loss of their downtown core. In the large cities, such development may have been able to be accommodated. In the smaller cities, they were a brutal assault to the core/heart of the community.
Today the triumph of cash, especially to politicians, just as it was to those politicians in that Northern Ontario city, is final. That cash and those who bring it to the table trump all other interests. Consequently, those who rant against the sale of the community to interests that really have only one motive, profit, are silenced, just like the hundreds of newsrooms that are literally silent across North America.
And, while I use this new medium, it does not replace the local newsroom, whose pulsing heart, and whose soldiering reporters found the kind of information that really opened the eyes of all the people in the community, because that's what they were paid to do.
Today, we literally know much less about our own communities, because of the loss of the street reporters, the local columnists and the local analysts of the news because the owners of the presses don't even live in the community where those papers are located, but are content with a mere veneer of journalism so long as those advertising dollars fill their far-away bank accounts.
And it is not only their carelessness that is represented by their publications. It is also the loss of the intimate knowledge of those communities, leaving most people with a thimble-full of local news, compared with the wine-cask that is available and that could and would nuture a community's sense of itself.

Monday, June 27, 2011

UPDATE: Calling all Canadian the diaspora

From "A land of immigrants, Canada must now deal with its emigrants" by Joe Friesen,
Globe and Mail, June 27, 2011
(The following is a list of ex-patriot Canadians and the countries in which they are living:)
United States: 1,062,640 Canadian citizens
Mexico:                 5,768
Haiti:                     6,000
Trinidad and
Tobago:                5,000
United Kingdom: 73,000
Belgium:                4,145
Germany:            13,390
France:               11,931
Switzerland:          5,243
Lebanon:             45,000
Egypt:                 10,000
China:                 19,990
South Korea:      14,210
Japan:                 11,016
Hong Kong:      300,000
Thailand:               5,000
Philippines:            7,500
Singapore:             5,140
Australia:             27,289
New Zealand:        7,770

Some Questions for your reflection and response:
  • What are the primary differences between your native land and your adopted land?
  • How amenable are you to serving as a Canadian diaspora, providing information to the Canadian government to facilitate enhanced relationships between your adopted country and the land of your birth?
  • How long have you been there?
  • How long do you intend to stay?
  • Do you intend to return to Canada?
  • How do you keep in touch with Canada and its affairs?
  • Would you be interested in communicating with other ex-pats in different countries, about Canada?
  • Are there specific issues and questions about Canada for which you would like information?
  • Is the Canadian government providing adequate services to its Canadian citizens living abroad?
  • If not, what additional services would be helpful?
If you choose to respond, please feel free to insert your comments in the "comments" section at the bottom of this blog and we will bring them together in a subsequent blog.
Thank you for considering this request.
By Joe Friesen, Globe and Mail, June 28, 2011
Canadians are divided on whether citizens living abroad should retain the right to vote in Canadian elections, just one example of Canada’s mixed feelings toward its expatriate citizens.

A survey conducted for the Asia Pacific Foundation found 51 per cent of Canadians believe those who live outside Canada should have the same voting rights as other Canadians, compared to 43 per cent who were opposed. Currently, Canadians abroad can continue to cast a ballot until they’ve been out of the country for five years.
But Canadians are often ambivalent about their obligation to compatriots abroad, as illustrated by widespread resentment over the costly evacuation of Canadians from Lebanon during the conflict with Israel in 2006.

While citizens of the United States who live out of the country maintain the right to vote in U.S. elections, and Italy and other countries allow citizens abroad to elect members of Parliament, Canada revokes the franchise.
Don DeVoretz, an economist at Simon Fraser University, said Canada’s voting policy is confusing.
“We allow you to be a dual citizen, but if you live overseas for more than five years you lose your right to vote. That sort of cuts your interest in Canada if you can’t vote any more,” Prof. DeVoretz said.
Mike Quinn, the 30-year-old Canadian CEO of a technology company in Zambia, was dismayed that he couldn’t vote in the last federal election after being out of the country for several years, including time spent studying at the London School of Economics and Oxford University.

“I was a bit surprised that someone like me isn’t recognized as being worthy of making a political contribution to my home country, even though it’s very much part of my identity,” Mr. Quinn said. “I do believe [voting] is a fundamental principle of a democracy, and the Canadians I know here are very much Canadians – even if they’re living in Zambia.”
A recent report by the Asia Pacific Foundation argues Canada needs to do more to engage its citizens abroad, and to see them as a potential asset rather than a liability. Canadians living in the U.S., for example, are seven times more likely than those in Canada to have a professional or doctoral degree and more than twice as likely to have a bachelor’s degree, making them a potentially influential group, according to research by economist Ross Finnie.
Of course, we at the, support the right to vote for all ex-patriots, including those who have been out of the country for more than five years. In that way, there will be some incentive to remain familiar with at least the highlights of Canadian events, personalities and issues. And such an exercise is not only much easier today than ever before, it is also worthwhile both for the ex-pat to continue to compare his/her native land with the developments of his/her adopted country.

Poverty of imagination, and dangers of reductionisms

Classism, a word that has emerged in so many ways in the last three or four decades, in North America, is a tragic dynamic that plagues every town and city on the continent. The poor are relegated to the ghetto's of oru cities, into the schools that happened to be located in their neighbourhoods, without opportunity to see different attitudes, vocabularies and experiences of a different kind of perspective and world view.
We champion television programs like "Home Makeover" as a sign that there is still generosity among us. We champion community agencies like United Way to demonstrate our charity, and certainly there is charity among those leaders and donors of such programs. And this is not to, in any way, deride the work of such agencies.
However, to say that we are growing a hospitable and compassionate society, based on shared values and shared opportunities and sharaed vision is to push our head into the sand.
We are developing a view of the world dominated by dollars, the possession and acquisition of those dollars, and the demise of the long-term view of mutual inter-dependence.
The race for the bottom is well underway. The race for the bottom is just another way of saying "we could not care less" for those less fortunate than the rich. In fact, when we are exposed to a program like "The Passionate Eye" on CBC, entitled, "Wired for Sex" about the sexual activity of Toronto teens (of 13, 14 and 15) among whom such statements as "If you're not doing it by now, you must be gay!" we know that both objectivization of the bodies of young women has reached such a stage that the culture has turned against their healthy development.
A program official fromt he board of education asks young women, "Why do girls not stick up for themselves?" and hears this response: "Even when we say 'No,' they think we don't mean it!"
And reciting terms like sexual harrassment and sexual assault when the culture includes young women following other youn women with their cell phone/camera to grab a picture of two people on the stairs of a house where a party is going on, to show her friends that the girl in the picture is really a "ho" (the slang for whore), the viewer is never certain if such an act is merely reporting to reduce the risk to the girl or to champion the drama in which she is engaged, from the perspective of one who is jealous.
Body parts and body interactions are a clear indication that "bare essentials" is the reductionism that these young people believe is the "norm".
And when our society replaces literature with how to manuals, in order to promote reading among adolescent males, we know that we have given up on any interest in and commitment to a more complex and a more humane and sensitive curriculum offering for male students. How-to manuals will never replace strong novels, and compelling plays and even moving poetry, and never can those leading curriculum development be permitted, without strong push-back, to implement such reductionisms.
We are in effect creating a class permissiveness that accepts, tolerates and even sadly encourages reductionisms at our own peril.

Ideological fossils, not collaborative solutions, a form of sabotage

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN/GPS, June 19, 2011
Meanwhile, in practice across the globe the world's fastest growing economy, China, has managed to use government involvement to create growth and jobs for three decades.

From Singapore to South Korea to Germany, evidence abounds that some strategic actions by governments can act as catalysts for free market growth.
But conservatives now resemble the old Marxists who refuse to look at actual experience. "I know it works in practice," the old saw goes, "but does it work in theory?"
Republicans often praise businessmen. Well, one of the first steps any business now takes when confronting a problem is to ask, "How are other companies around the world handling this? Is there a best practice we can learn from?" But in any area, from infrastructure to health care to education, to ask these questions is heresy on the right.
It's a shame. I think we need smart, market-friendly conservative reforms that streamline government, cut costs in health care and empower individuals, but they need to be rooted in reality, drawn from best practices around the world and based on practical measures of what seems to work.
What we have instead are policies that are simply recitations of some free market theory taken out of some book based on no actually existing national economy.
It turns out conservatives have become the wooly headed professors after all.
Mouthing the tenets of an ideological script by the "right" continues to confound any who try to make sense of their words. In fact, their words, seemingly, are a deliberate smoke screen for really having nothing new to say.
Demigogues like Kevin O'Leary on CBC's Land and O'Leary Exchange, are a classic example of the kind of empty rhetoric that no broadcast network should even sell ads to put on the air, and, sadly, the Bank of Nove Scotia is one of the principal advertisers of the program. Lower taxes, less government, more military and less support for struggling if this relentless "beat" of the drum of capitalism, by those at the top of the 'heap' in terms of "success" through ownership, throught entrepreneurship, through investing and potentially through saving will simply drown out any other kind of thinking.
Harper talks of a "unnecessary" election, and an "unnecessary" work stoppage at Canada Post, as if there were only one point of view to be both espoused and to be considered as responsible in Canada. Unfortunately, through such ideological fossils come no new thoughts, no new ways of working together, no new bringing the best ideas from all points of view together to create the best possible legislation.
In the U.S., the bond markets are signalling not a mere bump in the road, but another severe recession, with even more people out of work, out of money, out of dignity, out of self-respect and sliding into a position that could be termed, "out of hope." In Europe, Greece is sliding quickly into what could be the worst depression to hit that continent in decades. And, of course, with fiscal belt-tightening comes the inevitable deep cuts to social programs.
The only question I have for the mantra-chanting 'right' is, "What do you intend to do to face the facts that the people who live in motels, and on the streets are more important than any digits on a national balance sheet?"
Or, have you decided that the reverse is true, and those digits are more important, and more to be the focus of our attention than those people who are starving in our midst?
People are not mere digits on a screen. And eventually, people will wake up to their reality that whatever meagre connection they might have had to dignity and self-respect through a decent job with decent benefits has been eroded, at the same time the number of billionaires has quadrupled...and ask themselves, "What are we going to do about this rape of the middle class?"
Political leadership, including political parties have to bring the best ideas to the table, in a spirit of "serving their constitutents from all points of view" and not serving their political power base, those who fund their elections. Several times in the 58-hour debate that occurred in the Canadian House of Commons on the work stoppage at Canada Post, there were serious staements about "co-operating" and "making progress" and even "tweaking" the legislation so that reasonableness could and would prevail. And these came from both the Liberals and the Green Party Leader, without achieving a single amendment to Bill C-6 from the government.
Power brings a kind of certitude, a kind of disdain for other points of view, for the need to co-operate or collaborate...even for the sake of demonstrating that the "system" works.
As one young MP put it, "We are engaged in a dialogue of the deaf" because really no one is listening.
When no one is listening, even to those whose experience and whose knowledge is pointing out the desireability of amendment, and the efficiacy of such changes....then absolute power and absolute certitude trumps even the appearance of working "with" others.
It is this political arrogance that anyone, or any political party, of whatever stripe or ideology, has the only and the best answers for any situation that is the real poverty we face. It is a form of social and political sabotage at a time when complex issues demand complex, perhaps different and certainly creative and flexible solutions and approaches.
It is the dispossessed whose numbers will always trump those of the power elite whose interests are in need of voice, of attention and address, no matter the country, the politics of the country or the political history of the country...and only when political leaders climb down from their pedestal of power and respect all political perspectives through action that demonstrates such respect will the kind of society we need become possible.
And even then, such a possibility cannot be taken for granted, since, like the jungle, the metaphor to which the world is running at full speed, the powerful literally "eat" the weak....and we thought and were taught that we were different than the wild beasts....really?

Friday, June 24, 2011

UN: Canada leading exporter of meth to U.S., Malasia, Mexico and Philippines

By Julian Sher, Globe and Mail, June 23, 2100
The annual UN drug report singles out Canada as a leading exporter of meth to the United States, the Philippines, Malaysia, Mexico and Jamaica.

In addition, “the resurgence” of ecstasy use south of the border “was fuelled by the manufacture [of ecstasy] in Canada and subsequent smuggling,” according to the report which is based on global police, government and health records.
“For years we have pointed the finger at Colombia and Afghanistan,” said Thomas Pietschmann, of the threat analysis section of the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime. “But the same kind of standard should apply to Western countries like Canada.”
The UN report says Canadian authorities busted a dozen ecstasy labs and 23 meth labs in 2009 – the latest year for which statistics are available – and seized close to half a metric ton of ecstasy.
Canada is seen as having lax control over the import and domestic trade of precursor chemicals such as pseudoephedrine. Combined with proximity to the huge U.S. market and easy access to well-established smuggling routes to Asia and Australia, that makes for a profitable nexus of crime.
Superintendent Brian Cantera, who heads the RCMP’s drug squad in B.C., said organized crime groups in Canada with “familial ties” to India and China can bring in huge quantities of these chemicals needed to “cook” the synthetic drugs in underground laboratories set up across Canada.
So much, once again, for the stereotype of Canada as that sweet, innocent and "above-the-fray" of all the various international criminal activities. Canada was supposed to be squeeky clean, morally upright, and criminally innocent and we certainly would not have citizens engaged in the illicit drug trade that is such a menace around the world.
Turns out, such naivety is not borne out by the facts. Turns out, right up there with Columbia and Afghanistan, the heroin capital of the world, that's Canada manufacturing ecstacy and methamphetamines and then shipping those illicit and illegal and dangerous chemicals into a very fertile and receptive market in the United States and around the world.
(More from the Sher piece above)
And unlike the small “stove-top” meth operations that are typical in the U.S., “the labs we find here in Canada are large-scale productions, using very sophisticated equipment,” said Sergeant Doug Culver, who heads the RCMP’s synthetic drug initiative in Ottawa.

The transformation of Canada from a drug-importing country to a major export centre also poses new challenges to police, traditionally focused on uncovering huge shipments of illicit cargoes into the country or tracking domestic sales.
“The biggest difference is now we’re the source country. That changes the dynamics tenfold,” said Sgt. Hill. “We need a new game plan here. We need to start configuring a new strategy that says: Not acceptable. Not in our backyard. Not in our country.”
Canada has begun take action to clean up the synthetic drug trade – and its reputation. On Thursday, a new law came into force making it illegal to possess the chemicals and equipment that could be used to make these drugs.
The illicit drug trade gives globalization a new stage and new players for that stage. Still, however, the drama being played out on that stage is one based entirely on greed and the certainty that vulnerable people will purchase whatever takes the pain of their vulnerability away even for a short time. And for that purchase they will do almost anything to find the cash to make the transaction, including engaging in the illicit sale of those very chemical substances.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reich v. Stockman, avoids the Wall Street debacle

When I watched a debate between Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labour under President Clinton, and David Stockman, former Budget Director under President Reagan, onFareed Zakaria's GPS on Sunday, I was struck by the beating given to the "Keynesians" by Stockman. While Reich was expressing the need for government to stimulate the economy, in order to generate jobs and thereby increased revenue for government through taxes, Stockman was saying things like, "the Keynesian era is over and we have to stop spending given the $800 billion we have spent on 'foreign wars' and the danger to the entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.
Reich, on the other hand, was reminding Stockman that (President) Hoover made the same kind of statements before FDR changed the approach to the depression in the 1930's and by stimulating the economy through federal works projects, and infrastructure projects got people back to work. Reich also reminded Stockman that corporate tax rates were between 50% and 70% in the (Republican) Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, and have fallen significantly since then.
With one in ten people in the U.S. currently out of work, and with the Federal Reserve Chairman yesterday forecasting a long-term struggle to bring that number down, the U.S. is in for a very long decade of human distress before there are enough jobs to accommodate enough workers to bring the unemployment rate down to a more tolerable 4%-5%.
But if Reich and Stockman were expressing the views of their respective parties, now both sound like ideologies that have become "dogma" from which neither debater would or will deviate, it will take an earthquake of the size of the one that decommissioned those nuclear reactors in Japan (it was the tsunami that really did them in) to shake the foundations of both republican and democratic parties in order to bring the debt and deficit down, and to raise the debt ceiling by the first week of August, before the U.S. bond rating is threatened.
And neither Reich nor Stockman was interested in condemning the Wall Street miscreants for their devious, and unregulated (as a result of both Democratic and Republican administrations, Clinton and Bush 2) shenannigans of credit defaults and bundled mortgages sold as phoney 'paper' to many investors around the world. When will the ponzi scheme that was perpetrated by Wall Street find and prosecute the perpetrators, so that some meagre semblance of justice can be restored to the confidence of the American people.
Is the altar of Wall Street too sacrosanct, and too untouchable and too important a cash spiggot for both parties, that the perpetrators know they will never be prosecuted and will never have to account for their tragic and preventable and "wild-west" hooliganism?
Economic theory did not prevent those actions, except that both parties were and remain complicit in their execution, simply by creating a playing field that was open to abuse. And now that the hands of both parties arae covered with the stain of that debacle, who is there in Washington to "bell the cat" as it were? Neither Reich nor Stockman, it would seem, wanted to touch that radioactive political nuclear rod.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Obama delivers on another promise: Afghan troop withdrawals begin

President Obama has just announced troop withdrawals from Afghanistan of 10,000 this summer and another 23,000 by the summer of 2012. He also indicated
  • that the allies "are meeting their goals" in that country,
  • that the Afghans themselves have mounted some 100,000 troops and security forces to protect their own country,
  • that the allies are already working toward a peace settlement that will incorporate the Taliban in the governance of that country and that will protect the U.S. from future attacks initiated by Al Qaeda
  • that the U.S. must engage in nation building right "here at home"
  • that the U.S. will host a conference in July in Chicago to focus on the future of Afghanistan
  • that the U.S. will honour the sacrifice of those 4,500 men and women who died in Iraq and the over 1,500 who died in Afghanistan
  • that those returning with the wounds and injuries of war, including the "demons who followed them home" will receive both the treatment and the opporunities they deserve from their nation
  • that the U.S. will continue to work with Pakistan to ensure that no terrorist is given "safe haven" in that country
And with his wife and daughters just yesterday having a historic visit with Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and today, Michelle Obama delivering an address to Soweto township women that if and when anyone suggests they cannot secure their freedom and take moves to secure their legitimate opportunities, they are to reply, in the words of her husband's campaign slogan, "Yes we can!" The phrase was chanted by the hundreds of women in the audience for television cameras.
My wife's observation about the President's address was that it was "clipped" in style and in delivery. My response to her observation is that the president had to get in and out of the speech (it was about 15 minutes) and express himself in a completely business-like manner, because from now until November 2012, he is really in campaign mode. And the Republicans are after his neck. It was Michelle Bachmann who declared in the debate last week in New Hampshire, "Obama will be a one-term president" and "I will not stop until Obamacare has been rescinded."
Any of us watching from a distance know two things about the next presidential race:
  1. That Barack Obama is one helluva campaigner, whose plate was overflowing in 2008 and who believes in the policies, programs and strategies, in both domestic and foreign policy that he and his administration have enacted
  2. That the Republican's, no matter who their candidate will be (don't count of Jon Huntsman, former Ambassador to China, former two-term governor of Utah), will raise billions to fight Obama and will use every dirty trick in their arsenal to topple him in November 2012.
The world will be watching, including Obama supporters in Canada, in whose number this scribe is proud to count himself, and hoping for her re-election. Tonight he took a major step in reducing the drain on the federal purse strings, and thereby relieving some of the pressure on debt and deficit reduction that is facing both the White House and the Congress.

Historian: Shame on Wal-Mart

By Nelson Lichtenstein, New York Times, June 21, 2011
Monday's Supreme Court decision to block a class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart was a huge setback for as many as 1.6 million current and former female employees of the world’s largest retailer. But the decision has consequences that range far beyond sex discrimination or the viability of class-action suits.
The underlying issue, which the Supreme Court has now ratified, is Wal-Mart’s authoritarian style, by which executives pressure store-level management to squeeze more and more from millions of clerks, stockers and lower-tier managers.
Indeed, the sex discrimination at Wal-Mart that drove the recent suit is the product not merely of managerial bias and prejudice, but also of a corporate culture and business model that sustains it, rooted in the company’s very beginnings.
In the 1950s and ’60s, northwest Arkansas, where Wal-Mart got its start, was poor, white and rural, in the midst of a wave of agricultural mechanization that generated a huge surplus of unskilled workers. To these men and women, the burgeoning chain of discount stores founded by Sam Walton was a godsend. The men might find dignity managing a store instead of a hardscrabble farm, while their wives and daughters could earn pin money clerking for Mr. Sam, as he was known. “The enthusiasm of Wal-Mart associates toward their jobs is one of the company’s greatest assets,” declared the firm’s 1973 annual report.
A patriarchal ethos was written into the Wal-Mart DNA. “Welcome Assistant Managers and Wives” read a banner at a 1975 meeting for executive trainees. And that corporate culture — “the single most important element in the continued, remarkable success of Wal-Mart,” asserted Don Soderquist, the company’s chief operating officer in the 1990s — was sustained not only by the hypercentralized managerial control that flowed from the Bentonville, Ark., home office but by the evangelical Protestantism that Mr. Soderquist and other executives encouraged.
Wal-Mart attorneys have argued, and the Supreme Court agreed this week, that even if sex discrimination was once part of the company’s culture, it is now ancient history: if any store managers are guilty of bias when it comes to promoting women, they are at odds with corporate policy. Wal-Mart is no longer an Ozark company; it is a cosmopolitan, multinational operation.
But that avoids the more essential point, namely that Wal-Mart views low labor costs and a high degree of workplace flexibility as a signal competitive advantage. It is a militantly anti-union company that has been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to current and former employees for violations of state wage and hour laws.
In other words, the patriarchy of old has been reconfigured into a more systematically authoritarian structure, one that deploys a communitarian ethos to sustain a high degree of corporate loyalty even as wages and working conditions are put under continual downward pressure — especially in recent years, as Wal-Mart’s same-store sales have declined. Workers of both sexes pay the price, but women, who constitute more than 70 percent of hourly employees, pay more.
There are tens of thousands of experienced Wal-Mart women who would like to be promoted to the first managerial rung, salaried assistant store manager. But Wal-Mart makes it impossible for many of them to take that post, because its ruthless management style structures the job itself as one that most women, and especially those with young children or a relative to care for, would find difficult to accept.
Why? Because, for all the change that has swept over the company, at the store level there is still a fair amount of the old communal sociability. Recognizing that workers steeped in that culture make poor candidates for assistant managers, who are the front lines in enforcing labor discipline, Wal-Mart insists that almost all workers promoted to the managerial ranks move to a new store, often hundreds of miles away.
For young men in a hurry, that’s an inconvenience; for middle-aged women caring for families, this corporate reassignment policy amounts to sex discrimination. True, Wal-Mart is hardly alone in demanding that rising managers sacrifice family life, but few companies make relocation such a fixed policy, and few have employment rolls even a third the size.
The obstacles to women’s advancement do not stop there. The workweek for salaried managers is around 50 hours or more, which can surge to 80 or 90 hours a week during holiday seasons. Not unexpectedly, some managers think women with family responsibilities would balk at such demands, and it is hardly to the discredit of thousands of Wal-Mart women that they may be right.
There used to be a remedy for this sort of managerial authoritarianism: it was called a union, which bargained over not only wages and pensions but also the kind of qualitative issues, including promotion and transfer policies, that have proved so vexing for non-unionized employees at Wal-Mart and other big retailers.
For a time it seemed as if the class-action lawsuit might be a partial substitute. By drastically limiting how a class-action suit can be brought, the Supreme Court leaves millions of service-sector workers with few avenues to escape the grinding work life and limited opportunities that so many now face.
Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is the author of “The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business"

(Progressive) Conservative Senator of 32 years opposes Harper's Senate Reform

By Tim Harper, Toronto Star, June 21, 2011
(Mr. Harper's column is based on an interview with current Conservative Senator, Lowell Murray who has served with distinction for 32 years.)
Under Harper’s legislation, the provinces and territories would be “strongly encouraged’’ to have voters choose a list of proposed senators to be appointed by the prime minister.

Senators appointed after October 2008 would be limited to one nine-year term.
As New Democrat David Christopherson points out, that is nine years, with a total salary of $1 million, an annual pension of about $35,000, with the senator being prohibited by law from ever being accountable to voters.
“It may technically be Senate reform, but it’s not democracy,’’ says Christopherson, his party’s democratic reform critic.
That means 36 Harper appointees (nine from Ontario) would be limited to nine-year terms...
But the clock only starts ticking on the nine-year term after the bill gets royal assent, meaning it could be 2021 before any must leave.

Many otherwise productive senators of a certain age would likely do what he might have done, turn down a job that has only a nine-year lifespan, meaning he or she would have to search new work in their 50s.

There would be the obvious tension of elected members working alongside appointed members, and, he says, the Senate becomes the elite body.
An Ontario senator would be elected province-wide and he or she would have a stronger mandate from more voters for a longer period of time than an MP from the province.
Such province-wide votes would also be biased against northern and rural representatives and would favour candidates from large urban centres home to large media.
It could also lead to U.S.-style gridlock.
(Senator Lowell) Murray also says if Harper were serious about reform, he would have gone directly to the Supreme Court of Canada because that’s where it is headed with a challenge from — at least — Quebec.
How far apart the serving Senator and the current Prime Minister are over this is anther sign of how things have changed. Murray was appointed by then Prime Minister Joe Clark, also a  (Progressive) Conservative. Clark and Robert Stanfield before him and Brian Mulroney after him would hardly recognize the current version of Canadian conservativism under Harper. Dalton Camp, who served ably under all three Conservative regimes must be turning and twisting in his grave at the arrogance and the sheeer madness of this adminsitration, when compared with the progressive and moderate and thoughtful and responsible approaches that came with other recent Progressive Conservative administrations. Camp was a reputable, moderate "red" Tory, as we used to call them, far closer to the centre than to the far right, and his thoughts and views were available to all through his many columns over the decades, when he was not actively serving a Progressive Conservative Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition. It does appear that Canadians have either a short memory, or no memory at all, when it comes to comparisons of this government with other governments of the same history, tradition and partial name. One has to wonder how 'moderates' find any oxygen in the Cabinet room, under this PM.
Harper does not even have the support of his own appointees to the Senate, and it does not take a rocket scientist to discern that the Supreme Court will be the place where this matter is settled, and today we learn that both Quebec and Ontario plan Supreme Court challenges to the bill.
So why waste the government's time and energy over something that is at best an extremely flawed bill, when even its constitutionality is in question, and that from Conservative Senators who have been around Parliament Hill and served far more ably than the current occupant of the PMO?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Harper agenda: Senate, slash-and-burn, Jets, Prisons and superior rhetoric

Harper has just introduced his bill to move to Senate elections into the House of Commons. Until now, senators have been appointed by the Prime Minister for life. Both Liberal and Conserative PM's have filled as many seats in the 'red' chamber as they could, and currently the Conservatives have a majority of members int he upper house. Harper has favoured an elected Senate since before entering politics as an elected representative.
His new bill will set term limits of 9 years, for all appointments, and will leave open the option for provinces to elect senators, when a vacancy occurs, if they choose. The Prime Minister will retain the right to appoint from those elected. And the question of making these elections mandatory on all provinces and territories, a move that would require a full scale constitutional amendment, something the Harper government does not wish even to contemplate because of the assured provincial objections and the political mess such a move would leave at the doorstep of the current government, will be left unaddressed.
New seats in the House of Commons for three provinces, Ontario. Alberta and Saskatchewan, without preserving the 25% rule for Quebec, a seventy-five-year tradition, is another of the Harper government proposals. Together with a commitment to a $4 billion slashing and buring of the federal expenditures, the purchase of $30 billion worth of F-35 Fighter Jets and hundreds of new prison cells, linked with a move to seriously curtail the production and growth of medical marajuana...and the shape of the next four years is already taking form.
Linked to their modus operandi, are phrases like "we have an action plan" for that...and "we are very clear about that" and "our action plan continues the growth of the Canadian economy"....these phrases and similar ones strike the viewer whenever one turns on CPAC to catch a glimpse of the rhetoric coming from the mouths of Conservative members, issuing talking points, and not legitimate debate, making a mockery of the parliamentary system, as if the other parties are "scum" at the feet of these herculean masters.
Not only is their substance suspect, so is their style...and we have to suffer through this parliament for another four years. Ugh!

Update! Research in deep trouble!

Update #2 August 4, 2011
Yesterday R.I.M. announced that it would launch three (3) new iphones over the next several weeks, in a desperate attempt to recovery lost market share. All phones will operate the RIM Blackberry operating system.
July 26, 2011
Just yesterday the pink slips started to fall on 2000 workers at R.I.M., and while the first ones fell on the desks of Canadian employees, apparently they will fall on the desks of workers worldwide. Analysts seem to agree that this is a worthwhile, even necessary, decision, to bring the company's costs under control. We will keep watching to see if new products and new innovation can bring the company back from the near brink to which it recently fell. There is also some criticism about the two-headed chief executive at the company. Many observers seem to believe that the position should be held by one individual but so far, the company has resisted this change. This also bears watching.
Research In Motion (RIM) the Canadian tech leader is apparently in deep touble. There are reports that the company has failed to invest adequately in research and development and that there will be a significant lag time before they can produce new product lines in an extremely fast-paced, competitive market sector. Their Playbook is their latest offering, but compared with Ipad 2 and other tablets on the market, the only clear advantage to Playbook is the security it offers, not one of the more sought-after features by tablet purchasers.
Falling stock prices, predicted substantial lay-offs and calls for the two CEO's to step down are just a few signs of the shadow that is settling over the 15,000 + employee company that has been the headliner in a high-tech world of product development.
Located in Waterloo, also the home of the University of Waterloo, aspiring to be the M.I.T. of the Canadian mathematics, computers and computer science university offerings, R.I.M. may be like so many other companies that rise too quickly for their executives to adjust to the rarified air in those high-flying boardrooms and executive jets, and may have stubbed its toes over its own hubris.
It is so tempting a drama, for high-achievers, and for focussed athletes to over-reach, to over-achieve and then to fall as a consequence of so many factors, not least of which is the human factor of vulnerability.
It is not that success is completely foreign to the human psyche; it is more that high-achievement often comes before the players are fully prepared to let is rest easily and comfortably on their shoulders.
And, as if so often the case, calls for leadership changes are not far from the heels of a dramatic drop in stock RIM the stock prices have gone from a high of $124.00 to a current $25.00 approximately, and so a lot of people have potentially lost a bucket-full of money.
Will RIM recover?
Will Canadians abandon this sleek, and apparently sophicticated tech-ship, by pulling the cash they have already invested, and refusing to put more money into the now-suspect pot?
Will Bassillie and his co-CEO face enough pressure to finally retreat and make way for new leadership?
Will the other players in the field make a play to initiate a take-over bid, believing that such a bid will reap huge rewards given the bargain basement price of the stock?
Will RIM be reduced to an asterisk in the Canadian high tech history books?
Or, will RIM, like the Phoenix from its ashes, rise again and become the highly profitable flagship of Canadian technology around the world.
We will keep watching, with keen interest. It is not only those jobs that are at risk. It is the reputation of the Canadian brain-power that generatd RIM in the first place that is in question.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

UPDATE! Vancouver reverses the damage from the riot/Congrats!

There is another side to the Vancouver riots following the  initial night of fires and looting and mayhem after the Canucks' loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.
The people of the city, the residents, the students, the workers poured into the downtown streets, writing notes of apology on the plywood coverings over the shop windows of The Bay, a large downtown department store whose windows were smashed permitting hundreds of thousands of dollars of looting and damage. Then the morning after, literally thousands once again came to the riot location, with brooms and dustbins to gather up the broken glass and the rest of the garbage. These were volunteers, unpaid, people who did not want the black mark to become a permanent characterization of their city and were determined to erase whatever they could from the melee. They posted notes on police cars espressing gratitude and support for the job the police had attempted to do on the night of the riot. And the next day, Friday, thousands more came downtown and literally danced and sang in the streets, hugging policemen, and accepting gift cards from shops like the Benze coffee shop where workers were literally barricaded for hours on the night of the riot itself, and whose shop was protected by citizens who stood guard out front, prohibiting looters and rioters to enter and to inflict more damage. The owner was so grateful he distributed $5000 worth of gift cards to the joyous crowd.
The police have received some 1,000,000 photos from social media, submitted by ordinary citizens who captured the images during the worst of the rampage and wished to do their part to bring the perpetrators to justice. The city of Vancouver, if any city could, has turned their night of horror into a community building and a community celebrating esperience, much of which has been carried on national television, if not on social media.
This tiny piece is written in tribute to the citizens of Vancouver who have taken responsibility for their city's reputation, and have volunteered their time and energy, without any thought of compensation, so that their city could return to normal as quickly as possible. I challenge any city in the world to demonstrate a similar level of commitment and civic pride immediately following a night of roudiness, drunkenness and insanity.
Congratulations. Vancouver, for making all Canadians proud of your city. Like the NDP convention held there this weekend, the rest of Canada owes you our collective gratitude and a long-overdue visit.
P.S. There is a new phenomenon emerging in this story: the revenge of the facebook users who have apparently threatened one family enough that they have moved out of their home because their lives were threatened, because their son was allegedly seen in photos on facebook committing a criminal act.
It is not an accident that Vancouver police have reversed their story about a bunch of hoodlums to mostly middle and upperclass youths as the principal perpetrators of the damage and mayhem last Wednesday night.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sexual "prowess" vs "restraint" re-examined

By Sara Lipton, New York Times, June 16, 2011
Sara Lipton, an associate professor of history at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, is a fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

(W)hen it comes to sex, a certain kind of man, no matter how intelligent, doesn’t think at all; he just acts. Somehow a need for sexual conquest, female adulation and illicit and risky liaisons seems to go along with drive, ambition and confidence in the “alpha male.” And even if we denounce him and hound him from office, we tend to accept the idea that power accentuates the lusty nature of men.

This conception of masculinity is relatively new, however. For most of Western history, the primary and most valued characteristic of manhood was self-mastery. Late antique and Roman writers, like Plutarch, lauded men for their ability to resist sexual temptation and control bodily desire through force of will and intellect. Too much sex was thought to weaken men: a late-15th-century poem mocks an otherwise respectable but overly sexually active burgess who has “wasted and spent” his “substance” until there is “naught left but empty skin and bone.”
Rampant sexuality was something men were supposed to grow out of: in medieval political theory, young male bodies were used as symbols of badly run kingdoms. A man who indulged in excessive eating, drinking, sleeping or sex — who failed to “rule himself” — was considered unfit to rule his household, much less a polity.
Far from seeming “manly,” aggressive sexuality was associated with women. In contrast to the Victorian view of women that is still influential today, ancient and medieval writers described women as consumed by lust and sexual desire. In 1433, officials in Florence charged with regulating women’s dress and behavior sought “to restrain the barbarous and irrepressible bestiality of women who, not mindful of the weakness of their nature, forgetting that they are subject to their husbands, and transforming their perverse sense into a reprobate and diabolical nature, force their husbands with their honeyed poison to submit to them.”
Because of this association of sexuality with femaleness, men who failed to control their sexual urges or were susceptible to feminine attractions found their masculinity challenged. Marc Antony was roundly mocked as having been “softened and effeminized” by his desire for Cleopatra. When the king and war hero Pedro II of Aragon spent the night before a battle not in prayer or council but in bed with a woman, he was labeled effeminate.
Few of us would wish to revive these notions or endorse medieval misogyny. But in the face of recent revelations about the reckless and self-indulgent sexual conduct of so many of our elected officials, it may be worth recalling that sexual restraint rather than sexual prowess was once the measure of a man.
Is the real question a man's sexual "restraint" versus a man's sexual "prowess"? I think many would like the issue reduced to such a frame. However, it is not so easily contained by those two frames.
First, "prowess" or the engaging in sexual activity, especially outside of marriage, is not necessarily reducible to prowess. It is more likely a sign of weakness, a man not strong enough to be able to have the confidence in himself that accompanies healthy relationships, with healthy boundaries. Pursuing more females than a single committed partner, is not the sign of prowess, but rather of tragic insecurity. It is the reason that many men have not, do not, and will not commit to a single woman. They do not have enough "self" (as differentiated from ego or "machismo") to know that they can and will trust such a full and final commitment. They do not have enough self to negotiate on a level playing field with an equal partner, having so few male models as teachers. It is their insecurity, masked by aggressive and both covert and overt attempts to seduce women into those proverbial chinks in their belt, that drives them, and a society that misreads this "prowess" is out of touch with reality.
Now let's look at restraint, as defined by Ms Lipton: conscious and willful decision to resist the temptations of women, in order to be considered manly. Women, unfortunately, brand this kind of behaviour, in the 21st century as even more lusty, and worthy of the chase, because of the implicit challenge to her capacity to seduce. Playing hard to get by a man is one sure way to attract more than enough females; the only trouble is that now that male is falling into the trap of manipulation, and it is not an indication either of a woman who seeks to enter a committed relationship or the harbinger of a relationship that the man can trust. There is a tragedy about which most women do not wish to speak: that is the tragedy of the man who "fell" for the seduction and not for the woman and the resulting babies of such entrapments are living in an unsafe place.
As a historian, Ms Lipton knows that one must resist falling into the simplicities of cliche definitions, especially those that are generated by the popular culture, including the media, and those generated by medieval histories that were unable to include many of the complexities we now grasp of human behaviours, attitudes and motivations.
"Prowess" is not and cannot be defined as multiple sexual encounters, any more than the grade nine definition of masculinity is enhanced by the size of a penis.
"Restraint," too can fall into a "code" for the purposes of military, religious and political power and control, as St. Paul's urging all males to be celibate would try to do, and thus cannot be seen as a sign of health masculinity in the past or today. There is much more to the question than Ms Lipton would like us to consider, if we are truly to take her challenge seriously: "what is wrong with current powerful men?"
And the sooner both men and women acknowledge the truth of both of their strengths and insecurities, in dialogue that is prepared to dig deeper for the whole truths, the sooner we will come to a place where men and women will be equal in the eyes of both genders, and perhaps the manipulation of power will be reduced to where it belongs, in aberrant and infrequent dissonances, not as the defining concept in male-female relations.

Sweat Lodge incompatible with christian teaching? apparently in Quebec village

By Ingrid Peritz, Globe and Mail, June 18, 2011 
In time, the aboriginal sweat lodge that Redfern Mianscum had built in his Quebec village was forcibly dismantled – not by outsiders, but by members of his own aboriginal community.
“Sweat lodges are part of our native way of life,” said Mr. Mianscum, 34. “It’s a place of healing. And here, it was taken down.”
The last place one would expect to see a sweat lodge destroyed is in a native community. Yet that is what happened in Oujé-Bougoumou, a predominantly Christian Cree village 725 kilometres north of Montreal. Instead of helping heal, the sweat lodge exposed a rift between Christian teachings and a younger generation’s embrace of once-taboo native practices.
Now Mr. Mianscum has retained high-profile Montreal human-rights lawyer Julius Grey to fight his case on the basis of his religious freedoms.
Mr. Mianscum built the sweat lodge in a friend’s backyard last fall to connect with his aboriginal roots and help his community. The homemade structure, held up by logs and branches from the vast surrounding bush, quickly stirred up suspicion in the village of 700.
A petition demanding its removal was started by opponents, who eventually collected about 130 signatures. Then the band council passed a resolution ordering it dismantled, invoking the Cree nation’s right to self-determination.
“The community was founded by Christian faith and values of our elders and past leadership,” the resolution reads. “The members of the Cree Nation of Oujé-Bougoumou hereby declare that the sweat lodge along with any form of native spirituality practices and events such as pow-wows, rain dances, etc., do not conform with the traditional values and teachings of our elders.”
No both-and here! No coming together and merging the best of both native spirituality and Christian teachings! No tolerance for both traditions here. Only violent dismantling of the sweat lodge by native people, to prevent confusion among the young.
The "brand" of christianity being practiced here is Pentecostal, a fundamental, evangelical, literalist band that converts its following and enthusiastically boasts hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of converts. In a very confused and confusing time, black and white answers have considerable appeal to anyone struggling with how to answer many real-life questions. And now those black-and-white answers have collided with the native tradition of the sweat lodge. Even the Roman Catholic priest would prefer the people to be working together rather than fighting among themselves.
Have we so entrenched a binary thought process that excludes any form of combination of two traditions?
Have we so alienated the First Nations people, who in this village just buried another twenty-three-year-old victim of suicide, and whose village is experiencing domestic violence, and alcohol abuse, that they cannot see their way to accommodating two traditions, or better accommodating their language and culture and history to the best of a christian teaching.
It is the resistance to the mystical and the mystery that really astounds this writer. There is, and there must always be a mystery and a mystical element to any real and potential relationship between humans and their God. There is always more outside our understanding. There is always more we can and must learn. And that process, by definition, is not finite. And all mysteries have not been revealed, even the mystery of God.

UPDATE! Hebert on NDP-Liberal merger: we say premature and unlikely

UPDATE: (August 30, 2011)Both former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, just thiw past weekend have publicly thrown their combined weight to the idea of a merger between the Liberal PArty of Canada and the New Democratic Party!!! Those voices, along with Denis Coderre and with his 'toe in the water calling it 'blue-skying' Justin Trudeau have added considered heft to the growing chorus of voices recommending the merger....We will continue watching!
By Chantal Hebert, Toronto Star, June 18, 2011
Quebecers are hardly alone in their interest for a coming-together of the Liberals and the NDP. Polls have shown that non-Conservative voters are generally more sympathetic to the idea than the two parties that purport to represent their views in the Commons.

Since the election, the federal Liberal establishment has gone out of its way to ward off talk of a rapprochement with the NDP.
At the same time the election result has convinced many New Democrats that they can go it alone. On Sunday, the convention will be asked to support a resolution designed to shut the door to any merger with the Liberals.
Yet, when all is said and done, nothing would divide the Liberal grassroots more than an offer of cooperation from the NDP.
Now that it is in the driver’s seat, wisdom would at least suggest that the NDP road-test its new status before foreclosing the option of going down the road of an arrangement with the Liberals.
There is little to suggest that the NDP will turn down a proposal to shut the door on a Liberal-NDP alliance in Vancouver this weekend. Although they are in Vancouver, they are in the same rarified air that hangs over Boston this week, where the celebrations are on the winning of the Stanley Cup. For the NDP, they share an exuberance similar to that of the Bruins, although their victory is hardly analogous or even remotely similar.
Quebecers in the thousands wanted and voted for a progressive government, and smiling Jack Layton, with his cane, his hip replacement and his availability attracted those votes. Many of his candidates were merely "names" on a nomination form, for the purpose of offering a "national campaign." Without those votes, the NDP would be holding its convention this weekend in a phone booth on Granville Street in Vancouver.
There is no perception of the need to join the Liberals from the helium-inflated, air-walking NDP, feasting on headlines like, "We are ready to form the next government."
For the Liberals, Bob Rae, interim leader, has committed to the party that he will not consider, or enter, conversations with his former political allies, so long as he holds the interim post. Yet, this requirement too, seems more than a little misguided. The conservatives will be virtually impossible to defeat if two centre-left parties run against them for the obvious reason that  those two opponents will divide the vote between them, leaving the conservatives clear sailing. Fundraising for the conservatives will also be facilitated and enhanced by two opposition parties fighting over the same dollars, now that the federal portion of funding is being removed by the Harper majority.
It is in building bridges between the lower and middle classes (as one) and the corporations and big money that is and will continue to be the challenge for the left in Canada. Resisting government action on the environment, building prisons, and fortifying the military are all calculated to secure and embed the support of the upper class, the have's, for a long time. And that is obviously Harper's agenda, along with the permanent destruction of the Liberal Party, a feat he is quite far along to accomplishing.
It must seem too obvious and too easy for some Liberals to contemplate hooking their wagon to the NDP success, and minimizing the task of rethinking, and rebuilding their party from the ground up. Nevertheless, a complete rebuild needs to follow the dismembering that occurred on May 2 in order for the Liberal Party to find its bearings, to find its relevance and to discern whether the future includes an alliance or not.
That decision makes sense only after an extended and critical self-examination done in public, to the accompaniment of intellectually stimulating provocation from outside the party as well as from within.
In Europe, the future of the middle-way parties is bleak if not virtually foreclosed. In the U.S. third parties have often been Roman candles, shooting high for a brief moment, and then lying and smouldering in their own ashes in the dirt.
Is that the fate to which the Liberal Party must bow? In Canada, that would seem a little less guaranteed, especially with the history and tradition of the Liberal Party on which to build. Eaton's would never amalgamate with Simpson's, in order to block Sears from an invasion from the south. General Motors would never merge with Ford to withstand an invasion from Japan. And certainly Dominion Stores would never merge with Sobey's to fend off an invasion from the A & P. It is often the corporate models that attract political insiders. And while the merger has defined the last two decades in the corporate world, those companies, or at least many of them, were recent entrants into the race, and not long-standing cultures and heritages. One significant exception is the airline industry where the merger of large companies was necessary to ensure the continuation of some, where those mergers worked to the advantage of both.
However, it will be a question of hubris and confidence, that likely determines the final outcome of a merger between the Liberals and the NDP. If either party thinks and believes that it does not need the other, then hubris will win over political necessity. If both parties can see, seek and find enough that is mutually beneficial in a marriage, especially with the wave of conservative cashflow creating a tsunami in that direction, then the realization of the finite resources people are willing to contribute to the political process may be the agent of humility that brings the two parties to the same conclusion.
For the foreseeable future, one (the NDP) cannot see beyond its euphoria, and the other (Liberal) can barely see beyond its humiliation...and good decisions are never made from either "place". So let's not look for a change in the direction of a unified party in the short run, at least for two years.
And then, if the Liberals have succeeded in electing a new leader and their fortunes have turned, any interest in a merger may have dissipated in another wave of confidence.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vancouver rioters bring shame on Canada, in spades!

By Rick Salutin, Toronto Star, June 17, 2011
Humans are emotional beings, but you can also think of us as symbolic. We invest our lives with meanings beyond the immediate. Sports is part of that. Feelings about teams often reflect stuff like the state of the economy. In hard times, people prefer to think about how their team is doing, especially when they’re winning. Then they lose and wham, it’s double devastation. Plus, for many people, the hard times endure. As a Toronto band sang in the recession of the early 1990s, “Hard times ain’t nothing new/ On Eastern Avenue.”

You can try to focus on real satisfactions in your actual life; or disperse the symbols to areas that may be going better than your team. But that only works to a point. We remain prey to our feelings and the symbols that embody them.
This applies in politics too, where people often vote less in terms of concrete issues like health or child care than symbolic satisfactions like punishing evil and arrogance. Supposedly cagey winners, like Rob Ford, Stephen Harper or Barack Obama, are often just the innocent beneficiaries of those deeper needs.
Political philosopher Leo Strauss, who lived through Hitler’s rise, concluded that most people are and always will be basically emotional and for their own good must be manipulated by their betters through religion and deceit. Honesty was not possible or desirable for the majority. He’s strongly influenced governments like those of Stephen Harper and George W. Bush.
By contrast, Pierre Trudeau, the most philosophical of our prime ministers, made “Reason over Passion” his personal motto. Yet he belted his wife Margaret when she stepped out one night with the Rolling Stones and she wore the black eye in public. The great Toronto artist Joyce Wieland embroidered one of her lovely quilts with the words, Reason over Passion. Get it? Bedtime?
So think of Trudeau’s words as a wish, a goal or even a prayer. It can be done but people will always — as in Vancouver — have to deal with their passions, emotions, symbols and animal nature. I don’t mean to put animals down, since we don’t know much about their inner lives. But at least we can say we aren’t angels who, if they existed, would be all joy, harmony and absence of rage.
Earlier in his column, Mr. Salutin refers to the violence of his father, in their Montreal apartment, while he was growing up. Many of us have witnessed and received acts of violence in the privacy of our families of origin.
And many of us have spent decades trying to figure out what is at the root of that violence.
At forty-five, I once asked my mother, the perpetrator of the violence until I reached the age of eighteen, "Why did you beat me?"
Her answer, "Why do you think I beat you?
My response, "I can only guess that you could not talk."
There is a senselessness to the violence in Vancouver on Wednesday night, and it casts its shame on all Canadians that will not easily or quickly be removed like a spot on the carpet.
There is no "spot remover" for such acts of random violence and wanton despair and disrepect for others, for the property of others, or for the reputation of the collective.
In fact, it would seem that for many of these male malcontents, (and let's not duck the fact that the agents of this melee were primarily male, primarily young and primarily the most narcissistic generation we have seen for decades) defying authority, in the face of a sports defeat, is a way of taking advantage of the seeming impotence and the seeming restraint of the authorities, in order to make a historic statement.
And, what's more, a similar incident occurred in 1994, after the first time the Vancouver hockey team lost the Stanley Cup final. And the author of the report of that incident spoke to the need for police to move quickly and decisively against the first perpetrators, but that recommendation was either ignored or certainly not implemented this time.
Statements by the premier of British Columbia to the effect that "we are going to be as hard on these perpetrators as we can" is no substitute for immediate, decisive and courageous actions to enter, and to arrest those leading the rampage. And permitting hundreds of thousands of fans to gather in spaces too small for such police intervention is a mistake that must not be repeated.
Naturally, we all applaud the thousands who volunteered on Thursday morning, the morning after, to clean the streets and to put the city back in some kind of order.
But the damage has been done, to the city, to the province and to the country, with the viral dissemination of the videos of burning cars, including at least two police cars, the smashing of store windows, and the looting of merchandise, "because I wanted it" in the words of one young woman proudly displaying a new "bag" she stole from a department store.
And the people who carried out this mayhem are not the convicted criminals, or the homeless; they are the people wearing $100+ sweaters of the Vancouver Canucks, whose statement of disavowal that these people are not "fans of the Canucks" is so out of touch with reality as to be simple-minded, frightened and easily dismissed.
There is a volcano of pent-up anger, frustration and hatred for so many targets, not just in Vancouver but in many centres, and this excuse, either a win or a loss, was the trigger to set it off, in effect to legitimize such wanton and flagrant abuse of power, abuse of privilege and abuse of opportunity. They see it in every NHL game, so why should they not "follow their heroes" into the streets. And in the NHL most of the wanton violence is not adequately policed, just as it was not on the streets of Vancouver.
Does anyone else see the picture?