Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Christine Lagarde shakes up central bankers at Jackson Hole

New York Times Editorial, August 31, 2011
(The editorial emerges from remarks made by Christine Lagarde, Head of the International Monetary Fund to central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyoming last week.)
Now free to speak her mind, her blunt remarks and prescriptions were just what the central bankers needed to hear. She rightly called for: rebalancing global trade by stimulating demand in developing countries with big export surpluses; more aggressive mortgage relief in the United States; and giving job creation priority over deficit reduction in the United States and Europe.

She also called for substantial injections of public and private capital into dangerously frail European banks. And while citing the necessity for long-term deficit reduction, she made clear that near-term policies must give priority to generating jobs, stimulating demand and renewing economic growth.
For Europe, specifically, Ms. Lagarde prescribed more financing for debt bailout plans, a concerted effort to strengthen vulnerable banks and, most importantly, a common political vision about the euro’s long-term future that has been grievously lacking.
For the United States, she called for new efforts to resuscitate consumer demand by attacking long-term unemployment and mortgage foreclosures. She suggested “aggressive principal reduction programs for homeowners,” in addition to the kind of refinancing programs the Obama administration is now considering.
American political leaders haven’t taken much notice of her speech. European financial officials have been sputtering ever since. Ms. Lagarde cannot make any of these things happen by herself. If she keeps pushing hard, the politicians may finally wake up.
It is indeed true that Ms Lagarde cannot make any of this happen by herself. However, she does have a bully pulpit from which to harrangue political leaders in both Europe and North America, and while the U.S. rarely seems to listen to anything smacking of external 'control' of their policy-makers, especially from a French, European source, there are those who are listening and attempting to echo her sentiments, if not her precise phrasing.
Her's is indeed a voice of reason, of moderation, of even human compassion and long-term thinking, not only to alleviate the conditions facing both the unemployed and those threatened with mortgage foreclosure. It is time for policy makers to extend their perspective beyond the next election and into the next decade. No country, and no global economy can withstand a decade of depression that will lead inevitably to more unrest, more violence, more terrorism and a continually growing gap between the "have's" and the "have-not's".
Regardless of one's political persuasion, right, left or centre, the costs of refusing to listen to her clarion call for aggressive intervention by governments cannot be contained within a single country, as some in the U.S. and in some European countries would like to believe, and like the rest of us to believe with them.
Failure to act can be considered nothing more than the selfish pursuit of short-term personal political power at the expense of the larger national and international interests of all peoples.

Matchmaker: Liberals and NDP finally go to the prom together?

There is a kind of dance of the adolescents going on between the two left of centre political parties in Canada. It is the kind of dance that says things like:
"Hi, how are you doin'? What's happening?"
"Oh, not much, how 'bout you?"
"Or I'm really busy getting ready for a major assignment, and it keeps taking up a lot of my time."
"That's interesting; we seem to be loaded with assignments these days too."
"I've been hearing talk about you and me maybe going to the prom; have you heard that stuff too?"
"Oh, yah, I've heard a lot of things, but I don't put much stock in street talk; you know people will say anything just to get attention."
"Yah I've noticed that too...but you know there might be something in this street talk, as you call it."
"Really, like what? You think maybe we, you and I, might be thinking about going to the prom together?...I don't think so. After all, we're just friends and classmates and neighbours from the same part of town, but not partners, are we?"
"Well, we do have a lot in common, and that can often lead to more time together, don't you think?"
"Oh, I don't know, I really haven't a whole lot of time to spend thinking about what might be because those assignments aren't going away and I've really got a whole lot of research to do to get them in on time."
"I know; hooking up, even for a prom, takes a lot of thought, and effort and planning and ...."
"And where are you going with this?"
"Oh, I don't know, I just thought maybe, for once, all that street talk might have some know, I think it might be kind of fun to go to the prom together and who knows what might happen?"
"You mean, you think we might start to go out together if we started with going to the prom together?"
"Well......maybe...who knows?"
"You know, I've heard everything, now; it sounds like you might be asking me to go to the prom with you, but you don't know if you really want that, and if you do, you really don't know how to ask..maybe because you think I might say,'No'!"
"I'm not very good at having real conversations about real things, like taking someone to the seems to be such an important event and everyone talks about it for years after...and I'm not sure I  know how to dance well enough to feel comfortable dancing and ....."
"Oh, for crying out loud, if you're going to beat around the bush about, does that mean that I have to make your decision for you? Of course, I will go to the prom with you, and if you like, I'd be happy to have a few practice dance sessions before with you."
"Really, I didn't know I was thinking about even asking you, but now that you've made it so clear and so easy, I'd like to take you up on your we're going to the prom, right?"
"Well, I heard my parents talking about us going last night, and they said they had heard about it from their friends, and everyone thought it was a good idea....and the only people left out of the conversation were you and me..."
"So, let's not tell anyone about our secret decision, and let it be a surprise on prom night, OK?"
"OK....and now I've got to get back to those assignments....good luck on your's! Oh, and thanks for the invite! I thought you'd never ask."
Everyone knows that for political parties to merge takes a first step, formally introducing the idea, formalling taking the risk of rejection, formally taking the risk of ridicule, and formally taking the risk of the negotiations falling apart even after they have been formally opened. And, in politics, formally failing is not an option sought by many, in fact it is avoided at all costs by most. That's what makes politics so has to be a perfect performance every time, and no one can tell at the outset if the performance will be "perfect" and provide a winning combination of applause when it is over.
In this case, having watched the faltering attempts at unity between the Reform and the Progressive  Conservative parties, for the purpose of taking power from the Liberals, now the NDP have a large amount of leverage with their 103 seats, 59 from the province of Quebec. On the other hand, the Liberals are a pale imitation of their former selves, with a meagre 34 seats out of the total of 308. They have far less leverage than at any time in their history, and that just might be the best time for the NDP to consider joining.
On the surface, the Liberals would seem to have more to gain from merger than the NDP. However, there is a history of governing that comes with the Liberals into any merger and the NDP is short of that ingredient at the federal level. Just as Obama was short on gravitas when he won the nomination for the Democratic presidential ticket, and chose Joe Biden to fill out that missing piece in the puzzle, it may be that the NDP need the Liberals to help them over the top...from their perspective.
From the Liberal perspective, having been pummelled from the sponsorship scandal, and the ego-infighting of the last twenty years (Turner v. Chretien; then Chretien v. Martin; then....)not to mention the Conservative attack campaign against both Dion and Ignatieff, with a dimished war chest with which to strike back, the party is exhausted, virtually decimated and seriously in need of a shot of adrenalin.
It is that very shot that could come from the NDP with their youthful Quebec caucus, and their optimism and the Layton legacy to support that. Are they generous enough to put all that energy into a union that could see both parties effectively defeat the Harper neo-cons in 2015?
Chretien, Ignatieff, Coderre, Pat Martin have all come out publicly, along with Ed Broadbent prior to the last election in support of a merger of the left.
Those are not names to be blown off; they have deep and long histories of political experience and know what it takes to be successful in Ottawa.
Canadians being a reticent, small-c conservative people especially in forming relationships, are nervous of even dating, not to even consider partnering. However, it is time for both sides to risk the potential of the venture. Both are standing in a transition moment. Both have interim leaders. Both have time to merge their formal elections for a national leader who could bring their two parties together over the next three years, in time to fight a federal election. Justin Trudeau is right when he says that the Harper government will do much to defeat itself over the next few years. Their majority could ironcially turn out to be their greatest albatross, given their demonstrated preference for siloed exercise of power, without consultation, compromise or even listening to alternatives.
By Adrian Morrow, Globe and Mail, September 2, 2011
One of Canada’s largest trade unions wants the NDP and the Liberal Party to explore the possibility of merging or co-operating in the interests of defeating the federal Conservative government.

The position of the Canadian Auto Workers was outlined in a letter from union president Ken Lewenza to Winnipeg MP Pat Martin Thursday evening and copied to the entire NDP caucus.
From the Letters to the Editor in Globe and Mail, September 2, 2011
I couldn’t disagree more with John Ibbitson’s take on a possible federal NDP-Liberal merger (Talk All You Want – These Pieces Just Don’t Fit – Aug. 31). Former prime minister Jean Chrétien, a serious proponent of the merger, understands full well that the Liberal brand – set aside questions about organization, candidate selection, and party finances – is severely damaged, perhaps beyond repair.
Add in the fact that the NDP, especially with the passing of Jack Layton, has precious little chance of getting the keys to 24 Sussex Dr. in 2015. While no one is suggesting that the marriage will be easy, the reality is that these two pieces have to be joined to flourish. Otherwise, card-carrying members of both parties can look forward to the long reign of the Harper Conservatives.

By Peter McKenna, professor, political studies, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown

Add in the fact that the NDP, especially with the passing of Jack Layton, has precious little chance of getting the keys to 24 Sussex Dr. in 2015. While no one is suggesting that the marriage will be easy, the reality is that these two pieces have to be joined to flourish. Otherwise, card-carrying members of both parties can look forward to the long reign of the Harper Conservatives.
Peter McKenna, professor, political studies, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Harper government language out of touch with reality...except for its base

By Edward Greenspan and Anthony Doob, Globe and Mail, August 29, 2011

Edward Greenspan is a Toronto criminal lawyer. Anthony Doob is a professor of criminology at the University of Toronto.

At any given time, there are more than 1,700 Canadian citizens incarcerated around the world. To contribute to the administration of justice, the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community, Canada has entered into international transfer agreements with more than 80 countries. Without the benefit of transfers, offenders are deported at the end of their sentence to their country of citizenship, often after having spent years in confinement and being totally unprepared for a safe, secure and successful reintegration into society....
Canadians led the world by initiating a process of transferring foreign prisoners to their home countries with a proposal at a 1975 United Nations conference. In 1978, Canada negotiated the first transfer treaty (with the U.S.). Canada led; others followed. These treaties focus on the need to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders. Why? Because good corrections and humanitarian policies are compatible.

Between 1978 and 2009, 1,504 Canadians were transferred back to Canada to serve their prison sentences closer to their families and to be reintegrated, gradually and with support and controls, into Canadian society. The government’s own reports conclude that the act’s purpose and principles have been successful and that the law, as it stands, contributes to public safety. In one study of 744 transferred offenders, only 4 per cent committed an offence after their release from prison.
We found no records of offenders being refused re-entry by Canada until 2006, when the Harper government started rejecting transfers of significant numbers of offenders. By blocking transfers, the government is putting “looking tough” ahead of public safety, acting as if it can keep these offenders out of Canada forever. The government is pretending that “protection of society” and being “humanitarian” are incompatible. In fact, allowing Canadian offenders to return to Canada and receive treatment under correctional control is both humanitarian and crime reducing.
The current law says its purpose is “to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens.” The government wants to change the wording so the law’s main purpose would be “to enhance public safety,” ignoring the fact that the best way to enhance public safety is to do what is currently the law.

Why change a law that’s working so well? The Harper plan is to keep Canadians who have offended abroad from serving their sentences in Canada in order to appear “tough on crime.” By legislating public safety as the act’s purpose, it hopes to justify the de facto end to transfers.
This won’t enhance public safety. The alternative – being deported to Canada at the end of the foreign sentence – will mean offenders won’t have had the benefit of rehabilitative programs; they probably will have lost contact with family and friends who could assist in their reintegration, and Canada will have no special controls over them.
Here is another example of the Harper government deciding policy under the disguise of a hollow, blunt and (they would like us to believe) sacred this case "public safety"....
With regard to the $30 billion for Fighter Jets, the government line was to "enhance recruitment" when everyone knows that new fighter Jets are both incongruent with any future war and merely an ego-seducer for young men and women, hardly the way to recruit committed military officers.
With regard to the $35 billion for armed and non-armed ships, the government line was " to protect Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic" when everyone knows there will be no resolution of Arctic boundaries by military combat.
With regard to the billions of new prison cells, and the guards to serve the increased numbers of prisoners, the government line was "increased public safety" and "safer streets"....when we all know that crime rates have consistently gone down significantly over the last decade, in all categories
Whenever a government representative is asked a question, there is always, in the answer, a "bullet" line like those above, or the most overused line of all, "the government received a strong mandate in the last election to do....."whereas, the Prime Minister, during the campaign answered not more than five questions in any single press appearance, and walked away when that quote was completed, without answering another question. Further, virtually none of the policy statements of the government following the election were promulgated during the campaign, prior to May 2.
It is as if this government (longing to be known in Canadian history as the "Harper government" not the Government of Canada) believes that the public is so stunned, stupid, ignorant or disinterested that we will not see past their disguising their policy in dumbed-down sound bites, which consistently cater to the shibboleth's to which their right wing base genuflects.
The 71% of the eligible voters who did not vote for this government (including all eligible voters whether they voted or not) are not nearly as detached, dumb or unsophisticated as this government seems to be giving us credit for being. I wonder when they will wake up to their own chicanery and start talking in real terms that everyone can both grasp and debate, about the details of their regressive and retrograde policy proposals.
It is their arrogance, and their taking the voters for granted, as if only the government knows the full truth, that is so appalling.  This method of relating to the voter is nothing if not blunt, out-of-touch with reality, and based on anything but scientific data.

Keystone XL Pipeline...ready for approval, while protesters go to jail

From the State Department website, August 26, 2011
On August 26, 2011, the U.S. Department of State (the Department) issued the final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which, if approved, would run from Alberta, Canada to Texas. Under Executive Order 13337, the Department is responsible for receiving all applications for presidential permits for the construction of a pipeline crossing a United States international border. After consultation with eight federal agencies and the public, the Department is charged with making a determination as to whether a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline is in the U.S. national interest.
About the Proposed Project
TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP (Keystone) filed an application in 2008 for a Presidential Permit with the Department of State to build and operate the Keystone XL Project. As shown on the map at right, the proposed Keystone XL Project consists of a 1700-mile crude oil pipeline and related facilities that would primarily be used to transport Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin crude oil from an oil supply hub in Alberta, Canada to delivery points in Oklahoma and Texas. The proposed Project would also be capable of transporting U.S. crude oil to those delivery points. The proposed project could transport up to 830,000 barrels per day and is estimated to cost $7 billion. If permitted, it would begin operation in 2013, with the actual date dependant on the necessary permits, approvals, and authorizations.
Yesterday, among others, Bill McKibbon, renowned environmentalist, interviewed on On Point with Tom Ashbrook, noted that with the wall-to-wall coverage of hurricane Irene over this past weekend, there was not a single word mentioned about the fact that the storm system was moving over the warmest waters up the coast of North America in history. That is why, according to McKibbon, the storm took the route it did and lasted as long as it did. Nevertheless, addicted to immediate symptoms, the American and U.S. media both attended to the nano-second developments, while ignoring the impact of climate change and global warming.
Ironically, McKibbon was being interviewed from Washington where he had gathered at the White House with a few dozen others ready to be jailed as he was only a few weeks ago, to protest the Keystone XL pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the Texas refineries. The decision will likely be made within the next 90 days by president Obama.
However, as the State Department Environmental Impact Study notes, while there is the danger of leaks from the proposed gigantic pipeline (there already have been some dozen-plus leaks in the early construction on the Canadian side), the options that Canadian developers of the project might take could be potentially even more hazardous to the environment. Giant ships plying the west coast of North America could result in a, God forbid, second Exxon Valdez; trucks carrying crude oil, in the amounts projected by the pipeline (some 900,000 barrels per day) would easily clog already overcrowded highways and freeways not to mention the potential danger of additional accidents and resulting spills.
It is the American appetite for crude oil, just as it is the American appetite for illicit drugs, that drives these markets, although the crude market is at least conducted by registered corporations over which there is a modicum of public control, which control is virtually completely absent in the drug trade.
It is the degree of commitment, dedication and intensity of people like McKibbon that inspires others to learn about these projects, and to begin to think of the serious implications either way, whether the project is approved or not.
Here is another of those "damned if you do-damned if you don't" decisions that will soon reach the president's desk. If he approves the project, the environmentalists will say he has sold out on his principles and the left will become even more disenchanted; if he rejects the project, the millions of Americans who seek to get their country off "foreign oil" constitute much of the independent voting block he needs for re-election.
Like the Governors who evacuated hundreds of thousands prior to hurricane Irene, they are being criticized for over-reacting, yet if they had ignored the problem, they would have been criticized even more for failing to act.
In this case, Obama may have to hold his nose and approve the project, while insisting on extreme safeguards to protect the environment, a mid-way decision that will likely please very few.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bob Rae addresses Caucus and defeated candidates...with vigor, passion and clarity

For fifty-plus minutes Interim Leader of the Liberal Party, Bob Rae, addressed the Liberal caucus plus defeated candidates in the May 2 election today.
He declared, "not on my watch" will Harper do to the Liberal leader what they did to both Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, through exaggerated character assassination 'that had nothing to do with reality. He also told his audience, plus any who listened across the country through the streaming on, that he agreed with "every word" of a critique from Murray Todd, defeated candidate in the Kamloops riding of B.C. that the party needs to be tough-minded, mobile, nimble, quick-witted and establish standards so that it becomes accountable and where there are consequences for all.
Rae urged the party to develop active effective riding associations, to recognize that the members and the supporters are those who matter, not the leader's office and the party executive.
Pointing to the Conservatives active call centre, operating as we speak, identifying donors, issues and potential voters, funded by a group of at least 100 donors, Rae noted that politics has changed over the last decade. "We cannot start the day the election is declared; we have to start now, to knock on doors, to listen to the riding and to become a full active instrument in all 308 ridings.
Declaring both unemployment and pollution the greatest enemies of economic progress, Rae indicated that, to the Conservative "bumper sticker" of "cuts, cuts, cuts" the Liberals respond, "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs"...
People must come first, in a Liberal agenda, according to the Interim Leader and while he agrees with fiscal discipline, he also cites the need for growth and prosperity, for example, through infrastructure projects.
Agreeing with the "sonny days" (a phrase from Laurier's political thesaurus) of the last week following the death of Jack Layton as a positive approach to governing, he notes, "Civility is not lying down and accepting things we don't agree with.
While he notes that Harper received barely 29% of the votes of all eligible voters, and that Canada has not gone through a massive transformation into becoming Tea Party members, he warns Harper, "Pride goes before a fall" and notes, somewhat ironically, that Liberals know something about that principle themselves, having grown too proud in their political past.
Referring to the non-existent divide between the environment and the economy, Rae declared, to a strong round of applause, "I am proud to belong to a caucus in which Stephane Dion is a member." (The reference seemed to be that a green plank in Liberal policy is a 'given' under Rae.)
In terms of raising money, Rae noted,"Our passion will produce the money necessary!" And, somewhat sardonically, mentioned that 'families are not always easy to join,' we are not asking people to join our family, but rather "we are asking Canadians to join our movement for change, for innovation, for inclusivity.
With respect to the talk of merger with the New Democrats, Rae indicated on CBC's Power and Politics today, "That is not my focus; I can't stop people from talking about what they want to talk about, and I have not noticed much interest in that idea from the other party, but I have a job to bring the party to election readiness in the next two years, and we'll let the chips fall where they may after that"..(in response to Evan Solomon's probe into the potential of a Rae permanent leadership bid).
In conclusion, Raw invoked the words of Sir Wilfred Laurier, one of his political heroes, in two phrases:
1) "Follow my white plume"...a humorous and self-deprecating note about the white hair of both men and
2) our cry must be, "Canada Last, Canada First, Canada Always!"
Of course, that brought the crowd of approximately 150 to their feet in the last of several standing ovations.

The new "macho"..what happened to the risk of "balance" for masculinity?

By Tom Matlack, from goodmenproject website, August 25, 2011
In his New York Times piece, David Streitfeld quoted Jobs biographer, Alan Deutschman, as saying:

The big thing about Steve Jobs is not his genius or his charisma but his extraordinary risk-taking. Apple has been so innovative because Jobs takes major risks, which is rare in corporate America. He doesn’t market-test anything. It’s all his own judgment and perfectionism and gut.
Steve Jobs is the new macho
“The New Macho” is a guy who has an aggressive moral compass that prioritizes the things that he finds important—family, being honest, making a difference in the world. He goes all out to figure that out, yet he is also more apt to take risks “and stare down things that seem impossible.”

The piece demonstrates the risk-taking of both Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame as proof of the "new macho" in masculinity.
However, while risk-taking is certainly an integral part of being male, it is their business success and fortune that make them models for perusal of a different image of "macho". Rather than gut-toting and law-flaunting bank robbers of the frontier west in Amercan movies, we are now supposed to emulate the occasional male geek whose genius is to develop the most advanced application of digital media to the North American lifestyle.
What about the new macho being a more likely college grad who is not fully into perfectionism and not fully into making a billion dollars, and not even into sacrificing everything to reach the top rung on the ladder of financial success? What about a macho man who can see clearly when his life is heading toward any form of "ism" like workaholism or alcoholism or perfectionism and understands the risks that such compulsiveness includes for his own person, and for the persons with whom he lives, like his family, whose lives too must be driven by his "ism".
What about the hero who grasps the dangers of too much money, too much fame, too much narcissism and too much achievment in the corporate sense of the word and transitions into a more modest deployment of his unique gifts and talents, that includes a balanced approach to whatever it is that seems to best express his genius?
Isn't there enough risk-taking for mature masculinity in seeking some authentic balance between the needs of children of all ages, work that does indeed draw out and expect the best of his contributions, while at the same time drawing out more hidden talents and gifts like those of the creative imagination, and those of giving back, and those of engaging the family and neighbours who lead less "driven" lives?
In a culture of rock stars, why do males consider it necessary and appropriate to reapply many of the worst and most dangerous attributes of masculinity to the new techno-stars, in a search for the new "macho"...??

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Boko Haram, Al Shabab, Al Qaeda...when will this scourge end?... if ever

Nigeria: U.N. Blast Death Toll Rises To 23
by The Associated Press, from NPR website, August 28, 2011 
The death toll from a suicide car-bomb attack at the U.N.'s Nigeria headquarters has risen to 23, a U.N. spokesman said Sunday, making Friday's attack one of the deadliest attacks on the U.N. in a decade.
Martin Dawes also said Sunday that 81 people were wounded in Friday's attack.
U.N. security chief Gregory Starr, who visited the site on Sunday, said there was no advance warning of the attack and that the U.N. had only received "general threats."
U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro also visited the site Sunday and laid a bouquet of white and red roses among the wreckage.
Boko Haram, the radical sect that claimed responsibility, vowed Saturday to commit future attacks. Hours earlier, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to bring terrorism in Africa's most  populous nation "under control."
However, his weakened government has so far been unable to stop the group from carrying out assassinations and bombings at will. Boko Haram is responsible for a rash of killings targeting security officers, local leaders and clerics in Nigeria's volatile northeast over the last year. The group also claimed responsibility for a bombing at national police headquarters that killed two in June.
Friday's attack was the first suicide attack targeting foreigners by Boko Haram, a group that has reported links to al-Qaida, wants to implement a strict version of Shariah law in the nation and is vehemently opposed to Western education and culture.
"Vehemently opposed to Western education and culture"....could translate:
  • has profound contempt for anything that inculcates equality of men and women, including female garb that exposes any part of the woman's body save the nose and eyes, and perhaps the mouth,
  • strongly opposes any education system that promotes joint decision-making of married partners
  • strongly opposes any marriage not arranged by father and/or family for unmarried daughters
  • strongly opposes the use of interest (usury) and borrowing in matters of financial transactions
  • seeks to implement the instructions of the Qur'an to bring Islam to dominance across the world, and permits the killing of infidels (all those who are not Muslims)
  • seeks the implementation of Sharia Law in all countries in the world
  • openly seeks the destruction of the State of Israel
  • refuses to join any dialogue that includes representatives of all major world religions, thereby precluding any inter-faith dialogue of any meaningful purpose
With Boko Haram operating through this violent destruction of human life, focussed on United Nations aid workers, in Nigeria, and Al-Shabab restricting the movement of food and medical treatment for starving millions in Somalia, Al Qaeda affiliates operating out of Yemen, and news of undisclosed mustard gas in various locations in Libya ripe for a terrorist agency like these, plus increased static from Al Qaeda itself about revenge of Bin Laden's death on the tenth anniversary of 9-11, plus both pro-and anti-Islamic movements in several other countries in Europe and South Asia, not to mention the "Arab Spring" ...where is there a political force, agency, political movement or even a country that knows how to bring these tragedies to a peaceful end....? Is that too much to hope?
We are facing increased threats from diverse terrorist groups in diverse locations, without warning, without necessary planning for protection, not to mention prevention...and where will it end?

Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press, from Toronto Star website, August 27, 2011 
WASHINGTON—Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, has been killed in Pakistan, delivering another big blow to a terrorist group that the U.S. believes to be on the verge of defeat, U.S. officials said Saturday.
The Libyan national had been the network’s operational leader before rising to Al Qaeda’s No. 2 spot after the U.S. killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a raid on his Pakistan compound in May.
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that Al Qaeda’s defeat was within reach if the U.S. could mount a string of successful attacks on the group’s weakened leadership.
“Now is the moment, following what happened with bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them,” Panetta said, “because I do believe that if we continue this effort we can really cripple Al Qaeda as a major threat.”
Since bin Laden’s death, Al Qaeda’s structure has been unsettled and U.S. officials have hoped to capitalize on that. The more uncertain the leadership, the harder it is for Al Qaeda to operate covertly and plan attacks.
Bin Laden’s longtime deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is running the group but is considered a divisive figure who lacks the founder’s charisma and ability to galvanize Al Qaeda’s disparate franchises.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Inside Jack Layton's funeral

Inside Jack Layton's funeral
courtesy Toronto Star

Jack Layton remembered in "Celebration of Life" liturgy in Roy Thomson Hall

An academic gown on a male clergy, Rev. Brent Hawkes, and an opening note that Jack always asked,
"How's John doing?" whenever he met the pastor who then added, "John is my husband." The academic gown was in respect to the multiple faiths represented both in the liturgy and in the congregation at Jack Layton's funeral, a Celebration of Life.
Blessed by the First Nations Chief, Shawn Atleo, with both an invocation of the spirits of our ancestors, and a few spots of "eagle down" and then he asked Layton's widow, Olivia Chow, to accept a give of an eagle feather from the First Nations peoples "from sea to sea to sea," the service included intimate eulogies from son Michael and daughter Sarah, as well as a powerful rhetorical juggernaut from Stephen Lewis, former NDP Leader in Ontario, former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations and currently head of his own foundation to attack the blight of HIV-AIDS in Africa. Declaring the 'farewell letter' from Layton, written almost precisely one week to the hour of the Lewis eulogy, a manifesto for "social democracy," Lewis pulled no punches in celebrating the achievments of Jack Layton on behalf of homeless Canadians, gay and lesbian rights, the environment, world peace and improving the lot of ordinary people, while at the same time challenging all of those listening, (inside Roy Thomson Hall were the Prime Minister along with at least a half dozen of his cabinet ministers as well as both former Prime Ministers Martin and Chretien) to work for a more equal and a more generous Canada, and to do that work in a spirit of cooperation and collegiality, rather than in the "vituperative practice of the political arts," an obvious and unveiled smack at the politics of political assassination that has become vogue in Ottawa.
Several standing ovations greeted Lewis' exhuberant presentation of the "gusto" of Jack Layton, never more in evidence than when the two men spoke together about their grandchildren, Layton of his grand-daughter, Beatrice.
Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" was sung by former member of Barenaked Ladies, Steven Page, and a favourite of Jack and Olivia."Rise Up" was performed by Lorraine Segato with the choir from Metropolitan Church,  the church home of the gay and lesbian community in Toronto, where Jack and Olivia worshipped.
A short video depicting several of the more well-known scenes from Jack Layton's life was shown, in which his widow, Olivia Chow, reminded everyone that the best wayto honour Jack was to "move on"
and to work together on to achieve the ideals for which he strove.
Readings, in French from the Christian Bible by interim NDP leader Yvonne Turmel, as well as from the Jewish Torah and the Qur'an of the Islamic faith punctuated the early part of the liturgy.
Spontaneous applause greeted the casketon its emergence from Toronto City Hall, from the hearse prior to entering Thomson Hall, and again on its emergence from the service, as well as along the route to and from Thomson Hall.
Jack Layton's ashes, following cremation, will be separated into three portions, one to be buried in St. James Cemetery in downtown Toronto, a second to be scattered on Toronto Islands where Jack and Olivia were married  in 1988, and a third to be buried in his hometown of Hudson Quebec.
If those present in the hall, on the streets outside, in Pecaut Park adjacent to Thompson Hall, and across the country were actually to listen and respond to the challenge issued by Rev. Hawkes at the close of both his homily and the liturgy, "to pick up the torch that has been passed from Jack Layton" and do our part both individually and together, to make Canada a better country, who knows what his legacy can and will be?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Social media generating "flash mobs" for wrong purposes...

There is a current dynamic playing out in both Great Britain and the U.S. of "flash mobs"wreaking havoc through violence in some cases and through "instant robberies" in others. The most recent, in New Jersey, saw a couple of teens walk into a 7-11 convenience store, to be followed by about two dozen more who, in less than a minutes, picked "stuff" off the shelves and left the store without paying for any of it.
Of course, police have a surveillance video, which they have now posted on YouTube, in the hope that the public will offer support in identifying the perpetrators. In Great Britain, after their several nights of violence at the hands of "flash mobs" in various cities, the Prime Minister has publicly mused about the option of shutting down the social media. To us, that seems like attempting to block the 200km/hr winds of hurricane Irene, currently making her way up the coast of North America- not feasible!
However, to concentrate on social media as the most significant culprit is to avoid having to fully confront the far deeper malaise facing the world: joblessness, homelessness, purposelessness and a clear lack of meaning (to borrow a familiar Viktor Frankl existential phrase).
The social media have played a significant role in the "Arab Spring---turning into an Arab year" and they will continue to present different conditions for everyone everywhere.
My wife and I were standing on an overpass on the 401 yesterday, waiting for the hearse and casket of Jack Layton to pass, on its way from Ottawa to City Hall in Toronto. Beside us, were a young couple, he holding a smart phone, surfing to find any media outlet that knew and were prepared to release the expected time of the arrival of the procession. And of course, some media outlets were cooperating.
Our little cadre of perhaps a dozen standing on the overpass in the middle of the afternoon rushhour were "connected" to the rest of the world through his smart phone, even to some extent 'guided' by the information to which he had access in the palm of his hand.
A little 'flash mob' was generated by the hope of paying last respects to a fallen leader whose cancer had taken him from us far too soon. And our 'flash mob', if someone wishes to call it that, generated shared reflections of the man, his story, his politics and his passing. We knew none of the participants; yet we spoke easily with several and found "connection" (that overworked and often trite word) with a few.
Our motive was much different from the motives of the ravaging 'flash mobs' currently known to have "hit" at least 100+ retail outlets in the last month across the U.S., according to a recent episode of CBS' 60 Minutes.
The emptiness of the world's youth, set against the extremely dedicated commitment of those, for example pursuing a goal of competing in the next Olympics, or volunteering to serve in a Third World country where poverty, disease, hunger and hopelessness reign, is creating tectonic plates of different demographics among the same age group. And those plates never speak to one another, no matter how many social media devices they have. Just as, for the most part, those complaining about the state funeral for Jack Layton never speak to those who support the decision.
Those who advocate "for life" rarely, if ever, speak to those who advocate for a "woman's right to choose". Those who advocate for increased prison sentences rarely, if ever speak to those who examine the evidence and argue for rehabilitation and treatment of criminals, except through media outlets such as newspapers, blogs or radio phone-in shows.
Let's together try to look behind the causes of why young people are looting, rampaging, "flash-mobbing" and attempt to bring to them options of which both they and the rest of society can be proud, so that those "social media" networks can and do serve the best and highest ideals rather than become another arrow in the quivver of the malcontents, the underbelly of all our societies.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Obama: "silence the straw-demons" in November 2012

In his column today in The Globe and Mail reviewing television programs, John Doyle notes the "trash Obama" movement that is spilling over the airwaves on American cable networks. That Fox talking heads would be politically assassinating Obama, for whatever his many "warts" may be, is not surprising; however, that MSNBC host Chris Matthews is dubious about his re-election is not only surprising, it is quite frightening. Both Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell from MSNBC think he will be re-elected.
In this summer immediately following the April Spring in the Middle East, the U.S. equivalents to those taking to the streets in Cairo, Tunisia, Tripoli, Damascus, Amman, with fire in their bellies seeking vengeance against what they consider tyrannical despots, are the Tea Party zealots in the U.S. Their target, however, is not "Hosni" Obama, nor "Mohammar" Obama, nor "Bashar al-Assad" Obama, however much those American zealots want to make it appear that they, too, are fighting a tyrant. The fact that Obama's middle name in Hussein is just another of the targets painted on his back by an ironic "nature" of the universe that never seeks to take an opportunity to paint another enigmatic picture, an easy target for those mindless mobs of 'right-wing-wing-nuts' a name so appropriate it merits inclusion in the next Webster and Oxford Dictionary editions.
In fact, the U.S. President, a most remarkable world citizen and world leader, while he is being bashed by those on the political left as well as those on the political 'right', is and will be judged by history scholars, to have brought a high degree of intellectual and political discipline, rigour, and platinum quality rarely seen in any occupant of the White House.
Nevertheless, he cannot escape the multiple albatrosses that former President Dubya (Bush) hung around his neck in the form of:
  • a Wall Street meltdown
  • a deregulated financial services sector of the economy,
  • two unfinanced and unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,
  • a parmaceutical drug plan for seniors which was never included in any of Dubya's budgetary considerations, 
  • a tax cut for everyone that left the country virtually and literally broke
  • a housing bubble of bundled mortgages sold off to global banks and investors that were of little more value than the paper on which they were written
  • an angry electorate that searched for an "enemy" to punish in the 2010 election, bringing dozens of brain-washed neophytes, steeped in the Kool-Aid of the Koch brothers financed Tea Party, with whom no one of a more moderate political persuasion, including especially the president, could have negotiated on debt/deficit reduction...
Comedian Chris Rock, himself deeply immersed in the Black culture of the U.S., put it so succinctly around the time of Obama's election in 2008, in words to the effect that 'a black president would only have been possible in the current disastrous circumstances; only then would a black person have been considered eligible for the White House'.
As E.J. Dionne wrote this week, Obama needs to go big, and to go global in his creative reach for new approaches and policies in order to "recover" his fading presidency. His reach must include measures untouchable by the intransigent Congress, able to deploy millions of American workers in a project, or projects that change the face not only of America but also of the world, so that by the time November 2012 rolls around (only 15 months from now, only 60 weeks from now, only 420 days from now, only 10,080 hours from now), there will be no question from everything that is spoken and written in the digital world of political-speak known as cable news, including Foxmold, that Obama is the only politician still standing. And, not only is he standing but he is standing in the middle of the Main Street of the last best 'western' movie to grace the Hollywood screen, with his gun still in his holster, still loaded and still cold, because he wrestled these straw-demons, these mind-altering revolution-toting, drug-induced visions of their own narcissistic pursuit of power for the powerful to a silence borne of intellectual and pseudo-religious fervour that trumps both rational debate and measured governing, not only at home but around the world (they simply don't care!) to the ground of their own political graves...mourned not so much for their historic relevance but for their ingition of more of the powder that is encased in July 4th fireworks, making a loud bang and a flashy spray of sparks in the dark sky, leaving only a mess of ash in their wake, for those street cleaners still fortunate enough to have jobs, cleasing up after their "mastuh's" those rich white trash who could never countenance a brilliant black man in their world view, let alone one married to another brilliant black woman from the wrong side of the tracks, living in "their" White House...after all didn't they give it that name for historic purposes?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

25 % of mental health patients "restrained"...# way too high (CAMH)

By Alyshah Hasham, Toronto Star, August 23, 2011 
Nearly a quarter of mental heath patients in Ontario are restrained through straps, medication or seclusion, according to the largest ever study of its kind in Ontario.
Patients unable to make themselves understood — because of illnesses like dementia or schizophrenia — were more than twice as likely to be restrained. And patients in general hospital were two and a half times as likely to be restrained by jackets or straps as those in psychiatric hospitals.
The Canadian Institute for Heath Information collected data from 30,000 mental health patients in both general and psychiatric hospitals between 2006 and 2010 to examine what caused restraints to be used.
“That is a very high number, much higher than at CAMH,” said Dr. Rani Srivastava. She is the chief of nursing practice and professional services at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Restraints are used on less than six per cent of patients at CAMH and they are also cutting down on the time spent in restraints, she said.
“The biggest shift has happened over how people view restraints. [Before] for psychiatric populations it was thought to be one of those necessary evils. But now we’re challenging our thinking. If someone goes into a restraint… What did we miss? What could we have done to prevent this?” she said.
The study includes four categories of restraints. Acute control medication, including administering psychotropic drugs which can alter behaviour, was used 59 per cent of the time. Use of both mechanical restraints, including straitjackets, straps and bed restraints as well as physical restraints, including being held by staff to restrict movement, was at 21 per cent. Seclusion, where the patient is confined to a room was used 20 per cent of the time.
General hospitals — which provide 80 per cent of inpatient mental health medical services — were more likely to use restraints than psychiatric hospitals in similar cases, the study found. Patients were two and a half times more likely to be restrained using methods like bed restraints and straps.
Within the last two or three years, I was visiting in one of our general hospitals in the "psyche" ward, when I discovered the use of patient restraints. When I probed, I learned that, in Ontario there are two categories of psychiatric patients, "voluntary" and "non-voluntary". The first category must give permission for the administration of any medication, the second category have already relinquished their consent and can be administered whatever medication, or restraints the hospital staff deems necessary.
If a patient is unable to communicate his or her needs adequately, or is agitated, it would seem that the first line of "defence" is medical restraints. In order to administer such restraints, the hospital needs to reclassify any "voluntary" patient to a "non-voluntary" patient.
In order to make that reclassification, a form (in Canada we have a form for everything) is required and patient advocates or family are notified of the change in status of the patient. So, a patient who was originally admitted as a "voluntary" patient is often reclassified, when nursing staff considers that patient unco-operative, or more seriously, "as a threat to others or to him/herself" using the wording on the form.
Naturally, when the form is challenged by the patient advocate, or family member, there must be a conference, this time including the psychiatrist supervising the case. If the challenge is to proceed further, to have the reclassification removed, and the patient's status confirmed as "voluntary" there must be a panel or a "hearing" to which no medical staff, especially the psychiatrist, wishes to have to attend. So what happens upon a challenge by a patient advocate or family member is that the staff verbally agree to a reclassification from "involuntary" to "voluntary" to placate the advocate or family member, and then, if they consider restraints necessary, they administer them anyway.
Upon further investigation, I learned from a separate hospital department, through casual conversation, that the chief of psychiatry, newly appointed, had instituted a policy of "zero tolerance" of patient acting out, and a policy of strict "security" for the staff.
In other words, the security of the staff, which concept includes patient compliance with their rules, with their instructions and with their definition of the patient classification, in order to do their jobs, is a higher priority than patient care.
Most of the non-psychiatrist staff, nurses, orderlies etc. are not fully trained in psychiatric care; they have moved to that department from various other departments in the hospital. The psychiatrists themselves are vastly overburdened with the number and severity of their caseload. And patient control and their own "safety and security" trump their version of patient care.
Even when a family member or patient advocate is called to calm a patient, after an especially stressful incident, the nursing staff acknowledges little hope or expectation that such a visit will be effective. The reason: they simply have not gotten to know the patient, to encounter the patient, to interact with the patient, except on an extremely formal and objective and usually disdaining manner.
Only this week, in another conversation with a medical worker in a busy emergency department, I learned that psychiatric patients, after hours, are admitted through "emerg" and that staff are frequently beaten by unco-operative patients and have to call security to restrain them.
There are multiple issues in play in this issue:
  • the need for more professionally trained psychiatric nurses, orderlies and patient advocates
  • the need for more recognition of the growing need for additional psychiatric care in both public hospitals and in psychiatric hospitals
  • the need for enhanced public education about the needs of psychiatric patients, and their illnesses
  • and the need for the gradual reduction of public fear of psychiatric patients and their illness generally
Of course, if the safety of care givers is threatened, patients must be restrained. However, just as in the excessive use of tazers by law enforcement, the use of medical forms of restraint must be a last resort, and the public must continue to monitor such use, as a way of flagging potential abuse.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kids vs Corporations: Kids lose by 1000 to 0 everytime

By Joel Bakan, New York Times, August 21, 2011
Joel Bakan, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, is the author of “Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children.”

.....In 1959, the United Nations issued its Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Children were now legal persons; the “best interests of the child” became a touchstone for legal reform.

But the 20th century also witnessed another momentous shift, one that would ultimately threaten the welfare of children: the rise of the for-profit corporation. Lawyers, policy makers and business lobbied successfully for various rights and entitlements traditionally connected, legally, with personhood. New laws recognized corporations as legal — albeit artificial — “persons,” granting them many of the same legal rights and privileges as human beings. In an eerie parallel with the child-protective efforts, “the best interests of the corporation” was soon introduced as a legal precept.
A clash between these two newly created legal entities — children and corporations — was, perhaps, inevitable. Century-of-the-child reformers sought to resolve conflicts in favor of children. But over the last 30 years there has been a dramatic reversal: corporate interests now prevail. Deregulation, privatization, weak enforcement of existing regulations and legal and political resistance to new regulations have eroded our ability, as a society, to protect children.
Childhood obesity mounts as junk food purveyors bombard children with advertising, even at school. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study reports that children spend more hours engaging with various electronic media — TV, games, videos and other online entertainments — than they spend in school. Much of what children watch involves violent, sexual imagery, and yet children’s media remain largely unregulated. Attempts to curb excesses — like California’s ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors — have been struck down by courts as free speech violations.
Another area of concern: we medicate increasing numbers of children with potentially harmful psychotropic drugs, a trend fueled in part by questionable and under-regulated pharmaceutical industry practices. In the early 2000s, for example, drug companies withheld data suggesting that such drugs were more dangerous and less effective for children and teenagers than parents had been led to believe. The law now requires “black box” warnings on those drugs’ labels, but regulators have done little more to protect children from sometimes unneeded and dangerous drug treatments.
Children today are also exposed to increasing quantities of toxic chemicals. We know that children, because their biological systems are still developing, are uniquely vulnerable to the dangers posed by many common chemical compounds. We also know that corporations often use such chemicals as key ingredients in children’s products, saturating their environments. Yet these chemicals remain in circulation, as current federal laws demand unreasonably high proof of harm before curbing a chemical’s use.
The challenge before us is to reignite the guiding ethos and practices of the century of the child. As Nelson Mandela has said, “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” By that measure, our current failure to provide stronger protection of children in the face of corporate-caused harm reveals a sickness in our societal soul. The good news is that we can — and should — work as citizens, through democratic channels and institutions, to bring about change.
Joel Bakan, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, is the author of “Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children.”
While much of the evidence cited by Professor Bakan is American, Canada is not far behind our southern neightbour in placing the needs, rights and "best interests" of the corporations far ahead of those needs, rights and "best interests" of children.
School cafeterias have included soda in far larger proportions than milk, salt-filled snacks in far larger proportions than fresh fruits and vegetables, and even in many jurisdictions, Physical Education has been removed from the curriculum, and replaced with...what?...more time on the computer...another of the voracious appetites of the corporation to dispense digital hard and software to the school boards, "in the politically driven race to stay abreast of the times...
In 1993, I visited the high school from which I graduated in 1959, where the principal was now a former classmate, graduating from our alma mater in the same graduation class. His current, and likely most significant claim to both fame and a legacy was that he converted much of the former cafeteria into computer labs, complete with millions of  dollars of hardware, and the necessary software to ensure the current crop of students were "up to date" with the rest of the province.
|Unfortunately, a significant group of First Nations students had to be withdrawn from that same school, under that same administration, and bussed some forty miles out of town to a private school, becuase  their experience of sanctioned racism made their life in that school intolerable.
So long as the computers were shiny and new, who cared about the culture in which students were expected to learn.
Students, in one of the grade twelve classes to whom I taught English, totalled their combined income from parttime jobs during the school, in the early 1980's. With approximately 30 students, the combined annual income was well over $18,000; today those figures would likely top $50,000, thereby making those same students ideal targets for the marketing seductions of the corporations for everything from the latest smart phone, I-Pad, I-pod, Tablet, laptop, head-sets, calculators and even  desk-top computers, not to mention the invasive and equally seductive ploys to induce the purchase of the latest fashions, the latest music, the latest make-up, hair fashions, shoes, and even motorcycles and autos.
This is a huge, relatively affluent and innocent population, whose buying habits are formed at a very early age, with or without their parents mature interventions.
There is no doubt that I feel sorry and saddened by the "rape of the innocents" committed "ethically" by many of the largest and most successful corporations, under our noses, our eyes, our ears and our sleeping consciences.
This dynamic is neither normal nor unstoppable and it will take all adults resisting together, with the cooperation of the hundreds of school boards across North America, to reduce the pillage and seduction of adolescents for the benefit and "best interests" of the mighty corporations.

Monday, August 22, 2011

NDP Leader Jack Layton, dead today, at 61

From website, published December 7, 2003, inserted into, August 22, 2011, the date of the death of  Jack Layton, NDP Leader
Workers Need a Real Say

"It is very important that workers have a real say over the conditions in which they are working," are the first words from Jack Layton, leader of the federal New Democratic Party, in an exclusive Work that Works interview.
He acknowledged that he would have been more able to treat the subject of workplace cultural health in his former life as he lectured to university students about the sociology of work for 26 weeks at a stretch. Now both interviews and speeches are measured in 20-25 minute slots, and because "leaders are expected to address the news of the day", there are not that many references to the subject in his public addresses.
His claim for the workers' "real say" over their working conditions is especially relevant, "given the clear evidence conducted on the assembly line that even that form of work is not necessarily the only way" to perform the required tasks. "Unfortunately, there are still employers who don't see it that way [that workers deserve a real say] but hopefully, as the global South continues to develop, it won't take as long for them to introduce worker fulfillment initiatives as it has taken us…and we have seen some backsliding recently in our workplaces," observed the national NDP leader.
In answer to a question about redressing the backsliding, "Some form of worker organization is the key, both as spokesperson for workers and for bargaining power. We need them to protect worker rights, and pensions, and we have certainly seen an erosion in that area recently. We do not want to see a return to the kind of 'wild west economics' that has been rearing its head," he urges.
There are two pieces of legislation on the House of Commons Order Paper dealing with the subject of workplace health. The first, a private member's bill sponsored by Bloc Quebecois member Monique Guy, would apply the same kind of anti-strike-breaking rules to federally regulated organizations as is currently available in Quebec and "used to be in force in Ontario, but was removed under the Harris government, along with a lot of other needed things," according to Layton. This legislation brings some incentive to management to negotiate seriously, because they cannot turn to strike-breakers in the event of a strike, and "there is more of a level playing field, given the legitimate right of the workers to withdraw their services and shut the operation down, in the same manner that the employer might choose if they didn't have to face such legislation," he explains.
The second piece of legislation facing the House is called the West-Ray Bill, named after the Nova Scotia mine where a serious explosion resulted in the miners having to pay the "ultimate price". ["After all the experts, both inside and outside the mining company, warned of impending danger to the miners if specific steps were not taken."]
Putting the bill into perspective, Layton continues, "This bill would establish a higher level of management responsibility and culpability for working conditions, including the board of directors, rather than leaving it to a crew foreman who might have very little power to implement change, without the support of the mine leadership."
Will either one of these bills pass the house?
"That depends on whether the Liberals will prorogue the session when Mr. Martin becomes Prime Minister, or continue sitting. We have taken the position, as a party, that the House should continue to sit, but we're skeptical that they'll agree."
Another piece of action that might be considered came by analogy from the NDP leader. He borrowed from his previous experience on the Toronto Board of Health where, when Spadina district garment workers were concerned about the impact of their work hours on their pre-school children, the city, in co-operation with the workers and the management, established a high quality day care right in the neighbourhood where the workers could be with any child if s/he became ill. This step reduced the workers' stress considerably because they knew their children were safe and under adequate supervision.
To address the question of workplace health and worker stress, in general, Layton suggests, "We need carrots, sticks and training, much of which can come from the trade union models which already do much work in this area in health and safety, health promotion and worker awareness."
"I agree that the Canadian habit of nodding our heads in agreement that something should be done, and then proceeding to do nothing or very little about the issue, is one of the contributing dynamics in the picture," Mr. Layton commented, "and perhaps the subject will become a topic in more of my speeches in the future."
(Work that Works thanks Jack Layton, the national leader of the NDP, and his media liaison, Karl Belanger, for making the time available for our interview.)
On this very sad day for Canada, the NDP, and the House of Commons, and Mr. Layton's family, we mourn the death of Jack Layton, a man whose contribution to the country will never be measured in the number of bills he passed as Prime Minister, nor in the appointments he made to Cabinet. After all, it remained his dream to win 24 Sussex and the PMO and as Vince Lombardi, Coach of the Green Bay Packers, whose name graces the Superbowl Trophy, once famously said, "We did not lose; we just ran out of time!"
A similar phrase could apply today to Jack's passing. A professional, conscientious and diligent voice for ordinary Canadians, amidst a cacophany of quite loud banter among political combatants, Jack will be remembered for his decency, his good humour and for his persistence in the face of serious political obstacles.
He never tired of championing ordinary folks, and in his case, this was not merely a political phrase, to capture the vast demographic of the "middle class" but rather those in union halls, those on factory assembly lines, those in delivery trucks, in retail stores, and those whose income constituted the bottom half of the income scale. A former instructor at Ryerson (University), Jack wore the mantle of mentor to his students, to his colleagues on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and among his colleagues in the House of Commons.
We will all miss his irrepressible smile, his unflagging good humour and his predictable common sense, guaranteed whenever and wherever he spoke. And the country is indebted to his family for their participation in making him a gift to all Canadians for which we will never be fully able to repay.
If young people need and seek role models, they need look no further than Jack Layton, whose legacy will remain his integrity, his courage, his ambition for the cause of others and his non-abrasive person and presentation.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Best crisis leaders either mentally ill or mentally abnormal"...psychiatrist

By Daniel Tseghay, Toronto Star, August 20, 2011
Nassir Ghaemi, professor of psychiatry at Tufts Medical Center, makes the case that the most effective leaders during crisis are those who have been burdened by some (though not too much) mental illness.

“The best crisis leaders are either mentally ill or mentally abnormal;” he writes, striking a decidedly counterintuitive note, “the worst crisis leaders are mentally healthy.”
Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin Delano Roosevelt: all outliers in the conventional vision of mental health, according to Ghaemi, yet all undeniably good leaders because their personal demons had the upside of fostering what the author considers the four crucial elements of leadership: creativity, resilience, realism and empathy.
The research supporting the phenomenon of “depressive realism,” for instance, is extensive. He describes an experiment showing that depressed subjects were better than their contented counterparts at recognizing how little control they had in a game involving random light switching. Other studies have shown that temporarily inducing sadness tends to make subjects more aware of details in their environment. A downbeat mood appears to enhance one’s ability to see things in their precise shape — and perhaps even vice-versa.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, Ghaemi compares the depressive Churchill with Neville Chamberlain. “He, as well as many of the other leaders of Britain at the time,” says Ghaemi, “were overly optimistic about the Nazi threat. Realism can make one aware of very unpleasant realities.”
The Tseghay piece in the Toronto Star points to the interim Leader of the Liberal Party, Bob Rae, who has publicly acknowledged some bouts of depression in his life, as a potential "secret weapon" for the party. Certainly the Liberal Party is in dire need of acknowledging its "depressed" state in realistic terms. And the link between having experienced depression and serving during a crisis is notable, if not surprising.
Having faced difficult circumstances and been troubled by situations in one's past can only have one of two results: either the pressure breaks one down, or it builds one stronger...or first one then the other.
It is those whose lives have been uninfected by tragedy, depression, failure, and the deep reflections that accompany most of these experiences, who have no concept of the pain and suffering those without jobs, and those without food and those without homes and those suffering from debilitating sickness, without adequate medical care or hope are going through. And many such people, seeing themselves as "successful, and confident and therefore worthy of public office," are the very ones who put their names up for election. They see themselves as leaders, as change-agents, as both powerful and potentially successful in the political arena.
However, it is in the capacity to integrate tragedy, depression and failure into one's life-view, and to build the strength to face those "facts" squarely that is a much better test of leadership. Everyone, if s/he is honest, has had to face loss, separation, alienation and failure of some kind. However, it is culturally more acceptable to put on a "happy face" to meet the faces that we meet than to wear a face that authentically signals the pain we are experiencing inside. Such a cultural norm, however, is a form of public relations, on the private level. Everyone also needs a place where s/he can share the depths and the anguish of sadness, depression and failure, with another whose trust is sacrosanct.
For a political leader to acknowledge his "depression" is almost unheard of, in fact, there is evidence that others have been forced to withdraw from the political arena for their "weakness".
From Wikipedia website:
Tom Eagleton was George McGovern's choice as his his Vice-presidential running mate (in 1972), but with only a minimal background check. Eagleton made no mention of his earlier hospitalizations, and in fact decided with his wife to keep them secret from McGovern while he was flying to his first meeting with the Presidential nominee.

Eagleton had promised to bring his medical records for McGovern's review, but he did not. He initially concealed the fact that he was on Thorazine, a powerful anti-psychotic, and when he did disclose his use of the medication he noted that it couldn't be discovered by the press because it was issued under his wife's name.... Ultimately, a portion of Eagleton's medical records was leaked to McGovern, at which point McGovern saw a reference to "manic depression" and "suicidal tendencies."
McGovern had failed to act quickly when he learned of the mental health problems (though not their severe extent) because his own daughter was seriously depressed and he wondered what effect dumping Eagleton because of his depression would have on her. Ultimately, Eagleton threatened that if McGovern tried to force him off the ticket, he would fight the move. Eagleton conditioned his resignation on McGovern's releasing a statement, written by Eagleton, that Eagleton's health was fine and that McGovern had no issues with Eagleton's mental status.
The political culture of the 21st century is no less critical than it was in 1972, especialy in the U.S. In fact, it might be even more judgemental, and even more destructive of character, if medical records were to become public. In Canada, and being interim leader, Rae may not face as serious a threat to his position. (In our view, he should not be even criticized for his public disclosure!)
North America is a long way from accepting "mental illness" as even analogous to "physical illness" and certainly we are, for the most part, loath to endorse one who has even been engaged in psychiatric treatments, not to mention psychotropic medications.
Here is one story, based on empirical research, that could help us to shed our "blinders" and our bigotry and our fears on this issue. We are grateful to Nassir Ghaemi, the pychiatrist from Tufts Medical Center, for his work on this book, and can only hope that his work, and that of his colleagues, can and does lead to an enhanced enlightenment of the gifts of some of the more "repressed" and denied and undercover "demons" of human existence.
Our public life, not to mention our private lives, can only benefit from such release.

Narrow, selfish political ambition...not nation building: Harper's "vision" of Canada

By Jane Taber, Globe and Mail, August 19, 2011
The Liberals embraced the Charter, the flag, peacekeeping and multiculturalism. Now, the Harper Tories are pursuing symbols and areas ignored by the Grits – the Arctic, the military, national sports and especially the monarchy, according to senior Tories.

For Mr. Harper and his Conservatives, the payoffs could be great: a new pride in the country, an ability to shape the view of new Canadians and, politically, the potential to marginalize the Official Opposition NDP, who could be forced more and more to defend Quebec’s interests against all others. Quebeckers are not as supportive of national symbols and the monarchy as is the rest of Canada.
How narrow is the Harper "vision" of this country. Of course the country is more than hockey, and Tim Horton's coffee but the approach of this government is to paradoxically attempt to "create by destroying"...
Larger figures in our historic landscape that Harper will ever be, or hope to be, have seen that one of the signature features of Canada is a generative tension between the French and the English. That single fact, whether viewed as an appeasement or a confrontation (it is neither) has produced more verbiage and more creative tension than any other single theme, with the possible exception of Canada' relationship to the United States. Attempting to eradicate much of what is best about the last 100+ plus years, especially in the area of federal-provincial relations, in order to imprint a new "royal, northern sabre-rattling nation, that placates the U.S. on border security and jumps into the fighting opportunity" goes a long way to "placate the base" of the Conservative party, while also attempting in the short run to marginalize the NDP (as the new voice for Quebec) and the comtribution of the Liberal Party.
It is not a vision of the country that really merits the name. It is short-term, malignant and self-serving politics in order to produce electoral victories for the next decade and beyond rather than incorporating the country's highest, and best ideals into solutions for the country's long-term issues.
$70+ billions for fighter jets and new war ships (plus coast guard vessels) and resewing the "royal" into the insignia of the Air Force and the Navy is to move Canada from a long-held and deeply merited "advocate for peace" voice on the international stage. We can all be sure that Quebec nationalism will find inspiration in the insertion of "royal" into those insignia at the same time that veterans will sing hymns to their own nostalgia, and urge their friends and families to "vote conservative". Our military contributions in WWI and WWII, and Korea are laudable, but as Jack Granatstein points out, no one has been asking for this change, including Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street.
If even half of this budget were dedicated to the detailed study of how to address global terrorism, and threats from non-state players, there would be some merit to the initiative. We appear to be locked into a historic picture of conflict that has demonstrated is obsolence over the last decade with considered evidence. Sailing warships through the Arctic in order to establish our "territory" is about as adolescent as taking a pea-shooter to a high-school bully. These tensions in the Arctic will be resolved, if at all, at the negotiating table, and the size of our ships or their cannons will not enhance our negotiating position at that table. From a military-security perspective, Canada could and should be dedicating considerable dollars and attention to the training of both intelligence professionals and diplomatic professionals and not focussing on the "hard power" of  ships and planes, both of which need weapons to carry out their missions. If, as Harper claims, Canada is going to play a bigger role in geopolitical issues, such a role can and will only be achieved through the development of a cadre of exceptional intellects and skills that the rest of the world could only fail to notice at their own peril. Such an initiative would bring the "historic" peacekeeping voice into the 21st century, from an authentic Canadian perspective.
The Canadian government is doing virtually nothing to join in a global initiative to curb green-house gases, nor is it doing anything to make a significant dent in poverty, homelessness and access to quality affordable health care, based on national priorities.
With respect to the indoctrination of new Canadians, (my wife writes her citizenship exam next week, seeking Canadian citizenship) there is no need to cling to the "royal" moniker by the government, and to do so is mere narcissitic theatrics for the purposes of generating votes in English Canada, and, in the government's view, from new immigrants. The cost will be in inspiring the "republican" advocates, including Quebec nationalists, when there is neither a need nor a demand for these superficial moves.
Everyone knows that the Queen is the Head of State of Canada, that she appoints the Governor General and the provincial Lieutenants Governor, on the advice of the Prime Minister (and the Premiers) and there is neither a need nor a demand to throw a divisive symbol at those eagerly waiting to divide, having been given such an opportunity.
National building takes long-term, delicate and sophisticated issues into perspective, using a delicate artists brush to add to the canvas that already exists and short-term, selfish and narrow partisan politics is, or should be, at the bottom of the list of priorities that such an exercise addresses. However, with the Machiavellian prime minister we have currently, whose sole raison'd'etre is to seek power for his party and thereby justifies the dismantling of anything that smacks of laudable Canadian achievments by other parties and governments, there is no hope that Canadians can experience a more expansive and more intelligent and more imaginative stage in our national "dream" under this government.
Not only does Harper refuse to "read" in the widest use of that term, but he fails the litmus test of both imagination and historic generosity that are pillars in our national heritage and culture. He cannot create a new vision by attempting to destroy a noble heritage.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tea Party trashed by serious scholars....Thank you gentlemen!

By David E. Campbell, and Robert D. Putnam, New York Times, August 16, 2011
So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.
This inclination among the Tea Party faithful to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Mrs. Bachmann’s lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Mr. Perry’s prayer rally in Houston.
Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.
On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans. Indeed, at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, today’s Tea Party parallels the anti-Vietnam War movement which rallied behind George S. McGovern in 1972. The McGovernite activists brought energy, but also stridency, to the Democratic Party — repelling moderate voters and damaging the Democratic brand for a generation. By embracing the Tea Party, Republicans risk repeating history.
(David E. Campbell, an associate professor of political science at Notre Dame, and Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard, are the authors of “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.” )
It is quite obvious that the brand of religion espoused by the Tea Party includes racial bigotry, a strong anit-abortion stance, and then there are few "flag" issues like smaller government and lower taxes that they know are traditional veins in American political history on which they can ride, without losing support among those 'religion dominated, self-righteous who fashion themselves as supporters.
The United States is generally regarded as one of the more "faith-based societies" in the western world. Having lived there and attempted, unsuccessfully, to wrestle with this kind of fundamental, literal, bigoted contempt for many of the country's most promising developments over the last century, I can attest to the depth of the disconnect between the christian gospel and this brand of the faith.
Reducing God and the gospels to aphorisms,  racial bigotry, contempt for learning, for science and for an inquiring mind that promotes healthy research, along with the worship of money, buildings, and all things liturgical (linens, chalices, pattens, organs, altars) is nothing short of an imprisonment of the very God and scripture they proudly promote in their evangelical, recruiting campaign. And their campaign, built on a cornerstone of "we are right because the Bible says so" reminds me of the outburst I heard in my first year class in seminary when one of their ilk announced to the class, "Hitler did not go to heaven and I know because the Bible says so!" when another class member put that proposition on the table.
Fortunately, the Tea Party support is declining; however, the damage it has already done to the American political system, and hopefully to the Republican party cannot be undone for another two decades at least.
Hijacking government in the name of a narrow, bigoted, frightened and self-righteous form of any faith, but especially the Christian faith, is a public disgrace; and letting the movement hijack so many electoral races as it did in the last federal elections in the U.S. demonstrates the near sanctity of the "freedom of speech, freedom to carry arms, contempt for all things government" theme in the American political culture.
Couple these mindless, child-like musings with billions of dollars from deep-pocketed donors, and one can easily see the danger implicit in the movement.
People will do some very strange things to attempt to pave their way into an afterlife where the streets are "paved with gold" and just like the jihadists of Islam, they will also recruit on false promises of the nature of the afterlife. It is a marketing strategy substituted for a faith that deserves the trashing these authors are giving it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lift our Spirits, Mr. President..NOW!

Hamas denies any involvement in the attacks on Israeli citizens in Gaza today.
Yesterday, the leader of Hezbollah says none of his men who have been charged with the death of Lebanon's Prime Minister, Hariri, in 2005, will ever be convicted in a trial, or will even appear for that trial.
In Somalia, Al Shabab blocks the transfer of food to staring millions, with violence and robbery, then allegedly selling the food on the streets of Mogadishu thereby preventing those most needy from receiving it.
The new leader of Al Qaeda incites his "infidels" (let's use the word they use about us for a change) to commit violence in revenge for the murder of bin Laden.
The streets of many Arab countries are swarming with citizens seeking to overthrow their tyrannical governments, and being met with bullets and tanks. While in Libya, NATO is flying bombing missions in support of the rebels who seek to remove the Libyan dictator from power.
The former President of Egypt, recently was encaged, embedded (literally) for his own trial for war crimes.
The governments of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece are facing a crisis of debt, while the EU ponders the kind of support for their plight...leaning heavily on Germany (whose economy shows signs of weakening) and France, whose leaders recommend a new fiscal arrangement, without additional bailouts, facing opposition for such moves at home.
In the U.S., the Justice department is now investigating Standard and Poor's for their alleged involvement in the fraudulent mortgage foreclosure scandal that still grips that country, not to mention the loss of millions of jobs, just since Obama was elected, and the prospect that the U.S. is actually slipping into a second recession.  The U.S. Administration is not happy with S & P's downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, from AAA to AA+ and this could be a little pay-back.
Consumers are showing signs of serious lack of confidence, (and who can blame them for that?) while political leaders pursue their own political agenda, without regard for the health of the country, or even the world economy.
Hate crimes are occurring with alarming regularity across the U.S., while gangs have been roaming the streets of Great Britain, and more recently Germany.
Is this a time for the planets, and the spirits and the hearts and minds of many people, both ordinary citizens and political and academic leaders, to experience a kind of meltdown, given the severity of our economic, political, climatic, and food resource problems.
To say that drought, and high food prices and political instability and terrorism constitute a perfect storm in Somalia is merely a microcosm of the larger perfect storm that seems to be gripping the globe.
Having just watched a program on the top ten construction projects accomplished throughout the twentieth century, at the time when money and unrest and uncertainty were running at their highest peaks, is, to say the least, inspiring, of what the human spirit can accomplish, even when, and especially when others say it cannot be done.
Note to President Obama: While you are thinking about that speech you will deliver just after Labour Day when you return from Martha's Vineyard, you might want to find another Empire State Building, or another Golden Gate Bridge, or another Hoover Dam, or another Guggenheim Museum or another Panama Canal...metaphor from the quiver of your imagination, and bring it forward, to capture the imagination of not only the U.S. by grabbing millions of workers to accomplish such a goal, but to infuse the imagination of the rest of the world, so empty of hope, so empty of dreams and so empty of inspiration and aspiration.
Hundreds of thousands of people stood all night in Atlanta last night, in "office professional dress" waiting for job fair that actually less than a few hundreds...leaving most dejected in a project conducted by the Black Caucus of the U.S. Congress.
If this is a time to find a silver lining in our woes, President Obama is ideally suited to help us do just that. Let there be no limit on his creativity, nor on his courage, taking inspiration from his predecessors, such as Teddy Roosevelt, and F.D.R. This, if ever, is a time for bold, and spirit-lifting leadership, and no excuses can or will be accepted, or acceptable.

President Southern Poverty Law Center: Hate crimes a national problem

By J. Richard Cohen, from CNN website, August 17, 2011
 J. Richard Cohen is president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization based in Montgomery, Alabama.
Montgomery, Alabama (CNN) -- The security camera footage broadcast by CNN shows a grisly scene: a black man in Jackson, Mississippi, being fatally run over by a pickup truck after he was viciously beaten in a motel parking lot on a Sunday morning in June. Prosecutors say a group of white teens chose the man at random. They say the alleged ringleader, an 18-year-old now charged with murder, laughed about it afterward and boasted in a phone conversation about how he "ran that n----- over."
When we're confronted with such a shocking act of violence, we search for answers. We want to know what's in the hearts and minds of the attackers. We wonder what motivates someone to extinguish a life for no other reason than the color of the person's skin.
And, in an odd way, some people take comfort in the fact that it happened in Mississippi, with its legacy of Jim Crow segregation and terrorism aimed at the African-American community. We want to see the crime as simply a reflection of a Deep South state still haunted by its racist past -- something that couldn't happen in other parts of this country.
It's wishful thinking.
In Patchogue, New York, Marcelo Lucero, a 37-year-old Ecuadorian immigrant, was stabbed to death in 2008 when he was attacked by a gang of white teens who decided to hunt down and attack Latinos for sport -- or as they called it, "beaner hopping."
Globalization and our economic woes are leaving many young people without hope for the future.
J.In Huntington Beach, California, three men and a woman with white supremacist tattoos went into a predominantly Latino neighborhood on July 3, 2009, looking for a "nonwhite" to hurt. They attacked a Latino man in an alley. Yelling racial slurs, they reportedly stabbed him three times.
In West Allis, Wisconsin, the opening night of the state fair this month turned to mayhem when dozens of black youths began attacking white people. A 16-year-old boy detained by police said he and others attacked white people because they were "easy targets," according to The Christian Science Monitor.
We can't pretend that what happened in Mississippi that June morning couldn't happen elsewhere. It already has, and it will again.
The social fabric in our country is fragile, and the fault lines are often defined by race. Our communities and schools are increasingly segregated. Globalization and our economic woes are leaving many young people without hope for the future. And we're seeing a backlash against the nation's changing ethnic makeup. All of this provides fertile ground for bigotry and violence to take root and flourish. Meanwhile, our political system seems paralyzed, incapable of protecting the interests of working people, much less pulling us together.
Messages of hate and bigotry can be found not only on the fringes of our society but virtually nonstop on television, talk radio and the Internet, where certain groups of people are demonized and held up as scapegoats for our problems. Too many of our politicians pour fuel on the fire by exploiting divisions in our society -- fostering an us-versus-them mentality and casting entire groups of people as "the other."
Despite the promise of the Obama presidency, it's time to realize we're not living in a "post-racial" society. It's time to speak out against bigotry and to call out those in public life who encourage hate and violence with their words. And it's time to invest in the future of our nation and its youth -- to provide hope and opportunity to the next generation. Our future depends on it.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of J. Richard Cohen.
To this piece I would only add that many of the comments of the Tea Party and their attitude to the current U.S. president reflect a similar kind and degree of contempt never before seen in my lifetime directed at the president's person, his policies and his administration. And in my eyes, at least some of their venom is racially motivated...although it is extremely difficult to prove such an assessment.
I only hope that the president's security detail is strong, full and dedicated to their mission of his protection over the next fifteen months as he attempts to run for a second term. He, and through him, we all will need their diligent professional committed service to his protection.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Obama needs to find his 'alpha' for his and our sake

By Maureen Dowd, New York Times,August 16, 2011
Peosta, Iowa
After assuring Obama that she was a supporter, an Iowa mother named Emily asked the president at a town hall at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah what had gone wrong.

Standing in a setting that was Martha Stewart-perfect — a red barn with an American flag, surrounded by white pines, red cedars and pink zinnias — the president looked breezy in khakis and white shirt. But he seemed to tense up as Emily spoke.
“So when you ran for office you built a tremendous amount of trust with the American people, that you seemed like someone who wouldn’t move the bar on us,” she said. “And it seems, especially in the last year, as if your negotiating tactics have sort of cut away at that trust by compromising some key principles that we believed in, like repealing the tax cut, not fighting harder for single-payer. Even Social Security and Medicare seemed on the line when we were dealing with the debt ceiling. So I’m just curious, moving forward, what prevents you from taking a harder negotiating stance, being that it seems that the Republicans are taking a really hard stance?”
The president defended himself with a tinge of resignation: If the crazed bullies put a gun to your head, you must surrender.
“Now, I know that people would like to say ‘Well, just do something to get these guys under control,’ ” he told Emily, adding: “You don’t want to reward unreasonableness. Look, I get that. But sometimes you’ve got to make choices in order to do what’s best for the country at that particular moment.”
Making lemonade out of a bad or damaged lemon may not be enough to achieve a second term in the America of 2011, and the President must know that. "Settling" for a second-best, in the face of politically gun-toting hot-heads who have taken, not only the U.S. government and economy hostage to their malignant brand of "kool-aid" but also threatened the economy of the western world, (with obvious help from Europe) is not good Democratic politics either.
We all know where the president stands, "theoretically" but in the melee of negotiations, he seems to give too much ground to the people already drunk on their own kool-aid.
And the country has a history of following the gun-slingers...just look at the way Texas Governor Rich Perry has ridden into "town" to save the U.S. from "that dangerous Obama."
It is a very simply country, really, when it comes to voting. It likes testosterone, machismo, alpha male leadership DNA in its leaders, especially when compared with "ivy-league" and thoughtful and moderate, and complex thinkers who seem to be acting like a 'hen-pecked husband' while the gun-slingers ride off with the booty, in this case the White House.
I know a little bit about his problem. I served as a small-time clergy in one of their "western frontier" towns back in the 90's and one of the most often heard compliants about my service was that I was "too ivy-league" for their tastes. And, without much ado, I was literally sent packing, back to the land of 'pinko commie bastards', Canada.
The U.S. and the western world need Obama, for the next four years, and the U.S. or a sizeable portion of the voters in the lower half of the North American continent seem to want a "fight" to preserve their own bigoted, selfish and narcissistic brand of fundamentalism, in an otherwise increasingly complex and complicated world.
If Obama has an of the "Rocky" genes in his blood, he had better find them, and let them loose, in his own modest and moderate manner; otherwise the "crazies" are going to take over the 'hen-house' leaving the rest of us gaping and sighing about what "could have been"....again!
Neither Obama nor the moderates deserve that fate. And the western world cannot tolerate another Texan who wants to send government packing, and leave the field to unbridled capitalism...we all know where that leads...