Friday, September 30, 2011

Baird snubs both Canada and tradition in his business card...of course!

By Dean Beeby, Globe and Mail, September 30, 2011
John Baird has set a new gold standard for business cards.

The Conservative Foreign Affairs Minister demanded – and got – gold embossing on his business cards shortly after being shuffled into the portfolio last May, contrary to government rules.
Mr. Baird then ordered the word “Canada” dropped from the standard design, also against federal policy.
John Baird attacks Israel's opponents And he insisted that “Lester B. Pearson Building” be removed from the standard street address for Foreign Affairs’ headquarters in Ottawa, thereby erasing the name of a former Liberal prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The controversial changes initially provoked resistance from the senior Foreign Affairs bureaucrats who are responsible for implementing policies on government branding.
But in the end, Mr. Baird won a temporary exemption from the rules – and got his way.
A gold-embossed Canadian coat of arms now glistens from his unilingual English business cards, which lack the wordmark “Canada,” a federal branding design that features a small Canadian flag above the last letter.
With the disappearance of the large “Canada,” the biggest type on the card now is “The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.”
This latest "ego trip" by Baird is nothing more than a thumbing of the nose at the Liberals in Ottawa. To remove "Lester B. Pearson" from the Foreign Affairs building is akin to George W. Bush's removing the name Robert F. Kennedy from the Department of Justice building, and even he would not think of such an arrogant and impertinent move, even when the Democrats were out of power at all three levels of the U.S. government.There is really only one question in all this huffing and puffing of the Baird ego: Who is the hell does he think he is?
Removing "Canada" from his business card is just another transitional move to inserting "the Harper Government" in accord with his master's wish.
And then, who is there to stop this nonsense? No one!
Not the Official Opposition, the NDP, and certainly not the Liberal Party of Canada...it will take a public uprising across the country to even make a small dent in the mind of the Prime Minister who has already, we assume, approved of these latest changes.
Of course, it is another tempest in a teapot, just what the Conservatives wanted...another distraction from the really important business of creating jobs, and cleaning the environment, and ....
When these things happen in African countries, the dictators there are surrounded by their own army and their own personal militia, and politically immune to opposition from ordinary people. Unfortunately, most Canadians believed, (how naive we are!) that such behaviour was beneath twenty-first century Canadian politicians. And oh how wrong we were and are!

Can a bunker state be truly free? When will the antisemitism stop?

By Paul Koring, Globe and Mail, September 29, 2011
Barack Obama may be widely regarded at home as the least pro-Israeli president in decades, but he has secretly okayed giving the Jewish state a bunch of special bunker-busting bombs – ideal for destroying Tehran’s ruling mullahs’ nuclear ambitions and so powerful that George W. Bush blocked handing them over.

Capable of penetrating deep beneath the surface, the bunker-busters would be crucial for any air strikes at Iran nuclear sites. Mr. Netanyahu has wanted the bunker-busters for years and, as first reported by Newsweek, Mr. Obama agreed to hand over 55 of the sophisticated and powerful weapons.

Given Israel’s track record of pre-emptive bombing strikes to destroy nuclear sites in neighbouring nations and Iran’s ambitious and suspicious nuclear program, the American bunker-busters may increase the chance of another Middle East war. Iran’s unpredictable and bellicose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed to wipe Israel off the map. Iran continues to defy international sanctions with a clandestine nuclear program. Meanwhile, Mr. Netanyahu now has the means to carry out his threat that “Iran will not acquire nuclear arms, and this implies everything necessary to carry this out.”
The bunker-busters will fit nicely on Israeli’s top fighter-bomber, the F-15. Dropped from up to a dozen kilometres away, the needle-nosed, 2.5-tonne bomb ‘dives” to its target, correcting its course so precisely as it plunges that it will fly down a ventilation stack or slice through six metres of concrete or 30 metres of dirt before exploding with colossal force.
That’s hardly the sort of thing used against the rabbit’s warren of sub-surface tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle small arms and rockets into Gaza from the Egyptian Sinai near the Canada Gates.
Israel has its own – undeclared and therefore illegal under international law – nuclear arsenal which its western friends mostly ignore as they decry and denounce the outlawed efforts of Muslim states – including Pakistan and Iran – to either build or add to their stockpiles of nuclear warheads.

Israel also has twice launched pre-emptive and devastating air strikes to destroy Arab nuclear reactors before they could produce weapons-grade bomb stock. In 1981, a daring long-distance strike destroyed an Iraqi reactor, ending Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
In 2007, Israeli warplanes bombed a Syrian reactor of North Korean design. Striking Iran, both further away and further along the nuclear-weapons development path and with widely dispersed and deeply-buried sites, would be more challenging militarily. The bunker-busters may be a hammer Israel can’t use unless it has the tacit approval of Washington. It’s not clear if Mr. Obama retained the right to approve any use of the bunker-busters.
While it is true that any American president is politically and historically bound to support Israel, this is not the time to make such weapons available to the Israeli's, on the same day that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells Israel that her continuing to build settlements on the West Bank is unproductive. A bunker state, protected by the latest technology, including bunker bombs and a nuclear arsenal, does not make its people free. It makes its people "bunker-people" hunkered down behind walls, and surrounded by both military and terrorist elements waiting for another "attack" from another enemy, from another direction...all in an overt attempt to "wipe Israel off the map forever," the stated objective of the current president of Iran, and an objective held by many others, including the rising Islamic Brotherhood.
Only the Israelis could withstand the kind of pressure that finds an existential threat in every moment, on every corner, around every building, and the people continue to sing and dance and celebrate life.
That is what being a Jew is all about, says Eli Wiesel in his moving text, A Jew Today.
It is true that in the markets, Jewish people are more than a little pushy, aggressive even, refusing to stand in line politely waiting for many others to make their decisions on which vegetables or which meat to select for dinner. They simply do not, have not, and will not ever know when the next attack is  coming, and the next siren is to go off, and the next "hunkering down" plan is to be implemented.
Born in exile, suffered in the wilderness, tortured and killed in the millions, the Jewish people have, with the help of the U.S. and the U.N. created a Jewish state in Israel, and for the last 64 years have defended their right to exist against considerable odds, odds that most peoples would not have been able to endure successfully.
Furthermore, the Jewish people all over the world have consistently contributed to their nation's bonds, served in her armies, developed their families, their businesses and educated their children against all forms of obstacles...being blocked from universities in many countries, like Canada, being blocked from the professions, being harassed on the streets of many cities and towns. And all the while, the Jewish people have made such monumental contributions to the world's insight, art, architecture, medicine, law, politics, psychology and business.
Are many of their contributions "extreme"? Of course, when they refuse to put the kind of "politically correct" limitations and restrictions on their children that many in the west consider compulsory, and when they know that opportunities may be extinguished in an instant, depending on the people in power anywhere and their orientation to the Jewish people (antisemitism wears many faces, some of them extremely seductive and barely perceptible), and when they consider a "celebration," putting politically correct parameters on their potential is inconceivable.
Theirs is a history of accomplishment in the face of incredible odds, a history of music and song in the midst of the most heinous violence perpetrated against them, for simply being who they are, that all people would do well to examine the details of their literal survival, and their determination to withstand all bigotry, hatred, contempt and attacks of both hard and soft power.
As Wiesel reminds his readers in A Jew Today, not a single mass killer has come from the Jewish people in all of history. And as he also reminds his readers, it was Christians who exterminated 6 million Jews, and not a single Christian was excommunicated from the Christian church for his documented mass killings, torture and crimes against humanity.
Christian hands are covered with the blood of millions of Jewish deaths, and the Jews' refusal to permit their own complete eradication is a testament to their faith, to their strength and courage, to their capacity and discipline to develop community in ways that would be inconceivable to people of other faiths, and to their belief and long-standing testimony to the joy of life.
If we are not in awe of their continuing existence, we should be. However, to militarize their existence, and to move inexorably toward a "bunker state" 'defended' and 'protected' by more and more hardware only attests to our failure of imagination to broker a peace with the (also victimized, although differently) people of Palestine.
And this from Shira Herzog, Globe and Mail, September 30, 2011
Supported by the United States, Israel has always feared “internationalization” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over direct negotiations and rightly sees the majority of United Nations members as biased against it. Palestinians recognize their relative advantage in international forums but, until now, have been content with the familiar ritual of General Assembly resolutions critical of Israel. Now that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has upped the ante and applied for admission through the Security Council, no one really knows what happens next. But it’s safe to say that chances of successful negotiations have been set back

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thanks to Nellie Furtado...and stay ready for more ironic surprises!

By Nellie Furtado, Globe and Mail, September 27, 2011
(Nelly Furtado is a Canadian mother, singer-songwriter, record producer and actress.)
Last January, I was invited to Africa. Somehow, I knew it was time to come home.
While the people, the places left such strong impressions, the hope I left Africa with was more profound than anything else.
I learned so much about community, spirituality and, of course, song and dance, African rhythms, and the sustainable work Free The Children does in true partnership with communities in Kenya and worldwide – Sierra Leone, India, Ecuador, China to name a few.
I learned how one country’s political realities can affect all the nations sharing Africa. I learned about Moammar Gadhafi as a leader and dictator. I felt so ignorant but, at the same time, enlightened. My thoughts immediately went back to a concert I performed as part of a celebration thrown by someone described as an “oil sheik” in Italy in 2007. That night, I met a “son of Gadhafi” who had helped pay for the celebration. I didn’t know much about Libya then; in Kenya, I began to learn more.
A month or two after I returned from Kenya, as the Libyan civil war heated up, I found myself, BlackBerry in hand at 3 a.m., unable to sleep: In Libya, people who rightly believed the cost of freedom was worth it because the benefits were tenfold, were being killed; people were living things I couldn’t truly fathom, but I could feel the weight of them inside my heart. At that moment, in an act of solidarity, I sent a tweet about my intentions to return money I felt wasn’t truly mine.
I decided to give the $1-million (what I was paid to cover all expenses for the 2007 concert) to Free The Children, but wanted a plan that would include the people of Libya. I decided on a sustainable program, rather than immediate aid, inspired by the work I had seen in action with Free The Children in Kenya. I wanted to support women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Gaza. I wanted to help educate girls so they might have a place in the new democratic regimes in MENA postrevolution – a revolution many women helped spark.
I also wanted to build another school in Kenya like the beautiful Kisaruni school where I spent life-changing days – a school that would support brave girls like the ones I had met, girls so confident they put my 14-year-old self to shame. I wanted and needed the help of youth across North America, so I’ve set up a matching program through Free The Children to inspire youth to do more fundraising and believe in the “power of we.”
I vividly remember my life-changing experience at the concert in Italy in 2007. Then, it felt like a story I could tell my grandchildren about the brutal but very real divide between the extremely wealthy and the extremely poor. I felt I had seen the “other side” – an “other” rarely known by someone with my humble beginnings. At the time, I felt like a servant performing at an invisible king’s court, realizing for the first time just how common the role of “entertainer” is in the grand scheme of the ages. That said, I realized my price tag for the evening would have raised the eyebrows of my music conductor grandfather in the Azores. Now I understand that the feeling in the pit of my stomach was just the toll of that amazing bell we all have within that signifies a new journey in life. Then, the sound was faint. Today, it rings louder than ever in my heart. It’s so ironic that I went to Kenya intending “to help” and left as the one who received the most charity.

First, we would like to thank and commend Ms Furtado, for her compassionate, ethical and wise decision to make good come from the Libyan dictator's $1million concert payment.
Second, we would like to underscore her learning of the irony of "helping turning into the one being most helped"...as it always is.
Whenever we feel drawn to provide some form of assistance when we observe an authentic need, and we reach out to be available to assist with that need, we are the recipient of "gifts," or "blessings," or "learnings," or "grace," or "love in the agape sense," beyond we could ever have anticipated or expected.
Working in religious communities for about a decade and a half, I noticed a profound need among several to "minister" to the needs of others. Often, unfortunately, the definition of that need was provided by the intended donor of the assistance. "You really need to..." was the way the conversation began, with the speaker being the one offering assitance.
I cringed every time I heard such a conversation begin. I knew how the recipient of the aid felt. S/He felt patronized, parented, controlled and devalued. The prospective donor was "in control" and directing the prospective recipient's next steps. The process was not charity, in the pure sense. It was based on the need of the prospective donor to "be needed" and not on the real need, identified by the prospective recipient him/herself.
(Of course, if a person is ill, incapacitated, injured, or destitute and cannot make a decision, then offering 'the next step' is legitimate. It is when the person is not in complete "crisis" that we must be more senstiive.)
"You're going to be fine!" was a greeting hospital visitors often uttered to patients they had entered, whether or not that was actually the case. Once again, the need of the visitor trumped the need of the patient. "I have to say something positive, to lift their spirits," was the way they often explained their choice of exhortation.
"I know just how you feel," is another expression from those offering help to those who have recently experienced trauma, when, in fact, the truth is they know little or nothing about the feelings of the other person.
Here, Ms Furtado has met and documented her "aha" moment in receiving the spiritual gift of grace, in the moment when she expected she was its agent for others. There is little doubt that others have and will benefit from her actions; however, it is the transformation of her perception, insight and gratitude that will pay the largest dividends for her and for all those whose lives she touches, and whose live touch her's.

We say "yes" to work-for-welfare"...designed by Liberals

By Jane Taber, Globe and Mail, September 29, 2011
This piece refers to several focus groups conducted by Innovative Research Group of both long-standing NDP members and people who voted NDP in the May 2nd election.Their opinions have been released today.
Asked if people who don’t get ahead in life should blame themselves or the system, 34 per cent of “stable” NDP said themselves compared to 31 per cent who said the system should be blamed. The new contingent, however, looked at this differently – 52 per cent said they blame themselves compared to 13 per cent who blame the system.
Given these statistics, Mr. Lyle said the Conservatives and Liberals could make inroads is if they were to come up with work-for-welfare programs.
“The concept of work for welfare is that handouts can destroy the work ethic so when you are giving income assistance to people who are employable, you should have them do some form of community service in return,” he told The Globe. “While it is now often seen as a right wing American idea, it has a strong Canadian appeal.”

The Liberal Party is the natural "fit" for any "work-for-welfare" program and let's hope that party leaders have already tasked their research staff to put together such a proposal, in light of the report from this research group. Certainly the Conservatives will jump on the idea, given their Darwinian approach to winning all of the elections for the rest of this century. However, their approach will, inevitably, focus on the government's power to "save the Canadian taxpayer" millions, without caring whether the program works, shows that people can and do work their way out of poverty, off welfare and into the mainstream of the economy. Conservatives in this government "don't give a rat's ass" about the rehabilitation of people, not those being processed through the courts, nor those currently "draining" the economy by abusing the government's assistance programs. They care only about the fiscal and economic success of their base, the rich and the powerful corporations and individuals.
Only the Liberal party is positioned, historically, and hopefully in the near future, to design, and to deliver a work-for-welfare program that would meet Canadian cultural, political as well as fiscal standards. There are so few "red" Tories left that they have become an endangered species.
Even the NDP is not positioned in as effective a position as the Liberals, on this proposition, since they would generate a program that provided too much government money for such a program, thereby putting their ideology of sharing the wealth ahead of the rehabilitation of the individuals and families it seeks to benefit.
This is a strong vote "for" a work-for-welfare" program, as another legitimate step toward our long-held, and even longer hoped-for day when a guaranteed annual income will become the norm in Canada.

U.S. to build fences, and deploy sensors on Canadian border? Nonsense! Here's why!

By Tu Thanh Ha, Globe and Mail,September 29, 2011
The United States border agency is considering fencing some parts of the Canadian-U.S. border, along with deploying more remote sensors and upgrading checkpoints.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) cautions, however, that the proposed “selective fencing” would not be as extensive as the hundreds of kilometres of fences along the border with Mexico.
Details are outlined in a draft environmental-impact study that was released two weeks ago, seeking input from American communities along the 6,400-kilometre border from Maine to Washington state.
“While fencing has played a prominent role in CBP’s enforcement strategy on the Southern Border to deter illegal border crossings, it is unlikely that fencing will play as prominent a role on the Northern Border, given the length of the border and the variability of the terrain,” the document says.
“CBP would use fencing and other barriers to manage movement (e.g., trenching across roads) in trouble spots where passage of cross-border violators is difficult to control; the resulting delay for cross-border violators would increase the rate of interdiction.”
An accompanying table shows there would be about five major projects, either upgrading access roads or building fences of more than 400 metres in length in each of four geographic areas, the border west of the Rockies, the Prairies, the Great Lakes and New England.

Nothing, not the Canadian debate over nuclear warheads on American missiles, and which country had the right to pull the trigger in the event of deployment, is more heinous to the Canadian public, that the possibility of the Americans building a wall along our border. Of course, Canada cannot stop what our neighbour to the south does on their own territory. Neverthelesss there are many reasons to fight this lunacy.
First, one of the proudest traditions of living in North America is that we have enjoyed an undefended border since both countries came into existence.
And that pride is sustained by the facts that rarely have there been abuses.
Second, the Americans, in building even a partial fence, risk creating a walled encampment of their country, and the perception around the world that they are operating in complete paranoia, and the terrorists have succeeded in destroying what was formerly trumpeted as one of the most free and courageous countries on the planet.
Third, building walls is only another flag to overcome, a challenge to be proudly accepted, by those seeking the destruction of the U.S. and the freedoms of its 300 million citizens. They will mount those wall, dig under them, blow them to smithereens, or merely fly over them, if the terrorists determine that by so doing they would be successfully thumbing their noses at the United States.
Fourth, if there ever were a time when the U.S. had no money for such construction, it is during the current debt/deficit crisis. This idea is no jobs program as is the building of infrastructure like roads, bridges and raillines that are in serious disrepair.
Fifth, and this is the most serious objection of all, if this idea is permitted to go ahead, the reputation of the United States as espoused, indeed championed by President Obama, as the beacon of freedom and light to the world, will have lost its energy, and potentially thereby he will have lost his own presidency, the real goal of those who see walling themselves in, even partially, as just another nail in his political coffin. Any Canadian negotiator who participates in discussions with the Americans on this file, in the employ of the current Canadian government, will note wryly that they are participating in holding the hammer that drives those nails in that coffin, and will thereby benefit Canada, they think and believe, upon the election of a Republican president in 2012, only one year into the Canadian government's four-year mandate.
This is both bad "national security" for the U.S.; it is seriously sinister politics for the president of the U.S., and it is another example of how the U.S. has truly lost its way, under the current circumstances, by permitting power to those who abuse it, even by writing such a dangerous report....Are they all members of the Tea Party?

Hubris in stone-walling, hair-splitting & distractions...the new style of government

Canada's unemployment rate is running at 7.3% currently just slightly lower than the U.S. percentage of 9.1%. Ben Bernanke says, in the U.S., that this is a national crisis, but in Ottawa, the headlines are about flags, abuse of government jets, abuse of G8 funding, and now the opening of the abortion debate.
Only in Ottawa, you say; pity!
While the world is watching the real threat of a global meltdown in the economy, with a potential Greek default on its debt, (in fact some are saying she must default), and the Canadian dollar falling daily, the Conservatives in Ottawa are "distracting" from their own policies of do nothing to stimulate jobs, and do nothing to address global warming and climate change, with the kind of news stories that could be called marginal given the seriousness of the current situation.
Not only that, but, there are some other dangerous warning signs in the way these stories are surfacing.
Tony Clement sits stoically while the opposition pummels his reputation with e-mail evidence that he did indeed orchestrate pork-barrel spending of lavish proportions in his home riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka. Other cabinet ministers, like John Baird the government's attack-dog, answer for him in the House of Commons. So part of the political story is stone-walling.
And then there is new evidence today that Peter McKay, the current erstwhile Minister of National Defence has spent $3 million on government jets for his own professional transportation. Not bad for a defeated leader of a former Progressive Conservative party that "merged" or was swallowed by the Reform Party, to morph into the current party of government.
The member who has opened the abortion debate says publicly that his group has learned the lessons from the Harper government that 'when we spoke quietly behind closed doors' we were listened to only briefly. So now we are becoming aggressive and we will get noticed. He is right on the process front. This is a government that can and will only pay attention to the loud voices, and they believe the world responds only to loud voices. As if a loud voice made thinking unnecessary. So we also have a government of social and political bullies.
There is another disturbing development with the confluence of stories coming out of Ottawa.The Prime Minister declared in the election campaign, and, according to one of his party's pundits, demanded that all candidates for his party sign a commitment (recall those U.S. pledge forms against raising taxes of any kind at any time) not to re-open the abortion debate.
Now that Brad Trost, the MP for Saskatoon–Humbolt, has gone rogue on his and his party's commitment not to open the debate, we can all take it to the bank that religion trumps political commitment.
And then there is the matter that Bev Oda and her department have funded International Planned Parenthood, but only in counrties where abortion is not permitted, as their way of 'finessing' the abortion debate. Unfortunately, it was their own member, Trost, who blew that slick move out of the water.
And then there is the distraction of a private member's bill to fine or to put in jail for up to two years anyone (or group or agency or corporation) that prevents any Canadian from flying the Canadian flag. This apparently refers to citizens who have been told to take their flag down, by their condo corporation's board. And that is merely a tempest in a tea pot, legally overriding provincial and municipal laws, not to mention condo bylaws. More political theatre for the "little guy" (in this case a few veterans) while all the while championing the rich and the big corporations.
So we can see that stone-walling, aggression, hair-splitting and religious fundamentalism are all evident from the government, not to mention a complete overt campaign of distraction/cover-up so that the truth becomes the final casualty, in this Ottawa version of the "fog of war"....
And the media, so busy just barely covering the tops of these many icebergs, hardly has either the time or the resources to uncover the government's chicanery.
What is the appropriate political principle here? Isn't it that governments are not defeated by their political opponents; they defeat themselves by their own hubristic chicanery.In this case, so drunk are they on their own "majority" that they have already lost their way, and we are only months into a four-year mandate.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

American myths often trump the "facts"...they do in naming debt holders

Who owns America? Hint: It's not China
By Tom Mucha, Global Post, from CNN/Global Public Square website, September 28, 2011
Truth is elusive. But it's a good thing we have math.
Our friends at Business Insider know this, and put those two principles to work today in this excellent and highly informative little slideshow, made even more timely by the ongoing talks in Washington, D.C. aimed at staving off a U.S. debt default.
Here's the big idea:
Many people — politicians and pundits alike — prattle on that China and, to a lesser extent Japan, own most of America's $14.3 trillion in government debt.
But there's one little problem with that conventional wisdom: it's just not true. While the Chinese, Japanese and plenty of other foreigners own substantial amounts, it's really Americans who hold most of America's debt.
Here's a quick and fascinating breakdown by total amount held and percentage of total U.S. debt, according to Business Insider:
•Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9 percent)
•Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1 percent)
•Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1 percent)
•Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5 percent)
•Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6 percent)
•Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2 percent)
•Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1 percent)
•State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2 percent)
•Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4 percent)
•United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4 percent)
•Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5 percent)
•State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5 percent)
•Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4 percent)
•U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6 percent)
•China: $1.16 trillion (8 percent)
•The U.S. Treasury: $1.63 trillion (11.3 percent)
•Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19 percent)
So America owes foreigners about $4.5 trillion in debt. But America owes America $9.8 trillion.


It would be an excellent idea if this kind of information made the front covers of all dailies in the U.S. The myth that China holds the elephant share of the American debt is both large and well established. And the myth has been substantiated by much of the media coverage of the last two or three years. It is an American cultural tradition that the U.S. has to have an enemy. And, even in the midst of the "debt" debate, that China holds most of the U.S. debt has been another layer of mythology to enhance the drama of the crisis. The spectre of the Chinese "calling in" their debt, and thereby foreclosing on the U.S. economy, has likely been used by all sides in the debate to garner attention and credibility in their arguments both about the need to "attack the problem," (another of the American myths, that is siamese to the "enemy" component of the myth) and to bring public attention to how hard that task is.
Military metaphors abound in a country conceived on the battlefield, delivered in the forge of gunfire, and sustained by an NRA addiction that continues to infest both the Second Amendment, giving the right to bear arms, and the laws of many states, making the U.S. the most armed and fortified country in the world.
After 9/11, the U.S. has found another enemy against which to build another 'pentagon'...and they call it "AlQaeda" and all of its many forms.And now the most targetted city, New York, has 50,000 people employed by the Police Department, 35,000 officers, and 15,000 civilians, with the latest technology on all streets, subways, bridges, rivers and many targetted buildings in Manhattan....When the U.S. "prepares for an attack" from a perceived enemy, there is no country that takes those preparations to the nth degree, as does the U.S.
Going overboard is never something they consider.
Going overboard in their political debates, media coverage of those debates, and even the cultural mythologies to enhance those debates is also never part of the calculus.
Doing a reality check on the facts is often sacrificed to the presentation of the political theatre that is another overriding archetype of America.
However, the debt crisis will not have to face the potential crisis of Chinese foreclosure, if these facts are borne out in the Treasury.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baird's unequivocal support for Israel opposing the new disguised "anti-semitism"

By Mike Blanchfield, Globe and Mail, Sptember 27, 2011
“We supported the aspirations of those peoples who sought for themselves and their countries brighter futures during the Arab Spring that just passed,” said (John) Baird (Canada's Minister of External Affairs.
“But we will not go along with the unilateral actions of the Palestinian Authority.”
Baird repeated Canada's call for a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The no-holds-barred address also took aim at the UN itself, for allowing despotic regimes to hold memberships on, or occupy the chair of, major committees.
“The greatest enemies of the United Nations are not those who publicly repudiate its actions,” said Baird.
“The greatest enemies of the United Nations are those who quietly undermine its principles and, even worse, by those who sit idly, watching its slow decline.”
Baird backed that argument by citing North Korea's recent rotating presidency of the UN conference on disarmament, which Canada boycotted, along with Iran's vice-presidency of the General Assembly and its seat on the commission on population and development.
Baird's unflinching defence of Israel was another reminder to the Jewish state that it has a friend in Canada.
Last week in New York, Prime Minister Stephen Harper affirmed his support for Israel in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
And Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told another UN gathering that Israel is being targeted by a “new anti-Semitism” that is “now disguised as anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Israel, but it ultimately espouses the same old hatred and intent.”
Baird said Canada would not “go along with appeasement of the former (Moammar) Gadhafi regime” in Libya. And it has imposed tough new sanctions on Syria because it cannot “go along” with the Assad regimes killing of its own civilians.

There is very little or either substance or of style from this man that leaves a positive impression. He is and has been the "attack dog" of the Harper government. He answers for Mr. Clement over the G8 expenditures, as an asignment designed to squash opposition criticisms into political dust. He covers for the government whenever it faces mounting criticism that the Prime Minister does not want to get his hands dirty by responding.
And yet, there is much in this speech to commend readers at least to "think deep thoughts" about the surprising juxtaposition of Canada's support, for example, for the people of Libya, without abandoning the people of Israel.
It is a broad brush approach that will need much more nuance in negotiations. And there will be those who argue that Canada has abandoned its traditional "honest broker" role in attempting to mid-wife peace between the Israeli's and the Palestinians. However, the times have changed significantly and perhaps Canada's unequivocal and unilateral support for Israel is what is needed in order to "balance the scale" at this time.
Ironically, I never imagined using the words "balance" and "Baird" in the same sentence...and I did it by hedging it with "perhaps".
This government can only operate within a "black-and-white" reality...and this is one of those extreme responses to what is perceived by the right as extreme "Islamicism" to use Harper's word, although that puts Canada squarely in the U.S. camp, where Canadian leaders have not always been comfortable, and rightly so.
We were all so proud and comfortable when Prime Minister Chretien said "No" to Canadian involvement in the U.S. war agaisnt Iraq.The times certainly "are a changin'" to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lagarde: Global action needed for global recovery..and political realities

Lagarde: Global action needed for global recovery
Editor's Note: Christine Lagarde is Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. For more, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Christine Lagarde, Project Syndicate,from Global Public Square/CNN website, September 26, 2011
The global economy has entered a dangerous new phase. There is a path to sustained recovery, but it is narrowing. To navigate it, we need strong political will around the world – leadership over brinksmanship, cooperation over competition, and action over reaction.
One of the main problems today is too much debt in the global financial system – among sovereigns, banks, and households, and especially among the advanced economies. This is denting confidence and holding back spending, investment, and job creation. These countries face a weak and bumpy recovery, with unacceptably high unemployment. The eurozone debt crisis has worsened, and financial strains are rising. Political indecision in some quarters is making matters worse. Social tensions bubbling beneath the surface could well add fuel to the crisis of confidence.
In these circumstances, we need collective action for global recovery along four main policy lines: repair, reform, rebalancing, and rebuilding.
First, repair. Before doing anything else, we must relieve some of the balance-sheet pressures – on sovereigns, households, and banks – that risk smothering the recovery. Advanced countries need credible medium-term plans to stabilize and reduce public debt.
But consolidating too quickly can hurt the recovery and worsen job prospects. There is a solution. Credible measures that deliver and anchor savings in the medium term will help create space to accommodate growth today – by allowing a slower pace of consolidation. Of course, the precise path is different for each country, as some are under market pressure and have no choice, while others have more space.
It is also important to relieve pressure on household and banks. With respect to the United States, I welcome President Barack Obama’s recent proposals to address growth and employment; actions like more aggressive principal-reduction programs or helping homeowners to take advantage of low-interest rates would also help. And, in Europe, the sovereigns must address firmly their financing problems through credible fiscal consolidation. In addition, to support growth, banks must have sufficient capital buffers.
The second issue is reform, with the financial sector a high priority. On the positive side, we have broad agreement on higher-quality capital and liquidity standards with appropriate phase-in arrangements. But substantial gaps remain and must be addressed through international cooperation in order to avoid regulatory arbitrage.
I would also include the social dimension under the reform banner – particularly the need to identify and nurture sources of growth capable of generating sufficient jobs. This is especially important for the young.
The third target of collective action, rebalancing, has two meanings. First, it means shifting demand back to the private sector when it is strong enough to carry the load. That hasn’t happened yet.
Rebalancing also involves a global demand switch from external-deficit countries to those running large current-account surpluses. With lower spending and higher savings in the advanced economies, key emerging markets must take up the slack and start providing the demand needed to power the global recovery. But this rebalancing, too, has not happened sufficiently, and if the advanced economies succumb to recession, nobody will escape.
The fourth policy imperative is rebuilding. Many countries, including those with low income levels, need to rebuild their economic defenses – for example, by strengthening their budget positions – to protect themselves against future storms. This will also help to provide the space for growth-enhancing public investment and important social safety nets.
In these circumstances, the International Monetary Fund – with its 187 member countries – is uniquely positioned to foster collective action. Our policy advice can help shine a light on the pressing issues of the day – growth, core vulnerabilities, and interconnectedness. Our lending can provide breathing space for countries in difficulty. And, looking beyond the crisis horizon, the IMF can also help construct a safer and more stable international financial system.
This is no time for half-measures or muddling through. If we seize the moment, we can navigate our way out of this crisis and restore strong, sustainable, and balanced global growth. But we need to act quickly – and together.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Christine Lagarde. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.


"we need strong political will around the world – leadership over brinksmanship, cooperation over competition, and action over reaction."

There is no doubt that Ms Lagarde's prescription is balanced, comprehensive, wise and necessary. What is not certain, in the eyes of many observers, including this one, is the capacity of the world leaders to find, summon, mobilize, (pick your own word) the political will to bring her prescription, or some close variant, into being. We read cynical columns like the one recently by Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail, in which she complains about the gap between the size of the world's problems an dthe "little men" who are attempting to deal with them. One can expect such derision from a feminist, given the size of the proportion of male global leaders to female leaders. However, there are significant and complex political and economic and historic realities that must be overcome if Ms Lagarde's prescription can have a chance.
First there is innate nationalism everywhere, and much of this is increasingly inward looking, given the level of fear even paranoia that exists in many countries, including the U.S. Clauses like "buy American" in bills that call for rebuilding infrastructure do not engender multi-national co-operation, even between two large trading partners, in normal circumstances.This example is currently being played out between Canada adn the U.S. two traditional trading partners after the U.S.congress passed a law calling for "buy American" in procurement contracts for infrastructure rebuilds. "If our country is facing a cliff, what resources can we spare with other countries to prevent them from falling off a similar cliff?" seems to be a central theme of many.
Second, there is a long history of bilateral agreements in trade, in national security, in reciprocal exchanges of ambassadors, students and even workers, that can often work to the advantage of both parties, but does not necessarily lead to multilateral co-operation. And even when it does, if the needs of the multilateral group appear to trump those of the bilateral agreements, many continue to cling to those bilateral agreements because they feel safer and more confident that both parties will comply with the terms of the agreement.
Third, there are not so insignificant competitive underpinnings to much of the dialogue between and among countries, that would seem to have the potential to undermine the veneer of diplomacy required for co-operative, collegial commitments from all world leaders. For example, when a Chinese construction company is given a sizeable contract to build or rebuild a bridge betwen Oakland and San Francisco, and they bring hundreds of Chinese workers onsite to complete the contract, there is little wonder that when the U.S. media uncovers this kind of contract, there will be even more cocooning, politically speaking, inside the U.S. because jobs that could have been filled by Americans working for an American company were contracted out, based on price primarily. Of course, when the reporters sought American companies and asked if they could have competed, if offered the contract, many companies replied in the affirmative.
Fourth, there is a long history of geopolitical conflict on the front commonly known as "empire building" or developing significant influence among a block of countries by the super-powers Russia, China, the U.S. and formerly Great Britain and France and this theme has not been completley abandoned. China, for example, is pouring considerable investments into Africa for the building of roads, infrastructure projects and technological development, likely for the purpose of enhancing its own economic and politial growth in that continent. They have redefined "foreign aid" by turning it into concrete and steel and digital projects "for the benefit of the indigenous Africans. And in the process, have grown a considerable, positive reputation for their efforts.
Lastly, there is in the corner of the rooms where world leaders meet some growing elephants, like China's superpower status, in terms of holding much of the wealth, and thereby the debt, of the western countries. Naturally, that gives them added leverage in any discussions about finding solutions to these vexing problems.A state-run economy is far more adaptable to emerging exigencies than one that is operated by multiple corporations whose raison d'etre is to provide dividends for their shareholders. And so the pursuit of profit is another subset of the issue of the elephant(s) in the room.
So long as private enterprise is in effect in charge in some countries(U.S.) and state-managed economies operate in others (China), while varying combinations operate in other countries, there will be additional hurdles to both the language needed for the discussions and to the agreements needed to solve the crisis. Currently defined as an economic crisis, it is also a political crisis and merging those two languages, cultures and opinions is not the most teflon-like process.
Also in the subset of "elephants" is the ego-factor linked to the political realities at home, for all political leaders. Just this weekend, while Finance Ministers met in Washington, people took to the streets in Athens, protesting changes to Greece's laws to impose higher taxes, and other austerity measures demanded by the international community, as the price for supporting a bale-out of Greece's debt. A plan agreed to in Washington will be instantly announced in Athens, provinding impetus for instant mass reactions requiring police control of civil disobedience back home.
It is certainly not "little men" and "big problems" that adequately describes the current geopolitical situation. Even big men and big women....meaning people with huge political bank accounts, and large reserves of political will and the highest of both ideals and intentions will still face large mountains to climb with few, if any, sherpas to guide them to the top of those mountains we all need them to conquer.And perhaps the sooner the politicians admit that the are attempting to solve a political crisis first, and an economic crisis second, they will be closer to confronting the need for that political will that Ms Lagarde sees as essential to a solution.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Human Rights Watch urges Canada to investigate Cheney for torture role

From Human Rights Watch website, September 24, 2011
(Toronto) – The Canadian government should be prepared to bring criminal charges against former US Vice President Dick Cheney for his alleged role in the torture of detainees when he visits Vancouver on September 26, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today.

Overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration, including at least two cases involving Canadian citizens, obligates Canada to investigate Cheney to comply with the Convention Against Torture, Human Rights Watch said. In addition, Canadian law expressly provides for jurisdiction over an individual for torture and other crimes if the complainant is a Canadian citizen, even for offenses committed outside of Canada. Canada ratified the Convention against Torture in 1987 and incorporated its provisions into the Canadian criminal code.

“The US has utterly failed to meet its legal obligation to investigate torture by the Bush administration, but that shouldn’t let other countries off the hook,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Cheney’s visit to Vancouver is a rare opportunity to remedy this shameful failure to uphold the rule of law.”

Human Rights Watch has documented the role of senior Bush administration officials in authorizing torture of detainees, including “waterboarding” and prolonged exposure to heat and cold. The US was directly responsible or complicit in the alleged torture of at least two Canadian citizens, Maher Arar and Omar Khadr.

Cheney played a key role in the formulation of US detainee policy and was a member of the National Security Council “Principals Committee,” which approved interrogation policies. He was critical in pressing US Justice Department officials to provide authorization in mid-2002 for the use of coerced interrogation methods. Cheney’s memoir, In My Time, published in August, details his continued support of abusive interrogation techniques, which he calls “critically important … to … national security.”

“Canada’s own investigation into the Maher Arar case shows there is sufficient evidence to investigate Cheney for authorizing torture,” Roth said. “Bush, Cheney, and others authorized the abusive detention regime that Canadians and thousands of others were subjected to. They should be held accountable.”

Maher Arar
Maher Arar was born in Syriain 1970 and immigrated to Canada at age 17. A Canadian national, he was detained in September 2002 by US authorities while in transit through John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City on his way to Montreal. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police supplied incorrect information to US officials that was used to support his detention. After holding him incommunicado for nearly two weeks, US authorities flew Arar to Jordan, where he was driven across the border and handed over to Syrian authorities, despite his statements to US officials that he would be tortured if sent there. Indeed, he was tortured during his confinement in a Syrian prison, often with cables and electrical cords, and was kept in a tiny cell. The US practice of rendering terrorist suspects abroad changed during the Bush administration, when the CIA began handing people over to their home or third countries, apparently to facilitate abusive interrogations.

Following an extensive investigation by the Canadian government, which cleared Arar of all terror connections, Canada offered him a formal apology, acknowledged playing a role in Arar’s rendition, and provided compensation of CA$10.5 million plus legal fees. The inquiry expressly concluded that Arar had been tortured in Syria. The Bush administration refused to assist the Canadian inquiry and disregarded Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s request that the US acknowledge its inappropriate conduct.

Omar Khadr
Omar Khadr was born in Canada in 1986. At age 10, his father, an al Qaeda financier, took him to Pakistan and then Afghanistan, raising him among al Qaeda fighters and using him as an interpreter. At 15, Khadr was given weapons training. On July 27, 2002, the same month that abusive interrogation techniques were deemed “lawful” by the US Department of Justice, he was inside a compound in Afghanistan with an al Qaeda cell that had been building and planting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) targeting US and coalition forces. During a firefight, a grenade killed US Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer. Khadr was shot twice in the back and blinded in one eye.

US forces airlifted Khadr to Bagram air base where he was interrogated on a stretcher while receiving medical treatment and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, including being told by an interrogator that he would be sent to a prison where he would be raped. Despite his age, Khadr never received the special protections that must be extended to children under international law by US forces either during his three months of interrogation at Bagram or once he was moved to Guantanamo. In October 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty to murder before a military commission for throwing the grenade that killed Speer and was sentenced to eight additional years in prison.

On January 29, 2010, the Canadian Supreme Court in Canada (Prime Minister) v. Khadr held that the Canadian government's participation in interrogating Khadr for the purpose of assisting prosecution by the US “offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.” Although it declined to order the Canadian government to request Khadr's repatriation, holding that to do so was a matter for the executive branch, its declaratory judgment held that the breach of Khadr's rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms continued as long as Khadr was held in the US. As part of his plea agreement, Khadr’s lawyers submitted evidence that the US and Canada exchanged a series of diplomatic notes in which Canada agreed to consider favorably a request by Khadr for repatriation after completion of one year of his sentence, which will be in October 2011.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Class war"and other verbal bullets...right wing reductionisms for political gain

By Paul Krugman, New York Times, September 22, 2011
Detailed estimates from the (U.S.) Congressional Budget Office — which only go up to 2005, but the basic picture surely hasn’t changed — show that between 1979 and 2005 the inflation-adjusted income of families in the middle of the income distribution rose 21 percent. That’s growth, but it’s slow, especially compared with the 100 percent rise in median income over a generation after World War II.

Meanwhile, over the same period, the income of the very rich, the top 100th of 1 percent of the income distribution, rose by 480 percent. No, that isn’t a misprint. In 2005 dollars, the average annual income of that group rose from $4.2 million to $24.3 million.
So do the wealthy look to you like the victims of class warfare?...
What we know for sure... is that policy has consistently tilted to the advantage of the wealthy as opposed to the middle class.

Some of the most important aspects of that tilt involved such things as the sustained attack on organized labor and financial deregulation, which created huge fortunes even as it paved the way for economic disaster.
The budget office’s numbers show that the federal tax burden has fallen for all income classes, which itself runs counter to the rhetoric you hear from the usual suspects. But that burden has fallen much more, as a percentage of income, for the wealthy. Partly this reflects big cuts in top income tax rates, but, beyond that, there has been a major shift of taxation away from wealth and toward work: tax rates on corporate profits, capital gains and dividends have all fallen, while the payroll tax — the main tax paid by most workers — has gone up.

And one consequence of the shift of taxation away from wealth and toward work is the creation of many situations in which — just as Warren Buffett and Mr. Obama say — people with multimillion-dollar incomes, who typically derive much of that income from capital gains and other sources that face low taxes, end up paying a lower overall tax rate than middle-class workers. And we’re not talking about a few exceptional cases....
According to new estimates by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, one-fourth of those with incomes of more than $1 million a year pay income and payroll tax of 12.6 percent of their income or less, putting their tax burden below that of many in the middle class....
Elizabeth Warren, the financial reformer who is now running for the United States Senate in Massachusetts, recently made some eloquent remarks to this effect that are, rightly, getting a lot of attention. “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody,” she declared, pointing out that the rich can only get rich thanks to the “social contract” that provides a decent, functioning society in which they can prosper.
Crying "class war," by the "right" whenever the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy is mentioned, is another example of a kind of reductionism that afflicts all those who refuse to deal openly and honestly with the facts. They skew those facts, often with highly inflamable 'hot button' language to arouse the fears among their base voters, and in the process, distort the debate.
It is far easier to "shoot" verbal bullets, without nuance and without regard to the actual complex realities, than it is to debate those same complexities. And, in many ways, it satisfies the media who want a lot of competing bullets in order to generate controversy, and that vehicle essentially negates a healthy political debate.
The voters are, by this process, reduced to little more than adolescents stomping their feet in a high school gymnasium whenever the name of their favourite candidate is mentioned from the stage or the microphone.
Those who drink the kool-aid being offered by the Tea Party have joined a movement, as part of their misuided exercise in citizenship. Unfortunately, grapping messily with the incorrigible and often distaseteful facts is left to those editorial writers, and political professionals whose task it is to integrate those messy facts into some coherent theme, so that ordinary readers/citizens/voters can make some meaningful judgement based on those facts.
Not only is the 'right' disdainful of education, learning and basing their policy proposals on those realities, but the very vehicle they use for their propaganda campaign is bereft of nuance, of agreed facts and thereby, the cornerstone of legitimate political debate.
It is quite literally impossible to debate with "bullets", and with one-word answers, like the list of adjectives hurdled indiscriminately at President Obama, this week by Republican candiate Rick Perry.




 





 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Canadian Citizenship Ceremony...Congratulations to all new Canadians!

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.


This is the oath of citizenship for prospective Canadian citizens. Simple, straightforward and relatively uncomplicated. No duty to bear arms, for example, as in the U.S. citizenship requirements. No allegiance is promised or owed to a religious figure. The Crown represents the state in Canada, and so that oath is of allegiance to the current Queen.
And tomorrow morning, my wife, and at least 80 others will take this oath in Memorial Hall, at City Hall in Kingston, ON.
She will not give up her American citizenship, having been born in Kansas. She will carry dual citizenship, be eligible for two passports and be able to cast her first vote in the Ontario election on October 6.
She studied Canadian history, geography, political structure and current political leadership, some information regarding the economy, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and then wrote a test, to demonstrate her working knowledge of the country's government.
She also passed through other stages along the way to this culminating moment: visitor, landed immigrant, a work visa and finally full citienship.
It is a proud moment in her life and in the lives of her colleagues who will have come from many countries around the world, in search of this new status.
Congratulations, Michelle, and all other candidates whose lives will be part of the Canadian fabric, as will the Canadian culture become an integral part of the fabric of their lives.

Canadian Military tradition: bury recommendations after media interest wanes

As reported on 102.7 the lake radio station, by Tony Orr, yesterday, a report out of Queen's university indicates that the Canadian military rarely, if ever, act on recommendations from outside consultants, academics or others; they merely wait until the media interest wanes and put the "documents" on the shelf.
There is a case to be made that the military is merely following the modelling of the various federal governments of the past century. It is a long and valued tradition in Canadian history, for governments to appoint Royal Commissions to study this or that contentious issue, thereby absolving the government of the day from having to comment when the issue is a "hot button" and the politician venturing into the turbulent waters of the public debate is at risk of self-sabotage. Referring hot issues to a commission is like referring a contentious issue to the court, and then, because the matter is being litigated, there is no option to comment. It is a process of self-eunuchification, if you like. Just when a public is aroused about some issue, the politicians send it off to a committee or a commission for study, knowing that historically, such moves take the heat off any minister under fire, enables the government of the day to escape slightly unscathed, and puts the issue to rest.
There is a current report on Rationalizations before the defence department that recommends budget cuts and some forward thinking about how the military could be deployed. The group that authored the report and wrote the 80-plus pages is headed by a retired military officer, interviewed recently by Evan Solomon on CBC's Power and Politics. This is one report that deserves a public reading, discussion and implementation, even if it does wrankle some feathers in the "establishment".
It reduces the traditional emphasis on miltiary hardware like fighter jets and armed ships; it redeploys personnel is more effective and efficient manner and recommends tactics and strategies worthy of consideration by the Minister of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff.

Author: get on the program, Israel (and the U.S.?)

By Erna Paris, Globe and Mail, September 22, 2011
Erna Paris is the author of Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History and The Garden and the Gun: A Journey Inside Israel.

Enough already: That’s what a majority of world governments are preparing to say when they debate Palestinian statehood at the United Nations Enough of the blame game. Enough of wars and intifadas that target civilians. Enough of the disingenuous peace process and the stale narratives that make up the status quo. Enough of the occupation of one people by another, regardless of rationalizations.
It’s in Israel’s strategic interests to support what’s likely to be overwhelming recognition of Palestine. Whatever one thinks about the Palestinian effort to focus world attention on the plight of its people, it’s a showcase example of the shifting global order. The ground has moved, leaving Israel behind. International law and human rights have gained precedence in the past decade and, for the first time, “lawfare” has emerged as a bloodless alternative to warfare. The Palestinian bid for statehood is a bold attempt to introduce legal diplomacy into the arsenal of conflict resolution.
Israel should support the Palestinian bid because to do so is the lesser of two evils. Yes, it’s true the immediate outcome can’t be predicted, but going with the international flow will reduce Israel’s increasing isolation. Far from “delegitimizing” the Jewish state, positive support will relegitimize it in the eyes of the world.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “big stick” vision of security and settlements expansion has become increasingly unsustainable as the Arab Spring uprisings have challenged once-stable configurations: Hosni Mubarak is gone, and Egyptian rioters recently attacked the Israeli embassy; Israel’s refusal to offer a face-saving apology to Turkey over the killing of nine people in a Gaza-bound aid flotilla seriously upset ties with a former ally; Syria is in turmoil; Iran is challenging Israel’s nuclear hegemony in the region; radical West Bank settlers are attacking local Palestinians, increasing the likelihood of another intifada.
If these are not reasons enough for a policy review with regard to Palestinian aspirations, America’s diminishing power in the world should be. Israel relies on unconditional U.S. support, including billions of dollars in annual aid, armaments and the threat of back-up military force to maintain its position in the neighbourhood. But with the U.S. edging into economic depression, how long can this degree of aid be sustained? Furthermore, President Barack Obama has declared himself in favour of a Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders, so there can be no succour in that quarter. Finally, is there stronger evidence of America’s waning influence than Saudi Arabia’s recent threat to review its special relationship (read oil and military bases) should the U.S. veto the Palestinian request for statehood in the Security Council?
The status of the Palestinians is about to change. Israel would do well to get on board and restart negotiations from the inside.
What Israeli officials fear is the International Criminal Court, and liability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The government has been fighting the trend toward international justice since the disastrous 2008 Gaza war, after which an investigation concluded that war crimes had been committed by both sides. Yes, the recognition of statehood, however attenuated, will allow the Palestinians to bring accusations of war crimes to the ICC, but it will also expose their own leaders to comparable charges. The prospect of criminal accountability may well encourage sober second thoughts on both sides.
"Lawfare" replacing "warfare"? Is that what this author would call the sacking of the Israeli embassy in Cairo? Is that what we have been watching in Libya for the last three or four months? Is that what the repeated intafada that erupts in the Middle East signifies?
There is no doubt that there is a dramatic shift in geopolitical power going on. The weakened, indebted state of the United States, after two wars and the Wall Street meltdown linked to both a housing bubble and a continuing voracious appetite for energy has brought the U.S. virtually to its knees. It may have its Treasury bonds as a safe and secure investment for those "in the market" but it will demonstrate its impotence tomorrow if and when it vetoes the will of many, if not most, countries on the question of Palestinian statehood, in the Security Council.
Bringing combatants from both Palestine and Israel to the Interntional Criminal Court, if fully carried out, could result in that body being so blocked with cases that it is incapable of coping. It could render that court limp and lame. Presumably it is the potential for criminal charges this author is referring to when theorizing about the substition of lawfare for warfare. However, if the U.S. is any example, where there are laws for virtually every kind of aberrant human behaviour, the courts have not made the country safer simply because the volume of cases is so high, and the prisons so overcrowded and the criminal justice system so corrupt that the American justice system is, itself, becoming a victim of its earlier success and the cultural belief that law is a panacea for everything that ails a society.
It isn't; and the International Criminal Court will likely soon demonstrate the truth of that maxim in international relations.
If, on the other hand, the threat of criminal prosecution actually deters some of the potential for violence on both sides, Palestinian and Israeli, that in itself will prove to be a desireable result of the move for statehood by the Palestinians.
What is significant is the position of both the U.S. and Canada both of which countries would vote NO if they both had seats on the Security Council. It is the U.S. that holds the veto over the procedure and Canada does not even have the coveted Security Council seat for which it lobbied so extensively earlier this year. Clearly, the countries who voted to exclude Canada from a seat at the Security Council knew more about the international posture of the Canadian government than the people of Canada, when they voted on May 2.
Snubbing the thrust for a Palestinian state is not necessarily demonstrating loyalty to Israel; in fact, there is a significant group of Israeli artists and thought leaders who are supporting the Palestinian claim of statehood, and are urging Israel itself to support the move. Perhaps it is the current Israeli government, with its insistence on building settlements and its refusal to negotiate for a two-state solution that is the major roadblock to preventing this Palestinian initiative.
The photo of a significant member of the Israeli government of Netanyhu beside Rick Perry in his televised press conference in New York yesterday where he blasted the Obama government for its failure to support Israel is just another indication of the breakdown of relations between Netanyhu and Obama, at the urging of Netanyhu.
Perhaps the Israelis need to change governments almost as urgently as do Canadians. Unfortunately, it would seen that the Americans are more bent on removing Obama in 2012 than either the Canadians or the Israelis are in opposing their current governments. When the U.S. vetoes the Palestinian move in the Security Council, Obama will have another political albatross around his neck, only this one may be so heavy that he does not get a second term. Supporting a two-state solution, and vetoeing this petition for statehood, to many, will seem incompatible.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Union busting and other regressions by Canadian Government

By Tim Harper, Toronto Star, September 20, 2011
The labour minister (Lisa Rait) said the Conservatives will intervene whenever they see a labour disruption having a significant effect on the economy or the general public.

She didn’t mention two other reasons.
First, the Harper Conservatives are micromanaging labour disputes in this country because ideologically they are delighted to put unionized workers in their place.
And they are doing it because no one can stop them.
The government’s latest move to usurp bargaining rights in this country was as certain as leaves in Ottawa changing colour in September.
Even the president of the union representing 6,800 flight attendants told his membership in August that the Harper government had them over the barrel when he urged ratification of an earlier agreement....
Raitt has been quick in the past to point how rarely back-to-work legislation has been used in this country and how extraordinary such a measure would be.

It is extraordinary no more.
The last three major potential labour disruptions — none of which resulted in a full-blown strike — have been met with legislative threats or action from Raitt, a self-styled friend of labour and daughter of a union organizer.
How times change! The political and economic and philistine cultural winds are blowing across this country like a typhoon, the warning signs of which storm were clearly evident on May 2, after weeks of watching and listening to Harper refuse to answer questions, refusing to say much except "we need a majority" and like lambs to the slaughter, Canadians went unconscious into the polling stations and marked an "X" beside so many conservative candidates that we can now all take the punishment. After all, we authored this government.
And they are not going to let us forget our "part" in the fiasco that is only beginning, in the words of Justice Minister Nicholson. An omnibus crime bill that replicates failed policies in many of the U.S. states, to the extent that 35,000 inmates were released from California prisons because of cruel and unusual punishment, mostly resulting from overcrowding, a development that is only months away in Canada.
And the pristine and sefl-righteous PM stands in the UN in a small meeting room where he chairs a forum on baby, mother and child health in the developing world, without mentioning his government's removal of funds that would permit necessary abortions in that part of the government's "aid kit".
He "tells" Palestine to talk to Israel and not the UN.
He "tells" anyone who will listen that Canada will be there until the job of building a government and a country in Libya, promising a three-month extension, knowning his minions in the House of Commons will rise dutifully, and pass the 'motion' without a peep of opposition.
And these stories bubble along the pages of our dailies, all the while reminding Canadians of the lost seat on the Security Council, where the government would have had to vote on the promised application for statehood by Palestine.
This is a government that "tells" anyone who will listen whatever it wants. It is authoritarian, arrogant, 'not governing by statistics but by what is right' again to quote the Justice Minister.
In the past, governments had to demonstrate the utility and the value and the cost of their measures. This government sees the need to do none of that. Even the costs of the crime bill are and will not be available..."we will pay those costs because we are doing what is right for the Canadian people," just overhearing the Justice Minister one more time.
We are a disengaged, dumb and completely responsible electorate, and we will have four years of this repressive legislation, after which, we will need a strong government (read majority) on the other side to clear up the messes left by this gang, just as we did in Ontario after the Harris gang left their still lingering messes.
Unions will be, if they are not already, emasculated.
The environment will be, if it is not already, eviscerated, especially in Northern Alberta.
The military will be sailing and flying in "Rolls Royce" equipment that celebrates a long lost age, and the ego's of this government.
The prisons will have exploded, and the resulting violence inside will outstrip the violence outside because we have replaced rehabilitation with overcrowded incarceration.
The "Kyros's" of the world will have been stripped of their funding because they do not pass the smell test of political correctness, as prescribed in some secret manual by this government.
The provinces will have forgotten their former relationships, because there will not have been a single meeting between the premiers and the current prime minister....
And the cash-rich contributors, all many thousands of them, will be partying in the streets, because they will have completely wrested the political reins of power from the "evil" and irresponsible "left".
And we will have no one to blame but ourselves for having given them the power to do what they want.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Men moving backward" while women move forward (Mark Kelly, on CBC)

Finally, the words were spoken last night on CBC's Connect with Mark Kelly. It was not an official announcement. It was not part of the script for a news story. It was, ironically, the "disconnect" for the September 19, 2011 show.
As he reviewed the progress made by women over the last few decades, using the interview with a Hugh Hefner Playboy Bunnie as his springboard, he closed with this thought...
As women have beeen making all this progress toward equality, men it seems have been moving backward. With the "dumb men" jokes and ads, men have become the idiots in the room....
Not only is it true, it is one of the tragedies of the last quarter century.
Men have, indeed, become the idiots in the room. We are being laughed at  in many of the television shows currently playing in prime time. We are the butt of many of the "jokes" that wander through daily water cooler conversations. Listen to the staff of any department populated primarily by women and you will hear too much talk about the "dumb" or "insensitive" or "lazy" or "irresponsible" or...pick your own adjective husband, partner, back home.
And it is a regular subject for a circle of female bonding....and to put it mildly and bluntly, it sucks.
If men were to talk about their female partners in the same way, we would be accused of gender bias, in polite terms, and sexism in less polite terms, and reinforcing the "gossip" in ugly terms.
What has happened to the male "character" in our North American society?
Have we simply surrendered our spines and our needs and our aspirations to the closet or the basement or the garage where those things on their way to Value Village are stored?
Have we refused to step up in the face of "women's liberation" to provide the kind of counter-balance to healthy, self-respecting, assertive women who wish to attend school, get good grades, get good jobs and produce a good family?
Have we considered the "competition" not worthy of our best efforts, in support of those healthy, assertive, self-respecting women we call our daughters, our wives, our mothers, and even our grandmothers?
Having been raised by a mother born three years prior to the start of World War I, whose brand of assertiveness, and courage and self-respect was forged in the bush of Algonquin Park where she lived in a boxcar with her parents for the years from three to nine, while her father was shop foreman at the CNR roundhouse, I am too familiar with her references to Charlotte Whitten, the former mayor of Ottawa. It was Whitten who publicly uttered words that rang in our house for decades:
Unfortunately, in order to be considered equal to men, women have to work twice as hard;
fortunately, men have not made that achievement all that difficult.
Following her life in the bush, she attended nursing school, at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, where she was "educated" by the nuns of the Roman Catholic church, not exactly a 'liberal' education in nursing. Upon graduation, she was hired by those same nuns for work in the maternity ward, before returning to her home town to marry.
Even prior to her marriage, she attempted to convince her then fiance, later my father, to attend university to study dentistry in the early 1930's, with her working to cover the costs. His confidence, not having completed high school, was insufficient for the challenge, something she held over his head for the sixty-plus years of their marriage.
She took a back-seat to no one ever. She took on the task of being President of the North Bay Canadian Club in her 80's, travelled on planned excursions throughout her retirement, engaged her granddaughters in conversations about their developing plans and interesting lives, and drove her car until three days before she died, following hip surgery after a fall on the front steps of her house in North Bay. She was then in her ninety-first year.
She competed with her two sisters-in-law, both nurses, for fifty years, sometime innocuously, sometimes overtly, to their disappointment. They never felt the need to compete, given their firmly established positions in the administration of two Toronto hospitals, The Hospital for Sick Children, and Mount Sinai Hospital, both teaching hospitals attached to the University of Toronto, and the various community colleges that sprang up in the 1970's under then Premier William Davis.
I watched my mother's unquestioned dominance in her marriage for many decades, wondering what had happened to my father's spine. There certainly were times when his firm, but unyielding hand on the tiller would have steadied their marriage and reduced our family's trauma, without in any way denigrating her significant contribution. She lacked a vigorous and assertive and self-respecting partner for those sixty-plyus years, and I have come to the realization of that "missing component" in my family of origin, and in my own first marriage, given the modelling I saw as a young man.
Working in both schools and churches, and in several corporations, I have witnessed various forms of male-female interractions, some of them downright viscious, others more compatible, and others a sheer delight to experience.
My three daughters owe much to their grandmother whose modelling gave them confidence and self-acceptance that has resulted in their many achievments in athletics, academics and later in professional life.
Nevertheless, I remain convinced that men, individually and collectively, have permitted the erosion of the "brand" called masculinity through a combination of indifference, some arrogance (mostly a mask) and some fear. We have not provided, in too many cases, the kind of self-confident, assertive and healthy modelling for our sons, and our grandsons over the last half century.
Were we tired folllowing the two world wars?
Were we too busy making a living to have any energy left over for polishing the male brand?
Did we leave the field to the Dubya's, of which there are far too many, who have put on the stereotype of Marlboro Man, and sacrificed their poetic, and their feminine qualities, as both embarrassing and irrelevant.
It was Carl Jung who taught us about the unconscious in all men; he called it the anima. And through a process, still somewhat ill-defined, of claiming the Shadow, we could find the "gold" in that effort.
There is a model of androgyny, that combines both masculine and feminine qualities in both men and women, and the model is far more acceptable to most women than it is too most men.
And the sooner men "get over" our fear of being gay, and our fear of those who are gay and we find our feminine sides, we might begin to fill the gaping hole that exists in too many families, organizations and even nations' schools, hospitals, churches and corporations and provide mentoring to our sons who wish to become artists, musicians, dancers and creative community organizers...and not have to funnel them into only the hard sciences, accounting, law and medicine.

Brooks: misdirected disappointment...turn it on your own party

By David Brooks, New York Times, September 19, 2011
The White House has clearly decided that in a town of intransigent Republicans and mean ideologues, it has to be mean and intransigent too. The president was stung by the liberal charge that he was outmaneuvered during the debt-ceiling fight. So the White House has moved away from the Reasonable Man approach or the centrist Clinton approach.

Mr. Brooks is referring in this piece to the Obama insistence on taxing the wealthy, and closing the loopholes on corporate tax breaks, as part of the method of paying for the jobs bill. In fact Brooks goes so far as to say, 'this is not a jobs bill, it is a campaign marker'...for 2012.
But Mr. Brooks, in each of your examples citing Obama for not going far enough in his "change the politics of Washington," he has been thwarted by that "intransigent and mean" bunch of ideologues you yourself call the Republicans.
Your disappointment, Sir, is misdirected. It needs to take on those very members of your party who have held the country, and its capacity to confront its serious problems, hostage for too long.
You are not a "sap" for holding out hope for the kind of fundamental change that Obama promised in 2008, and the country overwhelmingly voted for. It is the country who has been taken in and sabotaged by your "intransigent and mean" ideologues...and finally the president, with his promise to veto any bill that does not increase taxes, has decided that enough is more than enough.
For you to continue to paint the president as the "bad guy" in the scenario of the last nearly three years is simply to cling to your "moderate Republican" heritage too tightly. You see the glass as half empty, whereas, given the odds he has had to fight, it is more accurate to see the glass as half-full...in the honourable American tradition of perceiving and pursuing plenty and not scarcity.
Perhaps, even you will find it in you to cast a vote for the moderate, mature and as unconventional as the situation permits incumbent when you go to the polls in 2012. And may there be millions of your party who see the wisdom of that vote for the health of your proud country.

Quebec's 25% principle...worth preserving

By Neil Reynolds, Globe and Mail, September 19, 2011
In the beginning, Canada was the merger of Quebec and Ontario: the United Province of Canada. Established by an act of the British government in 1840, this colonial alliance rested on a remarkably astute division of power. In its legislative assembly, population differences notwithstanding, Quebec (Canada East) and Ontario (Canada West) held an equal number of seats. The Act of Union guaranteed Quebec (population 697,084) 42 seats and Ontario (population 455,688) 42 seats. Naturally, Quebec proceeded to clamour for rep by pop, the American heresy that was sweeping northward across the border. Naturally, Ontario proceeded to resist it.

Thus Canadian history began in conflict over rep by pop, a conflict that continues to this day. The old questions remain. On the one hand, how important is the union? On the other, how essential to it is representative democracy? To what degree must the one be sacrificed to accommodate the other? Whatever the answer, rep by pop has irrevocably changed sides. In 1840, with 60 citizens for Ontario’s every 40, Quebec held half of the seats in the legislative assembly. Now, with 23 citizens for the rest of Canada’s every 77, Quebec holds a quarter of the seats in the House of Commons and must soon settle for fewer still.

In 1861, the decennial census reported a Quebec population of 1,111,566 and an Ontario population of 1,396,091. Abruptly, Ontario outnumbered Quebec by more than 250,000 people. With 44 per cent of the population, Quebec still held 50 per cent of the seats. Henceforth, Ontario would clamour for rep by pop; henceforth, Quebec would resist.
In April of 1861, Grit leader George Brown moved a radical opposition motion in the legislative assembly. “The representation of the people in Parliament should be based on population,” the motion read, “without regard to any separating line between [Ontario] and [Quebec].” For its part, the Tory government had no use for rep by pop – and regarded it, probably correctly, as a deal-breaker that would tear the union asunder. In an impassioned speech that lasted five hours, George-√Čtienne Cartier, co-premier with John A. Macdonald, defended Canada’s signature guarantee of equal political power, regardless of population, for Quebec and Ontario.

Macdonald himself joined the debate on the night of April 19, one week after Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter and launched the American Civil War. By contemporary press accounts, Macdonald delivered a memorable speech. Beginning at 11 p.m., he spoke for hours to uproarious Tory applause. So much, he essentially said, for the American experiment in rep by pop....
The old conflict will soon assert itself once again, this time perhaps more definitively than ever. Based on the 2011 census, the Harper government proposes to add 30 seats to the Commons, bringing the total to 338: 18 more for Ontario, five more for Alberta, seven more for British Columbia. This would reduce the proportion of Quebec seats from 25 per cent to 22 per cent. The questions now change a bit: When does Quebec confront and concede its existential decline in population and power? And without a 19th-century imperialist around, can the union survive democracy?

This aspect of Canadian nationhood, holding the union together at the expense of a population-based number of seats in the House of Commons, has served Canada well. The relationship between the federal government and the provincial governments, always a testy one, is barely mentioned, except in the context of increased the number of parliamentarians, and with respect to the proposed changes in the Senate.
We live in a micro-managing time when the fine print often trumps the larger principle. We seem to revel in our "accounting" obsession when it comes to a few dollars in the use of the challenger jets by the Head of the Defence Staff. We love to pick scabs from the secrets of all political parties for their indiscreet use of public funds; witness the Sponsorship Scandal, and the Mulroney debacle with the infamous Mr. Karlheinz Schreiber. It is not that these dollars do not matter; it is rather that our obsession with accounting takes our eyes off much larger questions, and compels us to a kind of addiction to the numbers.
There is a theme running through the current federal government that could be expressed thus: "for too long, eastern Canada has been the focus of the nation's attention, and now it is the west's turn for power."
However, the Ontario-Quebec "duality," "duet," "balance" or "equality" represented by the principle of the number of votes in the House of Commons, as a percentage of the total, rather than representation based on population is at the heart of this country's creation. Whether or not the current Prime Minister is unfamiliar with these elementary facts remains uncertain. That he seeks deliberately to fly in the face of them, with little or no regard for what could happen in Quebec, and in other provinces in support of Quebec, is obvious.
Declaring Quebec a "distinct nation" within the nation of Canada, by parliamentary bill is not, and will never be, a substitute for maintaining of the principle of Quebec's having 25% of the members of the House of Commons.
There is nothing sacred about the number 338; there is something unacceptable about holding to the formula that threatens the 25% principle. However, with his majority, the Prime Minister will push his "reforms" through the House, using whatever "logic" serves his purposes, while he trods, presumably knowingly, on the intent of one of his party's and the country's main, and for many, most important Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald and his principle of roughly equal numbers of seats for Ontario and Quebec to preserve the union.
To raise the number of seats in Quebec to the level that would preserve the 25% principle would neither bankrupt the country nor bring this divisive issue to the front pages. Nor would it sabotage the move to increase the number of seats in other provinces. To fail to do so will only exacerbate the tensions between Quebec and the rest of the country for what purpuse...a short term political goal of placating the Conservative base, one of the new features of the Canadian government's pursuit of permanent power, trumping history and in the process replacing it with personal ambition, not a sustainable equation for this country or any country.
We are not now, and were not conceived as, a replica of the United States. We do not wish to become, regardless of who occupies the Prime Minister's office, a replica of that country, for all the many attributes that we appreciate of our southern neighbour. And this kind of aggressive and insensitive grab for power, at the expense of our history is, and will be seen as, a thumbing of the nation's nose at the principle that has attempted, however marginally at times, to hold the tension in this centrifuge of a nation, without having bowed obsequiously to the demand from either side for strict representation by population.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A hymn to the Elderly...it's about time!

By Lillian Zimmerman, Globe and Mail, September 19, 2011
It’s time to face the fact that we really don’t like older people.

Yes, we have respectful phrases such as “senior citizens,” “elders” or “wise old women.” Before you assemble an assassination squad, I know we love and are devoted to our aging parents and grandparents. But as Dylan Thomas wrote about his elderly aunts who were “not wanted in the kitchen, or anywhere else for that matter,” we seem to be developing attitudes along those lines....
The negative phrase “dependency ratios” .....suggests that the growing number of aging people are dependent on younger ones. It’s a crude measurement dividing the number of those under 65 by the number over 65 . Yes, Canadian women now live to be 83 and men 77, with the gap narrowing somewhat. We are told and retold that, by 2031, a quarter of the population will be over 65, and it’s all discussed in the manner of an approaching disaster. It’s simply irrational to assume that all persons over 65 are sick or dependent on those under 65.

I don’t think such crises perspectives are warranted. As presented by popular culture, a number of issues regarding aging populations are virtually ignored:
Older people contribute to the economy.
Older people are generally healthier, living vigorous, productive lives

Older people pay taxes
Aging people do acquire chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes etc. Medical advances allow them to live satisfactory lives. There’s also the concept of “the compression of morbidity,” meaning that older people live longer as healthier persons until the last six months of life when medical expenses rise accordingly, mostly to those over 80.
Yes, older people may mean more medical expenditure. But a recent University of British Columbia study found that, with respect to demographic change and health care, it would increase spending by 1 per cent or less per year, projected to 2036.
It’s been conservatively estimated that the time, energy and money that older Canadians contribute to the economy may reach $5-billion annually. And that our public services would have to be substantially enlarged without their contributions.
Writing as a near septuagenarian, I find that Ms Zimmermann does not mention any of the really important reasons for our society to change its view about the elderly.
First, we are not shackled by the requirement, so seemingly stringent today, for political correctness. We can and do say what we mean, and really do not have to care much about "how the chips fall"...
That in itself is a strong reason for listening to the "greying demographic"....we just might have something to say about the hypocrisy that infects much of our political discourse today.
We also have a long history of experience from which to draw, available for the asking should any leader of any organization be courageous and willing to ask. There are small groups of retired executives who have formed small businesses advising younger business entrepreneurs. But the phenomenon is certainly "micro" in size and frequency.
We also, in that long history of our personal experience, have waded through many specific conflicts at work and in our private lives, including our many mistakes, that we hopefully have learned from. That experience would be available, as another community resource, should there be individuals and groups imaginative and courageous enough to ask.
We have seen a bucket full of changes, not only in technology, the current altar of choice for much of the society. And we are aware that much change can be shaped into a "good" rather than a "slippage" into a less "moral" or a less "strict" society. Our having lived through many changes equips us, probably better than most other generations to offer small bits of counsel to those open to that dialogue.
Of course, many of us have permanent parts in our hair, a slightly larger than we would like "tires" around our waist, and our gait is not as sprightly as it once was...but our minds have not become barnacled with mold, and our eyes and ears are neither blinded nor deaf and we do have a deep interest in engagement, should there be an openness to our potential contribution from those continuing to fight on in their own silos.
That $5 billion in contributions from the "grey demographic" could easily be $10B, because our rates have fallen in disuse.
Warehousing the elderly is such a blatant form of abuse, no matter how sumptuous the surroundings...and here's a toast to all those who resist, as long as possible, the shove to a cubicle in any of those facilities. Talk about wasting a renewable human resource!
























Sunday, September 18, 2011

The U.S.: a country with one hand clapping....the other tied behind her back

By Maureen Dowd, New York Times, September 17, 2011
There are two American archetypes that were sometimes played against each other in old Westerns.

The egghead Eastern lawyer who lacks the skills or stomach for a gunfight is contrasted with the tough Western rancher and ace shot who has no patience for book learnin’. ....
At the cusp of the 2012 race, we have a classic cultural collision between a skinny Eastern egghead lawyer who’s inept in Washington gunfights and a pistol-totin’, lethal-injectin’, square-shouldered cowboy who has no patience for book learnin’.

Rick Perry, from the West Texas town of Paint Creek, is no John Wayne, even though he has a ton of executions notched on his belt. But he wears a pair of cowboy boots with the legend “Liberty” stitched on one. (As in freedom, not Valance.) He plays up the effete-versus-mesquite stereotypes in his second-grade textbook of a manifesto, “Fed Up!”
Trashing Massachusetts, he writes: “They passed state-run health care, they have sanctioned gay marriage, and they elected Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Barney Frank repeatedly — even after actually knowing about them and what they believe! Texans, on the other hand, elect folks like me. You know the type, the kind of guy who goes jogging in the morning, packing a Ruger .380 with laser sights and loaded with hollow-point bullets, and shoots a coyote that is threatening his daughter’s dog.”
At a recent campaign event in South Carolina, Perry grinned, “I’m actually for gun control — use both hands.”
Traveling to Lynchburg, Va., to speak to students at Liberty University (as in Falwell, not Valance), Perry made light of his bad grades at Texas A&M.
Studying to be a veterinarian, he stumbled on chemistry and made a D one semester and an F in another. “Four semesters of organic chemistry made a pilot out of me,” said Perry, who went on to join the Air Force.
While eloquently illustrating the divide in American politics, Ms. Dowd seems to indicate that the divide is merely between those who value learning, education, and complexity and those who champion "dumbness". Having spent four years working on the U.S. "frontier" in the late 90's, I learned a thing or two about this divide.
It does indeed have a learning and reading and grades component, and it does indeed posit the effete "east" against the "gun-toting west"....but it goes much farther than that.
This stereotypical divide of the archetypes can be found in the religious divide that has ripped the country apart: those who believe in a literal and absolute reading of scripture, and those who take a more metaphoric and poetic reading, especially of the "laws" for human living aspect of the Holy Writ.
There is, it would appear, two different christian Gods under pinning these two archetypes. One is a compassionate, inclusive and supportive God whose chief characteristic is agape love (from the East). The other is a stern, cold, rugged individualistic God who demands harsh judgement of his disciples especially those who are "not saved" in a "born again" definition of salvation (from the west).
And of course, with (only a male) God as the model, there are two distinctly different definitions of masculinity at war in the political arena. One seeks to work "with" all voices, and all opinions to create a compromise that can be accepted to various positions. Another seeks to impose a strict reading of the limits of government, thereby (supposedly) enabling a maximum "freedom" for the citizen, submits to black and white pledges (against all tax increases, for example) and refuses anything looking or smelling like compromise. In fact, compromise is considered a "sell-out" to the enemy.
There is a deep and profound historical component to the divide also. It says, and the history of the U.S. demonstrates, that only a fight to the death will generate a win, on the battlefield, in the corporate boardroom, in the war of ideology, and in the race to world supremacy, another form of "winning" that must include the elimination of  the opponent. Just listen to the sideline banter at a football game, with the players bragging about "takin'-him-out" as their contribution to the war effort.
The country, both sides, have engaged in a battle for world supermacy, and have inculcated that war into the language of their curricula from a very early age. Kids know who the enemy of the U.S. is/was/and will be. They know that the U.S. is in a war for jobs, for dominance in world affairs, for the pursuit of profit and all forms of money, for retributive justice as opposed to rehabilitative justice, for the "right religion" as opposed to the "heathens and apostates" at the other church (depending on church membership, that opponent could be any of the major Christian, and more recently Muslim churches).
This is a Manichean perspective that allows only two options: the good and the bad. And this perspective reduces every American to a binary existence at every moment of every day, in every situation. It perpetuates a childhood simplicity that is fogged over by "the veneer of polite and sincere greetings and small talk" that greases the public discourse.
It reduces all people to either parent or child, eliminating the adult in the triangle.
It reduces all people to "Americans" or "aliens" while the hypocritical shout from the Statue of Liberty asks for all the dispossed and the poor and the sick to come to America's shores.
It reduces the discussion to either hope or fear, when contemplating how to frame public debate.
It reduces the analysis of human beings, and corporations to "rich" and successful or "poor" and unsuccessful.
It reduces the categories of students from "A" to "failures" or "those winning scholarships to the best universities" versus " those granted admission by only the state universities".
It is not that Obama cannot engage in a Washington gun fight and win; it is that he choses to attempt the impossible, to make it possible for a breakthrough on this "manichean" and ultimately self-destructive political "war" mentality.
He is not fighting only for his agenda, in the short run; he is also fighting for a vision of the country that includes multiple versions of "grey", along with a masculine-feminine definition of God, and an acceptance of both straight and gay people, and a vision of leading that includes participating in the background (as in Libya), and that includes both clarity and ambiguity.
Real men can actually perceive, accept and not be defeated by ambiguity, even in political debates.
Real men can and actually do cry, as witnessed in the Jacqueline Kennedy tapes at the Cuban missile crisis.
Real men can and do embrace uncertainty, and a position of questioning, as opposed to one of the totality of knowing what is the only right path.
Real men can and do have faith, while sustaining a healthy dose of scepticism about many issues within that faith.
Real men can and do refuse to wear a gun on their hips, because they do not subscribe to the notion that arms make one safe.
Real men can and do value education, learning and complex and even informed thinking and reading, without losing sight of the need to act.
Real men can embrace the strengths of their female partners, and even champion their leadership in all fields, without sacrificing their character, or their strengths in their own areas of expertise.
Real men do not need to shout, and to make others cower, in order to make their point.
And real men embrace a society of inclusion, complexity, poetry, music, and art, without sacrificing their capacity to act in strong and disciplined initiatives when required.
It is time for the U.S. to hold a national funeral for Manicheanism, put a torch on the grave and make it a national monument....demonstrating the removal of this intellectual, psychological and philosophical trap that reduces much of the country's perceptions to much less than the reality that is available.
This impoverishment of the education system, of the media coverage, and of the political debate, and the people engaged in all pursuits is seriously damaging the potential of all Americans, and of the country generally.
And we all need a strong, complex, inclusive, sensitive and sensible United States of America to help forge the many complex resolutions to the many complex problems we all face. And we need them now.