Friday, October 31, 2014

Political disease of narcissism infecting both Washington and Ottawa

There is a political disease that seems to have crept into the body politic in both Canada and the
United States...oh it has been here for a while now, and periodically someone rails against it, almost as one would a spike in abdominal pain from an unknown intruder, and then, after some antibiotics, the pain subsides, and whatever caused it, the urgency of the problem dissipates with the pain.
Normally, with a medical pain, lodged within a single human abdomen, and carried along the spine to the brain, the individual ponders the potential, walks with it for a few days or weeks, until it returns and then, (perhaps sooner if the patient is a female) decides its time to ask the doctor to help find the source of the pain.
However, in the case of the body politic, there is no single 'brain' or consciousness that considers the problem anything more than symptomatic of a cluster of potential causes....there is no specific test to determine the degree of severity of the political disease. There is no literature that would take into account the kind of political culture that has bred this disease. There is no doctoral research grant from a funding philanthropy that consider the problem worthy of the expenditure of making a grant available for a vetted research candidate. The media thrives and depends for its very survival on the
"pain spikes" that provide opportunity for their reporters to write the headline-grabbing story of a single angry political candidate, or even a single angry political pundit. Sales of newspapers and ratings for television news, and even U-Tube viewings...all spike, predictably a few days following the rant, as others climb on the "band-wagon-of the-day" as if that were a legitimate and responsible response from a serious and engaged citizen, especially in a democracy that depends for its very vitality and survival on such people. The needs, however, of a serious democracy are quite literally antithetical to the needs of the news corporations whose scribes (fewer and fewer) are deployed to provide the "fault line" between the two vector forces: government and shareholders who demand dividends.
The democracy requires reporters who are willing to risk the wrath of their editors, and their boards of directors, when they uncover information that suggests the body politic is severely ill. It also depends on the candidacies of men and women whose primary and almost single goal and purpose in letting their name stand for election is to generate information, debate and discussion in the public arena about the merits and demerits of specific proposals without regard for their own political careers.
However, over the last three decades, although conceivably longer, we have witnessed a stream of political candidates whose political life, but certainly not their public utterances, demonstrate a single-minded commitment even compulsion to seeking, acquiring and sustaining their membership in the elected portion of the government.
We are watching on both sides of the 49th parallel, a charade that demonstrates this theatre of chicanery.
In the United States, Republicans running for election (or in most cases re-election) have decided and declared that the real enemy is Barack Obama, the same president whose policies they have derailed (except the Affordable Care Act, passed with the Democrats had a majority in both The House of Representatives and the Senate) and now they decry his "failure of leadership" as the mantra by which to seduce their voters into turfing whatever Democratic candidates they are running against. Republic Governors seeking re-election, some of them eyeing the White House as the next step in their political careers, even use the Ebola epidemic of West Africa, as another example of the incompetency of the Obama administration, and impose quarantine restrictions on returning medical workers, when there is no evidence of symptoms, and no scientific evidence that those workers are a danger to anyone.
Good politics, perhaps, if you are bent on gaining personal power, but clearly another of the many scare-tactics that they deploy to compound the angst that is already so extant in the hinterland, for so many other reasons, including an economic recovery that still has not addressed the minimum wage issue nor the gaping and growing gap in income disparity. When asked if in the election upcoming on Tuesday of next week, upon being re-elected himself and the Republicans took control of the Senate in addition to the House of Representatives, Senate Minority leader McConnell would work to undermine everything the president tried to get accomplished in his last two years, McConnell responded that he wanted only to "work for the American people". Nancy Cordiss, the CBS respected and highly professional reporter asking the questions, let McConnell off the hook and did not press him for a more specific and detailed (and clearly not forthcoming) response.
It was that same McConnell who declared when Obama was first elected, that his goal and that of the Republicans in both Houses was to "make Obama a one-term president"...a goal that he and the Republicans failed to achieve. Republicans, however, are clear that they would, if given power in both houses, declare a "green light" to the Keystone pipeline, so eagerly and narcissistically sought by their financial backers in the oil patch, thereby vacuuming even more cash from the pockets and vaults of those backers for this election.
In Canada, a different and perhaps even more "crass" strategy has just been announced by the Prime Minister, one full year ahead of the next federal election. He has announced a child support payment for all children up to age 6 of $160 per month.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has unveiled a package of family-focused tax cuts worth nearly $27-billion over six years that will shape the political debate heading into the 2015 election campaign.
The combined measures are worth about $4.6-billion a year and include income splitting for families with children under 18 and an expansion of the Universal Child Care Benefit, which delivers monthly cheques to families.
The Universal Child Care Benefit was a key pledge of the Conservatives’ 2006 platform, and delivers $100 cheques every month to families for each child under six. The government announced on Thursday that the monthly amount will rise to $160. Also, parents with children aged 6 to 17 would begin receiving monthly cheques worth $60 for each child in that category. (Harper boosts monthly child benefit, unveils income splitting plan, by Bill Curry and Steven Chase, The Globe and Mail, October 30, 2014)
Having fought with the federal bureaucracy, cutting well over 10,000 jobs and gutting some essential services in information gathering at Statistics Canada and environmental protection, using the argument that austerity is required to recover from the financial crisis of 2008-9, while all the while feathering the consulting job opportunities for Conservative-government acolytes, Harper is now facing a sizeable "surplus" at least half of which he is now spending to seduce Canadian middle class families into voting with the government in October 2015. His and his government's retaining of power is the agenda that drives this announcement and all other announcements that will flow forth like the hot lava threatening a small town on the main island of Hawaii, threatening the survival of the democratic organism that attempts to continue to pulse in Ottawa.
And the shape of the debate that Harper has imposed is one that has to respond to his proposals, reducing the opposition parties to keeping the cash-cow "giving the milk of political largesse" in order to compete on a playing field that the politicians need for their own narcissism, rather than the country needing to improve the lives of our people.
This argument is not to denigrate support for child care, especially when too many parents make wages that do not permit them to afford high-quality, reliable, trustworthy child care. However, the Madison Avenue gurus of slick and targeted advertising have so seduced their political clients of the benefits (to those very clients) of such measures, that they too are part of the gravy train that is blocking the flow of healthy political oxygen at the heart of the democracy. Between the K-Street lobbyists (most of them retired or defeated members of the Capitol Hill Club, and the Madison Avenue gurus, now linked to and enmeshed with the social media whiz-kids, funded by their corporate cheque-writing financial mentors, who are effectively running both countries.
And we all thought Russia was and has been for decades one of the most corrupt governments on the planet. Rich oligarchs have made off with the cookie jar, following the demise of the Soviet Union, and the results have not been "pretty" for the Russian people who do not have gigantic offshore bank accounts or real estate holdings. And the vote is clearly much more rigged in Moscow than it is in either Washington or Ottawa. However, how far behind are both North American countries?
As citizen participants in our own governments, we have to wake up to the chicanery and the blatant and manipulative strategies, words, actions that we are being fed by our political class, tell them it is less nourishing and more dangerous that a steady diet of Big Mac's and Coke, and let them know that their personal political futures are not the most important issue facing either country.
We are going to suffocate in our own Carbon Dioxide, lose our coastlines and our capacity to grow food, and slide deeper into the slime of the menus of the politicians if we are not courageous enough to purge both their agenda and even their names from the elected "oligarchy" we are quickly generating in both our capitals.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Education about the role and status of women key to resolving the conflict betwen Islam and the west

It was David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist just returned from the Middle East, and appearing on CBS's Face the Nation with guest host Charley Rose this morning, who warned of the ticking clock in the attempt to secure the support of Sunni tribal leaders in western Iraq to join what amounts to a Sunni National Guard force of some 5000 to fight ISIS in Iraq. Ignatius reports that there is growing impatience in both Lebanon and Jordan, with the apparently protracted time line evident in the U.S. delivery on its agenda to train and develop an indigenous Sunni force to counter the ISIS Sunni threat.
Ignatius made an even more important and timely observation when he strongly advocated a U.S. allocation of resources to fundamentally change fundamentally the education of young Muslims from one in which they are indoctrinated with contempt for Jews and the "west" to one that seeks to develop an appreciation of both among young Muslim children. While noting that the "fight" with bombs and missiles and technology and training is important, Ignatius also cautions that without a profound change in the education, attitudes and beliefs among young Muslims, the fighting itself, even including "boots on the ground," will not be adequate to defeat this scourge.
Also appearing on the same Face the Nation, CBS Middle East reporter, Clarissa Ward, noted that recruitment of new terrorists by the ISIS leadership is no longer generated by Imams working in Mosques, but rather is being accomplished through internet connections with people already deeply engaged in the ISIS ideology and committed to its growth. One of the implications of this private and highly secret radicalization, including the fact that parents frequently do not and will not know their children are being transformed into terrorists, is that intelligence services, too, will find it very difficult to learn about who is becoming radicalized, and what that radicalization is likely to lead to in terms of actions planned at home or abroad.
Clearly, nations like Canada, where broad daylight assassinations of two military personnel took place this week, one using an auto as the murder weapon, the other a 30/30 Winchester rifle, are struggling with the question of both surveillance of potential terrorists and intervening to prevent actions not yet committed and perhaps not yet even planned. We learned this week, from excellent reporting by Adrienne Arsenault of CBC, that the RCMP and the Canadian Intelligence Service both consider the removal of a Passport as a sign of failure, because when the situation has reached that point, with the potential terrorist having approached the final decision to leave the home country and join ISIS in Iraq or Syria, and now having been discovered and having the Passport revoked, the young radicalized terrorist wannabee is angry and  has no place to go. What he does with that anger and that "restriction" is potentially quite dangerous.
The broadcast of the turbulent background of the Ottawa terrorist wannabee, including his frequent encounters with the law, his rejection and dismissal from an Islamic mosque, his life of illicit drugs, and his grasping whatever parts of the Islamic ideology that served his purpose of holding his life "together" would, one might hope, point a light into the kind of ne'er-do-well who turns to radical Islam and terrorism as a way of finding an identity, when most other paths have failed to achieve that goal. Unemployed, confused, desperate, penniless, friendless and without either direction or purpose, this man could  become the poster-child for what not to do with one's life, including not permitting the overtures of ISIS recruitment agents to seduce him into a life of violence and hate.
It was a group of women activists appearing on SunNews Television in Canada last night, as part of the premier airing of a new documentary entitled, "Honour Diaries," who shared their experiences as women in the Islamic world. One notable comparison comes from Iran, where according to one of the women activists, a woman is literally considered precisely one-half as valuable as a man, and her testimony in court is also considered to be of only one-half the value of the testimony of a man.
The documentary outlined the incidence of Female Genital Mutilation, a tribal tradition in Africa that has been imported into the Muslim faith in many countries. Arranged marriages to young girls is another of the human rights issues these women are trying to bring into the public consciousness as a beginning of a process to put an end to them. There is little doubt that at the core of the many issues that divide the world's population around the headlines generated by the radical Islamic jihadi movement is the role and status and the human rights of women: whether they are beaten, covered, accompanied in public, educated, mutilated, or even considered fully equal members of society with men.
This documentary exposed the failure of the western feminist movement to align with the women activists whose work has generated this documentary: "We have never been approached by western feminists offering support for the cause of women's human rights," were the words of one participant in the discussion that accompanied the airing of the documentary. One potential reason for this failure to support is that western feminists do not wish to be considered Islamophobes if they offer support for Muslim women in their pursuit of what the west considers normal human rights. And so, fearing for the loss of their own reputation, they abandon the opportunity to join a legitimate struggle courageously undertaken by mostly Muslim women who refuse to be shackled by their male cohorts and who are willing to risk considerable punishment for their bravery in openly confronting this issue.
If the attitude, and the failure to join these Muslim women activists, on the part of western feminists is or can be an analogy for the potential of western governments to engage in an even deeper and more threatening transformation of the education of Islam's millions of young people (threatening that is to the status quo and the misogyny it upholds) then we will wait a long time for governments like that of the United States and Canada to begin to pour human and financial resources into a campaign that would seek, as one of its primary results, the moderation or even the termination of misogyny and the triumph of equality and respect for the 51% of the Islamic world's population that is female.
This is not a religious ideology that seeks to bring about equality between the genders in global society; it is, certainly and without question, a human rights issue, and not merely a women's human rights issue, but one that confronts both men and women everywhere. It is not a political ideology that seeks and espouses gender equality in all countries; it is not a military ideology, nor an economic ideology, because in the first instance, ISIS welcomes female recruits and in the second, the emancipation of women from the chains that shackle them to their male "masters" (first their fathers, and their brothers, and then their husbands, and finally their sons) would inevitably result in the unleashing of an economic and political force that would, without doubt, generate tidal waves of both political and economic activity still hidden in the caves of the minds of millions of Islamic men.
And so, just as ISIS is giving a very bad name to Islam, so bad that Imams were filmed at the War Memorial in Ottawa yesterday laying flowers and decrying the actions of the terrorist in murdering the Canadian soldier and being embraced by Canadians who found the moment emotionally moving and reassuring, so too are the Islamic terrorists giving a very bad name to the male gender.
And as men interested in the achievement of gender equality in real and verifiable terms, (not in the terms that tip the pendulum so far to the feminine that the men become "mist" in the distance,) western men too have to speak out against the view of both men and women from the perspective of the radical Islamic terrorists and to those among any faith community that continues to perpetuate a superior/inferior view of men to women, including those among the right-wing in the Christian community. Male superiority, male dominance, male exclusivity, male power .....these are all matters for deep and profound reflection among all nations and peoples of the world.
No longer is it viable, nor was it ever, to argue that because Jesus was a man, and his disciples were all male, that women are barred from activity ministry, from holding clergy offices including priest, bishop, and even Archbishop and Pope. No longer is it viable, nor was it ever, to argue that because women are the "weaker sex"  all sexual encounters between men and women are primarily or even normally determined by the male, the bearer of "excess testosterone" as many angry feminists would have it. No longer is it viable, nor was it ever, for a woman who heartily consents to a sexual relationship, to cry "foul" and publicly demand punishment for the former partner, when that relationship ends, regardless of which party initiated the termination. Women, if they really seek gender equality, have to accept their full responsibility for all sexual relationships to which they consent. No longer is it viable, nor was it ever, to argue that women are the automatic victims of all sexual encounters, when we all know that western men have been socialized and "educated" into the belief that a woman's "No" means just that!
It is a very small minority of men who contravene that belief, and they are to be rightly judged and punished for their abuse. However, just as the Muslim world has enshrined the pendulum's swing far too far to the side of men, and the abuse that that brings, so too the Christian world has much to account for and to atone for in its too easy and ready compliance with the "weaker" gender theory, which is after all, little more than another form of patronization of women.
If we are to strive, legitimately, for full and responsible equality of the genders, in Christian, Jewish and Muslim relationships, as well as those relationships between men and women of no faith belief, then the question of the relationship between men and women will have to be critically examined, openly debated and both negotiated and legislated from a basis of full and equal participation in the narrative that undertakes that goal. And the Christian segment of the world's population will have to make fundamental and transformative shifts in the current acceptable "unequal" relationships enshrined in its phoney protection of the "weaker" female gender, as will the Muslim world have to examine critically, openly debate and change the power structure in its homes and communities in the other direction.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Reflections on a day of infamy in Canada's capital

Ottawa became the centre of the western news machine on Wednesday this week, when a reservist, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, standing unarmed while guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was shot and killed in cold blood. Words like senseless, horrific, cowardly and even despicable have been used to attempt to characterize the event which became prelude to another exchange of bullets inside the Hall of Parliament, perpetrated by the same shooter at the War Memorial. Early reports attribute the death of the terrorist to the Sargeant-at-Arms, the man charged with protecting parliament and parliamentarians, with the help of both the RCMP and the Ottawa police.
Canada lost whatever innocence still remained on Wednesday. We were mostly content to act as if the troubles in the Middle East, while distasteful and even tragically dangerous, as well as those in Afghanistan in which Canadian soldiers were fully engaged, could and would be “contained” in those theatres and would not likely be something we would have to face on our home soil. There have been hints of trouble when the ‘gang of 18’ were arrested and tried for a plot to attack parliament and behead the prime minister. There were also news stories of those who allegedly were planning to attack the rail system between Canada and New York city. However, having a history and a culture that demonstrate a relatively weak military, a public image of “politeness” in the extreme, including the penchant for apologies when we might have cause the slightest of offense, we had cocooned our national psyche from having to confront both our own national anger and the potential that others, both inside and outside our borders, could and would harbour enmity to our people and our institutions.

Even our most heated discussions and debates, within our government and in the public media are restrained when compared with both the exchanges in the U.S. and in Great Britain. We pride ourselves in our “likeability” a trait both over-rated by too many Canadians who prefer its co-dependent features and who believe that by not confronting an offender we are keeping the “peace, order and good government” enshrined in our constitution.
However, we have been deluding ourselves, for decades, if not more than a century.  And the current government of Stephen Harper, a neo-con who has been compared with the United States’ Tea Party for his extreme conservative law and order agenda, is aggressively pursuing a policy of deep engagement in the battle against ISIS. Our F-18 Fighter Jets will begin flying within days in the skies over Iraq, bombing whatever ISIS targets they can find, We are a nation of bountiful resources, large tracts of land and the most fresh water of any country in the world. Our land is filled with minerals, among the most abundant anywhere; our land grows enough grain to elevate our country to the top of the list of exporters of wheat; we grow our own meat and many of our vegetables and fruits in a relatively short growing season. We are deeply engaged in trade with the United States, with approximately $2 billion in goods crosses the largest undefended border in the world.

Reflecting on this event that shook Canada to the core, it could easily seem that all national borders have become irrelevant if not evaporated, when considering the potential “containment” of the radical Islamic agenda of a world-wide caliphate.
No matter the previous injustices experienced by people like the perpetrator of yesterday’s slaughter, and no matter whether his radicalization came at the invitation and nourishment of others, or was consummated in the seclusion of his own private encounters with the nefarious sources on the Internet, he still became the “martyr” in his own life tragedy. The convergence of private anger, even hatred and contempt for all things “western” including the admitted “hypocrisy” of which other jihadists often complain, and a publicly articulated global jihad that hints of self-righteous moral indignation and reeks of the most profound evil known to human history, came bursting out of that rifle in Ottawa yesterday.

What has been unleashed in too many countries is the unrestricted, increasingly well-funded, highly disciplined and extremely inhumane poison of a dangerous chemical cocktail of narcissism, anger, bigotry, alienation and the opportunity to achieve infamy, when all normal and mature and responsible and even spiritual avenues appear to have closed. The tiny window of “engagement” through which three women from Denver slid in their race to join ISIS in Syria, a race thwarted by the concern of their parents to the authorities who arrested them in Germany on Wednesday, and hundreds of other wannabee jihadists have flown mostly under the radar of the most massive intelligence apparatus in history, is the window all western nations are attempting to close.
However, unless and until we dig deeper into the profound and inexcusable angst on which this jihad feeds, and continue at least on the public radar to engage primarily in open hostility with the forces of Islamic jihad, we will find ourselves with more ugly headlines like those coming from Ottawa yesterday, and more dead public servants, with higher and higher profiles granting the perpetrators a moment of infamy and a personal martyrdom, while also enriching the recruitment efforts of the Islamic jihadi movements, in all of its faces and forms.

This human “virus” is deadly, and morphing into whatever form it needs to stay alive and is galloping across the most “friendly” lands, outside national boundaries, outside the world of public institutions and threatening to cripple our most treasured values and institutions.
The Prime Minister has often parsed "sociology" from "criminology" in a vain attempt to reduce his government's responsibility to the enactment of punitive laws, imprisonment through longer and more strict sentencing without even a nod to the conditions of individual human lives which too often culminate in acts of violence, whether they can be characterized as terror or not. The culture of violence, including excessive cyber-bullying that too often results in adolescent suicide, the widening gap between the have's and the have-not's, and the society's growing capacity and willingness to render the "misfits" as a criminal problem rather than one demanding the attention and resources of multiple agents, including but not restricted to law enforcement, while much more complex than would be addressed by the passage of laws, nevertheless has to be considered when attempting to grapple with "terrorism" from a national perspective.

We all know and expect that this government will peremptorily enact more strict laws on "prohibitive arrests" with a view to nipping terror in the bud. We also know that some enhanced security measures will be in force in the near future on parliament hill. However, as a nation that has and will continue to hold both individual freedom and respect for the individual, as well as profound respect for our national institutions, we have to be vigilant, as citizens, in our "oversight" of the actions of parliament, especially one that could and would readily seize an opportunity provided by this event to tighten the law enforcement "fist" that would ensnare us all.

We are never going to eliminate the psychologically unstable from our society; nor are we ever going to tolerate fully mental illness as we do physical illness given the complexity and mystery that clouds much of our "understanding" of mental illness. It was the New York Times in an editorial that differentiated a political ideology as motivator of this terrorist from a "scaffold" to contain an unravelling life. Highly sophisticated discernment is something we have come to expect and appreciate from this highly respected news organ. And so long as a free and articulate and courageous fourth estate is able to operate without government or corporate warping to an imposed ideology, and so long as a people continue to grow both a consciousness and a willingness to participate in the daily even hourly events taking place within their borders, we can have some confidence that, while we will not even ensure complete safety from such heinous acts, we will keep their number and their severity low enough to maintain a healthy balance between individual liberty and national security, even in a period of history in which those in government might wish to over-reach in the discharge of their constitutional duties.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bullies and drivers....reflections on leadership in today's culture

I have noticed a trend over the last few days and weeks, perhaps you have too, in which people who are what I would and do call "control freaks," those who demand that their will be and remain the will of the group or they will cause "trouble," are never called out on their controlling behaviour, attitude and actions, but are treated the way sailors treat a head wind, by organizational "tacking"....That is, those who are experiencing the "controlling"  behaviour which inevitably results in friction, hard feelings and resentment, if not complete withdrawal, call a meeting to discuss the general topic of "tensions" without addressing the source of the problem. Rather than a head-to-head meeting of a single person, representing the "recipient" group and the offender, the gathering of a number of people to talk about how the mend bruised or even wounded feelings, with the offender present, presents a much more complex and potentially productive outcome to the "problem".
However, the method also carries with it a potentially negative outcome, should the "offender" either not notice the core meaning and purpose of the meeting, or having noticed both the core and purpose, take extreme offense, and either withdraw or become even more obstreperous.
Implicit in the tacking method of course is the acknowledgement that this "ship" is facing strong head winds. On the sea, or fresh-water lake, wind is a natural expectation. It blows when the conditions are right, in the direction dictated by the regional pressure high and low atmospheric pressure zones. Sailors are neither offended nor estranged by its presence. They know that without it, there is no sailing and their voyage, whether a relaxed day-trip or an intense race, or a protracted voyage of several days, is stalled.
The "intervention" tacking meeting is considered by those participating to be an act of diplomatic leadership, providing an opportunity for a set of issues to be "aired" without any person having to bear the burden either of the friction or of the fact that the meeting has been called to "smooth the rough edges" of the controller. And indeed, having taken the issue out of the realm of personality, and designed an agenda of action that envisions a new way of doing business, incorporating the "buy-in" of the offender to the new procedures and even protocols, that could well prove to be a significant enhancement upon the current situation. Also, all participants in the meeting are given an opportunity to express their point-of-view, without prejudice or judgement, and the potential of the inclusion of the implications of that view to be incorporated into the new ways of operating.
No one is in danger of having an entry made onto their personnel file. No one is in danger of punishment or retribution for behaviour that the majority agree is, and likely has been for a considerable length of time, offensive. And, probably, the new way of operating, if all "buy into it," will provide time to observe whether or not the offending behaviour is amended.
Through this method, rather than some kind of surgical act, in organizational terms, such as a time-out with or without pay, a transfer to another department, a reprimand with an entry into the personnel file, an extended leave of absence to reflect on the issue of how one "gets along" in the organization, or some other obvious and targeted move that brings the issue to a "head," a process of peer intervention replaces the "one-on-one" supervision of a superior.
This is especially effective and probably necessary in volunteer organizations where the "line of authority" is blurred at best and absent at worst. The tacking initiative is deployed when all are literally and metaphorically equals, with no single person in charge, and all responsible for the effective execution of a single project, depending on the resources of several "integrated" resources. This approach, obviously requiring both more skill and more planning than riding a tail wind, for example, or even adjusting to a cross-wind, also spreads the responsibility across more than one set of shoulders, as it requires a culture of trust among those taking the initiative either to call a meeting formally or to bring the subject up in an informal setting which might present itself spontaneously.
Sometimes, too, this "tacking" initiative is required when the offending "controller" has authority over and is not perceiving him or herself to be dependent on the support of those in a "service" capacity to their needs. And in such a situation, those in  supportive roles simply have to join together in some unofficial and unstructured and amorphous group to bring the issue forward, in order to avoid direct confrontation with the offending "superior".
It was Vice-president Joe Biden who articulated, early in his own presidential bid, that bigotry has grown considerably in its sophistication. No longer are racial slurs merely delivered by fists, or pistols, but they are contained with highly deceptive attitudes, body language and even in the wording of laws that are designed to discriminate, while pretending to "curb abuse" for example of the right to vote in the U.S. So, in a parallel manner, it could be argued that "discipline" has metamorphosed into various forms of confrontation all of them much more sophisticated that that proverbial "encounter" in the principal's office of an elementary or a secondary school, when one has " broken a rule" or committed a misconduct.
In both cases, however, the tacking initiative, and in the racially charged but deceptive laws and attitudes, one is prompted to ask, "Are we moving into a situation in which only indirect communication is either effective or preferred?" We all know that physical punishment, the kind that teachers and principals used to administer with a strap or even a yard stick (today a metre stick) had limited impact on those recipients who, while knowing they had done something "wrong" were unlikely to be persuaded that the "authority" had done something "right" in the administration of punishment.
At the core of many of our public disturbances today is the issue of how the law enforcement agents are to do their jobs, and how they are expected to do those jobs. Community policing, for example, is envisioned as a kind of preventive initiative, of the "tacking" kind, prior to the initiation and accumulation of a series of acts over which most law enforcement agencies would have limited power to control. However, while prevention of street atrocities is clearly preferred to after-the-fact over-the-top interventions of police violence, are there a growing number of occasions in which people in all organizations need to step up to confront, however diplomatically and "professionally" rather than "bullying" or sniping through gossip, those situations that seem offensive? Or are we becoming a culture of sensing offense sooner and more profoundly given the tsunami of both positive and negative information, both from news sources, and from our own organizations which have also grown highly sensitive to criticism from within and without, and not finding supporting resources to smooth the potholes along the workday highway.
In an address to a service club, well over two decades ago, I termed an executive of my acquaintance a "bully" and explained his brutish behaviour to his workers, with whom I had been consulting. Immediately following the meeting, one member approached me, to correct my characterization: "You mean he is a 'driver'," were the words that spewed from his mouth.
"No, I meant that he was and is a bully to his staff!" was my retort.
Getting things done, the quality attributed to those whose physical accomplishments rest like trophies in communities across this country, is not accompanied by the histories of those people who refused to be "bullied" or refused to be manipulated by those "drivers/bullies". Their stories remain dormant, unless and until some researcher digs into the oral history of the "project" and discovers and then discloses the offenses that were caused by those so determined to complete their accomplishment that they were immune to having offended anyone.
And the differences between the nation's operating rooms, and it cockpits, from its volunteer organizations and even in the board rooms of its corporations seems to be shrinking. We seem to have many people who need to be pilots and too few who are comfortable with serving as air-crew...and increasingly the air-crew among us (among whose numbers this scribe counts himself) feel less than welcome in 'airing' their personal grievances or even in finding situations and support for such airings.
There is a long-standing saying about life being a journey not a destination. Your journey compliments and enriches my journey, if only I am willing to be patient and peaceful enough to listen to its unfolding. And that, if we are working on a common project, will take some considerable time, depending more on my willingness to listen and to appreciate than on your willingness to disclose. Each and every act, word, raised or lowered eye-brow, every gesture and sigh, each guffaw and yawn...they are all part of your story and also of mine. And when people of similar mind and heart come together for an honourable purpose, getting to know you is much more important, in the long run, than whether or not the project is perfect and finished exactly on time and budget.
However, if we are compressed by our perceptions of the needs of the culture, the organization or the department in which we work, into an atmosphere of either the operating room or the cockpit of a jet airliner, then getting to know you has to be shoved down the list, in order to accomplish the task at hand, especially if danger is being reported on our shared technology.
And discerning the difference between most situations and the cockpits of professional pilots is a skill for which no degree is granted, and no honour earned. It is nevertheless, much like parenting, one of the more important hurdles for each of us to mount if we are to leave a civilized culture for our grandchildren.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Laurie Garrett: "I think our biggest challenge in the U.S. is hubris" (PBS interview on Ebola)

It was almost shocking to hear a guest on the PBS Newshour last night, one steeped in the intricate details of the Ebola crisis, diagnose the biggest problem facing America over this crisis as
Laurie Garrett is a Fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, and has been writing about the relationship between what are termed medical crises and their impact on the effectiveness of states to function.
Here is a quote from her interview with Judy Woodruff from the program last night:

LAURIE GARRETT: I think our biggest challenge in the United States is hubris. We have consistently heard and said — and, by the way, it’s not just the government saying this. It’s been all the public health associations, the American Medical Association, all the major physician groups and so on — for quite some time saying, look, what’s going on over there in Africa is the result of inadequate health systems, poor hygiene and so on. It wouldn’t be like that here in America. We know how to do this.
And I think it is kind of a smug attitude. And it’s very similar and reminiscent to a similar smug sense of self-assurance that dictated the response Canada had to the arrival of SARS in the Toronto hospital system in 2003.
When you contrast how quickly Vietnam in its poverty managed to control SARS in 2003, compared to how long — it just kept coming back again and again in the hospital system in Toronto — it shows that there’s a certain arrogance that happens with technology. We sort of think, well, we have this high-tech equipment, we can stop it.
But there’s a lot more to stopping the spread of a virus than just high-tech equipment.
There is not only cogent truth in her statement but also extreme danger.
The world can thank the Americans for many things, among them a buoyant spirit and level of hope in the midst of dark times that can keep the discussion going long after many other participants would have become exhausted. It is their ebullience and their history not only of military (revolutionary) actions but their celebration of the "warriors" of those engagements that undergirds their national consciousness. The Americans, one could argue, suffer from a surfeit of  self-confidence. It is evident not only in the public statements of their CDC leaders starting back in August that "we can and will contain this virus" to their military commanders believing that they can and will destroy  ISIS with their bombs, missiles and superior intelligence. Their athletic stars believe, and are drilled into a full assimiliation of the belief, that they will win each and every game. The attitude is so prevalent that, should anyone express honest doubt about the outcome of a "game," s/he is alienated from the inner circle of those about to take to the field.
Winning, in all of its many forms, shapes and sizes, is something that infuses all actions of all Americans no matter how dire the circumstances they face, except that such an addiction to winning and to preserving the American tradition of winning inevitably blinds many of their citizens to the fullness of the reality they face.
Championing their "best" military, and "best" health care system and "best" school system, and "largest"economy, and "most productive" work force, and "most innovative" corporations and "best universities" in the world and "most open" society, and "most developed" democracy, and "most tolerant" culture in race relations, and "most heroic" turn-arounds  in medical distress....all of these have some truth in their core. Collectively, however, this way of seeing the world, from the inside of a gigantic bubble of magnifying glass, necessarily limits the range of the comparisons implicit in the lens, and exaggerates the size, significance and importance of the accomplishments and their nation. It also imbues their people with a belief, verging on a religious belief, that their's is the best of everything there is to life. The belief serves also as a magnet drawing millions to their shores from every corner of the world every year, some even risking death in the process in skiffs unworthy of a calm inland lake, not to mention the winds and waves of the largest oceans. Of course, the conditions from which those aspiring immigrants hope to escape are also significant motivators in their pitiable journey.
This "best-ness" belief militates other dangerous and complicating approaches. It sees, for example, all human endeavours as competitions, and then makes the implicit demand that one decides if one wishes to 'enter the playing field' and engage in the specific "game" because entering implies the goal of winning. So, rather than lose, many "games" have to be abandoned,  because winning supplants engagement and relegates many to their own "games" in order to achieve the success in their personal lives that qualifies them as "acceptable" and role models in the culture, the neighbourhood and even in the family. Being the best also brings with it the danger that no matter the crisis, "we" Americans can and will solve it, bring it to heel and overcome the highest and most threatening obstacles.
And indeed, there is historic evidence that, over time, the Americans have overcome considerable obstacles, but not all, and not all in a timely manner.
And in a crisis like the global pandemic of Ebola, in which, for example, all  figures of the size and scope of the devastation in Liberia are simply untrustworthy, so damaged are the systems required to take counts American hubris/complacency/insouciance and disengagement for many reasons lies at the heart of the American effort to first enter the "game" and then to defeat the enemy. Laurie Garrett herself proclaimed that the numbers of infected persons in that country, far from the 9000 public estimates, rises above 20,000 and the numbers of dead from Ebola in that country alone, far from the 4-5000 reaches into the high teens, more like 15-17000.
The American culture has so 'sacralised' winning, being number one, the best, that it verges on drowning in its own unbalanced and exaggerated sense of its own power. No public figure, no leader of any organization, including one like the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) dare utter a statement of doubt about the capacity of the organization s/he leads, for fear of being politically "decapitated" by both the media and the rest of that organization. And yet, just this past year, General Motors, for one, has recalled more than 15,000,000 vehicles some of them because human lives have been lost as the price of carelessness in the quality control processes of the largest corporation in world history.
Being number one generates a conviction that not only are we doing everything "right" but also if we make a slight mistake, no one will notice because everyone else is so busy in their own private competitions that they will be too pre-occupied to notice and to do anything about an oversight.
The New York Times is now reporting that American military personnel who have been assigned to dismantle weapons in Iraq following both wars in that country, have found and detonated weapons that contained deadly chemicals, not the weapons of mass destruction that provoked George W. Bush's war on Saddam Hussein, but weapons created in the 1980's when Iraq was at war with Iran. Those American military personnel who were charged with the deactivation of those weapons were severely burned with mustard gas and potentially nerve gas, while their American superiors were unable (or unwilling) to acknowledge the seriousness of their wounds. They had to mount an information offensive just to convince their superiors of the truth of their plight, yet when they did arrive at Walter Reid hospital for military veterans, the doctors did confirm that they were suffering from mustard gas wounds.
Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria.....these are countries far from the American shore, and even farther from the American consciousness. Ebola, however, is a virus that is currently flying around the planet in planes and in human bodies unknown and undocumented to the World Health Organization and to the American CDC, as well as to the public health communities in all countries around the world.
If we are to contain and potentially eradicate this plague, and if we are to depend on American leadership, we will have to contend with American arrogance and hubris and the resulting failures of omission, commission and general insouciance, along with the intimate details of the virus.
There are many labs working on a medical treatment for the Ebola virus, some of which are about to go into clinical trials, faster than the bioscience sector has ever moved in history; and for that, all people, including both those suffering from the Ebola virus and those not yet infected, can be and are grateful.
There is, however, no known vaccination for hubris, for complacency and for  insouciance that infect too many of the attitudes and approaches and actions and words of too many "leaders" on whom the world depends, including too many American experts. And it will not be through open and public criticism of such attitudes that they will be modified. It will only come through a conscious realization that such attitudes impede the effort to bring this virus under control. It will only be through the mounting evidence that "someone dropped the ball" when they considered first whether Thomas Eric Duncan had health insurance when he first appeared at Dallas Health Presbyterian, rather than whether he exhibited symptoms of Ebola, and thereby sent him away, because he was not covered by health insurance, or when someone at the CDC did not consider a temperature of 99.4 to be in the danger zone of an Ebola patient, and therefore did not restrict the nurse from taking a public flight from Ohio to Dallas, thereby potentially infecting other passengers on that flight.
Winners are obsessed with the details of their own game, not with the larger picture of how we all might be in another  and larger and more dangerous game of survival. Hubris is a virus for which there is no known cure or even a known "moderating" and impeding vaccination.
And we all have our own hubris pulsing through our veins and arteries, nudging sometimes helpful decisions and actions, sometimes not so much.
Have the Americans on whom the world is depending to contain and to eradicate this epidemic managed to bring their hubris demon under control, in order to fully engage in a struggle for their's and our survival?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Advocacy for a re-education, informational campaign from moderate Islam to begin to turn the tide against ISIS

The world is watching to see whether or not the U.S.-led coalition can and will sustain the attack on ISIS. This vigil is especially important given the two open wounds left following nearly a decade of war in Iraq and more than a decade of war in Afghanistan, both led by the United States and both demonstrably ineffective of destroying a radical Islamic ideology.
The Taliban continues to wreak havoc in Afghanistan and have publicly declared their loyalty and support of ISIS. The agreement by the new government in Kabul to permit U.S. forces, around 10,000, to remain in their country to continue to train and support the development of indigenous forces to neutralize the Taliban, while an improvement over the absence of such an agreement with the former Maliki government in Baghdad, at the 'end' of the war in Iraq, is no guarantee that this radical philosophy will not continue to infect the future in Afghanistan.
While women are accessing formal education, a remarkable improvement over conditions prior to the U.S. led intervention in that country, the opposition to what can legitimately be  seen both as the liberation of women, and the loss of absolute control of women by the male segment of the Afghan population continues to assert itself in suicide bombings and eruptions of violence around the country. Most of these stories, unfortunately, get minimal news coverage in the west drowned out by the current fixation on ISIS and Ebola.
It is in fact, the degree of willingness of western powers to maintain their level of attention, especially following more than a decade already in the throes of complicated and demonstrably unresolved conflicts in the Islamic world, as well as the compulsion of those power to deploy their hard power to wipe out the enemy that lies at the heart of the scepticism of many that this new effort will have much likelihood of success. In spite of the many proclamations that no "boots on the ground" will come from most western countries, (even a prominent Kurdish spokesman on CNN's GPS with Fareed Zakaria declared that Kurdish Pesh Merga forces will not fight ISIS in the Sunni areas of Iraq, considering themselves 'foreigners' in such a proposal), there is nearly unanimous agreement that ISIS will not be defeated, nor even contained, the new framing of the goal by the U.S. administration, unless and until face-to-face armed combat is undertaken. It is the task of finding those forces that could prove to be the Achilles Heel in the current approach to decimating ISIS.
Will such forces come from the disaffected Sunni's in Iraq? Doubtful. These people have been so alienated and disaffected under the Maliki regime that there appears little likelihood they can be recruited to join the fight against ISIS. Will the Saudi's or the Qatari's provide "boots on the ground"? Again, this prospect seems unlikely.
Will the government of Turkey offer "boots on the ground" in this fight? Their foreign minister declares that a full strategy will have to be worked out prior to the Turkish government's full consideration of such a request. Critics of the Obama administration observe that the president has cobbled together a cluster of tactics without an overall strategy, and that this approach is crippling the effort.
What does a strategy to contain or destroy ISIS look like? Obama has told the American people that this conflict will take considerable time. He has not, however, given much indication of the twists and turns, nor the range of alternatives that will be used to complete the mission. He has pointed to the need for local, regional forces, including forces comprised of moderate Sunni Muslims, to engage their Sunni radical combatants, without articulating where such forces will come from.
Unfortunately, and perhaps even inevitably, the world has witnessed previous death-forces under the sway of a single idea over many centuries without being able to wipe out the compelling seduction of such a single idea for those whose lives seem dedicated to its supremacy. These ISIS forces have adopted the single idea of world domination, a caliphate, as their military, political, religious, ideological and even psychological unifying banner. And while no one anywhere wants to live within the confines of such a caliphate, no one in the world can legitimately consider his or her life safe from the violence meted out by such a regime, there is also no apparent commitment to take the steps that most observers agree will be required to tame the beast.
There is an analogy in human therapeutic application, in which most practitioners agree that our individual human demons cannot be excised surgically, nor can they be "tamed" by an over-active and compulsive super-ego parent, like the anal parent attempting to bring a rebellious teen to heel.
While ISIS represents a much more virulent archetype than a rebellious teen, there is a real danger that the response so far, to AlQaeda first, and subsequently to its multiple off-shoots, encapsulates the assumption of superiority, invincibility and the political arrogance that is embedded in such invincibility, comparable to the attitude and approach of a defiant parent in a profound conflict with an equally defiant adolescent. Also similarly, the more force imposed by the defiant parent on a defiant teen, the deeper and more defiant the teen dives into intransigence, fueled more and more by the observation of unfairness that has been imposed by the raging parent. Now, whatever hope of resolution of the domestic dispute, that may and often does begin with the smallest of slight, that may have existed at the beginning has evaporated.
No one in power believes, nor does this writer, that ISIS is a force with which anyone can negotiate to bring about a termination of their defiance. Neither their beliefs nor their methods are subject to amendment. They are not subject to the normal pressures of diplomacy, nor are they amenable to any of the normal 'topical' pain relievers that might serve to reduce their toxicity.  Everyone also agrees that the more we drop bombs on their training facilities, or their weapons storages sites, or their strongholds, the more determined they are to go underground, play a different and evasive game, while continuing to plunder with revenues from smuggled oil sales, and to recruit from among the most disaffected Muslim converts to their tyrannical and one-dimensional theology.
Like a virus that mutates in the face of antibiotics, these forces pose the most mercurial threat to our traditional conventional methods of conflict, while also depositing their "seeds of fear" through the most sophisticated propaganda methods from our shared barbaric history, now more easily and quickly disseminated through digital media.
Will we have to out-wait their self-sabotage, in the hope that within their virulence are the seeds of their own destruction? Will our determination and our technologies and our resources finally out-wit their blatant hubris, and bring them down? Will their long-view of the holy purpose of their existence continue to provide motivation for a morphing force that continues to plague the world for decades and even into the next century? Is their devious imagination superior to the deceptions of the creativity residing in their overt and covert opponents?
Or, will the world so penetrate their recruitment pool with counter-information about the dangers of their tyranny, and with sustained and poignant and pungent re-education that the tide will turn against their world view, their domination of women, and their feverish contempt for everything "western" and "modern" and "hypocritical" that their pool of recruits simply dries up through an awakening based on the truths that contradict their propaganda?
So far, the counter-information campaign seems to be receiving much less support than the planning and execution of the military effort. Or, perhaps we are not privy to the counter-information, counter-propaganda campaign that is being waged against their potential recruits. We can only imprison and withhold passports, and drop bombs for a limited time with limited success. We have to become pro-active in our "re-education" efforts through the generation and propagation of information that puts the lie to their own hypocrisy and their own deceptions and their own denials.
We have to engage in a war not exclusively of shells and mortar-fire, but also of ideas of truths of history and of faith that legitimately strip the chicanery and the deceit and the duplicity of their perversion not merely of their own Islamic faith, but also of their potential to rule.
Obama would be well advised to announce a counter-information campaign to the ISIS deceptions in conjunction with his airstrikes. Such a campaign would necessarily engage the Muslim world, the moderate imams and the political leaders who share our contempt and defiance in the face of this scourge. So far, the Muslim world has been and continues to remain far too silent. It needs to be brought together in a concerted effort to mount an informational war illustrating and demonstrating and proving the validity and efficacy of the moderate and tolerant versions of Islam. Failure to engage this most potentially potent Muslim voice not only endangers the future of the faith, but also endangers our capacity to neutralize this Islamic terrorism.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hubris and history as well as competing agendas complicate and even corrupt our efforts against both ISIS and Ebola

Clearly the United States-led coalition dropping bombs on ISIS in Iraq and Syria is finding it increasingly difficult to find  ISIS targets, while the Kurdish fighters attempting to hold Kobani on the border with Turkey are also surrounded by hundreds of ISIS fighters, and likely to give way to an ISIS victory in that town.
We all know and concede that bombs will not eradicate Islamic terror. And we also know that even among what would normally be considered the "allied camp," the Turkish government is playing a very dangerous game, permitting terrorist fighters to enter Syria through their country and ISIS oil to be smuggled out through their country, while negotiating with the U.S. and the west on terms that could make it possible for them to join the ground war against ISIS. It is hard for those of us gathering little scraps of information coming from the conflict to ascertain whether the Turkish government considers ISIS more of an enemy that Assad, the dictator in Syria whom they allegedly despise.
What is clear is that the situation is more complicated than most would consider manageable. The conflicts within the larger conflict against ISIS seem to be creating  impediments that could sabotage the larger effort. And just this morning the question of "boots on the ground" is being debated in the Baghdad government, with the motion to ask the west to send in such troops requiring a unanimous vote in the Iraqi parliament. The Sunni tribes in the west of Iraq, allegedly alienated by the former Malaki government, and among the most sought after candidates for ground troops against their "Sunni" brothers in ISIS, could understandably resist supporting such a motion. The Turkish government is posing another potentially insurmountable hurdle to providing ground forces in Syria to engage in combat with the ISIS terrorists believing that ISIS poses the most serious threat to their hated enemy, Assad.
In the shadows, but never very far from the consciousness of both planners in the west and significant players in this gordion knot of a Greek tragedy, are both Iran and Russia. It is almost as if the universe has conspired to generate a theatre in which all of the Iago's of all of the potential participants have converged with their own respective nefarious and competing agendas, along with their shared addiction to violence as their chosen method of operating, to generate a cauldron of chaos that would make the witches in MacBeth astounded in awe.
Even John Milton would recoil in confusion if he could watch and listen to the emerging battle of the evil giants, comparable to the epic struggle in Paradise Lost. Which of the actors best warrants the comparison with Beelzebub, and with Satan and with the legions of characters supporting those leaders. Dante's Inferno is another of the literary images that come to mind when casting a nervous eye in the direction of projections about the direction and outcome of this boiling.
And, at the same time, one is prompted to ask, "Is the whole world analogous to the frog in the boiling pot, unable to sense its own demise until it is too late?"
This pot is not in the control of the coalition that continues to valiantly drop bombs. The limits of hard power, especially the hard power that was designed to defeat other states with giant bombs, have been reached and surpassed in the moveable and recurring fight against the Taliban, AlQaeda and the derivatives that have emerged like matastasizing tumors of Islamic terror. Not only is the hard power
obsolete, but so are all the strategies and tactics that have been stored in the text books in all of the military and surveillance intelligence libraries and hard drives in all of the conventional military establishments around the world.
And for the foreseeable future, the giants will continue to play catch-up to the more nimble and more sinister and increasingly well funded and trained and viscious combatants on the other side.
Having poured billions, even trillions into a defence establishment to purchase homeland security, too many western nations find themselves scratching their heads in bewilderment that this scourge could be so resistant to impairment, never mind destruction and defeat.
These is a wide gap between the thinking and the attitudes and the methods of the two "sides" committed and even addicted to the giant footprints of a military Goliath, determined to bring about an almost instant and heroic victory, the other committed to a century long conflict, if required, using whatever scraps of leftovers in military material and training objectives they can seduce to join their band of bandits. For those whose lives and careers have been spent in the military academies of the west, they could well be "insulted" by the pretense and the bravado of the terrorists. Their respective governments and populations are also wondering why these bandits and thugs can hold the rest of the world hostage while we scurry around using new laws and criminal investigations to stem the tide of recruits to the cause of the terrorists.
And the battle, not unlike that of a patio filled with affluent tourists chasing clouds of mosquitoes on their sea-side patio, could to a visitor from another planet, look quite ridiculous, given the size and military might of the affluent and the miniscule yet persistent hordes of insects.
Ridiculous, yet extremely and seductively dangerous.
It was one of the terrorists himself, hiding behind his facemask, who told the CBS reporter that he was appalled by the hypocrisy of the United States, his homeland. He also warned that every bomb would legitimize whatever violence might be and will be perpetrated on the homeland.
Evil has always sought and found its enemies most treasured traits and turned those very traits against their enemies. We have for too long placed way too much confidence and trust and even hope in those Hollywood-like protections, to our own peril. Just as the NRA wants all schools patrolled by armed guards, making every school child a pawn in the war between law enforcement and criminals who seek their own "stardom" the western governments have generated such high expectations among their populations that no political leader in most western countries dares not advocate and support these bombings in Syria and Iraq...not matter whether the rational to buy time to create on-the-ground fighters proves misleading.
Let's admit that on both ISIS and Ebola, all of the "power" and "strength" and super-structures of success in labs and war theaters of our collective past, are demonstrating themselves to be out of touch with the inordinate power of the bacteria and the terrorists. Let's admit that as we scramble, we are losing the fight in both theaters; we have become complacent and detached and culturally and psychically immune to these foreign powers. We have permitted our own unconsciousness, as we blithely and arrogantly believed that we were "in good hands" with both our governments and our doctors.
These weeks and months and even years, if they are to serve our grandchildren and their survival, will hopefully help us to shed our complaisance and our hubristic impunity that is empirically butterfly-wing fragile. It is our own denial of our fragile truth and reality that is most at risk in these turbulent months and years. Will we awaken in time to climb to a different level of consciousness, capable of integration of our pride and our humility, our strength and our vulnerability, and our differences and our shared needs and identities, in the face of common and shared enemies?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Where is the NDP alternative to the government's proposal to fight ISIS?

Sometimes it seems that democracy has some built-in escape clauses for those in the official "opposition"....
In the United States, (not a parliamentary democracy) the Republicans spent more than two years criticizing the Obama health care proposal, without ever offering one of their own, even though the Obama plan was a direct derivative of the one established in Massachusetts when Republican governor Mitt Romney was in office.
This week, as the Canadian government pondered, debated, discussed and even "leaked" some proposals for their entry into the conflict with ISIS in Iraq, and potentially in Syria, neither opposition party did more than split hairs over the details of the government's plan.
There is a significant difference between "cross examination" a process which the leader of the Opposition, Tom Mulcair has mastered, and governing, a process which he and his party hope to be able to do following the election in 2015. This is a moment in history when it could and would be important for the leader of the Opposition to design, and to offer to the country, a unique plan that would characterize the way his party would govern, if given the opportunity.
Focussing on the cost, length, and scope of the government's plan, while useful, is no substitute for a complete plan of his own, with which to compare the plan offered by the government.
Is the NDP prepared to enter the combat with ISIS, or would it restrict its engagement to the admittedly monstrous humanitarian need of the millions of refugees that now have overwhelmed Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon? While the Canadian public may have fresh memories about how good they felt when then Prime Minister Jean Chretien turned down the request from the then President of the United States to join the "coalition of the willing" to fight Saddam Hussein in 2003, it is important to not that this is neither 2003 nor is the fight with Saddam Hussein, regardless of the scandalous motives of Dubya at the time. This is 2014, and the fight is against a far different enemy, the Islamic extremists who not only promise revenge on the western countries but who also promise to raise their ominous flag over the White House, while also promising to take over Buckingham Palace, leaving the royal family two choices, to convert to Islam or to leave the country.
Of course, the government of Canada, along with the president of the United States, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the President of France, along with the Saudi, Bahrain and Qatar regimes cannot offer an end date for this conflict. And no one, especially the official opposition should expect or demand one, no matter how resonant the question may be in the public domain.
Neither can any of the parties currently engaged provide a scenario for how this conflict will unfold, including the potential engagement of Iran, Russia, and both Hamas and Hezbollah.
It is time for the official opposition to face the fact that we are in unchartered waters, in vessels of state that are without both radar and trained "readers" of the intelligence signals that are being delivered from this enemy.
ISIS is like no other enemy we have faced, save the Taliban, or Al Qaeda, or Al Nursra or Al Shabbab; we are in the process of learning how to deliver the most deadly and most efficient blows to the terrorists, and anyone who thinks he or she has all the answers, is delusional.
Furthermore, the call for a UN or a NATO endorsement of this conflict is unlikely to bring any positive response from those organizations, the meeting of the Security Council chaired by the
U.S. president to solicit support and endorsements from the member countries, and to bring the spotlight to the dangers being the most likely end of the exposure in that venue.
The world is "flying blind" in a horrendous storm, and ducking out when the danger is most pressing is hardly what we want from our current or our future leaders.
Clearly, Mr. Trudeau is in "way over his head" on this issue, and so far his party has shown no indication of providing a substantive plan to replace or to be compared with that of the government.
The NDP, while traditionally a "dove" party, is positioned nevertheless, to offer to the Canadian people a comprehensive, cost-calculated, defence and intelligence supported strategy, at least for the Canadian people to digest and to compare with that of the government, plus an aggressive and compassionate humanitarian relief proposal that goes far beyond a dollar estimate, to include food, shelter, medical supplies and personnel, along with the open door of an immigration proposal for as many refugees as we can effectively support. This could and should be a national non-partisan initiative, and the Canadian people are ready, willing and able to listen to the calls for sacrifice, provided they have the confidence that our leaders are working together, albeit in the dark, to discern the next steps in this period of history.
If there is any doubt about the severity of the situation, one has only to watch the streets in Germany now filled with Muslim immigrants shouting anti-Semitic rhetoric the like of which has not been seen since garner an appreciation for the dangers that the Islamic terrorist pose for the whole world, especially when linked to the already fomenting anti-Semitism that according to one researcher comes more from the middle class educated people in Europe than from those without an education and living in poverty.
We all need to take stock of the situation in all of its complexities, and the Canadian Official Opposition is positioned to do its part to lead in this "learning and acting" moment in history. If the New Democrats are indeed serious about taking power in 2015, they will not only have to deliver on sound social programs like a national day care, as well as worker protections in a marketplace addicted to the absolute power of the board room, at the expense of workers, but they will also have to govern on the foreign affairs file, the most complex and most troubling, and also the file most fumbled by the current Harper government.
Now is the time to pull Paul Dewar off the national airwaves, unless and until he and his party can and do offer a comprehensive and substantive and credible plan not only to address the humanitarian crisis, as well as the diplomatic offensive to which they are already giving voice, but also to the question of how to "decapitate" the Islamic monster....a process no civilized person wishes to engage in, but one necessary to the survival of our way of life.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Demanding real democracy, not a charade, the protesters in Hong Kong have little hope of winning the argument against Beijing

If the world, or at least that of it that is watching the video from the streets of Hong Kong, thinks the United States and Great Britain are going to speak forcefully on behalf of the protesters seeking a more complete and promised democracy in the elections upcoming in 2017, they are sadly mistaken.
In 1997, Great Britain handed over control of Hong Kong to the Communist Chinese in Beijing, on the condition that two different systems of government, one for the mainland and another for Hong Kong would operate.
Now, the Bejing regime has told the Hong Kong "colony" that, although there will be elections in 2017, all candidates will have to be vetted by the Communist regime in Beijing. That is not what the Chinese government promised to Great Britain in 1997, and it is not what the people of Hong Kong want for their future. According to reports out of Hong Kong, some 60% of the people are in favour of the demands being made by the protestors, while the other 40%, mostly elderly, are preferring the Beijing administration's position.
All protestors have been tutored on "non-violent protests" so that a repeat of the 1989 Tienanmen Square massacre does not occur. And so far, those tutorials seem to be working. Under the cover of umbrellas, partly for the rain and partly to avoid the tear gas from police, this new movement crying out for real authentic democracy, sees this as perhaps the only opportunity for them to express their concerns about the future of the governance of their "land." Comprising some 200 islands, Hong Kong has a unique and separate identity from the Communist and heavily controlled society, government and culture emanating out of Beijing. As a former British colony, many of the people speak, read and understand English fluently. They are quite aware of the developments around the world. They are not kept in the dark about their world and its relation to the "outside" world, as the people of Beijing are currently being denied access to the real story developing on the streets of Hong Kong.
There is not only a matter of trust, in the breaking of the commitment made to the British by the Chinese government back in 1997 at stake.  Also at stake is  the future governance of the Hong Kong people who clearly do not wish to live under a communist dictatorship. How the Chinese government responds to this latest threat to their absolute control, especially given the reputation of the most prominent Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, the President of the People's Republic of China, as an iron-clad resistor to all public protests.
Calling the decision of the Communist government in Beijing, "just like North Korea," the protesters are risking both jail time and further criminal charges, if they are to continue their occupation of the central square in Hong Kong.
On this day of national celebration, there is a cloud hanging over the people of Hong Kong, and the government in Beijing is highly unlikely to remove it any time soon. One of their diplomats, when asked at the United Nations this week about the current state of affairs in Hong Kong, passed off the question by declaring that Hong Kong is part of China, and not a separate entity. Clearly coached in the intricacies of international "diplospeak" the envoy was not about to generate any heat or light for the foreign press to exploit.
The people of eastern Ukraine have seen their region taken over quite literally by the Russian-backed separatists, Crimea being the first casualty, and now the boundaries of Ukraine have literally been redrawn to suit  Russia's Putin. Grabbing a sizeable segment of what was a formerly independent country, given Crimea by Russia in exchange for the surrender of their nuclear arsenal, Putin has insulted the world's leaders and what they call "world order" by his untoward acts.
Now Beijing, too is ruffling the feathers of all those advocating for real and unhindered democracy in Hong Kong, by declaring its intention to provide a list of only those candidates approved by Beijing for the voters in Hong Kong in 2017. As one protesting professor put it on NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook this morning, "We are not only upset that the Chinese government has renigged on their commitment to provide free and fair elections in Hong Kong, but we are also afraid that if we do not speak out now, this may be our last chance."
And as for the United States, as the chief advocate for democracy in this instance, don't hold your breath waiting for a strong condemnation from the White House. Remember that China holds a large swath of U.S. government bonds that effectively render them the American banker. Having effectively emasculated the U.S. administration, Beijing is smugly and patiently waiting for the protest to wither on the street and go away, knowing full well that there will be no loud outcry from any other world capital joining in the protest.
Did we say money doesn't matter? Well, it certainly does in this case!