Saturday, December 31, 2011

Industry Canada Fails Yet Another Group of Canadian Workers

Hot on the heels of the Harper government's capitulation to U.S. Steel in Hamilton, yet another failure by Industry Canada to protect the interests of Canadians is evident in the latest contract 'offer' from London, Ontario-based Electro-Motive Canada, a subsidiary of U.S. industrial giant Caterpillar Inc.

The C.A.W. has taken a strike vote, with a Saturday night deadline, after the company offered to chop the workers' $35 hourly wage in half, the rejection of which seems to have bewildered the company:

We are disappointed that a competitive collective agreement could not be reached with the union,” the company said in a statement through Toronto public relations firm Fleischman-Hillard.

What is especially demoralizing about this situation is that it comes three years after $5 million in tax breaks [were] announced on the factory floor by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Although since sold to an American company, the government refuses, as it did in the U.S. Steel takeover of Stelco, to reveal the terms stipulated by the government in the purchase; Industry Canada, an increasing oxymoronic and redundant department thanks to the Harper government's policy of appeasement of the all things American, states: “It would be inappropriate to comment on this matter until the future of the plant is more clear.”

Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks to the incompetence or indifference of our political 'masters,' it sounds like 2012 will see 'business' as usual for unfettered capitalism and our rapid return to being hewers of wood and drawers of water.

Friday, December 30, 2011

If You Are What You Eat .....

Many thanks to my son for sending this link to a story that may give pause to those who are eager consumers of burgers from McDonald's.

Makes me also wonder how successful we can be at composting such fare.

Rick Salutin on The Decline of Deference to Authority

As is so frequently the case, The Star's Rick Salutin has written a thoughtful and original piece, this time on some of the factors involved in our increasingly dynamic resistance to traditional sources of authority. Thanks to the arrogance of the financial world, even after receiving massive taxpayer bailouts for their incompetence, coupled with the vast array of information afforded by the Internet, people now have a much greater opportunity to effectively challenge the status quo, as evidenced by the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, and even in the give-and-take of readers' forums on media sites.

It is an article that provides a framework for the changes we are seeing all around us.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Coming To An Institution Near You

I have long held a very critical view of institutions. Whether they be political, educational, religious, charitable or protective, I believe the effectiveness and integrity of any organization declines with age as self-interest, self-promotion, and lust for power and control supplant the original purposes of serving the common good.

Two recent reminders of the inevitability of institutional senescence are found in today's Toronto Star. The first details how an RCMP officer, Const. Susan Gastaldo, is facing dismissal after she was coerced into a sexual relationship with her superior officer, Staff-Sgt. Travis Pearson, while Pearson himself only faces the possibility of a demotion:

Lawyer Walter Kosteckyj, who represents Gastaldo in a separate civil case against the RCMP, says his client’s situation shows that those who bring forward complaints about the RCMP are more severely punished than those found guilty.

“Susan Gastaldo refused to bow down to pressure and, as a consequence, she could lose her job. The RCMP board decided she was more guilty than Pearson was even though he was a senior officer and maintained his denial up to the last day,” said Kosteckyj, a former RCMP officer.


He went on to say, “Time and time again, we have seen the RCMP is not interested in dealing with harassment and is more interested in protecting their present culture.”

As a retired teacher, I know only too well the measures that administrators will take to silence those it feels compromise the status quo or their own upward career trajectory, so the RCMP's reaction is hardly surprising to me.

The next instance involves a little girl being harassed, threatened, and both verbally and physically abused by a religious institution. No, I am not talking here about the Taliban, but rather another group of religious fanatics, some ultra-orthodox Jews in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh who think they are doing God's will by expressing hatred and intolerance for those who don't share their views, which include the desire for sidewalk segregation of the sexes, and the use of “modesty patrols” which they have dispatched to enforce a chaste female appearance and [hurl] stones at offenders and outsiders. Walls of the neighborhood are plastered with signs exhorting women to dress modestly in closed-necked, long-sleeved blouses and long skirts.

The little girl who has been an especially vulnerable target to this hate-group is 8-year-old student Naama Margolese. These religious fanatics have spat on her and called her a whore for dressing “immodestly.”

Nama attends a religious school and dresses with long sleeves and a skirt. Extremists, however, consider even that outfit, standard in mainstream Jewish religious schools, to be immodest.

Unfortunately, this kind of criminal behaviour has apparently been countenanced by the authorities because the Ultra-Orthodox hold a fair bit of political power.

I rest my case.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Santa's Hit List

Well, here it is, Christmas Eve, and Santa has been rechecking his list, and five have been struck from it. This sad distinction goes to the following, who perhaps can be consoled by the fact that they have something in common: they are devoid of any recognizable morality; they have shown consistent contempt for the opinions and values of others, and they are all members of the same club, The Conservative Party of Canada.

5. Minister of National Defence Peter McKay - Peter has been an exceedingly naughty boy this year, living large at the expense of the taxpayer, and abusing what he mistakenly believes are his toys and lying when he gets caught. My sources reveal as a consequence of his bad behaviour, he will be on the no-toy list for decades to come.

4. Government House Leader Peter Van Loan – Struck from Santa's list for defending the indefensible, his novel but morally depraved explanation of why spreading false stories about Irwin Cotler was an exercise in free speech and good for democracy. Santa has grave doubts about whether he will ever see the error of his ways, and so a lifetime ban from the list is likely.

3. Jason Kenny, Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism - Jason has had a busy year sowing discord and promoting Islamophobia, but his biggest sin, in Santa's eyes, is his betrayal of Sayed Shah Sharifi, the brave Afghan interpreter who put his life and the lives of his family in danger to provide services to our troops, only to be told he really isn't in danger and thus can't emigrate to Canada. Another lifetime ban from Santa.

2. Environment Minister Peter Kent – His cabinet title and his name together constitute one of the clearest examples of oxymoron that either I or Santa have ever seen. For betraying Canadian integrity, for thumbing his nose at the world by putting profit before the effects of climate change that are already very apparent, Santa predicts a stormy time ahead for this less-than-sterling steward of Mother Nature.

1. Prime Minister Stephen Harper – The dear leader gets primacy of place on Santa's hit list for one very obvious reason. Without Harper, the moral bankruptcy infecting Canada today would not be possible. Setting a tone that shows only contempt for democracy, the courts, public opinion, and the health of developing nations, he, as the master puppeteer presiding over a feckless and opportunistic group of marionettes, is responsible for our current political moral vacuum, thus ensuring the disaffection of large numbers of Canadians, record low turnouts in elections, and general disgust with the political process, all part of his grand plan to ensure the Conservative Party as Canada's natural-governing party.

Usually a jolly and optimistic fellow, Santa holds out absolutely no hope of an Ebenezer Scrooge regeneration for this man's shriveled spirit.

Merry Christmas to some, and to some a good night.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Harper To U.N: Call Us When You Have Another War, But Mind Your Own Business Otherwise

In what is emerging as a clear pattern with the Harper government, or, as I like to call them, Canada's national embarrassment, master puppeteer Harper has essentially told the United Nations to mind its own business about our domestic matters, especially when it comes to the third-world conditions on our Indian reserves.

As reported by The Star's Thomas Walkom,

James Anaya, the UN’s special rapporteur on indigenous peoples ... states the obvious — that conditions at Attawapiskat and many other native communities are “dire.” He expresses the UN’s concern, which is his job. And he asks the Conservative government to comment.

The response of 'our' government could be succinctly, if a bit crudely, summed up as 'the one-finger salute', a figurative gesture that Harper has become quite practiced with, given his disdain for all opinions that differ from his own 'enlightened' view of the world.

I don't pretend to know the solution to the disaster that is so many of our reserves. I do know, however, that ignoring criticism hardly constitutes a constructive path to a solution.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Very Conservative Christmas Message

Couldn't resist this one. Thanks to Mark-Leiren-Young.


More on Harper's Hypocrisy

In yesterday's post, I railed against the hypocrisy of the Harperites in their efforts to convince us to boycott Chiquita banana over their refusal to use our dirty tarsands oil for their transportation needs.

In her most recent column, Linda McQuaig reminds us of the consequences of Haper's renegade position on climate change for the rest of the world.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Will Your Next Banana Be Chiquita?

Mine will be, given that the Harper government, aided by one of its fronts, ethicaloil.org, has issued a fatwa against the company for its resolve not to use tarsands oil for its transportation needs.

In a rare departure from Harper's find-no-fault-with-corporations-policy, he and his ministers are in high hypocritical dudgeon over Chiquita's decision, and are employing the same tactics to demonize the company as they use against anyone who stands in their way:

Several high-profile government MPs, including Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, have urged Canadians not to buy bananas distributed by Chiquita Brands International after the Ohio-based company said it would avoid using fuel for its trucks derived from Alberta’s oilsands.

Here is a sample of the propaganda currently being employed on our airwaves:

“The Chiquita banana company says it’s boycotting oil from Canada’s oilsands. Apparently they like oil from OPEC dictatorships better,” an announcer’s voice says over orchestra music. “While they boycott Canada’s oilsands, you can boycott them. Don’t buy Chiquita bananas or Fresh Express salads at your grocery store.”

This perverted appeal to patriotism is especially rich, given the consistent contempt Harperites have shown, not only for the opinion of Canadians on an array of issues, but also the world's concern for climate change, as evidenced by their recent sad performance at Durban.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chris Hedges on Christopher Hitchens

I was getting a little tired of reading what an all-round great guy and giant intellect Christopher Hitchens was, so I found this radio interview with Chris Hedges on the man a refreshing counterbalance.

At Least They Don't Discriminate According to Gender

For those who might have been concerned that the animus, hatred and paranoia of the Harper government is directed almost exclusively at men, The Star's Tim Harper sets the record straight by pointing out how three fairly prominent women have run afoul of our overlords; however, unlike the stereotype of passivity sometimes attributed to the fairer sex, these ladies fought back.

The experiences of Franke James, Cindy Blackstock, and Michaela Keyserlingk are conveyed in the column, with some interesting links, including one to a New York Times environmental blog entitled
Canada’s Approach to Inconvenient Art which details how artist-activist James fell afoul of the ever-watchful Harperites.

Enjoy.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas, Diane Finley

Actually, the title of this post was just to get your attention. I would indeed be an unfeeling man were I to wish the minister of Human Resources and Skills Development the best of the season when so many Canadians are suffering as a result of her inept attempt to streamline and make more efficient the distribution of Employment Insurance benefits by closing 98 employment insurance processing centres and firing 1,200 Service Canada workers.

With record wait-times to receive benefits, many unemployed are missing bank and mortgage payments, overdrawing their accounts, etc., all of which puts to the lie Finley's claim that all is well and working better than ever. Her employment with Harper, Inc. (as one astute reader referred to the government in today's print edition of The Star) as the good functionary carrying out her overlord's directives with nary a whimper of protest or twang of conscience renders her, as it does all of Harper's underlings, unfit for continued employment by the people of Canada.

Click here to read of one man's experiences thanks to Finley's 'improvements.'

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rick Salutin on Democracy

We live in time when the Harper government seems to be doing everything in its power to persuade Canadians that democracy is meaningless and that we, the citizens, have no power. In my view, the increasing invocation of closure on debate, sending more and more Parliamentary committees to meet behind closed doors, and egregiously and contemptuously ignoring all questions from the Opposition by responding with partisan ripostes, the Harperites are following an agenda to disenchant and disengage normal Canadians, leaving the field almost totally to their reactionary supporters.

Rick Salutin, in his latest video on The Star website, reminds us that there is much more to democracy than simply trudging to the polls every few years. It is something that has to be cultivated and practiced all the time. The video is well-worth viewing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another Installment of, How Stupid Can They Get?

Update: After reading this post, be sure to check the comments section for an interesting observation from Christian.

From the morally and cognitively impaired Florida Family Association comes the following news, news that consumers may wish to bear in mind at this most holy time of the year. I have taken the liberty of highlighting certain well-known brands::

Home Depot will not advertise again on All-American Muslim.

Home Depot sent the following email to Florida Family Association supporters stating that they would NOT advertise again during TLC's propagandizing All-American Muslim show.

We checked into this and although one of our commercials did appear during one of these episodes, we are not a sponsor of this show and we do not have any advertising scheduled to run on future episodes. Thank you very much for contacting us.

..............................................................

Degrassi loses several more advertisers. Florida Family Association sent out email alerts in October and November 2011.


Fifty five (55) companies stop advertising during Degrassi.

Supporter’s emails in response to Florida Family Association email campaigns and emails from the Florida Family Association office appear to have influenced the following Fifty Five (55) companies to stop advertising during DeGrassi since the monitoring first started in July 2010: 3C Incorporated (Careonetoday.com); Adidas; American Legacy Foundation; Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida; Bridgestone Firestone North America Tire; Burlington Coat Factory; Burt's Bees Acne; Cadbury Adams (Sour Patch Kids, Stride); Church and Dwight (Clean Shower, Nair, Orange Glo); Coca Cola (Coke, Fanta, Sprite); Colgate Palmolive; Conagra (Chef Boyardee); Corinthian Colleges; Dell; Eastman Kodak; Gamefly; General Mills (Fiber One, Multi Grain Cherios, Yoplait), General Motors (Chevy); Hewlett Packard; Horizon Group USA (Mon Bijou); Idea Village (Depilsilk); InCharge Debt Solutions; Inverness Medical Innovations (Clearblue pregnancy test); Jarden Corp (Mr. Coffee); JC Penney; K12; Kellogg (Frosted Flakes, Pops Cereal); Kingsisle Entertainment (Wizard101); Kraft Foods; McAfee Security; MeadWestvaco Corp. (fivestargiveaway.com, fivestarmusicinsider.com); Mylan (Myallergysurvey.com); Nationwide; Nestle; Novartis (Excedrin); Packit; Payless Shoes; Pepsico (Pepsi); Perfetti Van Melle USA (Airheads); Pure Digital (Flip Video); Research In Motion (Blackberry); Sarah Dessen; SAS Group (Dream Lash); Sears; State Farm; Stiefel Laboratory (Max Clarity); Sun Products (Snuggie); Sunny Delight (Sunny D); Sylvan Learning Center; T-Mobile USA; Target, THQ (uDraw); Travelocity; Valve Corporation (Portal 2); William M Wrigley (Cobalt) and Zeno.

Florida Family Association places a priority on monitoring shows such as Degrassi which target children with homosexual propaganda and explicitly immoral content.


Copyright 2010-2011

My Letter to David Caton and His Florida Family Association

I just tried to send the following letter to the Florida Family Association's David Caton. After hitting the submit button, the notification was that my message could not be sent, probably because their server is being overwhelmed with messages. I shall try again later, but for now, here is my note to the benighted David:

Dear David,

I would like to congratulate you for amply demonstrating something that we in the 'Great White North' have known for a very long time: that many Americans, especially those who subscribe to and support groups such as yours, are shockingly backward, racist and clearly just not very intelligent.

I would also like to thank you for helping me to know the companies I should avoid when spending my consumer dollars. At the top of my list is Lowe's, which proved its utter lack of integrity by giving in to pressure from people who clearly lack even the most basic of cognitive and reasoning skills.

Finally, I would like to thank you for providing endless opportunities for people like me to mock people like you, both in our blogs and in our conversations with our friends.

Keep up your exciting work. I look forward to your next buffoonish campaign with great anticipation.

Sincerely,
Lorne Warwick

P.S. I will be sending a copy of this letter to all of the feckless companies who have allowed themselves to be intimidated by the likes of you.

More on American Doofuses

Last night, in high dudgeon, I wrote a somewhat intemperately-worded piece on American 'intelligence,' (prompted by Lowe's dropping its sponsorship of a TLC show, All American Muslim, due to pressure from a backward reactionary group - is there any other kind?) breaking my rule about making sweeping generalizations; I should amend that now by saying that I know that not all Americans are benighted, just a seemingly overwhelming number of them.

To help support my contention, I offer you this link to a segment of the Daily Show in which Jon Steward skewers the Florida Family Association for its stance against the show. According to its spokesman, David Caton, the show's fault lies in the fact that it shows Muslims as ordinary people, not the bomb-hurling terrorists they really are.

I'm proud of myself. I was able to write this post without descending into harsh invective and sweeping generalizations despite much provocation, as you will see if you watch the clip. I think I also succeeded in writing it without showing the withering contempt I feel, both for Lowe's cowardice and David Caton's contemptuous bigotry.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Stupid are Our Neigbours to the South?

While that question may seem redundant, I offer for your consideration more proof of how benighted our American 'cousins' (in the same sense that homo sapiens and neanderthals were cousins) are. The Star's Rob Salem reports that because of pressure brought to bear by some reactionary group in the U.S. called the Florida Family Association, the national Lowe’s hardware chain has agreed to drop its sponsorship of a TLC series entitled All-American Muslim, which profiles five diversely religious Muslim families from Dearborn, Michigan.

I guess the show's 'sin' is in portraying these families as a) American, and b) human.

It's just that kind of dangerous drift towards understanding that will undermine the great American traditions of intolerance, racism, and general stupidity.

Great to see that Lowes is taking a stand to protect those traditions.

Another Message From The Ministry of Truth

To all Canadian Consumers: Season's Greetings. All is still well. Shop until you drop.

We repeat, Season's Greetings. All is still well. Shop until you drop.


Your dollars help to support good-paying Canadian retail and service jobs and bring much-needed manufacturing employment to residents of developing countries, who we should be thinking of at this time of year.

And remember, pay no attention to that pesky man behind the curtain.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

There's No Business Like Snow Business

When I was young, there used to be a polite term for B.S. We called it a snow job, and that seems as apt a description as any of the latest Harper government capitulation to the cancerous tentacles of unfettered capitalism running virtually unchecked throughout this country thanks to our 'leader's' diseased love of all things corporate.

As I wrote last evening, despite the fact that U.S. Steel lost its appeal against the federal government, it is essentially getting a free pass for its Hamilton operation by promising to keep the plant going until 2015 and promising capital investments of $50 million by the end of that time. Of course, for those able to think critically and not simply trust to the magnanimity of a company that already betrayed its employment promises and locked out its workers for almost a year after it was given permission to buy the former Stelco, these promises mean nothing.

The failure of the Harper government to show any integrity in attempting to put the force of law behind foreign takeover promises does mean something, however, to those affected by this sell-out.

Consider the following:

Opposition politicians and workers: outraged by a deal they say contains no specifics on employment or production in Canada and offers nothing to workers harmed by the company’s failure to keep its original promises.

Leaders of the United Steel Workers: “blindsided” by the deal, even though they have intervener status in the action to seek back wages its members would have earned under the company’s original promise to employ an average of 3,105 workers for three years after purchasing Stelco.

“We didn’t know any of this was going to happen and yet we’re the ones affected by their failure to live up to their promises,” said Rolf Gerstenberger, president of Local 1005, which represents workers in Hamilton. “Where’s our redress now? Our members were unjustly laid off and they should be made whole.”

Bill Ferguson, president of Nanticoke’s Local 8782: “incomprehensible” for the government to drop the case without ensuring workers got some kind of compensation.

“We are shocked that our government has cut this secret deal, without even the decency of consulting those who are most affected,” he added. “Our communities and our working families — particularly those whose jobs have disappeared — have been abandoned by U.S. Steel, and now our own government.”


Ken Neumann, Canadian director of USW: “This is a complete abdication of the government’s responsibility to Canadian workers,” he said. “It’s just outrageous that we have no commitment to jobs now.”

Local MPs Wayne Marston and Chris Charlton, both of the NDP, said they were troubled by utter lack of detail in the settlement announcement.

“The government is dropping this lawsuit in exchange for more promises after taking the company to court for not keeping its promises in the first place,” Charlton said. “For all we know this just allows the company to fatten the calf for three years and then sell it.”

Of course, the Harper government's local cheerleader, M.P. David Sweet, a practising Christian blithely untroubled by anything his government does, even its export of death, I mean asbestos, to third-world countries, described the capitulation “as an “extraordinary” achievement that ensures steel production in Hamilton through the next three years.

“By agreeing to this (U.S. Steel) has indicated that they are here for the long term,” he said. “Agreeing to invest that kind of money sends a very positive signal that they are here for the long term.”


And of course, with the current band of renegades holding the reins of power federally, the voices and opinions of Mr. Sweet and his ilk are the only ones that matter here, aren't they?

Monday, December 12, 2011

U.S. Steel Loses Its Appeal, So Harper Government Capitulates

Those who think that unfettered capitalism is the greatest gift to humanity imaginable will rejoice in the news that even though American steel giant U.S. Steel lost its appeal against the Canadian federal government that was seeking a $10,000 daily fine for the company's failure to live up to employment commitments in its Hamilton Ontario facility, the Harper government has dropped its lawsuit on the promise that the company will keep operations going until 2015.

Those who believe that unfettered capitalism is the greatest curse visited upon humanity may have a different reaction to the news, and may draw the inference that the Harper government was never serious about its lawsuit, but only launched it, under the auspices of then Industry Minister Tony Clement, in anticipation of an election.

Doug Ford Rarely Disappoints

The Star's Christopher Hume has an amusing column on the other (better?) half of that dynamic duo known as the Mayors of Toronto. For those who enjoy their political theatre broad and farcical, the brothers Ford have been working overtime since their election, and Hume gives a great deal of the credit to Doug Ford. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bully for Him

It is probably largely due to both the verbal and physical abuse I suffered at the hands of my teachers as an elementary and high school student in the Catholic school system many years ago that I am so sensitive to abuses of authority, be it individual or institutional. I also suspect my experiences play a strong role in the visceral contempt I feel for the Harper government, so adept is it at wielding its power in ways so contrary to our democratic traditions and sense of fair play. Outside of that blanket contempt, however, I like to think that I am sufficiently critical as a thinker to recognize merit in the positions of those I do not support.

Readers of this blog will know that I have been consistently withering in my assessment of Dalton McGuinty, the Premier of Ontario, largely over his complicity in the abuse of authority that defined the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010. Nonetheless, I have to commend him for his strong and unequivocal stance against bullying in Ontario schools, even when that position treads on the toes of the religious right.

There is an interesting article well-worth reading on McGuinty written by Catherine Porter in today's Star that explains the roots of the Premier's antipathy toward bullying.

Pity, however, that his aversion to strongarm tactics didn't manifest itself in June of 2010 in Toronto.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Star and Its Readers

If the Harper government keeps an 'enemies list', which, quite frankly, I have little doubt that it does, given its infernal embrace of 'values' that are repellent to Canadians who believe in fairness, ethics, justice, and the rule of law, high on its list must be The Toronto Star and many of its readers, relentless as they are in speaking the truth about our political overseers.

As I occasionally do, I am taking this opportunity to reproduce a few letters from today's edition that address truths that even as perverted a government as we currently strain under cannot deny. Enjoy:

Re: Attawapiskat leaders want UN to intervene, Dec. 6

It’s a very special skill. Knowing instinctively how to turn every situation into a wedge issue — divide the public and conquer. And Stephen Harper has it in spades.

Who else could see videos of children suffering in atrocious conditions, ready to freeze to death this winter, and turn the country against itself in circular arguments: those who blame the Native peoples, and those who blame the government. And then do nothing about the immediate crisis, forcing an appeal to the UN for help. It’s an emergency like this that brings out true character.

There’s no leadership in Mudville today, mighty Stephen has struck out.


D.S. Barclay, Georgetown

Perhaps Stephen Harper should put Tony Clement’s constituency office under third party management. More so than Attawapiskat, there appears to have been a lack of accountability with federal funds.

Rob Strang, Orangeville

I, for one, totally believe Peter MacKay when he states that this was a “search and rescue” mission. The helicopter crew was “searching” for MacKay’s integrity. But they couldn’t find it and so they were unable to “rescue” it. Case closed.

Lawrence Jeppesen, Oakville

Re: Tories waging unending black-ops campaign, Dec. 2

Peter Van Loan considers it a “normal activity” for partisan goons to phone constituents in opposition members’ ridings; causing unwarranted mischief. According to the Conservative House Leader, “truth” is now the new name for blatant misinformation.

Mr. Van Loan will defend the right of dissemblers under “the principle of freedom of speech and the right to speak their minds.” Does this bizarre world of newspeak and dirty tricks reflect core conservative values? One can only wonder.


Linda Leon, Whitehorse, Yukon

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Soul of the Nation

Last April, as part of a larger post, I write the following about the pernicious effects of bad political leadership:

If we consider, for example, the widespread cynicism and disengagement gripping people today, we are witnessing the effects of bad leadership. When people are manipulated by the politics of fear, division, suspicion and exclusion, they become victims of diseased leadership. When people refuse to vote because they don’t feel it will make any difference, when they ascribe self-interest and greed as the main motivations of people seeking elected office, when they evince little or no surprise at the flouting of constitutional laws by their elected representatives, they not only have fallen prey to a spiritual or moral malaise, they are in fact facilitating its spread, something I suspect our political leadership is not in the least bit concerned about; after all, the more disengagement and disaffection there is amongst the voters, the easier it is for politicians to continue on their self-aggrandizing and pernicious paths.

I was reminded of those thoughts this morning as I read today's Toronto Star's editorial, entitled, Respect mah authoritah! essentially a litany of wrongdoing, both moral and legal, committed by the Harper government, including the following:

- In the case of the Attawapiskat situation, Harper has wrested fiscal control from the band council and placed it in the hands of a federal manager, at a cost to the band of $1300 per day;

- Even though the Federal Court has ruled Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz acted illegally in hobbling the Wheat Marketing Board, the government is intent on ignoring the legal ruling; in fact, Harper is about to invoke closure in the Senate to ensure its speedy passage into law;

- There is also the case of Irwin Cotler, who Tory operatives sought to undermine by spreading telephone rumours to his Montreal constituents that he is about to retire. The government response to this disclosure: According to Government House Leader Peter Van Loan, the Tories have a sweeping Charter right to resort to dirty tricks.

So my point is really a simple one. When people are subjected to a government that talks a harsh line about law and order, even going so far as to enact draconian punishments but places itself above the law and its sanctions, when they are subjected to a government that shows nothing but contempt for the views and the rights of others, they are not only witnessing a government with no moral authority to hold public office; they are also victims of an insidious process that leads to an inevitable erosion of their own sense of responsibility, morality, and concern for the public good.

If you don't believe me, take a few examples that initially may see extreme and melodramatic, but in fact followed the same path with destructive results: Nazi Germany and Rwanda immediately come to mind, and, to take a contemporary example, Israel, whose government and many of its citizens have reached such a hubristic state that the ability to reflect critically on their actions and mistreatment of others seems to have been lost.

Thus is the power of government to deform its citizenry. Canada will not be an exception to this pattern.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Will I Be Deemed High Risk for Terror, Crime or Immigration Fraud ?

I have a confession to make. Since January of 2010, my wife and I have visited Cuba four times. So what, one might ask? Cuba has always been a popular destination for Canadians seeking some respite from harsh Canadian winters. What harm is there in that?

Well, potentially a great deal, if I understand the terms of the new border security pact that the Harper government has struck with the Obama government. Called Beyond the Border, it is being extolled by our 'leader' as the biggest breakthrough in Canada/U.S. affairs since the North American free trade pact. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

As reported in The Star, one of those details is the following:

Under a sweeping new entry-exit system to be in place next year Canada will share more information on travellers, including people arriving here from abroad, or going from here to third countries. So-called “trusted” travellers will be speeded across borders, while those deemed “high risk” for terror, crime or immigration fraud will be red-flagged, or prevented from getting here.

In his column, Thomas Walkom elaborates:

Canada will be required to give more information about its citizens and residents to the U.S. By 2013, the countries promise to put in place a “systematic and automated biographical information-sharing capability” and by 2014 a “biometric information-sharing capability.”

A new exit-control system will be put in place for those crossing the land border between Canada and the U.S. in order to “exchange biographical information on travellers.


So what does any of this have to do with our frequent visits to Cuba? Well, perhaps the most salient fact is that since 1982, Cuba has been designated by the Americans as a '"state sponsor of terrorism," the reasons for which can be seen by clicking on this link, reasons that are, in my view, typical of the United States' paranoid and jaundiced contempt for countries that don't embrace their worldview and values.

Nonetheless, I think the implication of this new border deal are clear. Personally, since I have not travelled to the U.S. for over 10 years, I doubt that the pact will have much effect on me, since if I had to choose between the two countries, Cuba would be my preferred destination.

However, fate can be capricious, and who knows if circumstances might at some point necessitate a visit to the U.S., that benighted country where reason has been largely supplanted by hysteria, and where productive policy has been replaced by demagoguery? Will I find myself being denied entry for my love of Cuba and its people, about whom I have written previously on this blog? Will I be taken to a back room and grilled about my relationship with certain Cubans that we have become friends with outside of the resort? Will I be subjected to the dreaded and invasive body search that can be imposed on the most unlikely of travellers?

These are questions that apparently are of no concern to Stephen Harper, who seems perfectly content to surrender our privacy rights and sovereignty because of the boost the pact will give to cross-border trade.

Quaint notions, sovereignty and privacy rights, aren't they?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rick Salutin Skewers the Mythology of the NDP and CBC's Leftishness

My favorite columnist, Rick Salutin, has a brief video on The Star website in which he asserts that the NDP and the CBC are no more leftist than Rex Murphy, Kevin O'Leary, or Don Cherry. You can watch it here.

This Just In From The Ministry of Truth

Citizens of Canada:

All is well. Return to your workstations and your reality shows. We repeat, all is well. Return to your work stations and your reality shows.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chris Hedges and Christianity

Echoing the thesis from his book, Death of the Liberal Class, a work that excoriated traditional liberal institutions for their failure to hold true to their values, instead essentially selling out to the corporate agenda, Chris Hedges, in his latest column, reminds us of the core message of Christianity, and indicts North American churches for their frequent betrayal of that message.

Entitled Where Were You When They Crucified My Movement?, it is well-worth reading.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Doug Ford Enhances Brother Rob's Reputation

Despite the way it may appear in some of my blog postings, I really take no particular pleasure or delight in pointing out the deficiencies and foibles of most of our politicians. Such is the weakness of my character, however, that I do exclude the brothers Ford, the mayors of what was once a proud city, Toronto, from that assertion. Rarely has caricature come to life in the political arena as manifestly as it has under their administration.

The latest source of my amusement and bemusement comes from the Sunday edition of The Toronto Star, which has the following headline:

Doug Ford suggests schools explore UFC-linked program

It seems that brother Doug, apparently oblivious to, or contemptuous of, both local and province-wide attempts at tackling (there's a word I know Rob understands) bullying (another word I suspect he is intimately acquainted with) in schools, believes that the best way to ensure at-risk students turn into real men and women is to teach them how to fight.

As reported by The Star, still experiencing the petulant wrath of the Ford bros, Ford’s constituency assistant, Anna Vescio, asked a Toronto District School Board trustee to circulate a brochure touting an initiative called UFC Community Works.

According to the brochure, the program promotes “the development of discipline, respect, teamwork, honesty, time management and physical fitness” through mixed martial arts training and meetings with UFC fighters.

UFC has become notorious for its brutal, bloody, no-holds barred fighting. Mixed martial arts events were banned in Ontario until this year.


I suppose that none of this will come as much of a surprise to close observers of the scrappy duo, who have formed a tag-team of sorts in the political arena, supported by the howling crowd known as their executive committee and those seeking elevation in their municipal status. Nonetheless, even if they like their confrontations at City Hall to be nasty, and brutish, they really should curb their blood lust and not try to inflict it on Toronto students.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Disturbing Article on Cell Phone and Wi-Fi Radiation

While I have written before on the link between cellphone electromagnetic radiation and cancer, I just completed an article by Christopher Ketcham entitled Radiation From Cell Phones and WiFi Are Making People Sick -- Are We All at Risk? that offers some disturbing evidence of the dangers of the wireless world in which we live and to which, in varying degrees, almost all of us are addicted.

Looking at a variety of studies as well as anecdotal evidence, Ketcham affords us the opportunity to ask ourselves whether we are risking our health, indeed, our very lives, for the price of the alluring convenience of our various electronic gadgets. For anyone embarking on research of the evidence, there is one proviso that should be borne in mind, as pointed out in the article:

Published meta-reviews of hundreds of such studies suggest that industry funding tends to skew results. According to a survey by Henry Lai, a research professor at University of Washington, only 28 percent of studies funded by the wireless industry showed some type of biological effect from cell phone radiation. Meanwhile, independently funded studies produce an altogether different set of data: 67 percent of those studies showed a bioeffect. The Safe Wireless Initiative, a research group in Washington, DC that has since closed down, unpacked the data in hundreds of studies on wireless health risks, arraying them in terms of funding source. "Our data show that mobile phone industry funded/influenced work is six times more likely to find 'no problem' than independently funded work," the group noted. "The industry thus has significantly contaminated the scientific evidence pool."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rob Ford Continues To Make An Ass of Himself

While the title of this post might strike many as redundant, even I, despite having borne witness to a great deal of asinine behaviour over the years, was surprised to see the following headline on The Star's website a few minutes ago: Mayor Rob Ford to Toronto: Don’t read the Star

Apparently the big boy is calling upon 'Ford nation' (is there anyone still residing there?) to join him in a boycott of The Star. Still petulantly miffed over a story that the paper still stands by, one revealing that he was asked to stop coaching football at a Toronto high school for inappropriate behaviour, the Toronto mayor continues to show the stuff he is made of, and because I prefer to keep a certain level of decorum and language on this blog, I will let the reader infer what that might be.

But please read the story, as it will make you laugh, cry, despair, or exult, depending upon both your level of maturity and, perhaps, political orientation.

Apparently They Don't Hold With That Readin' Thing Either

Or that might be the easy inference to draw about Mayors Rob and Doug Ford. As reported yesterday, The Toronto Star is filing a complaint with the City of Toronto's ethics commissioner over the lads' embargo of The Star of all official notices and pronouncements from the mayor's office. Today, their ability to interpret basic text (pedagogy for being able to read) must be called into question.

The front page headline in today's Star reads: Doug Ford to Star: Drop dead. The story reveals the deep insights of ideologically-conjoined twin Rob Ford:

“No one can force anyone to talk to anyone,” he said in a brief interview during a council meeting.

“You can quote me: if you apologize on the front page, it’s done. You can go to the Supreme Court and try to get Rob to talk to the Star — he won’t talk to you. He just won’t. Until you do it. It’s simple: put that one-liner (apology) in there, it’s over,” he said.


Either intentionally or unintentionally, the protective sibling misread or misrepresented The Star's complaint. As Torstar chair John Honderich has said:

[T}he complaint would not try to compel Ford to speak to Star reporters. Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, nonetheless portrayed it as an attempt to do so.

One can only hope that at least collectively, the Fords and their ilk more carefully read the proposals that come before council.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Toronto Star Fights Back

Because the ever-petulant Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, backed by his always doting and sycophantic executive, continues to boycott The Toronto Star on all official notices and pronouncements from his office, the paper has decided to file an official complaint with the city's integrity commissioner.

As reported in an article by Torstar Chair John Honderich in today's edition, the genesis of Ford's childish edict is a story that the paper ran during the mayoral campaign about his conduct as a football coach. At the time, Ford the candidate said he was going to sue the paper for libel, but never followed up on his threat, and has since stipulated that his freeze will stay in place until the Star runs an apology above the fold on page 1. As he recently told reporter Daniel Dale, “I don’t talk to the Star till you guys apologize. You guys (are) liars.”

Putting aside the howls of outrage that would have attended such a proclamation had a liberal mayor issued such a fatwah against a right-wing news organization, the Star, I believe, is right when it says that his boycott raises a serious issue of abuse of power and directly affects [their] ability to cover city hall and serve [their] readers.

The issue clearly goes beyond one person with an axe to grind. Ford, because of the political power he wields, was able to get political compliance from his executive committee to shelve Councillor Adam Vaughan's “free press and democracy” motion [that] would have prohibited city employees and politicians from excluding any specific journalist or news outlet from any “media conference,” “media event” or news release.

It has been said that all politics is local. That is also probably the best place to take a stand against political corruption as well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Where In The World Is This?

What follows is a series of pictures, the link to which my son Matthew sent me. They are all pictures of the same country, the last one offering you the only real clue as to its identity. I urge you to look at each one slowly, and when you come to the end and discover its identity, ask yourself what your previous notion of its essential geography was, and consider why you have that notion.

I will have a few comments following the photos.














The last photo, of course, is the only real indication that these are pictures of Iran. What was your preconceived notion of the geography? If you are anything like me or my son, you probably thought of the country as a largely arid wasteland, a rather forbidding, uninviting and sterile country.

Continuing with my didactic tone, I have to pose one more question: Why do so many of us have that notion of Iran? A big part of the answer, it seems to me, is that, aided and abetted yet again by the bulk of the media, that is the image western governments want us to have. To view it thus is to predispose us to seeing Iran as the monster in the current drama being played out regarding its alleged nuclear weapons' program, upon which I have written two previous posts.

In any event, I regard these pictures as timely reminders for all of us to cultivate and practise the skill of critical thinking.

Should you wish to see more pictures of Iran, please click here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Now This Really Is Funny

It is a rare occasion when I experience a good belly laugh, but the following bogus media release, reported by the CBC's Allison Crawford, had that effect. While I doubt that the morose and ostensibly humourless Harper government will be amused, those with a degree of normalcy in their mental and emotional makeup probably will. Enjoy:

Harper Government Announces New Fitness Tax Credits for Seniors Shovelling Snow

OTTAWA - The Hon. Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency today announced a new Fitness Tax Credit for Seniors who shovel their own sidewalks, effective immediately.

Aglukkaq said that the new program is the first in a series of "preventive" health care measures from the Harper Government that will pare health care costs by encouraging Canadians to take greater responsibility for their health, while also supporting independent living and fitness in those 55 and over.

"Studies show that seniors can improve muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness through strenuous physical activity," said Aglukkaq. "By instituting a Seniors Fitness Tax Credit for Shoveling Snow, seniors on fixed incomes will not have to pay anyone to shovel their walks, they will be rewarded - even posthumously - for doing it themselves."

Aglukkaq said that seniors who mail in photographic or video proof that they shovel their own sidewalks will receive a crisp $50 Canadian bill in the mail. If the snow is heavy and wet, the amount rises to $100.

Concerns that shoveling snow might lead to heart attacks was unwarranted, said Aglukkaq.

"There is no scientific consensus on the link between shoveling snow and heart attacks," said Aglukkaq. "In fact, there is considerably more credible scientific evidence for climate change."

Aglukkaq said that if the program is widely adopted, it would actually save the government hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars by reducing overspending in CPP, the Guaranteed Income Supplement, and health care costs. The savings would be achieved mostly through attrition, she added.

-30-

Media Enquiries:

Health Canada

(613) 957-2983

Public Enquiries:

(613) 957-2991
1-866 225-0709

Sayed Shah Sharifi - The Toronto Star Continues Championing His Cause

Sayed Shah Sharifi, the brave Afghan interpreter, may have been betrayed by the Harper government and our contemptible Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney, but he has the support of The Toronto Star, countless people worldwide, and the pro bono services of Lorne Waldman, one of the country’s leading immigration lawyers.

In his latest installment of this potentially tragic unfolding tale, Paul Watson reveals that outrage over Sharifi's mistreatment by our government is not limited to right-thinking Canadians. The lead in the latest article sums up the growing anger:

From Africa, through Europe to Mexico, the U.S. and across Canada, thousands of people are joining the outcry against the Canadian government’s refusal to give an Afghan war hero safe refuge.

The article goes on to discuss two petition sites, thepetitionsite.com and petitionbuzz.com, both of which permit one to add personal comments. But as my wise wife tells me, petitions are not nearly as effective as letters. Anyone who wishes to, can use the letter I sent to Jason Kenney as a template for their own efforts.

One final note, and it is hardly surprising: in apparent retaliation for the military speaking up as advocates for Sharifi, the Harper government [has] gag[ged] Canadian soldiers from speaking publicly about the case now.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Power of the Documentary

Although traditionally avoided as a rather staid and boring genre, the documentary has enjoyed a real resurgence in popularity over the past couple of decades, no doubt in part due to the important and provocative work by people such as Errol Morris, Michael Moore, and Velcro Ripper. A good documentary, for me, is one that provokes thought and provides knowledge and insights we often don't have the opportunity to encounter in our day-to-day lives.

Nature documentaries, when done right, can accomplish much. A series on the earth called Earth From Above, spectacular when viewed on blu-ray, but I'm sure almost as visually stunning on a regular DVD, has much wisdom to impart. In the episode I just finished watching, called Amazing Lands, the point is made that every impact humanity has on the earth, whether intentional or unintentional, has far-reaching ramifications.

For example, deforestation means the destruction of habitats to a myriad of species, oftentimes resulting ultimately in their extinction. It also means the loss of flora whose possible medicinal benefits to humanity will never be known. Another impact of that deforestation is land erosion that means heavy rains carry formerly fertile topsoil down in to the rivers, the mud killing the fish, etc. But while we may understand all of this as a series of abstract facts, a naturalist on the show reminds us that we have no ability to imagine what any of this really means. It is very similar to when we are talking about the magnitude of national debts. The numbers really don't mean anything to us.

The only real wisdom here is for all of us to remember that we are not above nature, but rather simply a part of it.

I therefore highly recommend the series as a way of helping us to start understanding what the environmental destruction wrought by an unfettered corporate agenda, aided and abetted both by our political 'masters' and our own rampant and very disposable consumerism, really means.

And since this is Sunday, I will not apologize for the preachy tone of this post, but instead leave you with two of my favourite poems, both written at different points in the nineteenth century; both resonate very strongly with our situation today:

The World Is Too Much with Us - William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. --Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.


God's Grandeur - Gerald Manley Hopkins

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 5
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 10
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Power of Non-Violence

Never an advocate of violence, I have been recently thinking of the power of its opposite, non-violence or passive resistance, especially in light of the contemptible yet very casual pepper-spraying of University of California - Davis students by campus police.

For me, the various pictures and stories circulating on the Internet of the ugly incident attest to two things: the wanton use of violence that is becoming increasingly common amongst authorities trying to quell the Occupy Movement, and the tremendous strength and spirit reflected in those who are willing to put their bodies on the line in pursuit of justice and balance in our society. To me, they are quickly becoming part of the iconography of past practitioners of non-violent resistance, including Jesus, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King. They all saw the way, and inspired countless millions to follow in their path.

In his weekly column in yesterday's Toronto Star, Rick Salutin offered some interesting reflections on the resurgence of non-violence in our time. If you haven't already done so, I hope that you will take the opportunity to read it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Battle of Sayed Shah Sharifi Continues

The Star continues its excellent coverage of the plight of Sayed Shah Sharifi, the brave young Afghan interpreter who has been betrayed by the Harper government, despite glowing Canadian military reports supporting his application for emigration to Canada.

As his last hope after being rejected by faceless bureaucrats and abandoned by the spineless Jason Kenney, Canada's Immigration Minister, Sharifi is reluctantly accepting the offer of pro bono legal help from Lorne Waldman, a Toronto immigration and refugee lawyer who has successfully argued cases all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, who plans to ask the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the government’s decision to reject Sharifi’s visa application.

The article, again by Paul Watson, concludes with the following:

Take heart that a growing number of Star readers haven’t been so timid about speaking up for Sharifi. I get new emails from them every day, often with copies of angry letters they have sent to Kenney and other MPs.

One has started an online petition at www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/canadianpatriotyes, hoping to channel enough public outrage to move Kenney to think again and do right by an Afghan who risked his life to support Canadian combat troops.


Those outraged by Sharifi's contemptible treatment may wish to add their name to the petition.

The Occupy Movement: More Wisdom From Star Readers

I wrote the other day that I normally refrain from excerpting large chunks of text from other sources, but here I go again, this time a reproduction of letters from perceptive Toronto Star readers on why we should be thankful for the Occupy Movement. I was especially struck by B Byron's reminder of the federal government’s plan to drop the corporate tax rate from the already low 18 per cent to 15 per cent in the new year, putting an additional $10 billion to $11.5 billion of public revenue back into corporate pockets.

Then, of course, there is the 2% cut in provincial corporate taxes coming in January from Dwight Duncan, whose government will block a private member's bill that would remove the provincial portion of the HST. Said Dalton McGuinty yesterday: Where are we going to get the $350 million? (the amount that would be lost were the bill to become law.)

The answer to that question seems pretty obvious to me and countless others.

In any event, here are the letters:

Re: Campaign must adapt or fade away, Editorial Nov. 22

Concerned that the Occupy movement is unfocused? “It’s time for them to move out of St. James Park and put a finer point on their concerns.”

Actually, they are focused. Their focus is to get the attention of the 99 per cent. Their focus is to prod that majority to flesh out the myriad issues that remain unaddressed by the growing economic divide.

Their job of Occupation is not done. It is not done until we get busy and do our job. It is our job to fix the democratic system; our job to fuel a peaceful, non-violent, creative revolution; our job to build an economic system that works for all people of this planet earth.

A revolution not distracted by a minor temporary inconvenience in St. James Park; but, fuelled by the idealism, compassion, creativity and courage demonstrated there. We owe the Occupiers nothing but gratitude.

The Rev. Philip Cable, Barrie

I would love more than anything to believe the Occupy Toronto movement has made a difference. However, in the same issue of the Star, we read that the Liberal government will go ahead with further corporate tax cuts along with massive program cuts; the Ford administration is looking to eliminate well-paid city employees in favour of a cheap, insecure workforce; not to mention the federal government’s plan to drop the corporate tax rate from the already low 18 per cent to 15 per cent in the new year, putting an additional $10 billion to $11.5 billion of public revenue back into corporate pockets.

Occupy Toronto is the gentlest and most articulate of warnings. What will it take for governments to listen?

G. Byron, Toronto

People should commend the courage and persistence of the Occupiers, most of whom are young people in their 20s across Canada and in many cities of the world. They bring attention to issues of economic inequality, poverty and how the actions of corporations and banks have failed many worldwide.

Political parties in the most recent Canadian elections, which often claimed to be supporting the average person or average family, are noticeably absent from the locations of the Occupiers, who are addressing the tough issues that should be discussed by governments.

How shameful that the government response to these youth is annoyance, eviction and the threat of violence. These youth deserve support for speaking up about issues that most people with power would rather not discuss.

Diane Sullivan, Toronto

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Former Goldman Sachs Partner Pontificates on the Real Reason for Our Sorry Financial State

For those who can stomach hypocrisy, I highly recommend this video in which we are told by a wealthy banker that the true source of our troubles is socialism:

The Globe and Mail Reports on Asbestos

I have written many times on one of Canada's biggest shames, the export of asbestos, something of grave concern to all right-thinking Canadians. It is therefore gratifying to see that, despite what I regard as the failed leadership of editor-in-chief John Stackhouse, The Globe and Mail recently devoted some resources to the issue. Entitled Canada's chronic asbestos problem, the article, by John Gary and Stephanie Nolen, is well-worth perusal for those concerned about our country's immoral practice.

Star Readers and Harper Government's Injustice to Sayed Shah Sharifi's

While I rarely excerpt long passages from other sources fro my blog, I am making an exception today to print the reactions of Toronto Star readers to the cruel abandonment by the Harper government of Sayed Shah Sharifi, the brave Afghan interpreter who served our troops so valiantly:

I was appalled, disgusted and angry as I read Paul Watson’s accounts of the Afghan interpreter Sayed Shah Sharifi’s rejection for the special visa programme by our immigration department. The bafflegab response to the Star from Immigration Minister Jason Kenney should not surprise me as it is typical of the Conservative dictatorial approach to governing.

The suspicion that Sharifi was rejected because he had the timerity to speak out to the Star is probably correct. If it is, it demonstrates that Kenney abnd his immigration “henchmen” are morally bankrupt.

This applicant has no fewer than 13 Canadian officials who worked closely with him on the battlefield and all declared him not only an upstanding young man, but also a hero. Their word should certainly trump the unfounded suspicions of a few bureaucrats. Sharifi sounds like exactly the kind of immigrant Canada needs.

Kenney should do the right thing and admit this man to Canada immediately before something happens to him or any of his family at the hands of the Taliban. If it does, I certainly know where I will be laying the blame.

As Watson writes, “The most inconvertible proof of Sharifi’s risk would be his corpse.” We can only hope and pray this does not happen before Kenney et al come to their senses.

Penny Preston, Blue Mountains

The Star is to be highly commended for its coverage of the Afghanistan interpreter’s plight.The position adopted by the Canadian government on this matter is disgraceful and one can only hope that the death threats received by this gentleman do not come to pass. Shame, Shame, Shame on you Canada.

Oh and by the way, the silence emanating from the other two major Toronto daily papers regarding Ottawa’s stance on this matter is deafening.

Peter Blunt, Richmond Hill

While I am surprised neither by the incredible immorality of this decision nor the insouciance of Jason Kenney, I must say that I am somewhat unsettled by the staggering stupidity involved. At the same time as they are spending billions on “national security,” the government is ensuring that it is all for naught.

As a recruitment strategy for the Taliban, there cannot be a more effective tool than being able to exploit the fact that a member-nation of the ISAF abandoned those who risked everything to assist them.

Jason Kenney has never been a minister that any caring Canadian could point to with pride, but he may have surpassed his previous efforts with this unconscionable act. I hope that sufficient Canadians rally around this young man that Kenney will reverse his decision.

Many thanks to Paul Watson and the Star for this excellent article.

Lois A. Airth, Renfrew

We know the current Canadian government is cold hearted and mean, but to leave a friend in danger has to be the most dispicable thing. Our ideal on this mission was to help others including our “friends,” the U.S. and the people of Afghanistan. When we get to the end we now abandom not only the country but also those that believed in us and put their lives at risk for us. I would ask our leader where in his Bible does he find this instruction?

Terry Robert, Winnipeg



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Umbrella Man - A Cautionary Tale

Germane to nothing in particular, I highly recommend this six-minute documentary by Errol Morris, made for the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It explores the story behind the one man seen standing under an open black umbrella on a clear and sunny Dallas day at the exact moment the shots rang out. The resolution of the mystery will surprise you.

Today's Globe Editorial on Occupiers

Ever the arbiter of all things significant, it is hardly surprising that in its latest editorial, The Globe and Mail has the arrogance to assume to speak for all when it says that "the [Occupy] movement has tried everyone's patience." Nonetheless, it should put aside its very conservative prejudices to acknowledge the real achievement of the occupiers, which has been to end the isolation and hopelessness felt by the many who aspire to a better world, despite all of the obstructions posed by those who purport to represent our interests in government.

While I agree that the issue of the right to pitch tents has a diversionary effect on the conversation the movement has sparked, to suggest, as the editorial does, that the occupy protests are only a response to the excesses (not to mention criminality) that contributed to the world financial crisis is to betray a shockingly shallow understanding of the issues the occupiers are drawing attention to worldwide.

But then again, that seems to be the typically blinkered perspective disseminated by the bulk of the mainstream media today (The Toronto Star excepted!), doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bill O'Reilly on UC-Davis Pepper-Spraying: No Big Deal

I don't think the following video needs any commentary on my part:



A Message From the UC -Davis Faculty of English

The following can be found on the UC - Davis website, a followup to the brave letter written by untenured Assistant Professor Nathan Brown.

The faculty of the UC Davis English Department supports the Board of the Davis Faculty Association in calling for Chancellor Katehi’s immediate resignation and for “a policy that will end the practice of forcibly removing non-violent student, faculty, staff, and community protesters by police on the UC Davis campus.” Further, given the demonstrable threat posed by the University of California Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to the safety of students, faculty, staff, and community members on our campus and others in the UC system, we propose that such a policy include the disbanding of the UCPD and the institution of an ordinance against the presence of police forces on the UC Davis campus, unless their presence is specifically requested by a member of the campus community. This will initiate a genuinely collective effort to determine how best to ensure the health and safety of the campus community at UC Davis.

Such fortitude, I suspect, is yet another tangible benefit of the Occupy Movement.

Two Monday Morning Links

There are two pieces on the Occupy Toronto situation that are worth reading in today's paper. The first is the editorial in the Toronto Star examining the possibilities for the future now that the occupiers will soon be decamping from St. James Park due to a judicial decision just handed down. It is a decision that need hardly sound the death knell of a movement that is resonating with millions of people.

The second piece, by Linda McQuaig, accords the Occupy Movement high praise indeed. Says McQuaig:

[T]hey’ve managed to change the public discourse, putting inequality front and centre — something activists and writers, myself included, have failed to accomplish despite decades of trying.

I'm hoping, and betting, that this is only the end of the beginning.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The roots of the UC-Davis pepper-spraying

That's the title of a searing and insightful analysis by Glenn Greenwald as he examines both the mentality and the effects, both intended and unintended, of the excessive and brutal force used against Occupy demonstrators and others.

Amongst his findings are the following:

- excessive police force against non-violent protest is not a new phenomenon;

- that excessive force has been emboldened since 9/11;

- this disproportionate use of force is not having the desired effect, in that it is galvanizing, not deterring people to join in activist acts.

I hope yoiu will take the time to read the entire article, which includes video of Greenwald speaking about Badley Manning and WikiLeaks.

A Blogger's Blogger

Although I have made reference to him before, Dr. Dawg continues to inspire my admiration. Although most of you probably read him already, I especially recommend his recent posts on the outrage at UCDavis, where campus police callously pepper-sprayed students who had linked arms on and sat on the pavement. He also provides excoriating coverage of the university's Chancellor, Linda Katehi, as well as a follow-up of her leaving the campus in silence.

Dr. Dawg is providing the kind of coverage that is difficult, if not impossible, to find in the mainstream media.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Premeditated Act of Police Brutality

In this video, a group of college students are huddled on the ground in a defensive position at UC Davis on November 18. An officer, later identified as UC police Lt. John Pike, then casually douses them with a chemical agent. You’ll note that a number of bystanders who were simply watching what was going on are also exposed.

The reaction of the bystanders, however, is to their credit: total non-violence. A moral victory for the oppressed 99%.


More From Paul Watson on Sayed Shah Sharifi

The older I get, the longer I live, the more I realize that true justice is uncommon, and that evil frequently prevails over good. The case of Sayed Shah Sharifi, the Afghan interpreter whose work was so highly-prized by the Canadian military, is only the latest example of this fact.

Continuing his series in The Toronto Star on the plight of this young man, Paul Watson today offers proof that Sharifi's life is in danger from the Taliban for his work with the Canadian military, a claim that has been flatly rejected by immigration officials who have denied him a visa to emigrate to Canada. There is speculation that the rejection was prompted by the fact that the interpreter went public about how he was being treated by officials, an assertion that certainly has plenty of precedent with the Harper government, which has time and time again demonstrated its intolerance for those who disagree with it.

In today's article, Hunter cites the eyewitness account of Philip Hunter, a medic in Canada’s army reserves, who worked closely with Sharifi:

Hunter recalls at least three occasions when he witnessed Sharifi receive threats from insurgents.

Once, Hunter was at Forward Operating Base Wilson, in Kandahar province’s bloodied Zhari district, then roiling with Taliban activity.

The two were drinking tea when Sharifi’s cellphone rang.

“He spoke for a few minutes with the other party before hanging up,” Hunter told me from Ottawa, where he is training to be a civilian paramedic. “While my Pashto is limited, I could tell that there was a bit of a confrontational tone to the conversation.

“When he closed his phone he told me, with a shrug of his shoulders and a half-smile, that it was a local Taliban commander calling him to remind him that he had his phone number, and that he was going to kill him when he got the chance.”


In a similar incident at Masum Ghar, near the front line with territory completely under Taliban control, Sharifi arrived with a platoon on a two-week stint with the Canadian battle group’s quick reaction force, Hunter said.

“When we were chatting outside the medical clinic his phone rang, and it was another Taliban commander calling to tell him that he knew he was now at Masum Ghar, and if he saw Sayed with his troops in the Panjwaii bazaar, the foreigners (us) would not be able to protect him,” Hunter recalled.


Ultimately Sharifi quit his job as interpreter after the Taliban threatened to kill his entire family for his continued work.

The Harper government has a reputation of never backing down on anything. Unfortunately, this jejeune characteristic may very well end up costing the life of a young man who would be a real asset to Canadian society.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jason Kenney Responds to His Critics

In a move that can hardly be described as surprising, Jason Kenney is fiercely defending his immigration officials and their decision to refuse a Canadian visa to Sayed Shah Sharifi, the brave Afghan interpreter who risked the wrath of Taliban insurgents to assist our forces in his country. Despite a program in place to help such individuals, officials have deemed Sharifi ineligible, inexplicably discounting his stories of threats from the insurgents because of his collaboration with the West.

As well, and equally predictably, Kenney, in a letter to the Toronto Star, which has brought to public attention and championed Sharifi's cause, indirectly blames the paper for creating mischief:

“The Government does not make decisions about individual cases based on political considerations,” Kenney asserts. “Nor does the editorial board of the Toronto Star, which does not have the benefit of all the relevant facts, get to decide who qualifies for government programs.

“We leave such decisions to highly-trained and competent civil servants. They have decided that Mr. Sharifi is not eligible under this program.”


Perhaps we should applaud Kenney for having renewed faith in the beaurcrats employed by our government, given the earlier crisis of confidence when it did everything in its power to discredit the judgment of Richard Colvin, the Canadian diplomat who alleged that Canadian soldiers were handing over captured Afghan insurgents to be tortured.

But then again, since this government has shown a pattern of acting with expedience to quell embarrassments whenever they arise, perhaps we should not.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Letter to Jason Kenney Re: Sayed Shah Sharifi

Dear Minister Kenney,

I am writing to express both my shock and my disappointment over Canada's failure to honour its word to Sayed Shah Sharifi, the brave Afghan interpreter who risked the wrath of Taliban insurgents to assist our forces in his country. By all accounts a very brave and competent individual, he, along with other interpreters, was promised sanctuary for himself and his family because of service to our military.

As has been widely reported, despite the fact that he continues to be at risk, our immigration officials have turned down his application for emigration to Canada, the speculation being that it is retaliation for his having made his plight public, thereby embarrassing your government.

I implore you to do the right thing, reverse this decision, and expedite his and his family's passage to Canada. To do anything less can only be seen as a callous and immoral abdication of the promises previously made.

Sincerely,

Lorne Warwick

Canada's International Reputation Continues to Deteriorate

Once looked upon as an honest-broker middle power which enjoyed the respect of almost the entire world, Canada in recent years has seen a steady deterioration in its reputation for many reasons, its unreserved and uncritical support of all things Israeli, the obstructionist role it plays on climate-change, and its on-going export of deadly asbestos to third-world nations that offer no protection to its workers but three of the reasons for this sad decline.

The most recent cause to look with suspicion and disfavour upon our country is found in a story first reported on in Sunday's Toronto Star, with followups in Monday and Tuesday's online editions.

The stories all revolve around an Afghan interpreter, Sayed Shah Sharifi, who by all accounts did exemplary work for the Canadian forces in Afghanistan despite great risk to himself and his family from the Taliban, a risk that continues to this day, with the promise that afterwards he would qualify under a special program to emigrate to Canada for his service.

Unfortunately, Canada has gone back on its word to Sharifi, the suspected reason being that he had brought the failure of our government to fulfill its promise to the press, an embarrassing revelation that seems to have been on the minds of those immigration officials deciding his fate.

I hope you will take some time to read the provided links, and take whatever action you think appropriate to try to right this injustice, including a letter to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This Is What Revolution Looks Like

That is the title of Chris Hedges' latest column on truthdig.org. Despite the attempts to dismantle the Occupy encampments, attempts that seem eerily coordinated, Hedges suggests that this is only the end of the first stage of a revolution by people who have seen the truth and refuse to go back to the way they were, maxing out their credit cards and watching mindless television; in short, they are refusing to continue to follow the corporate agenda, which demands passivity and uncritical acceptance of its debased imperatives.

As with most of Hedges' work, this is a piece well-worth reading.

Occupy Wall Street Police Breakup

News has spread quickly about the cowardly breakup of the Zucotti Park Wall Street Occupiers. Here is a link to a livestream covering the protesters as they move throughout the streets of New York

Andrea Horwath, Tim Hudak: Unlikely Allies

“Outrageous proposals for new spending and reckless tax giveaways like these are unacceptable.” So says Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, in high dudgeon over the intention of NDP leader Andrea Horwath, and supported by Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak, to introduce a private member's bill to remove the provincial portion of the HST from home heating bills.

According to Duncan, the proposal would cut provincial revenues by nearly $350 million a year and that raising corporate taxes — as the NDP would like to do — is no answer to lost revenue.

Hmm... as I have mentioned before, the key to critical thinking is to have access to an extensive array of information and a willingness to digest and incorporate that information into one's worldview. Here is some information that is vital in assessing Duncan's denunciation:

Despite the fact that Ontario faces a very large deficit and debt, the following tax regimen attends to the business world:

Ontario Corporate Income Tax Rates, 2010 - 2013


General Corporate Income Tax Rate
2010 2011 2012 2013
Jan 1 July 1 Jan 1 July 1 Jan 1 July 1 Jan 1 July 1
Federal 18 16.5 15
Provincial 14 12 11.5 11 10
Combined 32 30 28.5 28 26.5 26 25

Corporate Income Tax Rate for Income from Manufacturing and Processing*
2010 2011 2012 2013
Jan 1 July 1 Jan 1 July 1 Jan 1 July 1 Jan 1 July 1
Federal 18 16.5 15
Provincial 12 10
Combined 30 28 26.5 25
* Also applies to income from farming, mining, logging and fishing

Small Business Corporate Income Tax Rate*
2010 2011 2012 2013
Jan 1 July 1 Jan 1 July 1 Jan 1 July 1 Jan 1 July 1
Federal 11
Provincial 5.5 4.5
Combined 16.5 15.5


You will note in the above chart, taken from the Ontario government's website, that despite Duncan's denunciation of a measure that would benefit untold numbers of ordinary citizens, he is more than willing to cut provincial revenues by as much as 2% to benefit the corporate world.

Oh, I know it would be easy to justify this ongoing and seemingly ineluctable drive to subsidize business as the price of remaining a competitive regime that is attractive to corporate entities, but the problem with that reasoning is that Ontario, as is Canada as a whole, is already very competitive in its rates vis a vis the United States, and offers singular advantages over the latter jurisdiction in terms of infrastructure, an educated workforce, and basic healthcare for all. According to KPMG's 2010 Competitive Alternatives study of international business costs confirmed it again in 2010: Canadian business costs are once again the lowest in the G7.

Perhaps one of the most telling and, from my perspective, damning detail is this one:

Ontario’s corporate income tax rate (provincial and federal combined) is lower than that of any U.S. state, Japan or France and will drop to 10% by 2013.

So, it seems to me that we have a real obligation to critically assess and, when warranted, challenge this government in all of its assertions. To do anything less is to allow a corporate-driven and influenced elected body to make a mockery of democratic principles.