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,, 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.


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 (; 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. (,; Mylan (; 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.

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.