Archive for September 2011

The embarrassing John Baird

September 28, 2011

One would have to go back a long way to see as ignorant a foreign minster as Canada’s pit bull, John Baird.

His latest fulminations regarding Israel/Palestine are so over the top and incredulous as to make one wonder what planet Baird lives on.

Check these outrageous comments on the Palestinian chutzpah to ask for statehood after 60 years of occupation

“Just as fascism and communism were the great struggles of previous generations, terrorism is the great struggle of ours. And far too often, the Jewish state is on the front line of our struggle and its people the victims of terror.”

Canada will not accept or stay silent while the Jewish state is attacked for defending its territory and its citizens. The Second World War taught us all the tragic price of ‘going along’ just to ‘get along.”

No mention of Palestinian suffering, humiliation or recipients of the longest occupation in post war history; no mention of consistent crimes against international law.

Nada.

Tired and confused ranting about Israel as victim!

That’s right.The country with the 5th largest army, backed by nuclear weapons and the mighty US has now in Baird’s mind become poor little David.

And this guy is Canada’s Foreign Minister.

Palestinian pizza

September 21, 2011

The craven US president Barack Obama states that unilateralism is not a good approach in international relations.

In this he is correct. Neither is eating a pizza while arguing over who gets what.

The Palestinians have watched Israel “eating the pizza” while supposedly negotiating. The only problem is, given the drastic asymmetry in power relations—a very powerful state Israel backed by the hegemony the USA has done what it wants with the Palestinians. They do it because they can.

Since 1991 in Madrid Israel has been the unilateral aggressor, consistently moving Israelis into the Occupied Teritories against all international strictures.Simply put, land taken in war must not be occupied.These are resolutions 242 and 338—totally ignored by Israel.There now are 500,000 settlers in Occupied lands. These are “the facts on the ground.”

Not only that more of the pizza was eaten by the Apartheid Wall.Experts reckon 5-10% more stolen land.

The US wrings its hands and does nothing.

Now all of a sudden President Obama and his loyal surrogate Canadian PM Harper have the chutzpah to tell the long-suffering Palestinians we’ll tell you when you can apply for statehood.

Enough is enough. Netanyahu has no intention of negotiating anything.The Palestinians know it and the world knows it.The pizza is slowly being eaten away

Have you been TIFFed?

September 13, 2011

The Toronto International Film Festival is now in full bore and indeed “full of bores” who can find nothing better to do with their trvial lives.

As of yet I have not made it down to the area of “the red carpet.”

Even with Madonna in town.

I wonder what is it that takes people down to these banal photo shoots of celebrities?

Are their egos so weak that they need to be near the rich and the famous?

Television I have conclude has been an overall disaster, failing the hopes and dreams of its earliest promoters.It has succeded in delivering the image into millions of homes and increasing the desire to be famous.All surveys point to the dramatic rise of individuaism and egoism. The public remains ill-informed and massively distracted.How else can you explain Rob Ford as mayor of Toronto?

Edward R Murrow saw the deleterious trends in 1958.

Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world we live in…he realities of the world in which we live…

We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

The Church missing in action on Labour Day

September 5, 2011

“Through the combination of social and economic change, trade unions organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labour unions.”

So spoke Pope Benedict in his last encyclical Charity in Truth in 2009.

One would have thought that bishops would have taken their signal from Rome regarding the dismal situation of labour in our time. Labour—not just another commodity as the Church  has always taught. is suffering terribly in the new global economy.Decades of cut backs, attacks,the shocking advance of corporate greed has pummeled human beings into the ground.

One of the flyers handed to me was from CUPE who represent Air Canada flight attendants, the front line of safety for those who fly.They have watched, like many other workers, their wages stagnate , their salaries rolled back all the while their CEO has just received a 77% wage increase.

For over an hour I stood on the corner of Tecumseh (my boyhood street) and Queen with my wife and teacher-daughter. We watched the passing parade of unions on this Labour Day.always a sacramental experience for me. I was waiting for the Catholic teachers Union to come by so I could join in and walk among them as a small act of solidarity for the beleaguered workers of Ontario.
As fate would have it, I was across from a “holiness” Church and the sign outside read “Jesus said, IU am the Way, the Truth and the Life…”

But the official representatives of the Way and the Truth, Catholic Church leaders were nowhere in sight.

Every year I would see Jack Layton marching with OPSEU, CAW, ACTRA (yes cultural workers have unions) machinists, librarians,city workers, hotel workers the most exploited of all—and most of them people of colour. Never have I seen any of the bishops of Ontario walking in solidarity with these good people who build our city and make life work.

At my coffee shop to pur salt into the wound I noticed the smug Toronto Sun crowing about the end of public service unions and why not, while we are at it, let’s give another name  to Labour Day.

It’s sad enough when so few Catholic  teachers walk every year with their brothers and sisters in much less remunerative work and always in greater jeopardy, but it is doubly sad when the so called institutional leaders of the Catholic Church are nowhere in sight. Are these men so busy or are they just obtuse about the need to express solidarity in the age of Stephen Harper and Toronto’s Rob Ford?

“Jack” always made time for these workers. I saw him for over 20 years encouraging working people on this Day of Labour. “Their excellencies” I have never seen, nor many of the diocesan clergy. They apparently don’t know jack about the meaning of witness or solidarity. Look no further than every Labour Day for reasons why the Church is in decline.

The cardinal and the politician

September 1, 2011

The former cardinal of Toronto Aloysius Ambrozic recent death was totally eclipsed by the very public state funeral of NDP leader Jack Layton. There is a tragic irony here. If one ever needed proof that that organized religion and in particular that of the largest denomination in Canada,Roman Catholicism had lost voice and the power to inspire, it was the phenomenal outpouring of emotion over Layton’s passing and the almost eerie silence over the cardinal’s passing.

For many Canadians Jack Layton had become the signifier, the one who pointed to the values of God’s reign as understood in the bible. In our midst in a place where we least expected it, in a city where bank towers had replaced churches as urban symbols of what we valued, Canadians mourned not a religious figure but a different politician, the leader of the New Democratic Party. It was here not far from “Bay Street” that a man sprouted up from among us who never mouthed the name Jesus but who lived Jesus in his consistent defense of the marginalized.

Like an Old Testament prophet. Layton did not offer dead ritual which did not go anywhere. He did not spout pious phrases behind institutional walls. In his effervescent way “Jack” walked the walk of the Hebrew prophets and the Galilean rabbi. He did it on the streets of the city and in its council chambers.He did not offer charity but demanded justice.

For decades we watched him advocate for the homeless, for those “born outside the inn”, for those excluded. We saw him defend gay and lesbian people denied rights and jobs; we saw him speak out and organize the White Ribbon Campaign against violence on women; we walked with him on peace rallies when no prelates were in sight;we admired his bike-riding to work and his defense of the environment Jack Layton was consistently on the right side of history.

The fact that the former cardinal of Toronto died at the same time with little fanfare and the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition elicited such an outpouring of love and admiration is a tragic irony which needs to be unpacked within the walls of the Roman Catholic Church and indeed all of organized religion.

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