Archive for October 2006

Vineyard 3

October 29, 2006

The third Theology in the Vineyard met again in Prince Edward County on Saturday October 28. Once again we convened at the beautiful Grange Vineyard in Hillier. The hunger for the coming of the new church was as palpable as the wine served at lunch. What tangible yearning, what insights born of such loyal service to God’s reign!

The “church below the church” is beginning to move away from the period of lamentation,a time when the the minority opinion of Vatican ll attempted to reassert itself. Every revolution always sees a counter-revolution which has a brief moment in the sun then fades as this one is. The rising up of the baptized to take ownership of the Church is beginning again.

One could not but be affected by the daunting spirit of Rosemary Ganley whose slide show of a woman’s retreat in Rome focussed on the feminine contributions to the early church. Rosemary offered several feminist insights in her talk.Foremost among them is to simply get on with the necessary reign of God work.Find like minded friends to work, pray and discern with. Do not let the patriarchal structures consume you; create a parallel reality. Do not give more than 15% of your energy to church reform.

Ted Schmidt offered these observations about this “new moment.” similar to the one Matthew Arnold described in the Grand Chartreuse

Wandering between two worlds, one dead,
The other powerless to be born,

1. Power is returning.the Divine Disturber is re-emerging in the institution. There will still be a period when in TS Eliot’s words, “the sickness must grow worse.”

2. The People of God are way ahead of the institution.

3. No institution readily cedes power. The clerical, hierarchical Roman church is still locked in a medieval configuration, calcified by centuries of clerical control, aided and abetted by co-dependent believers who are beginning to assume adulthood. Can the Catholic church handle adult believers?

4. ”Signs of the times”, spirit moments of revelation have not been heard, listened to and integrated into Church structures, ecclesial and sacramental life.

5. The Magdalene Moment is here and is irreversible. The Petrine Moment (Roman Catholicism) was joined by the prophetic Pauline Church of the Reformation (sixteenth century)where the Word was made central,It is time for the Magdalene Moment where the cry of the formerly excluded-the poor, the earth and the feminine principle will be honoured.See Joanna Manning’s latest book to be released in 10 days.

6.In a cyberage, power can never be vertical. It will be horizontal and diffuse.

7. All churches are bleeding youth. The post modern world severely doubts hierarchies, and honours autonomy. A church without the politics of the kingdom will become inward looking, a massive civil service existing for itself. It can not attract youth who want to be radically engaged in the world.

8. Following the above,this age calls for radical humility given the massive failure of the Church leadership in the wake of war and sexual abuse.The American Church in particular stands comvicted of complicity in George W Bush’s reign of death in Iraq. Civil religion of America has triumphed over the nonviolent reign of the Crucified One.

9. All surveys indicate massive spiritual hunger; contemporary culture values autonomy, decision making not pre-baked answers. It is the quest ( Lord of the Rings, Joseph Campbell et al) which engages people. A new time of humility for Catholics to enter serious dialogue with all-based on gospel values. It will be a time of accompaniment not absolutes and arrogant scolding and hectoring of the People of God.

10.The struggle will be between a religious services church vs a socio-critical prophetic Church.(Metz)

11. 3 Imperatives for the new millenium

*Thou shalt take your baptism seriously-the rising of the lay church.

*Thou shalt accompany the holy nomads of no fixed religion, those secular saints
and prophetic movements now active in the world as agents of God’s creative and disturbing Spirit which always priviliges the poor and the sacred earth.

*Thou shalt fuse spiritual and the politics of the Reign of God.

Hallow’een, the human connection

October 27, 2006

Driving in Stratford, Ontario today i could not but help notice the proliferation of Hallow’een motifs up and down the streets of this small Canadian city. It simply reconfirms something I have realized in the past few years. Humans have an inordinate desire to celebrate. We will do it a drop of a hat. Any excuse to share ourselves, spread some human warmth in a grim time. In fact I’d say we are hardwired to organize our lives around celebration. Hey, Im alive and so are you.This calls for toast of some kind, doesn’t it?

As society has becomes more secularized and disconnected from traditional churches the human spirit must find ways to create a secular liturgy. As Lenny Bruce used to say,”The people are leaving the churches in droves-and going back to God!.”

Hallow’een has become a secular liturgy.Most people have no idea why they decorate their houses, put pumpkins out and even dress up themselves.As the days get darker between summer and Christmas (another secular feast) people feel a need to come together in such a simple way. We get a charge out of the munchkins dressed up and walking safely through our neighbourhood. It is part of the human connection we all need. Lots of smiles and chuckles.Good for the soul.

Almost nobody makes the links between All Saints Day and Hallow’een…and before the Christian feasts were formalized the Celtic feast of Samhain held sway. It was a time to celebrate the end of the harvest and the dying of the light, the old year. The Celts believed the sprits of the dead returned. Bonfires were lit to burn crops to placate the deities. Costumes were worn (animal heads) and people told each other their fortunes. The Romans,if you will, “baptized” this day as a day of the dead and Christianity (as it always has done) took it all over about the 8th century and made November 1 All Saints Day. All Souls Day joined the Church calendar in the eleventh century.Latin American culture uses this time to remember the dearly departed.

When those little gremlins and ghostbusters show up at your door, forget the explanation.Ignore the killjoy fundamentalists wail that it’s all pagan new age nonsense. Enjoy the festivities, the secular liturgy taking place all over this country and make ready for the greatest pagan feast of them all, Christmas, when the cash registers send their hallelujahs heavenward.

Kansas, Mike Harris and Canada

October 24, 2006

We owe a huge debt to Thomas Frank, the youngish essayist and founder of the irreverent online journal the Baffler. A prolific pamphleteer (Harpers,Le Monde,the Nation) Franks, a Kansas born iconoclast, serves up a very tasty popular edition of the Marxist understanding of “false consciousness” or what the brilliant Italian, Antonio Gramsci (d 1937) called “hegemonic thinking.” His book is called What’s Wrong with Kansas.

Gramsci’s use of the term implied the dominance of one social class over another. He tried to explain (and did a helluva job of it) why ordinary folks vote against their own interests. The last good example for us was in Ontario was when the vicious red meat Tory government of Mike Harris placed sweet icing over his ugly social Darwinism. Harris’s gang of “little shits” (frank Magazine) did a good cynical job of convincing enough Ontarians that he was simply offering up “Common Sense.” It gave him two majorities before people woke up and really understood that “Common Sense” meant the gutting of the common good and the progressive social contract which had dominated Ontario politics.

The big slogan of course was “more money in your pocket” which translated “less taxes” a familiar right wing ploy.Harris bet that most people did not understand the link between our taxes, our social programs and great public institutions which had served the vast majority so well. When people did wake up to his con game much damage had been done to the Just Society.Now the name Mike Harris smells to high heaven here in Ontario as he has departed to the usual Tory retirement graveyard of comfy directorships and corporate board appointments.

This was hegemonic thinking and this was Kansas in Canada.
Frank looks out in amazement at American society under GW Bush, the classic wealthy scion of the American governing class.
How could ordinary people be so dumb to vote in this guy?
Look at Kansas he says. It used to be a fiery populist state which tossed governments out when they betrayed the people. Republicans are now in charge here, a bunch of flat taxers, no capital gains or estate taxes, privatizers-and the people demand more of the same! Walmart devastates small towns and local businesses.Give us more the people cry!

Frank is very funny but never cynical.He genuinely tries to understand why people continue to think that Republicans care for the little guy.Why? Because they are the little guy standing up to those pointy headed Harvard east coasters and those smut peddling limousine liberals in Hollywood. In this bizarre world economics do not count.The secret is to tap into people’s pain,their supposed victimhood. The Republicans cleverly highlight those cultural issues-abortion, prayer in the schools, gay rights, feminism and the counterculture.

Reagan and Bush played these cultural grievances beautifully and the cynic, Bush’s brain, Karl Rove has done it twice—but nothing ever changes in America—church and state are still separate, gays are still out, prayer is not in the schools, Roe and Wade will never be overturned and smut is still pouring out of the media.But the angry Republican voters never see the economic bases of all this—life in advanced capitalism.It is the business class (Republicans) which call the shots and here profit is king and as long as this continues all that these duped Republican voters will see is lower wages, more dangerous jobs, dirtier air,crumbling cities (less taxes), more violence as the growing gap between the American rich and poor grows.

The scary part of this is the sad role that Christian evangelicals play here.Traditionally anti-intellectual (critical thinking gets in the way of holiness),Bush plays them like a fiddle–never mentioning economics or whom he represents. He is the champion of “family values” which he and the Republicans have never and will never deliver on.These are the same family values which laissez faire capitalism are shedding. Frank says “The social conservatives raise their voices in praise of Jesus and cast their votes to exalt Caesar.”And as far those Republican bible thumpers go, Bernie Ebbers will serve a poster boy. In 2005, The Canadian born con man (WorldCom )who hustled investors out of $180 billion and was convicted of the largest fraud and conspiracy accounting scandal in U.S. history was a sunday school teacher. The angry Republican voters include,homeschoolers, Opus Dei Catholics, gay bashers and school voucher lovers. all see themselves as victims.Frank writes:

Unassuagable cultural grievances are elevated over solid material ones and basic economic self-interest is eclipsed by juicy myths of national authenticity and righteousness wronged.

Kansas is a breezy, readable important book for our times.In many ways it is a tremendously sad book.Who in their right mind enjoys watching their neighbours and fellow citzens hang themselves?Who can possibly enjoy the death sentences handed out to good working people in the USA, the 20 million hardworkers who are gainfully employed but can not raise a family as the Republican dominated government (pro family of course) keeps the minimum wage at such an abysmal level? Who can possibly enjoy poor people gassing themselves and their children who will never be able to afford college and enhance their lives? But don’t you worry soon there will be prayer in the schools, no more abortions or smut in our homes.It is to weep.

The wealthy Republicans have succeeded all too well. They own the media, fund the think tanks, dominate talk radio and have succeeded in moving the political culture right. All of this has prepared us for friendly fascism- with a patina of bad religion,nicely overlaid. But a lie cannot live forever and people will ultimately understand who is zooming who.Thomas Frank has given Canadians a nice shot across the bow, a wake up call to unpack the politics of Stephen Harper and our own religious right.

As the Galilean carpenter said more than once in the gospels: If you have ears to hear, listen.

Bruce Cockburn, mystic

October 23, 2006

He seldom mentions God but he is closer to the Divine flame than all those TV evangelists. He’s been this way for a good 20 years. For decades he refused to call himself a Christian because he did not want to be identified with religious reactionaries like Falwell and Pat Robertson who

Read the Bible in your special ways
You’re fond of quoting certain things it says
Mouth full of righteousness and wrath from above
But when do we hear about forgiveness and love
God can’t be reduced to an ideology
such as the gospel of bondage (1988)

For many Cockburn is modern Christian mystic who picks up on the still, small voice, the God whispers of the natural world and the inevitable pull to the kingdom, the commitment to peace and justice. In Cry of the Tiny Babe (1991),Cockburn neatly unpacks the midrash of Matthew and Luke and understands God’s preferential option for the poor. This is the divine base which God works from not the wealthy “base” that GW Bush named in Michael Moore’s devastating portrait in Fahrenheit 9/11.

There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
And the message is clear if you’ve got [you have] ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It’s a Christmas gift [that] you don’t have to buy
There’s a future shining in a baby’s eyes

For him the incarnation is

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

But the tiny babe grows up to be the crucified kigdom-peddler
whose call to God’s reign is briefly destroyed by the empire politics of the dominant consciousness with the result that

in the absence of a vision there are nightmares
And in the absence of compassion there is cancer
Whose banner waves over palaces and mean streets
(Night Train,1996)

Cockburn would be very much at home with God as the “incomprehensible Mystery” (Rahner). This concept is all pervasive in his music. The world for this extraordinary Canadian troubador is the world of Gerard Manley Hopkins, a world that “shines out like shook foil” . It is a World of Wonders(1985):

Here’s a rainbow shining in a bead of spittle
Falling diamonds in rattling rain
Light flexed on moving muscle
I stand here dazzled with my heart in flames at this…

World of wonders…

Moment of peace like brief arctic bloom
Red/gold ripple of the sun going down
Line of black hills makes my bed
Sky full of love pulled over my head

World of wonders…

In this vale of tears,broken as it is (as well as graced) we often have to go the way of the via negativa, into the darkness:

Gone from mystery into mystery
Gone from daylight into night
Another step deeper into darkness
Closer to the light
(Closer to the Light, 1994)

Cocburn acknowledges the “sin situation” of the human condition yet he never seems to fall into despair because the Holy is never far from us, summoning us to a deeper immersion in life.

Humans must respond to this Divine initiative by looking after creation and each other. He is so adamant about this conviction that he closed his concert in Guelph (and included it at Massey Hall (Oct.20) with Mystery(2006):

You can’t tell me there is no mystery
You can’t tell me there is no mystery
It’s everywhere I turn

Moon over junk yard where the snow lies bright
Snow lies bright
Snow lies bright
Moon over junk yard where the snow lies bright
Can set my heart to burn

Infinity always gives me vertigo
Infinity always gives me vertigo
And fills me up with grace

This feast of beauty can intoxicate
This feast of beauty can intoxicate
Just like the finest wine

Cockburn is no hopeless romantic full of cheery optimism.He understands the fallen state of the world and the fact that he was “ built on a Friday and you can’t fix me”, nevertheless he’s done OK.Even in his brokenness he calls on all fellow “stumblers” to incarnate love in the world.

So all you stumblers who believe love rules
Believe love rules
Believe love rules
Come all you stumblers who believe love rules
Stand up and let it shine
Stand up and let it shine

Right to Life cause diminished

October 21, 2006

For many years the Right to Life movement has struggled valiantly to limit abortions here and abroad. Thousands of good people have invested time and energy in this life concern.On the other hand critics have said that too many “pro-lifers” were simply anti-abortion and inconsistent in their understanding of “the seamless garment approach” made famous by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin of Chicago.Many have hurt their cause by openly dismissing poverty, war and environment (non-human life) as irrelevant. Many have openly supported political parties which have eviscerated the Catholic principle of the common good.

The folllowing letter written by Tim O’Connor a religion teacher in Stratford Ontario partially addresses the radical inconsistency of a “pro life” group which has invited a speaker who actually suggested that somebody should drop a nuclear bomb on Iran, a bomb which would destroy life in utero, men and women who create and sustain life and the environment which would be leached of life.

Dear Bishop Fabbro,

My name is Tim O’Connor and I am a parishioner at Holy Name Catholic Church in St. Marys and a teacher at St. Michael Catholic Secondary School in Stratford. I am fairly sure that we share some common friends as I attended St. Michael College School in Toronto and spent many years at Columbus Boys’ Camp where I developed good friendships with Bob Holmes,
Paul Rybicki, Dwyer Sullivan and a number of other Basilians and former Basilians.

I am writing about two speakers who were invited to speak in our diocese.

The first speaker is Jim Loney. It is my understanding that Jim was recently de-invited by the diocese. If I am wrong, please correct me.

If this is the case, I am terribly disappointed. Jim Loney is a prophet. He is a person of peace and a tremendous inspiration to so many people in these times of great turmoil and conflict in our world. As you know, Jim has also worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor and homeless through his work with the Catholic Worker Organization, Christian Peacekeepers and
Columbus Boys’ Camp. His ordeal in Iraq last year has led many of us to reconsider Jesus’ invitation to love our enemies. My family joined many others at a number of marvellous prayer services and peaceful demonstrations in Toronto where the issue of illegal detainees was thoughtfully and creatively raised.

When Jim was released, I was thrilled. I was so happy that my friend was returning and I couldn’t wait to greet him and to learn from his experiences.

At a time, when his release and return should have been celebrated, he got to face a whole, it seemed that the most significant news to many people lay in the fact that Jim announced that he was gay. A short time later, the Ontario Catholic Youth Leadership Camp closed. This camp provided a
Catholic leadership experience for high school students across the province. I am proud to have been a staff member and the circumstances and cover-up surrounding its closing are absolutely shameful. I am disappointed that while many people spoke on behalf of the Knights of Columbus, so few chose to speak on behalf of the dedicated staff who worked tirelessly for fourteen years to develop and outstanding faith-filled program. The alleged re-evaluation of the program has included absolutely no dialogue with present staff.

Now, apparently, he is not welcome to speak in our area. Frankly, I find this very distressing and quite unjust. I understand the church’s teaching on homosexual relationships; I believe it has been the topic of several homilies and open letters in my parish. However, Jim is not speaking about his presonal relationship or same-sex marriage; he is speaking about non-violence and love of enemies. There are few
individuals who could speak with more authority on this topic.

If we are going to insist that all speakers be perfect role models in every way, I would think that many others would be de-invited as well. This brings me to the second speaker who was advertised at last Sunday’s liturgy – Mr. Michael Coren. Apparently, Michael Coren is the speaker ofhonour at the annual dinner of the Stratford Right to Life. He is advertised on a number of flyers that appear in our churches as a “noted
pro-life speaker.”

Well, this noted pro-life speaker wrote a column in which he called for a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran. I kid you not. His entire editorial can be found at the following link:

Iraq for Sale

October 19, 2006

Iraq for Sale made it to my boyhood theatre in downtown Toronto last week and my daughter Chris and I went to see it. In previous times there would be a people’s insurrection against boondoggling on such an extraordinary scale. However in an age of massive propaganda and corporate spin the American populace is numbed to indifference.

I had a conversation with Canadian actor R.H. Thompson outside the theatre and he was still reeling from the screening. Basically the well documented Robert Greenwald film unmasks the corporate takeover of the war in Iraq. Stunning profits made by the Halliburtons of our soiled world, those well connected (to GW Bush) companies, are the order of the day and the heart of the film. Revolving door generals and military hacks are well represented making a fortune on the backs of the tax paying public and the safety of their employees. Nice to see the military boys so gainfully employed after their service to Caesar. In Canada we have the reverse – a former military lobbyist Gordon O’Connor is now the Minister of Defence in “Steve” Harper’s government.

Not only do the shocking cost overruns and astronomical mark ups stun you but the poor protection afforded the grunts who do the security work makes you ill. Interviews with the hapless victims’ families show once again the callous and cynical attitudes of these profiteers chief among then Blackwater Security Consulting, Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, and CACI International. Here we see the ugly world of mercenaries used for combat operations and even interrogations, contracted to do what the military should doing for twice the salary. The charade is laid bare for all to see-no bid contacts, overcharging, bribery…and no investigation because of the Republican-dominated government.

Thank God for the fighting spirit of directors like Greenwood the same director who unmasked WalMart.(The High Price for Low Cost). Thank God for grassroots folks (among them brother Paul) who ponied up $367,000 to get the film made. Canadian showings are listed below. The DVD is inexpensive($10-15) and can be purchased

Calgary Coalition Against War and Occupation, Canada Democracy and International Law, The Arusha Centre Oct 20 Fri

Courtenay, BC World Community Development Education Society
Nov 11 Sat Nanaimo, BC Global Film Festival Nanaimo

Nov 08 Wed Sooke, BC

Jo Phillips Nov 07 Tue Vancouver, BC

Mosaic. Compassion. Justice. Art. Nov 09 Thu Vancouver, BC

Greg Lomnes Oct 21 Sat Victoria, BC

Movie Monday, Movie Monday – details web site Nov 17 Fri Ottawa, ON

Centre for the Study of Education and Work, OISE/UT
Nov 03 Fri Toronto, ON

Saints preserve us

October 18, 2006

Saints preserve us
by Phil Little
The “saint” making process is curious to Catholic and non-Catholic observers alike.  While the four most recent inductees to this heavenly chorus were probably persons of sufficient virtue in this real mortal life, the saint making process serves other ideological purposes.  No one, not even the Pope, would argue that by being designated a “saint” changes one’s status in the afterlife.  However, in the here and now of Church politics, it does matter who gets official approval which naturally has consequences for those connected to the departed “saint”. The process of saint making is controlled by a Vatican bureaucracy and comes with a cost – usually in the millions of dollars much of which can be recovered in relics, scapulars and holy medals as the “cause” is promoted among the faithful.
Consequently the vast majority of causes are promoted by religious organizations which seek further validation of their apostolates based on the sanctity of their founders. Such is the case of three of the most recent inductees.  The fourth of this new group, the Mexican bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia, takes a different twist.  He is a symbol of the struggle between the church and the state in Mexico for secular power, and he is thus somewhat of a new world equivalent to the Spanish clergy allied with General Franco who died during the Spanish civil war and who are also lined up for induction in the saint club.  Furthermore, Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia is more prominently figured as the maternal uncle of the disgraced Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Catholic movements known as the Legionaries of Christ and “Regnum Christi”.  While Fr. Marcial Maciel remains under Vatican sanction for life and remains a moral liability to both organizations, the promotion of the uncle benefits both organizations and serves as a worthy distraction.  The cost of a canonization process, and the validation of required miracles, would be a drop in the bucket for these extremely wealthy and influential organizations. 
To understand the saint making business, perhaps a comparison can be made to the Nobel prize process.  Sometimes an honour does happen to fall upon a worthy candidate.  The prize for Peace has gone to most worthy candidates such as Rigoberta Menchu from Guatemala in 1992 and Aung San Suu Kyi from Burma in 1991.  The prize has also gone to Yasser Arafat in 1994 and Henry Kissinger in 1973.
It is unfortunate for those worthy of whichever honour, saint or Nobel, that the process is sometimes disgraced by very real political and ideological purposes. But such is the way of the world.

Phil Little is a B.C. based commentator on church politics.

The unelected twins

October 16, 2006

T.D.Allman in his marvelous book on USA (Rogue State:America at War with the World),traces the careers of the unelected masters of deceit, Rumsfeld and Cheney. The twins always had their own undemocratic agenda,dating from the era of the original dark prince R. Milhouse Nixon. Rather than entering politics to improve the lives of ordinary people, they have resurfaced to flog their imperial misadventure entitled the Project for the New American century. Undoing most of the multilateral approaches to world problems through the United Nations, the pair “stomped across NATO and the UN as though the world were Jurassic Park.”

Both Rummy and Cheney fit perfectly GW Bush’s political paradigm which is in his own notorious words to serve “his base, the American plutocracy. This is how Allman describes their activity:

“Closing preschool and senior centers, while sending American teenagers off to die in foreign wars…government of the few, by the few, for the few. There would be welfare-corporate welfare. There would be compassion-for Enron and Arthur Andersen executives. When it came to social programs, the George W. Bush administration would apply a means test:the greater your means the bigger tax break you would get.”

Rumsfeld fell on his sword early in W’s disastrous reign.As soon as the major networks started showing Rummy doing the empire’s business with his good friend Saddam Hussein, people laughed at him. Rummy had been appointed by President Reagan as a Middle East envoy in the mid 80s.His job? To sell Saddam military equipment and poison gas.

The dour Cheney, a lifelong Republican soldier gained notoriety early on in W’s presidency. Asked why he did not fight in Vietnam, said that he had “better things to do.” Cynical reporters began calling him “5 Deferments” Cheney. So quick to send the poor to die in a foreign war, so slow to volunteer himself. The classic war wimp.Then there was his brazen links (former CEO) to the war profiteers Halliburton.

This dynamic duo fit perfectly the late J.K.Galbraith’s wonderful definition of the modern conservative:

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness

“Steve” Harper’s ugly wedge politics

October 14, 2006

A firestorm is erupting in Canadian politics, a potentially ugly destabilizing one which owes much to the dirty wedge politics of the American Republican party and the paralyzing power of the pro Israeli lobby in Canada.

Recently Liberal leadership front runner Michael Ignatieff stated on Quebec television what would be obvious to most Canadians.Israel committed a war crime in the recent overkill in Lebanon which resulted in over 1,200 deaths of Lebanese noncombatants.In a huff,Thornhill MP Susan Kadis who is Jewish and a strong Iggy supporter resigned as his co-chair. This was followed by Montreal Jewish community leader Ariela Cotler’s tearing up of her Liberal card.The latter is the wife of former Paul Martin cabinet minister,Irwin Cotler. Add to the disgruntled Israel true believers, Heather Reisman who along with hubby Gerry Schwartz owns Chapters.She too has left the Liberals over Israel though it was hubby Schwartz’s friendship with Paul Martin which moved our famously pragmatic governing party away from their traditional even handed approach to the Middle East.This barely publicized subtle shift worried several Canadian diplomats who warned Martin he was playing with fire and risking Canada’s reputation as an honest broker in Israel/Palestine. Canada has never recognized the Occupied Territories as part of Israel but as land of confiscated in the 1967 Six Day War.

This new found tilt toward Israel apparently is red meat for PM “Steve” Harper who accused Liberal leadership hopefuls of being anti-israel, prompting apoplectic responses from the leading candidates. Harper now is scheduled to receive Israeli lobby group B’nai Brith’s Award of Merit next week.Maybe Rex Murphy,Robert Fulford,Rosie Dimanno and Margaret Wente will be there to cheer Steve on.

As is often the case Letters to the Globe offer much more wisdom on the issue than the right wing Globe editorialists or the hopelessly pro-Israel National Post.

Responding to MP Kadis’s hissy fit,Globe reader Shaun Narine of Fredericton wrote on October 13:

Susan Kadis says that she would have thought Michael Ignatieff would “have a better handle on the Middle East given his years of experience.” Actually the fact that Mr. Ignatieff is willing to state something so as the fact that Israel committed war crimes in its recent attack on Lebanon is a testament to his knowledge of both the Middle East and international law-even as Ms. Kadis’s statements are testaments of her ignorance of both. One can certainly criticize Israeli actions out of a sense of friendship.God knows,israel needs more friends who are willing gto tell it the sad truth about its actions and policies.

In a same day webpost Jim Saxon from Toronto, Canada wrote:

Why are we so afraid of criticizing Israel? Or for any other country for that matter? Even Israelis themselves are probably harsher on their own government than us. Geez…..we go out of our way to pull down US – our most important ally and partner. The 800 pound gorilla in the room is that pro-Israeli lobby has very deep coffers and all political parties hope for big hand-outs. Any criticism of Israel is labelled as anti-semitism – a new form of McCarthyism. I, as a citizen of Canada, reserve the right to criticize God if I want to. Stop fuming and go and take a bath if you disagree.

Perhaps the sanest comment came from Canuck from Toronto:

This is a dangerous trend. Allegiance of a citizen should and must be first and foremost for Canada, not for Israel or any other Country (Muslim countries).

One would think the first duty of an MP would be to be radically concerned about the welfare and common good of Canada not of protecting the reputation of any foreign country.Harper is playing reckless with Canada’s reputation as a civilized, tolerant nation which refuses to pit religious and ethnic groups against each other.

The “pro death” President

October 13, 2006

One of the oldest prohibitions known to humanity: Thou shalt not kill has once again been stood on its head by the pro death president of the United States George W. Bush.

The latest study, of the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, has been released,A medical team from Johns Hopkins University worked hand in hand with Iraqi doctors to collect the information and the results are appalling, mind-boggling and an affront to human decency-650,000 deaths since the US invasion,four times the number of deaths suffered under Saddam. Given the statistical probabilities,a minimum death toll would be 400,000 and a maximum of 900,000.A median number is the most probable. Predictably, this vigorously peer reviewed study by the most prestigious school of publiuc medicine in the world has been buried in the back pages of American papers, in aprticular the New York Times and the Washington Post, both of whom had previously apologized to their readers for their insufficiently critical coverage of the spurious reasons for the initial invasion of Iraq.

On a pro rata basis this would be the equivalent of six million American deaths, a sufficient number to catch the attention of the apathetic public, lulled asleep by Survivor shows and the narcotic of pro sports. This Arabic human pain will not register in Bush’s America given that the 18 million Soviet deaths in the World War ll fight against Nazism made nary a dent in the land of persistent diversions.

There is however no getting away from the moral meaning of this human catastrophe, this staggering blunder of a myopic president egged on by a cynical group of war shirkers (Wolfowitz, Cheney et al).No amount of spinning or twisting can gainsay the tragic results of the delusional and failed policy of the neocon Project for New American Century