Archive for April 2007

George Tenet’s Blood Money

April 30, 2007

George Tenet the CIA chump who went along with the true believers in the Bush administration was there last night on 60 minutes weeping crocodile tears about how he was used by Cheney/Bush et al. He had become a talking point used by these thugs to start the “unjust, illegal war” which the Vatican correctly named the Iraq debacle.

“Tenet said it was a slam dunk,” Cheney said. So the adminstration, Bush, Cheney and Condi “Mushroom Cloud over Manhattan” Rice took him at his word. But Tenet said he didn’t mean that. But he never resigned.

“It wasn’t honourable” Tenet mewled to scott Pelley the 60 Minutes host. Honour in the Bush administration? And GW Bush presents Tenet with the Medal of Freedom, almost akin to the 5,000 medals Ronald Reagan gave out after the heroic liberation of Grenada which made America feel good about itself again after Vietnam.

Tenet now with his $4 million advance jumps the sinking Mission Accomplished ship. This was simply the latest good impression of Pontius PIlate washing his hands.

Sorry George you had your chance to be honourable and you blew it.

And now there’s over 650,000 graves in Iraq and 3,300 in America.And George Tenet has his $4 million in blood money.

John Baird all hot air; Vatican gets greener

April 29, 2007

In the seven lean years of Mike Harris in Ontario, there was no cabinet minister who oppressed the poor more than the slick John Baird. Friends in the Legislature who defended the poor were absolutely disgusted with his vicious streak. A single man with no dependents, he took great glee in stomping on those on the margins. His lowest moment as recalled by one member was his disgusting photo op of drug needles suggesting the poor were blowing their money on drugs.

Now the fast talking Baird is on the national stage spinning the Tory plan on the environment. The Kyoto Accord according to Baird’s boss,PM Stephen Harper was simply a “socialist scheme” to suck money from the state. And after the hapless Rona Ambrose was dumped, John Baird arrived with smoke and mirrors.

Two people who know a little about the environment David Suzuki and Al Gore dismissed the Torys’ latest response to Kyoto.According to Gore this plan is a “complete and total fraud designed to mislead the Canadian public.”

The former U.S. vice-president blasted the Conservative environmental platform as ‘complete and total fraud designed to mislead the Canadian public.’

Adding to Baird and Harper’s woe and certainly a shot across the bow of the Bush White House, the Vatican has stepped up its criticism of the free marketers who do not understand the sacramental nature of the environment.

According to a press release on the weekend of April 28 Pope Benedict urged bishops, scientists and politicians to “respect creation” while “focusing on the needs of sustainable development”.

Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, head of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, said: “For environment … read Creation. The mastery of man over Creation must not be despotic or senseless. Man must cultivate and safeguard God’s Creation.” Benedict is expected to become even more green than his predecessor John Paul ll.

In a major surprise young conservative evangelical churches are increasingly at war about the human contribution to global warming.They seem to be in contrast with the bizarre rantings of the apocalyptics who welcome environmental degradation as it hastens the end times. “They are the most effective lobby,” said one observer yesterday. “They represent the conservative vote so Bush has to listen to them.”

Seán McDonagh, a Columban missionary and author of books on ecology and religion. “The Catholic church’s social teaching on human rights and justice has been good, but there has been little concern about the impact on the planet. The church has been caught up on its emphasis on development and on resisting population control, but if we are pro-life we should be banging the drum now about climate change.”

One wonders now how many sermons will be delivered on this topic and how pastoral priorities will change. Or if the Catholics in the pews of Nepean will continue to vote for reactionaries like John Baird.

Stockwell Day sullies Canada—and the gospel

April 27, 2007

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, a former Christian minister and a “public religious”, has once again embarrassed the country and Christianity by defending torture in Afghanistan.

Describing Afghani prisoners as machine gunning children killers, decapitators of old women the hapless Day defended Canada’s muddied role in Afghanistan wherein we hand over prisoners to the Afghanis and walk away. Not our job. Why should we worry about what happens to these guys.Though they’ve had no trial much less conviction, they’re probably guilty. He does a a Pontius Pilate , washes his hands incredulous that anybody cares!

And this guy is a minister of the Crown and a “right to life” Christian!

For starters we signed the Geneva Convention which protects prisoners of war.

And one would imagine a serious Christian would still see the enemy as an ikon of God, worthy of dignity.

Next to Day, Gordon O’Connor, the former military lobbyist and now Minister of Defence, looks like Socrates.

Leningrad and Billy Joel

April 24, 2007

JoelWar is God’s way of teaching Americans geography said the American short story writer Ambrose Bierce. Cynical maybe but not far off the mark.

In 2002 the National Geographic Society found that only about one in seven — 13 percent — of Americans between the age of 18 and 24 could find Iraq. The score was the same for Iran, an Iraqi neighbor. The young Americans fared next to last in a nine country survey. Not to worry because they had a leader who the incurious George Bush who could not find it either when he was once challenged to point it out on a map.

It’s not in the water Americans drink. First it is in the culture and the abysmal education system which is so Americocentric as to be embarrassing. The famous American exceptionalism, a disease which comes with economic extravagance ( “We’re the biggest, best and most powerful nation in the world, why do we need to know about any other.”)

Yet as we all know the boobocracy that novelist Sinclair Lewis identified, does not define the many Americans who are as embarrassed by Bush as the rest of the world is.

I was thinking of this when Billy Joel the Long Island troubador sailed into Toronto on April 20. I was amazed listening to him how many great popular songs he had written. I regard one of them, New York State of Mind as an American classic, a brilliant piece of writing no matter how you cut it, a great hymn to Manhattan.

The same Joel never sang another favourite of mine, a song called Leningrad. It never fails to elicit tears from me. Written in the 80s during a period of high boobocracy (ReaganBush) and American arrogance, the song showed me that there are always Americans with great sensitivity about other peoples of the world. Leningrad, of course, was the scene of a mini-genocide between 1941 and 1944, the notorious 900 day Nazi siege of the Russian city which resulted in the death by starvation of 800,000 citizens.

Joel writes:

Viktor was born in the spring of ’44
Viktor was born in the spring of ’44
And never saw his father anymore
A child of sacrifice, a child of war
Another son who never had a father after Leningrad

Went off to school and learned to serve the state
Followed the rules and drank his vodka straight
The only way to live was drown the hate
A Russian life was very sad
And such was life in Leningrad

I was born in ’49
A cold war kid in McCarthy time
Stop ’em at the 38th Parallel
Blast those yellow reds to hell
And cold war kids were hard to kill
Under their desk in an air raid drill
Haven’t they heard we won the war
What do they keep on fighting for?

Viktor was sent to some Red Army town
Served out his time, became a circus clown
The greatest happiness he’d ever found
Was making Russian children glad
And children lived in Leningrad

But children lived in Levittown
And hid in the shelters underground
Until the Soviets turned their ships around
And tore the Cuban missiles down
And in that bright October sun
We knew our childhood days were done
And I watched my friends go off to war
What do they keep on fighting for?

In the 80s Joel seemed to understand that when xenophobic Americans scolded the peace movement that when it comes to disarmament they could not trust the Russians. Here were these boobs telling a people who had lost 20 million on their own soil taking Hitler’s failed knock out blow, that they did not know what war or human life was about! Here were citizens of a nation who never saw death and destruction on their own doorstoop lecturing Russians about war!

Billy Joel seemed to understand that Russians were human and had suffered deeply both from their own government and the Nazis. His own friends had gone off to war in Vietnam, another country most Americans could not identify. Another million civilians killed. No apologies then or now.

Listen to Leningrad, then Saigon.

Flowers on the graveyard

April 18, 2007

Another mass murder in the USA.

Listen to the hapless Dubya blathering on about God and prayer at Virginia Tech, soporific sophomoric stuff that plays well with the locals. The prophets had little time for the God of consolation but flayed all those who ripped the poor. This is Bush and the Republican Party—the first to invoke the Almighty. What bible are these guys reading?Neil McDonald of the CBC was one of the few who said that we would hear a lot of this—flash to the Senate chamber and listen to the obligatory “our thoughts and prayers are with the families.” More flowers on a graveyard.

it reminds me of the great French playwright Jean Giono when asked why he wasn’t a Chrisitian said that he did not want to be one of those who walk across a battlefield with flowers when war was over. That’s Bush. A man totally incapable of understanding any link between the gun lobby which backs him 100% and prevents America from joining the civilized nations of the world in banning guns.

Nor would he make the link with the omnipresent death and destruction people see nightly in Iraq all fomented by him. Bush was quick to pick up on Pope John Paul ll’s “culture of life” mantra to reel in more wealthy Catholics to vote for him. This was the same guy who kept the electric chair smoking on death row in Texas where he exercised the barbaric option of capital punishment in record numbers. Then there is the 655,00 dead in Iraq. Culture of life? This is an administration of necrophiliacs.

When are these guys going to wake up? For the sake of their children you’d think they’d look at the appalling statistics about violence in the country. This sad sack in Virginia walked into a gun shop and picked up a Glock, an automatic weapon which can fire about 25 shots at once. What in God’s name do you need a weapon like this for, other than mass murder?

Even on the CBC we had a nutter from BC go on like several in the States about if only the other students had a weapon they could have taken this guy out!

Ken Loach: director “from below.”

April 15, 2007

Land and FreedomLand and FreedomIf Jesus were here today he would be a film maker and unlike Fox news he would not be “fair and balanced.” Messiah Productions would be unambiguous by beginning with a perspective “from below.” What does the world look like from the vantage point of the poor and voiceless? Somewhere and everywhere lurking below the surface of his cinematic efforts one would find his omnipresent theme of “the kingdom” or “the reign of God.” What forces were conspiring with , aiding and abetting, giving birth or downright foreclosing on the reign of peace and justice in this world.

The Birchcliff Craic Club (Craic is Irish for stimulating conversation or as our late member Des Rainey would have said, “immersion in a verbal bath”) is sponsoring in its weekly conversations the filmic efforts of Britain’s Ken Loach. One of the advantages in living in a metropolis is the chance to catch up on great film makers like Loach, like Jesus, a brother who begins his modern parables from below.

Loach seemingly has finally hit respectability with his current Cannes Winner, The Wind that Shakes the Barley the epic struggle for Irish Independence in 1920. When he accepted the Palme d’Or Loach said, “If we can tell the truth about the past, perhaps we might dare tell it about the present.” A direct swipe at the Blair spin doctors.

Ken Loach has had a long, distinguished career in England where his class perspective is much more appreciated than in Hollywood. Whether it was battling Thatcherism or simply telling working class stories like Raining Stones (1993) where Bob an unemployed father in Manchester, juggles one odd job after another in order to scrape together enough money to buy his daughter’s first communion dress, Loach brilliantly captures the gritty lives of the poor, often using local actors whose regional dialects make them absolutely believable.

Loach is no fan of Hollywood eye candy.

Bread and Roses (2000) found him in LA documenting the struggle of non-unionized janitors. Land and Freedom (1995) is the powerful retelling of the Spanish Civil War from the perspective of a young unemployed worker and British Communist Party member, as he sets off for Spain and joins the fighting.

All of these films are being shown at the Cinematheque in Toronto for the next few months. Next Saturday we will see his political thriller “The entry from the IRA” as critics called Hidden Agenda (1988). Check the Cinematheque website for the listings.

I can see clearly now

April 12, 2007

Clear Channel Worldwide has just shot themselves in the head.

Who is Clear Channel(CC)? The shortest answer is an American media giant which owns over 1200 boring radio stations.They became notorious when they banned the Dixie Chicks from their playlists for slagging George W Bush. A predictable America First conglomerate which openly promoted the Iraq fiasco with rallies across the United States of Amnesia, its reach is everywhere. The rallies were poorly attended in comparison to the massive outpouring against the war. Executives Tom Hicks and L. Lowry Mays are huge contributors to Bushs’ campaigns. And like all bullies with bread have used their heft to promote their Republican view of the universe. In the past they have pulled ads criticizing the GOP.

Clear Channel is part of the corporate domination of the airwaves and the forgotten purposes of public broadcasting—community control.This has been ably abetted by Colin Powell’s son, Michael Powell who slithered his way to the top as head of the FCC, the governing body of public broadcasting. Powell never found a conglomerate he didn’t love.

Clear Channel became the laughing stock of the music biz when after 9/11, it issued a list of 150 songs to its member stations that it deemed too sensitive to play in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Included were peacenik songs like Bridge Over Troubled Water and John Lennon’s “Imagine”. The list also included all songs by the political rock group Rage Against the Machine. Too bad Phil Ochs,Woody Guthrie and Harry Chapin are dead.They’d have been banned too.Quite possibly the Sermon on the Mount, an inflammatory piece which exalted peacemaking.

Clear Channel’s KMEL in San Francisco canned fired its popular community affairs director shortly after his show aired the anti-war views of Rep. Barbara Lee, the lone member of Congress to vote against military action in Afghanistan.

Now in Canada Clear Channel Outdoor has threatened anti-billboard activists in Toronto with legal action. The activists (God love ‘em) target companies which allegedly violate city ordinances and they report them to the city. In a pompous letter to Rami Tabello, a citizen watchdog, Daniel Ford a lawyer acting for CC threatened dire consequences if Mr. Tabello did not cease and desist. Mistaking Toronto for an American outpost, CC’s heavy-handed ploy has badly backfired. Councillor Joe Mihevc commented, “If this is the way they are going to do business i.e. suing private citizens exercising their rights, it is not a sign of a company that the city should be looking to do business with.”

Clear Channel is lobbying for a multi-million dollar contract to provide a range of “street furniture” which carries paid messages in bus stops and other public venues.

They are now dead in the water. Good riddance.

The Globe won’t touch this. Why?

April 9, 2007

You can bet the Globe and mail will not touch this story.

The majority shareholders of Chapters and Indigo Bookstores, Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz, established a fund called Heseg – Foundation for Lone Soldiers – a program of financial support for former “lone soldiers’ in the Israeli military. These are individuals who have no family in Israel but decide to join the Israeli military. As Israeli soldiers, they participate in a military that operates checkpoints that restrict Palestinian freedom of movement, enforces the occupation of Palestinian land, and has a documented history of human rights violations.

At any time there might be 5,000 ‘Lone Soldiers’ in the Israeli military in all capacities including in combat units.

According to their website Schwartz and Reisman established HESEG to express gratitude and provide support to the thousands of Former Lone Soldiers who serve annually in the Israel Defense Forces.” By rewarding and supporting Lone Soldiers who have served in the Israeli military, Reisman and Schwartz provide support for Israel’s military effort.

A little history is needed here.

Heather Reisman tore up her card in the Liberal party because the Liberals did not write a total endorsement of Israel’s overkill in the Lebanon War of last summer. Schwartz, was more successful. A huge backer of former PM Paul Martin, he successfully lobbied Martin to change the long standing Canadian policy of an even-handed approach to the Middle East. Martin tilted this policy toward israel. Big money works wonders. In The US a brave Congresswoman in Alabama named Cynthia McKinney was defeated when the pro Israel lobby poured millions into an opponents campaign to defeat this principled woman.

This power couple,Reisman and Schwartz, is part of the Jewish diaspora which is consistently narrowing the chances for peace in the Middle East. There is not a scintilla of hesitation in supporting every action, no matter how heinous, which Israel engages in. There is absolutely no criticism, simply a peculiar brand of “Cheque book Judaism” which has endangered Israel at every step of the way. On the other hand, vigorous debate proceeds apace within Israel—but not in North America. Recently however, several prominent Jews in the USA, Canada and Great Britain have broken ranks and started to criticize Israel. The most prominent among them is billionaire business man George Soros. In the New York Review of Books (April 12, 2007),Soros wrote:

“Whether the Democratic Party can liberate itself from AIPAC’s (the pro-Israel lobby)influence is highly doubtful. Any politician who dares to expose AIPAC’s influence would incur its wrath; so very few can be expected to do so. It is up to the American Jewish community itself to rein in the organization that claims to represent it. But this is not possible without first disposing of the most insidious argument put forward by the defenders of the current policies: that the critics of Israel’s policies of occupation, control, and repression on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem and Gaza engender anti-Semitism.”

The shocking statistics in Israel speak for themselves. B’Tselem the Monitoring Human Rights organization reports the following:

Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military since 2004. The vast majority of these are civilian deaths. On average, two Palestinians have been killed every single day of the last six years.

Ten thousand Palestinians are being held as political prisoners by Israel. This includes over 400 Palestinian children. Most face isolation and torture. Over 1000 Palestinians are being held in detention without trial or charge.

Since 1967, over 12,000 houses have been demolished by the Israeli military, leaving 70,000 Palestinians homeless. Israel systematically oppresses the Palestinian population within the state of Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip through its apartheid system of discriminatory laws based on ethnicity and religion. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are forced to live in small, prison-like areas divided from each other by walls, military checkpoints and Israeli- only roads. Travel between these areas is extremely difficult and requires permission from the Israeli military authorities. Unemployment levels in some areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have reached up to 70% and there is a massive health crisis and widespread poverty as a result of Israel’s apartheid policies.

Boycotts are an honourable tactic, a non-violent response to help bring a nation to its senses. Witness the decades-long boycott of South Africa. Israel has every right to live in peace and security but until it acknowledges and stops the ongoing and systemic oppression of the Palestinian people there will be no peace in the Middle East.

A theological Easter comment here. The Latin-rite Patriarchate of Jerusalem includes Israeli and Palestinian Catholics. Patriarch Sabbah noted that Jews were celebrating their festival of freedom and wondered if Israel would “some day ever have the courage to celebrate Passover by giving freedom to the Palestinian people” as a way of fully recovering its own complete freedom.

A weekly boycott organized by the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation is held every Friday BetWeen 5 and 6 PM outside the Indigo Bookstore at Bay and Bloor. For information on the Lone Soldier program see

April 6, 2007


Good Friday still with us

April 5, 2007

It was George Bernard Shaw who asked the question: Why must we crucify Christ anew in every generation? The answer is of course, forever. As flawed creatures, we do inherit a sinful world, but this hardly condemns us to bleak despair.The Paschal Mystery manages to hold Good Friday and Easter hope in some creative tension.

Nevertheless the forces which managed to nail Jesus to the cross are still with us.The state historically was an agent of crucifixion. Martin Luther King Jr always reminded us that everything Hitler did was legal and much of what Gandhi did was illegal. Coming through the 80s we saw the state induced crime of apartheid. We watched in horror as government turned a blind eye and was a willing accomplice to murder in Central America.

We can mention Saddam Hussein, Robert Mugabe, Idi Amin as crucifying thugs who can take their place in the Hall of Infamy with Pinochet. One can easliy read GW Bush’s budgets as state induced attacks on the poor and thus “crucifying”. The staggering tax cuts for the wealthy as well are the other side of the coin. Any time the state acts as the embodiment of hate and oppression and against the purposes of God that we have life and even abundantly, it acts as an agent of crucifixion.

The Mob is also an agent of crucifixion. Those who cried out “Crucify him and give us Barabbas” are still with us. Often they are faceless and anonymous, silent in the wake of human suffering. As Elie Wiesel said ( who has too often been silent in the wake of Palestinian suffering), he could understand the victims since his family was one and in a way he could understand the perpetrators, but the bystanders? This is the mob today.

The Mob often has had the name” consensus” “groupthink” and my own favourite, J.K. Galbraith’s “conventional wisdom”—the same crucifying wisdom which assured us homosexuality is a choice, women don’t mind not having the vote and “we get along fine with our Nigras”. Or the Catholic Church’s blind elevation of historically conditioned discipline such as celibacy as “The Tradition.”

Lastly, Religion crucified Jesus—and sadly continues to. Yes, the pious and the orthodox handed him over to the Romans, convinced he was a threat (He was!) to their own narrow understanding of Torah. Jesus said no to the Roman gods as well (A-theoi).He was an atheist to these false constructions as he relativized their claim to ultimate power.

Religion, of course, has too often been an agent of crucifixion. The whole US south upheld segregation in the “Bible Belt”. Nobody was more sure of themselves as Dutch Afrikaner Christians. There is a long, sad history of religion’s collusion with evil—from the Puritans, to the justification of slavery, the theft of Palestinian land, the invoking of Allah before murdering innocents. It’s all there as we go into Good Friday.

Happily, we have God’s Easter rebellion and those of serious Christians against such degrading activity.There will be no short circuiting or bypassing of victims in our attempts to be an Easter people. The Risen Christ will still bear wounds.