Archive for February 2011

The incurious Stephen Harper: Why did he never leave Canada?

February 27, 2011

All the rugby players filled the Balmy Beach Club on Saturday afternoon. They were watching a major match and hence the joint was jammed. On my way out from my daily workout  Mike assailed me, a former rugby player from Ottawa.

We looked up at the screen and there it was once again—the famous attack ad of Stephen Harper ridiculing Michael Ignatieff for going abroad and making it at Harvard. You know the one that says, “Just visiting.”The Tories are inundating the airwaves with these obnoxious attack ads.

I do not hold a brief for Iggy.He has failed to distinguish the Liberal Party as a viable alternative to the Harperites.And as the adage goes, people will alays choose the real thing—in this case Harper over Harper Lite Ignatieff and the Liberals.Ignatiieff to me showed a stunning lack of judgment during the Iraq War as did Richard Gwyn of the Star  at that time the  chancellor of a Catholic university. I did not take Gwyn seriously after that.But I have to take Iggy

But if i were in the Liberal War Room  I would put ads up —and Ken Dryden alluded to this in his book Becoming Canada. He asks a very pertinent question about Harper a child of white privilege who never had any money problems or a valid reason for not traveling

“What about Harper staying, about never leaving the shores of  North America before he became leader of the Conservative Party in 2004. For the first 45 years of his life! Harper never was one of those “backpackers” who wanted to see and learn and come back changed with new energy, new appreciations new understandings of Canada…why this monumental incurtiosity? Why did he never leave?”

Ken Dryden: Becoming Canada

February 26, 2011

Becoming Canada by Ken Dryden, McLelland Stewart, 2010, 238 pp.

Ken Dryden, the Liberal MP and former hockey great has once again shown his true colours as a serious citizen. In the Liberal leadership race Ken lacked the royal jelly to connect with the citizenry at large  but nevertheless he has thought deeply about the future of the country and in this book he has  put forth a clarion call for the heart of Canada. His book is Becoming Canada. The gerund Becoming is the key word here. For Dryden we are stuck—between the liberal values and social justice concerns of the natural governing party, the Liberals and the Canada that Stepen Harper is attempting to make over.

One does not know where to go on the way Harper is trying to change Canada.The latest bizarre move to spend $16 billion on 65 new F-35 stealth fighter jets is just one example of our stunning move away from peacekeeping to a pathetic simulacrum of the nation Harper loves, the USA. To spend an eye-popping $490 billion over the next 20 years on the military at this time in history not only flies in the face of our domestic needs but attempts to turn us into Pentagon North. Where will the money for Canada’s real needs come from—Public health care? Child poverty? Fighting global warming? A Natioal Day Care Plan? Money to subsidize the only North American public transit Toronto’s TTC?The shocking debacle of the G-20?

Dryden begins in America with Obama asking people—Iraq War? torture? No Health care for 45 million in the richest country on earth? The biggest gap between the rich and the poor in our history? Is this who we are? Is this our national dream—bigger cars, rampant diabetes? Obesity of body? Is this really us? No we are better than this.the people obviously bought in. Yes, we are better than this.

His chapter on Copenhagen follows. 12 years after Kyoto—9/11, Katrina, wars in Iraq and Aghanistan…and time for the dramatic reality of climate change to sink in, to move from “our selfish selves towards our generous best selves.”But nothing happened!

For Dryden, this can not go on. Faced with history’s greatest physical and moral challenge, we must do better.We are humans, not powerrless. Seeing what is wrong is not enough.Or for that matter  seeing what is right. Or opting out and becoming an ironic bystander. Trying harder is not enough.We need Purpose.The young and the old have embraced the Planet and Environmentalism as their dominant story.

It is this need  to believe, the need to take on the imporant matters, the need to find meaning and purpose, the need to come together on something more important than ourselves that is now driving the people of the Planet toward something more purposeful than money. And this new drive is giving the world a chance in a time of climate change.”

In other words it is a time for Purpose, not politics. And this is where Stephen Harper enters—Harper with his cynical mastery of the small game, politics.Here is the Prime Minister who famously said  “Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status.” And told us in 1997 “It’s past time the feds scrapped the Canada Health Act.” And to go ahead and support the Iraq war:

“Thank you for saying to our friends in the United States of America, you are our ally, our neighbour, and our best friend in the whole wide world. And when your brave men and women give their lives for freedom and democracy we are not neutral. We do not stand on the sidelines; we’re for the disarmament of Saddam and the liberation of the people of Iraq.”- Stephen Harper, Friends of America Rally, April 4, 2003.

Up close Dryden has watched Harper’s smallness of vision.”He doesn’t talk about the country itself and what we might be…to him setting the bar at four and hitting a four is a success; setting it at eight and hitting a seven is a failure…it doesn’t matter to Harper that  dreaming dreams has also produced medicare, old age penssions, a national railway system, peacekeeping and a Charter of Freedoms.”

Why did incurious Harper never leave Canada to travel?

For Kenny Dryden Harper “does small and spins big.” He chips away brick by brick at what made Canada great. He  goes negative and mocks Ignatieff for going beyond canada and spending time away.Dryden say the Liberals shoild have turned that on its head: “What about Harper staying, about never leaving the shores of  North America before he became leader of the Conservative Party in 2004 For the first 45 years of his life! Harper never was one of those “backpackers who wanted to see and learn and come back changed \with new energy, new appreciations new understandings of Canada…why this monumental incuriosity? Why did he never leave?”

Dryden acknowleges Harper’s mastery of “Games” but games are not enough.He has been calling Iggy’s bluff: Do you have a vision for this country?

And that is what his book is about.Politics, presently played is making us sick.”We don’t believe we can do what we must do—reduce poverty,reverse climate change, transform our carbon economy.” Just focusing on politics where Harper is master will not be enough.”We cannot fix politics by playing politics.”

Around the world people are now asking Where is Canada? People who know better know we have become America lite defaulting on the differences which made us great. Years ago we would have been a lock for a Security Council seat but our stunningly obtuse support of every move of Israel has totally isolated us in the huge Muslim world. Where has Canada gone?

The Liberals hoping to redefine themselves met in Montreal and were stunned into silence when our former ambassador to the UN spoke truth to the Liberal elite. While critical of the Harper government he asked about the alternative:”It seems the Liberals today don’t stand for much.”

And that is Ken Dryden’s dilemma and sorrow.

“Politics takes over when there is no ther big story around.”

Where is the Canada we need and must have? Why are we settling for America lite…and Stephen Harper with his small politics and big spin.

And what can the Liberal Party add today?

USA embarrassed in Security Council

February 21, 2011

14-1   It stands alone hostage to the Israeli lobby and its own ignorant population.

Professor Lawrence Davidson

The result of all this was that on February 18th the UN representatives of three quarters of nations of the earth went about their business in muted disgust at the cowardice of the world’s greatest power. They probably avoided making eye contact with Ambassador Rice who had played the role of the good and loyal soldier. Hanan Ashrawi, a respected and very smart member of the PLO Executive Committee, had said that an American veto would be “a direct affront to the international community and the requirements of peace.” And so it was. But then, that is the rest of the world’s reality, which has yet to penetrate the Washington DC beltway. Inside that beltway it is the requirements of domestic politics, and not that of peace, that holds sway.

In the meantime, in the far off land of Palestine, the Israelis announced the plans for 120 new settlement units to be built in occupied East Jerusalem. The politicians in Jerusalem play to yet another reality–one shaped by ideology and power. The ideology of Zionism they dreamt up all by themselves. The power, at least in part, is made the USA. It is strange how history sometimes repeats itself. If, in November 1947, the UN had voted against the partition of Palestine it would have made no difference to the Zionists who were then determined to make Israel a reality come what may. And, on February 18th, if the Security Council had voted in favor of the resolution describing settlements as illegal, it would have made no difference to the Israelis who are determined to make greater Israel a reality come what may.

This is our present multiple realities mess. And, it is going to take more than UN resolutions to bring everyone concerned into the same world. The key group here is not the Palestinian politicos nor even the American politicians. The key group is the Israelis [sic, Zionist- JPLO]. It is their ideologically driven reality that has to reconstructed. When that happens the American politicians will meekly follow along. And how is this to be achieved? Through the slow but sure isolation of the Zionist state and its ideologues. Through a process of isolation that relentlessly raises the cost of Zionist reality until it is too great to bear. That process has already begun and will continue until racism is a dead issue in Israel whatever its ultimate borders. This struggle is now in the hands of a worldwide movement of civil society. And that movement will be the one to decide the ultimate reality in Israel/Palestine.

Time’s up for Uncle Sam

February 19, 2011

The UN General assembly resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes  and live at peace with their neighbours should be allowed to do so at the earliest practicable date and that compensation should be paid for their property of those choosing not to return.

UN resolution 194  1948

The volcanic eruptions in the Arab world has stripped the United States of its proud moniker as a champion of democracy. Supporting the Pharaonic dictator and thief Hosni Mubarak for 32 years  has blown their cover and the Wizard of Oz has had the democratic curtain removed. The  latest embarrassment is the failure of Clinton and Obama to speak of the  shambolic dictatorship in Bahrain where the US fleet is cossetted.

And now the embarrassment of the latest  Security council resolution around the Occupied Territories. The vote was  14-1 regarding the settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It  declared  them as ” manifestly illegal and a major obstacle to any chance of peace.”And good old Uncle Sam true to its hypocritical posturing exercised its veto, refusing to join the rest of the world( oh, excuse me Stephen Harper excluded) in condemning the ongoing land grab and the fake Peace negotiations which have been going on.

Israel and its unjust Occupation of Palestinian lands has become a pariah on the international stage and a gross liability to the United States of America…and now the whole world is becoming aware of what the Arab street has long known.

Egypt: the voice of the victims is the voice of God

February 11, 2011

Vox victimarum, vox Dei is an ancient Catholic truism—the voice of the victims is indeed the voice of God. If you are looking for infallibility, start here. And who and where is God? Meister Eckhart the brilliant Dominican mystic of the 14th century phrased it beautifully, “God is a great underground river that no one can dam up and no one can stop.”

How beautifully ironic, how utterly biblical, another Pharaoh toppled from his throne in Egypt! The burning bush can never be extinguished!

And now we look at Egypt as Christians trying to decipher the world.

A CBC report from Israel has that able reporter Adrienne Arsenaualt saying that Israeli authorities admit that they did not see this coming, that it was a failure of intelligence…so was the Fall of the Wall in 1989. The CIA  and the Mossad were obviously not reading Facebook.

For those with eyes to see, for those who suffer with the voiceless, for those see the world as Bonhoeffer suggested “from the underside of history”, it was always there…but like Eckhart says, it was, for most people who are well fed and have their needs met (read middle class and up) it is underground. But for Christians who take their cues from Jesus, the hidden agitator behind every cry for human dignity, it is all there in Matthew 25:31-46…”Lord when did we see you hungry….”

The voice of the victims finally bursts forth in Egypt…but it was always there, driven underground by a corrupt dictator who will leave with $40 billion in his offshore acoounts. How does an army general accrue this much money as his people struggle with hunger and so much unemployment? With his great supporter that fake lover of democracy,the United States behind him, Mubarak departs—as did Marcos, the Shah, Duarte, Duvalier, Pinochet- before him–all propped up by the United States of Amnesia, the country who forgot its roots.

Mubarak was a thug who took the emperor’s shilling and did its bidding. Prop up Israel and its brutal oppression of fellow Muslims, arrest any Egyptian who rallies to this cause. For this he was amply rewarded. And the Statue of Liberty wept.

What an extraordinary day for Egyptians, one that has shattered the racist image of Arabs. What not to love in this outpouring of dignity and equality? Of course there was a price to pay, over 300 deaths by the rent-a-thugs unleashed by the security forces.We should be proud as fellow humans over what Egypt has achieved.

The real struggle of course lies ahead.

Will they allow Omar Suleiman  the torturer, the rendition enabler, the man with known links to the CIA, the man who studied all these methods of control at Fort Bragg in the States,to become Mubarak light.You can bet Uncle Sam is in there furiously cobbling a deal to keep the region “stable.”

Meanwhile Hilary Clinton who called Mubarak a “loyal friend” and “family”  flew into Cairo a few days ago, did 5 TV shows in one day and flew right to Haiti to tell the Haitians what they must do in the upcoming elections!

This is a wake up call for Americans who have too long lived with the naive notion that their country was a force for good in the world. “Why do they hate us,” they bleated after 9/11.Martin Luther King, a year before he was shot understood why: “We are the greatest purveyors of violence in the world.”  Will te country whose torch of liberty once inspired the world finally  stop enabling dictaorships around the world and begin the serious task of living up to its putative democratc ideals?Will she get beyond Israel, oil and stability and move to genuine human rights and real democracy?

This of c ourse is a question the Harper government should be asking itself.

Meanwhile the underground river once again erupts reminding us that our God by whatever name we call God, is always present. The masses in Egypt-Muslims, Coptic  Christians, Secularists- have reminded us that there is no such thing as cheap grace, that for justice and God’s reign to become visible, “we too must shoulder that cross which rthe world and flesh inflict upon those who search after peace and justice.” Gaudium et spes, 1965)

The Empire’s men

February 11, 2011

Frank Wisner is a U.S. envoy sent to Cairo during the beginning of the anti-government protests, the protests which have sent the democracy loving US into a tizzy. Why the US did not go through their ambasador is anybody’s guess. But there is  nobody who has the  experience of Frank Wisner, a longtome pal of dictator Hosni Mubarak, the thug who has enriched himself and carried Amertica’s water in the Middle East for over 30 years.Wisner like all of the special envoys (James Baker, Kissinger, Richard Holbrooke et al) is no fan of democracy as the people’s will but rather of Empire politics, trusted thugs who will keep the lid on and play footsie with Israel while fellow Palestinian Muslims are denied freedoms in “the only democracy in the Middle East.”


The 72 year old Wisner grew up at his daddy’s knee.The elder Frank Wisner fomented the coup aginst Guatemala in 1954, putting an end to Arbenz’s modest democratic reforms which enraged the United Fruit Company.But Wisner pere was just warming up.The Iranians had a strange idea that the oil discovered there should be nationalized and so Mohammed Mossadegh, still a hero there was shoved out in 1954 and that pillar of human rights the Shah was installed.

Wisner Jr has been a loyal servant of the Empire in the Philipines, India and with his good friend Hosni Mubarak in Egypt where he srved from 186-1991.Wisner made sure that Mubarak was given all the military toys he needed to the tune of $1.5 billion a year. And we never heard a peep from this great lover of democracy about anybody’s human rights.Torture and rendition became rampant under Mubarak and the proposed successor Omar Suleiman whom the US dearly would love to put on the throne as the next pharaoh.

Just as the US began to stickhandle around the obvious deep disgust of the Egyptian people and their loyalty to Mubarak, Wisner let the cat out of the bag by saying Mubarak must stay in power. Hilary Clinton the meddling Secretary of State (more on her next day) was furious. Frank, Frank stop blowing our cover.Remember we love democracy!

Remember Hilary’s “We have confidence in the stability of his [Mubarak] regime” and Vice-President Joe Biden saying, “I would not refer to him as a dictator.”No but both of you do not live in Egypt either.



The Wheels are falling off pt.1

February 10, 2011
The wheels are coming off the Empire infast moving scenes. The world is waking up because of the the Egyptian Revolution as to just how corrupt the US has been since the days of FDR. When told that the US was supporting a son-of-a -bitch, Somoza l in Nicaragua the Great One remarked, “Yes but he’s our son-of-a -bitch.” Truer words were never spoken but this truism never penetarated the insides of  American’s psyches…the unbelievable exceptionalism that we are the greatest, the indispensable nation, the smartest, who wish democarcy on all other nations. etc.

Those on the receiving end of their imperial hubris—the Iranians, the Iranians, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Chileans etc always knew what corrupt bastards they were—not individual Americans, generous and good neighbours but the apparatus they constructed to keep cheap goods coming into the  country-particularly the oil in te Middle East. This appartaus included buying off local thugs (the Shah, Pimochet, Mobutu in  Zaire Duarte) in these countries—the Mubaraks, pere et fils, simply being ‘the latest, thieves who have squirreled away billions, The brillliant diplomat George Kennan(who later turned to a more humane elder in the Reagan years

in his famous X telegram from Russia in 1948, Kennan spelled out the Realpolitik of the USA:

We must be very careful when we speak of exercising “leadership” in Asia. We are deceiving ourselves and others when we pretend to have answers to the problems, which agitate many of these Asiatic peoples. Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction…

Well, Kennan spelled it out—and now the US for good reason is hated through the Middle East for their gross hypocrisy and callous behaviour

Next : Obama’s man in Egypt

Stupor Bowl and Egypt

February 5, 2011

Poor old John McCain, yesterday’s man. Here he is with  a dead narrative called “The Islamists are coming”.His recent pathetic statement, “This is the most dangerous period in modern times, in our involvement with the Middle East.”

One does not know where to go with this nonsense. Other than”involvement in the Middle East.

Imagine an American who ran for president concerned about democrcacy breaking out!

And forcing out a dictator and a cruel one at that, propped up for 32 years by the USA!

This whole explosion of popular wills has sent the American empire spinning.and as usual they must find a bogey man—The Islamists will do, despite all credible Egyptians pooh poohing this.

People are waking up to the fact that the USA was never concerned about democracy—why would they prop up a cruel thug for 32 years? Why has this gone unnoticed in the great western home of democracy?In the press? The school system? Because it challenges the MYTH of the USa as the exceptional country, the fomenter of freedom etc. All lies.

Well it’s STUPOR BOWL weekend! More “ centrifugal bumble puppy” the bread and circuses diversions,the SOMA that Aldous Huxley warned us of in his classic BRAVE NEW WORLD written in 1946!

And who would listen to McCain or take this man seriously? A war hero? for dropping bombs on defenceless Vietnamese? Only in America would  a  man like this have any credibility.

Go Packers go! Dancing with Stars! Reality shows! and on and on the diversions go.

Al Jazeera

February 3, 2011

Time to call Rogers or Shaw and ask for Al Jazeera. It’s very cheap and can counteract the crud coming from FOX and other suspect “news” organizations,

Qatar-headquartered Al Jazeera has become the world’s most fearless

and dynamic broadcast news organization and one that is remarkably

influential in informing public opinion.  The combined effects of

reporting by Al Jazeera, the widespread publication of leaked official

documents and video by Wikileaks, along with YouTube, Twitter,

Facebook, and related advances in mass communications are rapidly

changing the way people communicate with one another.  These are

extraordinarily important elements in the growth and development of

organic non-violent grassroots movements demanding positive change

almost everywhere and at every level.  It’s largely but not

exclusively a youth movement.  And why shouldn’t it be?  They are the

ones who will have to live with the terrible consequences of older

generations’ stupidity, irresponsibility, greed, corruption, and

criminality.  It’s their world.  It is their tomorrow.

Al Jazeera: on the ball

February 2, 2011

I am a subscriber  to Al Jazeera for something like $2.00 a month and can testify to the breadth of its world coverage.It is run by ex-CBC head Tony Burman. Jeremy Scahill the intrepid unmasker on Blackwater and ex-Catholic Worker has written a great piece in the Nation on craven American cable providers,Here is his opening:

If it weren’t for Al Jazeera, much of the unfolding Egyptian revolution would never have been televised. Its Arabic and English language channels have provided the most comprehensive coverage of any network in any language hands-down. Despite the Mubarak regime’s attempts to shut it down, Al Jazeera’s brave reporters and camera crews have persevered. Six Al Jazeera journalists were detained briefly on Monday, their equipment seized. The US responded swiftly to their detention with the State Department calling for their release. “We are concerned by the shutdown of Al Jazeera in Egypt and arrest of its correspondents,” State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley tweeted. “Egypt must be open and the reporters released.”

The Obama White House has been intently monitoring al Jazeera’s coverage of the Egyptian revolt. The network, already famous worldwide, is now a household name in the US. Thousands of Americans—many of whom likely had never watched the network before—are livestreaming Al Jazeera on the internet and over their phones. With a handful of exceptions, most US cities and states have no channel that broadcasts Al Jazeera. That’s because cowardly US cable providers refuse to grant the channel a distribution platform, largely for fear of being perceived as supporting or enabling a network that for years has been portrayed negatively by US officials.

Hey if its not American and has an Arabic sounding name it must be bad, eh?