Archive for June 2016

Only in America

June 14, 2016

The mass murder in Orlando staggers Europeans and indeed all people of conscience who value human life and dignity.

It points to the brokenness of the US political system and the dumbing down of the electorate under turbo-capitalism. In T.S. Eliot’s words masses of the country are “distracted from distraction by distraction.” Sports, pop celebrity culture, Facebook increasingly take the place of any critical thinking. Reagan, Bush and Trump are all you need to know.


And now Hilary Clinton bought and paid for by Wall Street and AIPAC>

This is a country with a military budget, driven by fear and paranoia, which literally strangles human development and socially progressive initiatives which make for a healthy society.

Budgets are moral documents and the US budget annually shows the bankruptcy of a country whose government has turned its back on national health, education and the common good. The wealthiest country in the history of the world for decades has abandoned the sick, the aged and the young. The latter can not afford a real education, one which other European countries readily grant their citizens. These jurisdictions understand what the real wealth of a nation is—its people and the nourishing of their dignity and talents.


The US Congress and Senate, hostages to money and influence, have betrayed their people, their health, their future and the environment which sustains everything.

The Obama administration, conjointly with Congress (in a rare act of bipartisan solidarity) has refused to do anything about the availability of murderous weapons in the hands of lost boys and the mentally ill. They have been dragged kicking and screaming into fessing up to their callous disregard to our fundamental economy, the ecology which underpins everything. These same sell outs to lucre and legal graft, has provided billions of American tax payer dollars in military aid, standard diplomatic immunity at the UN security council to the deadly occupying of Palestinian land. These political cowards has left Israel to do as it wishes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and especially Gaza. Every year they have remained silent over violations of international law by Israel

Prophecy runs at 4% in Israel

June 13, 2016

Only 4% of Israelis read Haaretz—that’s about the usual going rate for any organ which approximates the truth. Probably jeremiah and amos  ran about 4% as well. US gambling magnate and Netanyahu idolator Sheldon Adelson bought a paper, Israel Hayom a freebie to promote Netanyahu and his disastrous policies. 40% of Israelis pick up this rag on a daily basis.

This was reported in April of this year
Israel has received its lowest rating ever on Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press report, with its ranking dropping from “Free” to only “Partly Free,” due to the increasingly prominent role of the Sheldon Adelson-owned Israel Hayom paper in the Israeli media market. In the 2016 report, Israel ranked 65th globally with a score of 32 points on a 0-100 scale, with 0 indicating total freedom of the press, and 100 indicating none. Due to ongoing conflicts with Palestinian groups and neighboring countries, media outlets are subject to military censorship and gag orders, and journalists often face travel restrictions. Economic pressures have undermined the sustainability of key outlets in recent years, threatening long-term media pluralism.”


Here is today’s editorial which 4% of Israelis will read:


Levy 30
Palestinian Terrorism Is the End of the Occupation In the wake of the deadly Tel Aviv attack, ministers voice empty bravado and call for collective punishment, thereby just pushing more Palestinians to violence. It’s time Israel learned the lesson: Terrorism will continue as long as the occupation does. The murderous terror attack at Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market took the lives of four Israelis on Wednesday: Ido Ben Ari, Ilana Naba, Michael Feige and Mila Mishayev. It wounded six others. The attack was not preceded by any intelligence warning, as far as is known, but no one can say it was a surprise. The current wave of violence, which has been described as the third intifada, has not subsided. It does not seem it will fade quickly.


Immediately after the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman rushed to announce a list of collective punishments against the Palestinians. During the month of Ramadan, Israel has frozen 83,000 entry permits into Israel for family visits, along with permits for a handful of Gaza residents to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. These steps have just one objective: To satisfy an Israeli public seeking revenge. Cabinet members competed over who would make the most extreme announcement. Lieberman quickly declared he had “no intentions of settling for lip service,” while 
his deputy minister, Eli Ben-Dahan, threatened the town where the terrorists are from: “Life in Yatta won’t carry on as usual.” Education Minister Naftali Bennett compared the terrorists to “that murderous organization sitting to our north,” and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called for preventive measures “that will go down in history.” Meanwhile, Science Minister Ofir Akunis called for terrorists’ families to be deported and their homes demolished, and Culture Minister Miri Regev suggested that Israel “burn into the enemy’s consciousness” the price to be paid.


This impassioned and hollow talk, similar to the acts of collective punishment, has no real value. It will not protect the life of a single Israeli; it will just increase the frustration and hatred among those forced to live under Israeli occupation. In the end it will only push more young people to terrorism. It’s amazing how the Israeli government does not learn its lesson and recognize what should have been clear long ago: The terror will continue as long as the Palestinian people have no hope on the horizon. No military steps will eradicate it and no boastful declarations will end it. The only way to deal with terrorism is by freeing the Palestinian people from the occupation. Until then, the Palestinians will continue their opposition using force, as most peoples have done throughout history.

Once again: It’s the occupation, stupid

June 12, 2016

Another horrible attack in Israel on June 8 which killed 4 Tel Aviv citizens.
Another blinkered and stupid israeli response.–revenge and collective punishment.
Why is it that intelligent people whose forebears suffered repression and occupation can not understand what precipitates violence. The same people which celebrate Hanukkah, the revolt of the maccabees and also the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto in April 1943 cannot understand the idea of resistance to massive injustice.

More and more one can understand Israeli writer Gideon levy’s oft quoted analysis—Israelis are the most brainwashed people on earth, a citizenry which has gorged itself on the powerful government decades old propaganda.Arabs they believe are congenitally anti-Semitic. for no reason they murder jews. what kind of bizarre thinking is this?
Israel is becoming a sad caricature of the person who buries his head in the sand.


But outside Israel thanks to electronic devices, more and more people are witnessing a callous, brutal state which periodically “mows the grass” of a people with no army, no missiles, no Apache helicopters or Merkava tanks.


As the man said, “it is not going down well” , In the rest of the world people have eyes to see.

In Tel Aviv, the mayor literally spit in the face of the oafish PM Netanyahu:
Ron Huldai pointed squarely back at Israel’s occupation as the root cause of violence.
Israel is “maybe the only country in which another people is under occupation and in which these people have no rights,” he told army radio:
“We can’t keep these people in a reality in which they are occupied and [expect] them to reach the conclusion that everything is alright and that they can continue living this way.”
And to add more clarity, one of the parents of the deceased said, “Last night, after the attack, the prime minister and two of his ministers arrived and yet another security cabinet issued decrees – not to return corpses, to put up barriers, to destroy houses, and to make lives harder, “These solutions create suffering, hatred, despair and [lead] to more people joining the circle of terror.What’s needed is a solution rather than saying all the time that there’s nobody.”
The solution: end the occupation.

The sad Andrew Cuomo

June 10, 2016

The New York Legislature had unsuccessfully tried to push through anti-boycott legislation for months, and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the executive order just days before the legislative session ended. It was a classic end around the legislatibve process, Cuomo met strong opposition from over 100 organizations. Civil liberties groups and pro-Palestinian organizations have declared Cuomo’s order unconstitutional and a form of 21st century McCarthyism. Several other states have also moved to support Israel and prevent their governments and agencies from doing business with companies or individuals that endorse the boycott.


On Democracy Now (June 9) Rebecca Vilkermoson of Jewish Voice for Peace went right to the heart of the matter.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions call is a demand according to international law. It is very simple: again, end to occupation, full rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and right of return for refugees. All those are inscribed in international law.

The idea that demanding from Israel that it stop violating the human rights of Palestinians, and to use a tool, which has been used, as a way to create change when governments are unwilling to do so, is something that is used and until those conditions end. It’s not against Israel forever. It’s not against Israel because it’s a Jewish state. It’s against Israel because—specifically because of its human rights abuses and its dispossession of Palestinians. So I think it’s very important to keep that in mind.

It’s not anti-Semitic. In fact, in my experience, in the experience of Jewish Voice for Peace, the Boycott National Committee, which is the representative of all the Palestinian organizations that have called globally for support for BDS, has—calls very much for universal human rights. That includes speaking out against anti-Semitism, against all forms of oppression and racism. And so, they apply those values equally. And so, we’re very proud and honored to be part of that movement fighting for human rights, fighting against Palestinian dispossession.

Anti-semitic, my ass. Pro justice.


Wake up Israel and smell the Torah.

Governor Cuomo turtles on justice

June 9, 2016


New York stands for  injustice

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has just played politics and spat in the face of democracy when in the most Jewish constituency in America, New York State he issued an executive order to push through a McCarthyite attack on a movement for Palestinian justice. Cuomo did not have the guts to go through his own legislature to pull this stunt—the same one which was rejected by the Ontario legislature. Led by MPPs Mike Colle and Tim Hudak the Ontario House rejected the banning of BDS, a tried and true nonviolent response to Israel’s consistent flouting of international law.

Robert Kennedy was the senator from New York when in 1968 he was gunned down by a Palestinian American for his blinkered approach to Palestinian rights. Kennedy was playing politics like Cuomo and  Hilary Clinton over a people’s democratic rights. Kennedy’s murder was a heinous act totally unjustified. It was  however in 1968 almost 50 years ago when Palestinian rights were invisible and kennedy needed Jewish support.  Today the world has seen through Israeli propaganda which ruled the media for far too long. Today with the advance of computer technology, hand held devices, and social media the brutal oppression, the shocking over the top bombardment of innocents in Gaza has woken people up to this festering wound of a besieged people. Yet political hacks like Clinton, Cuomo and US legislatures continue to enable Israel’s brutal occupation.


Boycotts have long been a tactic of social justice movements to bring about urgently needed change for a more just and equal society, and the movement for Palestinian rights should not be singled out.


This executive Cuomo order which will never stand up to a legal challenge shows how out of touch the political leadership is with the growing numbers of Americans who support the use of nonviolent tactics to achieve freedom and equality for Palestinians.

Wing On, brother Don

June 6, 2016


Remarks at Don Francks memorial Bloor Theatre June 6, 2016

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen.Welcome to George’s Spaghetti House. I am here representing the birds, the fish, the winged one and the finned ones. They couldn’t be here but if they were, boy would they be pissed off..

Don Francks intro at George’s Spaghetti House 1982
As Roman Catholic teacher and former editor of the premier social justice paper the Catholic New Times I wish to speak of Don in theological terms. This may surprise many. But I had enough conversations with this “earthling” to contextualize him, to see him in a different light than actor, singer, poet and raconteur. The ultimate hipster, I knew was all of these to be sure, but he also a nature mystic, an earthling as he loved to describe himself.


Donny was a man of the humus, the Latin word for earth, and oddly enough the root of the word “humility”. One who is deeply grounded; one who saw himself as simply a part of the community which of course included the non-human community—the four legged ones, winged ones and the finned ones. How often I heard him speak like this from so many stages.


And Don was humble enough to hear from me that Catholicism was not essentially dogmatic but sacramental.The holy was carried thru all things—other people, movements, nature..There is no Holy Land; all lands are holy, there are no chosen people, all are sacred ikons.


In 1979 he was among the first to join Greenpeace in alerting the world to environmental degradation. His jazz singing and nightclub performances would never be the same.The dominant thread in our multi-talented troubadour was his radical concern for the planet. His vocation was to proclaim the oneness of creation as a fellow “earthling.” He had found his “faith.” His pulpit was the performing arts. It was his way to illuminate the questions of the late twentieth century. As a performer he simply refused to pursue a “career” while he perceived the planet to be burning down. He become an eloquent pursuer of social justice. As a singer, jazz and commitment to the planet were fused.

One night in 1982 as the Cruise Missile was being tested in Canada I approached him at George’s with some obscene statistics. His opening line to the assembled music fans was, “My friend Ted Schmidt just told me the US is now spending $1 million a minute on the arms race.” Don took a deep breath and said, “there’s only one thing to say about that FUUUUUUck.’


Then half way thru the set he aid, ”Please synchronize your watches. It is 9:42. At exactly 10 PM a cruise missile will be coming thru the front door. But don’t anybody get upset. It will leave by the back door.”
25 years ago I interviewed Don for the Catholic New Times. On the margins of Catholicism we understood that the emerging myth of the 21st century that is at the heart of theology and the spiritual renaissance of our time is the notion of ecology. I told Donny that what he had been saying for decades was being reprised by the great Catholic prophet of the environment, ecologian Fr Tom Berry:


The earth is our origin, our nourishment, our support, our guide. Our spirituality itself is earth-derived. If there is no spirituality in the earth, then there is no spirituality in ourselves.

Don did not say, “it’s about time.” No, his basic humility kicked in ”I am so glad,” he told me, “I really am. I know Tedro, you have beliefs which are very dear to you—some are imposed, some were given at birth.There are some books which are precious to you, traditions as well. I hope that maybe all of these things are appreciated by all of the trees, the birds and by all of the planets. All I have tried to do was to get to something beyond argument-a glass of water, a leaf growing in the wind. Get back to basics, universal truths. All of the world’s children should be able to meet and say: No pollution. Clean it up. Salvation for the animals and all living things. Have no more war—that’s another pollution. And no hunger.”

i believe Don was baptized early by Mother Nature in the wild and beautiful hills above Burnaby, BC. He never lost his connection with the ecological commonwealth. Don as you know often walked barefoot. The reason was simple. He was tethered to his Mother.

When I retired from teaching 20 years ago Don appeared—barefoot of course, wearing his Free Tibet tee shirt. Now the teaching community is pretty square and many wondered who this wild man was when they entered Villa Colombo that night.

Well I was a religion teacher in the Catholic school system so I had Don lay Lord Buckley’s classic riff on the Man from Nazareth called simply “The Nazz”


Well I’m gonna put a cat on you was the sweetest, gonest, wailingest cat that ever stomped on this sweet swingin’ sphere. And they called this here cat…The Nazz. That was the cat’s name.

So The Nazz and his buddies was goofin’ off down the boulevard one day and they run into a little cat wit’ a bent frame. So The Nazz look at this little cat with the bent frame and he say “What’s the matter wit’ you, baby?” And the little cat with the bent frame, he say “Well, my frame is bent, Nazz- it’s been bent from in front.”

So The Nazz look at the little cat with the bent frame and he put the golden eyes of love on this here little kiddie and he looked right down into the windows of his soul and he say to the little cat, he say “Straighten!” The cat went up straighter’n an arrow and everyone jumpin’ up and down and sayin’ “Look what The Nazz put on that boy! You dug him before – dig him now!”
Club owners thought Don preached too much. I who saw him perform probably more often than anyone but Steve, think not. To me he was a holy wayfarer, gifted with radical amazement at the fact that he was still here. I sensed only a pilgrim profoundly touched at the sacred communion of saints which put him back together again and again. “You know I have been saved so many times. You know this by looking at me,” he once told me.


I never heard the voice of a celebrity , but of a gracious companion for the journey, a dreamspeaker who imaged the future.



In the words of that Chinese funeral home on Spadina Avenue which we used to chuckle about, Wing On, brother Don wherever you are.

Even Premier Notley is behind the curve

June 1, 2016


This very good woman the premier of Alberta is caught in the crosshairs of an ugly provincial politics. Alberta has long been in the pockets of Texas oil people who see no difference in the country north of the 49th parallel. Canada to them is simply Texas north . As a result Alberta the oil rich province has suffered from abysmal economic leadership for decades. All her eggs in the petroleum basket. The government never planned for a rainy day and when the sky fell and oil prices plummeted she suddenly became a poorer province.

The bigger story is that the progressive Notley has to genuflect to the reactionary past and work out of an outmoded worldview.The economic worldview, Wall Street wisdom, has proven to be physically, soulfully and ecologically world destroying. As the Dow Jones rises more species go out of existence.The Living Planet report warns us
Populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have declined by 52% between 1970 and 2010.
Humanity’s demand on the planet is more than 50% larger than what nature can renew.
We are currently using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support our activities – if everyone on Earth lived as the average Canadian does, we’d need 3.7 planets to support our demand.

The emerging myth of the 21st century is the ecological imperative proclaimed by environmentalists all over the world, theologians with their ears close to the earth, the air and the natural habitats. This of course has been fought by troglodytes like Stephen Harper and his oil company base. The Tar Sands with its massive footprint,humanity’s demands on nature has shamed and embarrassed Canada for far too long.The jobs created in the oil patch pale in comparison to those in conservation.

On May 12 Martin Lukacs writing in The Guardian wrote a prophetic piece.


Looking to discover the source of the destruction in Fort McMurray, Notley’s province.look to the crime scene and name the arsonists.
They’re the companies that helped turn the boreal forest into a flammable tinder-box. The same companies that have undermined attempts to rein in carbon emissions. The same companies that, by their very design, chase profits with no mind for the ecological and human consequences.

Yet in the fire’s aftermath, it has seemed impossible to name them: fossil fuel corporations. Of course they’re not the only ones who have fuelled climate change: all of us consume oil at every level of our lives. But the record is clear that we are not equally responsible: an astonishing 90 companies alone have caused two-thirds of global carbon emissions. And all the oil giants involved in the Alberta tar sands are among them: ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Total, CNRL, Chevron.


“We have loaded the dice for more extreme wildfires,” says Mike Flannigan, a wildfire scientist at the University of Alberta. “We attribute the increase in wildfires and their severity and intensity to human-caused climate change. We’ve been saying it for years. Many of us saw a Fort McMurray-like situation coming, but none of us expected anything as horrific as what has happened.”


The answer is obvious…but even Rachel Notley can not see it so captured she is by the Alberta ethos

Lukacs says what only the LEAP Manifesto boldly says : keep most fossil fuels in the ground.

Economics as the organizing earth principle is dead. The earth and sacred ecology must become our fundamental organizing principle.