Category Archives: politics

Politics: Your performance does not matter


Canada lost 54,500 jobs in March but, MP’s got a 1.6 % pay raise just before their 2 week Easter break.

Happy April’s fool’s Day.


Landfill Orchestra

We were listening to CBC radio yesterday when we heard a story about kids forming an orchestra in the slumps of Paraguay

The town of Cateura was built virtually on top of a landfill. Situated along the banks of the Paraguay River, the landfill receives over 1,500 more tons of solid waste each day. Poor management of the waste has caused critical pollution to the most important water source in the country and threatens the health of it’s residents.

There are seven different neighborhoods built around the landfill, accounting for over 2500 families living in close proximity to dangerous waste.

Most of the families, including children, are employed by the landfill as recyclers. The poverty has forced children to work in the landfills, neglecting any education that might lead them to a better life.

Their teacher, Favio Chavez decided to provide something positive in their lives. He decided to try and create musical instruments from the one resource in plenty, after seeing a violin made from garbage.

The music the children produced was beautiful. When we watched the trailer for the documentary it was plain to see how proud and happy these children were and how basic their instruments looked.
Landfill Harmonic film teaser on Vimeo

It was wonderful and inspiring to see children striving to create meaning in their lives in a place built on garbage. The teachers and children did not see the lack of funds or instruments as a wall stopping them from achieving their goals, only an obstacle to surmount. They were able to accomplish so much from the refuse of society and create beauty from it

How often have I used the lack of funds, proper equipment, time or talent as an excuse for not starting something. These children and their parents and teachers have done something amazing- they have not let circumstances ,societal expectations or apparent resources define what they are capable of.

Joining the Conversation

I listened to Marcin Jakubowski TED talk. He was a graduate physics student that found that he did not have any really useful skills. He started a farm, and bought a tractor. His tractor broke down, so he got it fixed; it broke down again and he found he was broke.

He went on build his own tractor and other farm machinery. From his farm, he and others have gathered to develop other machinery to power civilization.

Open Source Ecology is a global network dedicated to accelerating the growth of the next economy, an open source economy, that optimizes both production and distribution while promoting social justice and environmental regeneration. We are building the Global Village Construction Set, a high-performance, modular, do-it-yourself, low-cost platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different industrial machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

Here are a group of people, stepping outside the “box”. They are deciding to dedicate their lives, to promote what they think is important. They are participating in life, joining the conversation of what it means to be human and to try and live on this world lightly rather than blindly following the world trashing script the rest of us have been handed.

They are choosing to be citizens rather than mere consumers.

Politics of Hatred

What Anders Breivik did in Norway was a horrible tragedy

At least seven people died in Oslo after a huge car bomb exploded close to buildings which house the offices of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
A further 84 were killed when a man dressed as a police officer opened fire on the island of Utoya where a youth meeting of the ruling Labour Party was taking place.

I cannot imagine the absolute horror that these children had to face. As a parent, knowing that your child was in such danger and being unable to help would be absolutely maddening.

The greatest danger this of cowardly attack is dismissing it as the work of a lone madman. This attack was directed against the Labour Party. This was a gathering of youth from the Labour Party. Anders Breivik wanted to make commentary on immigration policies of the Labour Party.

Hassan Ali argues that hostility towards immigrants has been growing steadily in Norway over the past decade and blames the rise of right-wing parties in parliament, particularly the Progress Party, or FrP, which now holds the second-largest number of seats.
This mad man (Anders Behring Breivik) has been brain-washed by the far right party (FrP)… and has been following its ideology… and he needed to do something,” he said.

The FrP was attacking the Labour party because they were bringing Muslims to this country and defending their rights, their workplace and social rights.”
Mr Breivik was a member of the party for four years but the FrP denies it influenced him, saying his actions and beliefs are contrary to its policies and value-system.

”Over the last three years we have felt we are not welcome here,“ says Hassan Ali.
”Every Sunday the papers are writing only negative things about the Somalis. People are leaving and more will leave as the pressure builds up.”
Members of other immigrant communities are also concerned about what they say is the negative attitude towards them.
Kenneth, who came to Norway from Kenya six years ago, says he was on a plane when the attacks took place.
”The first thing someone said was that it was an immigrant and immigration should be stopped.”

A party or a people can not espouse anti-muslim sentiments and then be surprised when these thoughts have given rise to a mass murder. This had happened in Nazi germany, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka. Anders Brevik was a creation of the extremist views that pervaded his country.

Lars Buehler, a Norwegian scholar and terrorism expert, said he had debated with Breivik on an extremist website frequented by what he calls xenophobes and Islamaphobes all over Europe.

”I was the single opposing voice, arguing against the xenophobic, Islamaphobic postings and comments that were the norm on this page, and Breivik did not stand out with a particularly aggressive or violent rhetoric. He was quite mainstream, Mr Buehler said.
The rhetoric that fuels Anders Breivik exists in not so hidden forms in main stream society .

Following the devastation wreaked by Breivik, it was a week of intensive damage limitation for the anti-Islam populists of Europe. Alarmed they might be tarred by association with the Utøya massacre, the New Populists, usually if inaccurately dubbed neo-fascist or extreme right, have been in a hurry to disavow the Norwegian mass murderer and condemn the violence.

Among the extreme parties in Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands, politicians have been fired, suspended, disciplined or rebuked by their leaders for voicing sympathy with Breivik’s worldview – nostalgia for a conservative, traditionalist, whites-only Europe of a bygone age combined with blind fury at its dissolution in a globalised world.

If Breivik’s anger erupted in mass murder, the populist politicians use words as their weapons, posters and images for their witch hunts and scapegoating.

”In a Norwegian Norway this tragedy would never have happened,“ blogged Erik Hellsborn of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party. ”This was caused by multiculturalism.“ He was in trouble with the leadership of a party that campaigns to ”keep Sweden Swedish” in the country that is the most open to immigrants in Europe.

Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom party, who has been tried and acquitted on hate speech charges for his calculated provocations, is a favourite of Breivik, notching up 30 references in the manifesto. Wilders said he was appalled by Breivik, fearing that such actions could damage his campaign. “This is a slap in the face for the worldwide anti-Islam movement,” he said.

In Austria, Heinz-Christian Strache, the Freedom party leader who associated with neo-Nazis in his youth and who is now neck-and-neck with the governing social democrats at the top of opinion polls, fired a party official who responded to the atrocities by declaring that the real danger was Islam rather than Breivik. The same party used a computer game as a campaign tool last year. In Mosque Bye-bye, the players zapped Muslim prayer houses, only to be told that the southern Styria region of Austria is “full of mosques and minarets”.

The idea for the game was imported from neighbouring Switzerland where the rightwing Swiss People’s party has powered its anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant referendum campaigns with potent, inflammatory posters almost always in stark red, white, and black, recalling Third Reich propaganda – grasping black hands scooping up red-and-white Swiss passports, three white sheep kicking a black sheep off a red-and-white Swiss flag.
As outlined in Breivik’s rambling manifesto, they largely dovetail with the views of the New Populists who combine a far-right outlook. Liberals and the left have been eager to seize on this, seeking to score political points by blaming figures such as Wilders or Strache for fostering a climate of hate, fear and prejudice that may not condone but nonetheless tacitly encourage violence.

I am unsure how any person can dismiss the inflammatory ideas of racisms and hatred from the actions of Anders Breivik. But, apparently it is possible:

An Italian MEP has described the ideas of Norway’s self-confessed mass killer, Anders Behring Breivik, as “good” and in some cases “excellent”.
Mario Borghezio, who belongs to the Northern League party, condemned Mr Breivik’s violence, but backed his stance against Islam.
“Some of the ideas he expressed are good, barring the violence. Some of them are great,” Mario Borghezio told Il Sole–24 Ore radio station.
He agreed with Mr Breivik’s “opposition to Islam and his explicit accusation that Europe has surrendered before putting up a fight against its Islamicisation”.

How does a person condemn mass murder and in the same breath condone the sick, cowardly ideology that lead to the act in the first place. What kind of mental gymnastics does a person need to perform not to see the hypocrisy ? Extremists views from the far right or the Jihadist have no place in a decent society. Free speech ends when violence, and murder is sanctioned.

Harper – the democratic Fascist

Harper once again is in the mood to play mini-dicator:

EDMONTON—The Liberals say two more teens with Liberal ties were thrown out of a Conservative rally in Vancouver.

“This is just becoming more and more grotesque,” Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Saturday.

He was referring to university students in London and Guelph who were abruptly shown the door, even though they were properly registered.

These incidents help stoke Ignatieff’s argument that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is obsessed with control and is anti-democratic.

Ignatieff said there were Tory supporters at his rally earlier in Sudbury “who said ‘I might just vote Liberals this time.’ “

“This is about democracy … and he has just got to stop doing this,” he told reporters.

Ignatieff bristled at the Conservatives’ explanation that it was a private meeting and can toss who they like.

“Excuse me, there is no such thing as a private meeting in a federal election. These are public meetings. Come one come all,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Conservtives acknowledged that even though they were identified as Liberal supporters the teens were told they could stay if they didn’t disrupt the rally.[this means they were not disrupting the rally to begin with]

“They declined,” he said.[I am sure they were “helped” with this decision]

At the Edmonton Liberal rally a man was allowed in despite the fact he was holding a sign that said: “Ignatieff, going back to Harvard soon?”

Harper’s idea of reaching out to the public is to stick his head in the sand. As long as there is no voices of dissent, within earshot, everything is going well.

Here is a blog, written by Emily Dee, a disappointed former conservative who is mad as heck, a grandmother and someone who has taken the time to catalog the list of Harper failings.

Harper: The Cowardly Lion in Canada’s Oz

Stephen Harper has limited the amount of questions he will take from reporters to a grand total of five per day. Five questions a day, this is how Stephen Harper wants to interact with the public. He wants to limit the chances he gets to make a mistake. He wants to control the image and the message that he puts out. He does not want any possibility of the truth getting out. He does not want a true conversation with journalists or the Canadian public.

It infuriates me to see this politician in action. Why does he think that the best time to not talk about the state of the country is during an election campaign. If not now, when? An election campaign is theoretically the time a politician needs to justify his actions and talk about the future he has envisioned. Apparently, Mr. Harper does not feel the need to discuss his views of Canada with Canadians. Canadians are just not important enough to think. Far better, is for Mr. Harper to tell Canadians what to think.

Is this man so cowardly, so controlling, and so fearful as to not engage the public in a discussion about our mutual futures ? The man has taken extra pains to control his message:

After several days, it is clear his daily schedule is carefully designed to minimize political risk. Harper has not done any “walkabouts” on city streets where average voters can meet him. Moreover, the photo-ops with voters — such as at a seniors’ home and a deli — have been pre-arranged. Also, people who attend rallies must be on a list to gain entry to the event.

Harper only provides one news conference per day, and it is specifically designed to ensure that it is not free-wheeling. Journalists who are traveling with his campaign tour are, as a group, only allowed to ask four questions. One more question goes to a local journalist at the news conference.

On Thursday, Harper was asked to explain why — when Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP leader Jack Layton provide news conferences with no limits on questions — he insists on no more five questions.

Harper chose not to answer that question and moved on to the next questioner.

Not only are the amount of questions being limited, but Harper gets to cherry pick which questions he deems worth answering. This was a politician who promised more open and transparent government. He has provided anything but a transparent and open government.

In our limited form of democracy, the only time a citizen may be heard is during an election campaign and at the voter box. Harper, does not even want give us that choice. Like a good CEO, he needs to control the company, and tell us exactly what he wants us to do.

But, he is not a CEO and Canada is not a company. Engaging in debate, is the nature of democracy. Mr. Harper, with his minority government, acts like he is the King of all of Canada. He is not doing his job well. His job is not to cram what he thinks is best down the throats of his MPs or the public. His job is to inspire and engage the public. His job is to provide and inform the voters of Canada what he envisions fort his country. He cannot do this by simply reading his manicured scripts over and over again. This is as informative as talking into a shoe. Unfortunately, I am not sure how many people will care come election time.

Harper’s “Democracy”

Harper continues to run Canada like a corporation. He has an intolerance to any view that does not support his own. And like a good CEO, he will crush any dissent to his leadership. But, Harper is now a CEO. He is the Prime Minister of Canada. The last time I heard, Canada was a democracy. In a democracy, unlike a totalitarian regime, dissent is tolerated.

VICTORIAVILLE, QUE.— Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has long been known for martial discipline, but his campaign may have crossed the line when someone frog-marched a young woman out of a rally in London, Ont., Sunday.

The first-time voter’s crime, apparently, was to have posed for a picture with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and posted it for all to see on her Facebook page.

About half an hour before Harper arrived at the crowded hotel rally, one organizer asked to speak with Awish Aslam and a friend outside the room. There, he ripped up their nametags and ordered them to leave.

“We know you guys have ties to the Liberal party through Facebook,” the University of Western Ontario student told the London Free Press. “You are no longer welcome here.”

The Tories say the incident was a mistake, though Harper himself offered no apology when asked about it Tuesday.

I love how everything is always a mistake with the conservative party. I think they realize it’s a mistake when people react negatively to their actions or, when they realize people actually know what they’re up to.

Last Thursday an advocate for homeless veterans was turned away when he attempted to attend a campaign event where Harper was speaking in Halifax. This, after several unsuccessful attempts by Jim Lowther to contact the Tory leader about the plight of once-proud Canadian soldiers now living on the streets.

This is how Harper actually supports the military.

Maria Gergin has written an excellent commentary on Harper’s long history of silencing dissent and eviscerating funding to groups that do not support the Conservative ideology.

This is a government that initially promised more accountability. But, it is looking more and more like the government from Orwell’s 1984 or Animal Farm — control and inequality enshrined.

Update to Lucy’s Story

Lucy was examined by a third party veterinarian.

Dr. James Oosterhuis, a lead researcher with the Colyer Institute in San Diego, examined Lucy on Thursday along with zoo veterinarian Milton Ness.

“Her [Lucy’s] current respiratory problems preclude any thought of moving her, and, in fact, it would [be] life threatening for her to be placed under that kind of stress,” Oosterhuis said in a letter to the zoo.

An endoscope was used during the examination to look at the elephant’s trunk. It showed Lucy had severe swelling around the trunk and nose, making it hard for her to breathe through her trunk. While she can take in air through the mouth, stressful situations make it harder for her to breathe, according to a news release issued by the city.

On Monday, Zoocheck’s Julie Woodyer said Oosterhuis’ assessment does not settle the issue for them. She points to the case of Maggie, the elephant from the Alaska Zoo, who was moved from Anchorage to a sanctuary in California in 2007.

The zoo consulted 11 experts in making its decision to move Maggie. Oosterhuis was the only expert who said she shouldn’t be moved, Woodyer said.

I think this re-examination stresses the importance of dealing with Lucy’s medical conditions before moving her. The fact that Dr.Oesterhuis did not think that Maggie should have been moved does not negate the seriousness of Lucy sinus infection.

Sri Lanka: Confusing politics and people

The news out of Sri Lanka has been dire for weeks and I had been deliberately ignoring it. But, a few days ago, my wife and I watched the news of the protest marches in Toronto. We saw footage of a hospital that had been shelled 4 times.

Artillery shells slammed into the hospital in the northern district of Mullaittivu on Monday evening. Strikes on the hospital on Sunday — including one that hit the pediatric ward — left 11 people dead, including some children, according to an aid worker who spoke to witnesses.
Government forces and Tamil rebels are locked in a battle for the remaining rebel strongholds in northern Sri Lanka, where the the country’s ethnic Tamil minority has been fighting for an independent homeland since 1983.
Humanitarian groups say as many as 250,000 unprotected civilians are trapped in the area. The civil war has left more than 70,000 people dead.

It was disturbing to see the footage of the dead and injured, lying on the sand, with blood staining their faces and clothes. The camera captured some hands and arms before fading away. Only later I realized that there was no body to go with those appendages.

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The Price of Oil:Solutions for Children

Yesterday I saw a news clip about G8 Asian powers urging an oil production hike

AOMORI, Japan (AFP) — Eleven nations that guzzle nearly two-thirds of the world’s energy called Sunday for an urgent hike in global oil production as host Japan warned the world could plunge into recession….
In a joint statement, they called for boosts to their own production and asked major oil producers “to increase investment to keep markets well supplied in response to rising world demand”.
The European Union’s energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs warned that high oil prices were a fact to be reckoned with and that major economies needed to come up with alternative energy.

“The era of cheap energy seems to be over and no economy should gamble on a potential return to low prices,” Piebalgs said.

What incredible wisdom-if there is not enough – ask mom and dad for more. The “end of oil” has been a long time in coming. Peak oil production had been predicted, ridiculed and discovered again. But,none of this wisdom reached politicians or car manufacturers. Standards for emissions were relaxed as the new gas guzzlers (SUVs) came into being.

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