More Unpublished Letters & Articles

Context on Thaw in U.S. - Cuba Relations

December 18, 2014

The underlying reasons for the Obama administration’s decision to lift the fifty year trade embargo on Cuba have yet to be revealed but the move was long overdue. Perhaps it will repair some of the damage caused by a succession of U.S. governments’ relentless hostility towards the fiercely-independent island nation.

The CIA had waged a covert terrorism campaign against Cuba since the advent of the Castro regime in 1959 which continued into the late 1990s yet America condemned Canada for failing to, “…denounce human rights abuses in Cuba.” According to leaked U.S. documents,”…the United States [also] accuses other countries, including China, Russia and those in Latin America and Africa, of taking a ‘best friends forever’ approach to Cuba; by avoiding discussion of human rights abuses in private or in public.”

The U.S. government’s anti-Cuba rhetoric emanates from the same class of people who encouraged decades of Latin American atrocities under Pinochet, Somoza, Duvalier and others. These men were useful and pliable tyrants, much like Panama’s Noriega, who drew his pay from the CIA until he became too independent for their liking. Ironically, independence is Cuba’s greatest sin in the eyes of U.S. power brokers, who have always viewed the island as U.S. property. After ejecting U.S. organized crime from Cuba, Castro made the mistake of defying the Monroe Doctrine and pursuing an independent course. If Cuba-U.S. relations are to improve, the U.S. government must adopt a more mature approach to Cuba that acknowledges the possibility that without American interference, Cubans might have created their own modest prosperity and been more inclined to embrace liberal democracy.

ISIS Merely Latest Bogeyman

December 10, 2014

Mainstream media commentators frequently write about a fantasy land that seems very real to them: a Middle East where Western intelligence services like the CIA and MI6 didn’t sponsor coups in oil-rich nations for the benefit of petroleum companies and local despots. According to the Plymouth Institute for Research, “The Governments of Israel, Britain, and the US are surely thrilled with the appearance of ISIS; a new ‘threat’ providing them with new excuses for war and internal repression.” I would add Canada, Australia and New Zealand to this list.

ISIS, a natural outgrowth of U.S. policy in Iraq; is the new “bogeyman” nominated to keep public fear boiling. The ISIS monstrosity has replaced Al Qaeda and represents the latest in a long series including the Taliban; whose mujahedeen ancestors were once the anti-Soviet darlings of Western governments who subsequently abandoned Afghanistan to its well-known fate

At the risk of mentioning the dreaded “root causes” concept, I offer this comment from John Tirman of MIT, “…expediency usually trumped principle in U.S. foreign policy…the result has predictably, been a growing antipathy for America and its hypocrisies…the avatar of that antipathy has been militant Islam. We remain deaf to this lesson, at our peril.”

To illustrate this hypocrisy, I compare the West’s outrage with ISIS beheadings with our meek silence on Saudi Arabia’s frequent and bloody public executions by sword; which certainly aren’t featured on CNN and CTV. Orwell referred to these gaping holes in public discourse as subjective stupidity. What do you call it?

Andrew MacDougall’s Christmas Perspective on Perspective

December 14, 2014

Andrew MacDougall, Stephen Harper’s former communications director; recently penned an article featuring an insider’s perspective on perspective. He mentions his surprise at being plucked from relative freelance obscurity to occupy an influential position in the Prime Minister’s Office. I can only assume that Mr. MacDougall’s “marginal” writing career included treading a deep path along that high and narrow corridor of assumptions pleasing to Canada’s oligarchical power-brokers and political servants like Mr. Harper. Among the most insidious of the assumptions that MacDougall and his associates unavoidably embrace are:

- Stephen Harper must be Canada’s Prime Minister for as long as possible
- Any threat to Stephen Harper’s political power is a threat to the security and prosperity of Canada
- Personal dedication to enhancing Stephen Harper’s political power automatically improves all aspects of Canadian life…

Perhaps MacDougall’s Christmas perspective will include his acknowledgement that the excessive influence and power of the PMO’s unelected zealot cadre is an affront to democracy. What else can you call a situation where public servants and MPs of all parties understand that they contradict the PMO at their political peril?

Unsurprisingly, Mr. MacDougall has parlayed his political connections into a lobbying career. MSLGROUP recently hired him as Senior Executive Consultant in their UK office. While there, MacDougall is free to use his connections and insider knowledge to advance his own and his clients’ interests. Canada needs a law that forbids people like Andrew MacDougall from ever lobbying the Canadian government as a pre-condition of employment in the PMO. Such filtering parameters would provide a genuine sense of perspective to those contemplating their commitment to public service.


November 28, 2014

Canada’s premiere corporate lobby group the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) has managed to maintain a public profile that obscures its massive influence on government policy. Their spokesman Rod Laver once stated that the CCCE doesn’t “twist the arms” of senior politicians in their regular private meetings. They don’t have to because the collective power of Canada 180 top CEOS eliminates the need for overt coercion. For example, they wrote the 1986 Competition Act for government and succeeded in decriminalizing most forms of business crime until recent legislative changes. All feats accomplished sans arm-twisting.

In a rare public statement CCCE CEO John Manley discouraged the federal government from enforcing the rules the new Public Works integrity policy that would exclude from government contracts any Canadian company that had been convicted of fraud, bribery, extortion or other business-related crimes either in Canada or abroad. The long list of offenders includes top federal government service contractor and CCCE member SNC Lavelin.

Manley actually said that such measures would punish the “innocent” (presumably rank and file workers) and even harm the economy. When the CCCE starts talking about protecting the rights of workers; it’s time to worry. Back in the 1980’s the CCCE, formerly known as the Business Council on National Issues; was instrumental in convincing Brian Mulroney to promote Free Trade and exaggerate the danger of the federal deficit; thus facilitating the beginning of massive cuts in social program spending that only deepened when Chretien and Paul Martin took the reins.

While the CCCE has largely succeeded in its goal of promoting private sector solutions to public problems; I reject their defense of allowing convicted criminals to bid on public contracts. Perhaps the CEOs and top managers of these successful bidders will agree to serve without pay for the duration of the contract as an act of good faith and atonement. Now, that might require some arm-twisting.

Stephen Harper’s Flawed Sense of Perspective
November 24, 2014

In the wake of the recent synagogue killings in Jerusalem; Stephen Harper has again demonstrated his flawed sense of perspective. George Orwell would call it “subjective stupidity”. While he called the murder of five Jewish worshipers by three Palestinians a “barbaric act of terror”, he had previously declared the death of 1400 Palestinians during Israel’s 2009 invasion of Gaza (Operation Cast Lead) a “measured response.” The Israeli Defense Force suffered only 13 fatalities in the assault but experienced widespread rebellion among its soldiers. Perhaps they disagreed with Mr. Harper’s detached appraisal of the necessity of “cutting the grass” in Gaza. As events in Europe seem to indicate; Israel’s violent oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem cannot continue with impunity.

Israeli citizens may soon appreciate the negative consequences of their leaders’ cynical program of illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The European Union recently announced that they will apply trade sanctions to Israel in response to its expansionist policy that has practically destroyed any hope of a Palestinian State.

Economic divestment campaigns against the Israeli state are falsely labeled as anti-Semitic in a vain attempt to discourage states and their citizens from taking peaceful attempts to pressure the Israeli State. Describing the current international effort to bring economic pressure to bear on Israel is hardly unique unless one subscribes to the belief that Israel itself is a unique entity; rather than a regular nation in a unique situation.

Canada signed the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement in 1997 for political and economic reasons. “In an implicit recognition of the occupation, Canada’s free trade accord with Israel includes the West Bank as a place where the country’s customs laws apply. Canada’s trade agreement is based on the areas Israel maintains territorial control over, not on internationally-recognized borders.”

Sanctions by the EU are a good start, but until the United States cancels military, economic and diplomatic support to Israel, her leaders will continue to defy the international consensus that a Palestinian state must exist in relation to the pre-1967 borders with guaranteed access to Gaza.

ISIS Violence in Context
October 17, 2014

While the ISIS murders in are certainly horrible, Western outrage is puzzling. Why are civilian deaths in Iraq suddenly worthy of our attention, while they formerly considered unfortunate road kill on the highway to accessing and controlling the natural resources of this unfortunate place

It has been said the ungrateful Iraqis rejected the gift of freedom and chose sectarian violence when the US invaded in 2004. The poorly-planned US invasion of Iraq created the conditions for violence and inspired Al Qaeda and now ISIS elements to enter the country. Iraqis were well-aware that oil control was the only reason for the invasion and occupation.

We labor under, “…a system of unspoken presuppositions that incorporate the basic principles of the doctrinal systems. These principles are therefore removed from inspection; they become the framework for thinkable thought, not objects of rationale consideration.” If that eloquent explanation is too lofty I’ll offer a simpler version: Certain dubious ideas have become so entrenched in public writing that they are considered self-evident and therefore largely immune to criticism. This immunity is a highly dangerous to genuine democracy but perfectly supportive of what has been called marketing democracy. The unspoken presupposition in this case is that the so-called War on Terror excuses any and all acts of aggression directed at those suspected of opposing the will of the U.S. government

Why do we do not publicly mourn the 200 Iranian jet passengers “accidentally” shot out of the sky by a US Navy F14 in 1988, the thousands of Iraqi Shias sacrificed by George Bush Sr. following the first Gulf War or the 1400 Palestinians recently killed in the U.S. – backed Israeli siege of Gaza in 2008-2009?

Perhaps we need a column concerning justice for the following crimes involving the casual killing of civilians directly or indirectly by the U.S. government and its military/intelligence forces. Each example was perpetrated for the political purpose of demonstrating the overwhelming power of the U.S. military and making the world safe for neoliberalism:

- invasion and bombing of Afghanistan-thousands, so far
- invasion and bombing of Iraq-tens of thousands, so far
- arming of Turkey to crush Kurdish independence- tens of thousands
- invasion and bombing of Pamana- thousands
- Contra terrorism in Nicaragua-tens of thousands
- invasion and bombing of Grenada-hundreds
- invasion and bombing of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos-millions
- invasion of Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic-thousands
- support for Suharto’s anti-communism and attack on East Timor: hundreds of thousands
- U.S. support for Israeli military action in Lebanon, Gaza and the west Bank: tens of thousands

Considering the staggering death toll, need I continue?

Reality of a Palestinian State Inevitable
November 2, 2014

Sweden has openly joined the other 135 nations who accept the reality of a Palestinian state, people and government. Only Israel, Canada, the U.S. and maybe El Salvador think otherwise. Here’s what Israeli government insiders thought of the so-called peace process back in 2005: “…when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refuges, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda.” Their attitude seems to have only hardened since then.

The Israeli state is concerned that they are losing control of their plan to seize all valuable Palestinian territory; especially water-rich land in the West Bank. In addition to UN Resolution 242, the Camp David Accord states that the West Bank and East Jerusalem are to be the foundation of a future Palestinian state and travel between these areas and Gaza is to be guaranteed.

Under the circumstances, why should Palestinians meekly accept Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and believe that these and future encroachments are not part of an established Israeli policy of gradually absorbing any Palestinian territory that might constitute a future state?

Israeli continues to hold the advantage of overwhelming military superiority and U.S. financial and logistical support. This advantage is often misinterpreted as some sort of moral high ground to negate the truism you can’t peacefully enjoy what has been seized by force. If the UN General Assembly could create the State of Israel in 1947, it can create a Palestinian state at some point in the future.

Argo’s Blowback
March 13, 2013

In so-called “intelligence” circles, the term blowback refers to the unforeseen and negative consequences of poorly-conceived assassination schemes and military coups. Recently, it’s also been Hollywood fodder but corporate media commentary on the movie Argo has been sadly lacking in historical perspective and context. Compounding the movie’s misrepresentation of Canada’s pivotal role in rescuing U.S. hostages is the lack of any mention of the CIA’s ultimate responsibility for Iran’s 1979 Revolution. Instead, reality is edited and the CIA is cast in a heroic role.

In 1953, the CIA and British MI6 conspired with British Petroleum to foment a coup that deposed the democratically-elected government of Iran which was at that time developing the annoying habit of putting its domestic needs ahead of Western oil companies. Iran was planning to nationalize its oil resources and direct more of the profits to the Iranian people.

Following a quick and bloody coup; Prime Minister Mossadeq was ousted and replaced by the late Shah, an amoral despot who controlled Iranian dissent with his brutal Savak; a secret police apparatus trained in torture and murder by the CIA. The bulk of Iran’s oil profits were then returned to their rightful beneficiaries in London and Houston; not to mention filling the Shah’s Swiss bank accounts. The ailing Shah was later removed by Islamic revolutionaries in 1979, who then proceeded to inflict their bloody brand of religious tyranny on Iran’s population. Suddenly; the U.S. government had a useful enemy to play the role of international bogeyman.

Perhaps CIA coup mastermind Kermit Roosevelt was inspired by former U.S. State Department official George Kennan 1948 remarks on controlling and concentrating wealth:

We, (the USA) have 50 per cent of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 per cent of its population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period…is to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality…we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization.

The CIA cynically undermined Iran’s efforts to establish and develop a responsible democracy for the sake of enriching a handful of corporate thugs to whom the people of Iran meant less than nothing. It brings to mind the cliché’: What is our oil doing under their sand?

Coyne’s Coins
May 8, 2013

Child of privilege Andrew Coyne betrays his detached elitism by expressing enthusiasm for European austerity measures that will never touch him and people of his income level and background. Perhaps Coyne developed this attitude while attending the private school financed by his father James Coyne, former Governor of the Bank of Canada.

Were Post Media to arbitrarily halve Coyne’s wages because of “austerity requirements," would he so meekly accept such treatment and even publicly defend it? I think not. Even a slave does not applaud the master’s whip strokes. Coyne’s rusty rails of logic carry a runaway train racing to the bottom of a very dark hole. Why doesn’t he suggest that Europe dispense with half measures and eliminate all social programs?

Chinese Stealth Fighter
March 15, 2012

So Harper thinks we might not be able to afford the American F35 Stealth fighter aircraft. Perhaps we can get a better deal from our valuable Chinese government trading partners. They’re probably using “borrowed” Canadian and American technology anyway so how different can these Chinese planes be from the F35? Beyond that, prison labor tends to keep prices reasonable. Sounds crazy? Maybe; but not as crazy as maintaining the existing hypocrisy of our dysfunctional relationship with a government we barely trust and don’t respect. What exactly is our relationship to the Chinese government and what is its future?

May 27, 2012

Must the Canadian public subsidize David Frum’s latest literary project through his sister Linda’s Senatorial expense account? Perhaps yes, since he’s still milking the dubious value of his failed stint as George W. Bush’s propagandist. There is hope though; I hear Amadamejad needs new material.

I first saw David Frum on Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent documentary. Frum, Chomsky and others were panelists in a public debate on U.S. foreign policy. Frum, a shameless booster of U.S. military adventurism, vainly attempted to outwit Chomksy and failed miserably. When I later discovered that David Frum was a Canadian, I was quite surprised and a bit disgusted. I wonder what his mother thought of his emotive performance?

Frum’s previous book on George W. Bush, The Right Man, is full of Frum’s disdain for Canada and his embrace of the American Dream and it’s “great libertarian revolution.” This survival of the greediest mentality is based on the false assumption that each person is alone and stands or falls on nothing more than their own merits. What simplistic nonsense. Especially when it comes from a man whose deceased mother Barbara was a Canadian journalism icon and whose father Murray was a wealthy real estate developer. Frum has been a, “…fierce opponent of Canada’s social and economic policies…,” who was, “…willing to take on gays, feminists, the homeless and weak-kneed liberals.” It saddens me to see another child of privilege, who certainly grew up with a sense of entitlement derived from his wealthy and powerful parents, decrying the humane programs that make Canada special. I must applaud the courage of a man willing to take on the homeless from the comfort of his Washington mansion.

Amusingly, in today’s War on Terror TM climate; Frum once fulminated about Israeli military service but claimed to be too old. I’m sure the IDF were crushed by that news. His point is academic because wars are generally fought by working people who lack David Frum’s refined cynicism. Perhaps he ought to ascertain why America is so reviled the world over before he pounds the war drum from his cozy digs in Washington. The end of the Cold War created the need for new enemies (rogue states). How else could the Pentagon and its friends in the arms industry justify the huge bite they take from the U.S. taxpayer. However, such an examination would be counter-productive for a man dedicated to ingratiating himself with the U.S. power structure.

Frum has abandoned Canada and chose instead to install himself, “…in the seat of empire...” Apparently he is succeeding admirably. Good riddance to him. Canada is better off without David Frum and his great libertarian race to the bottom.

The Real Existential Threat to Israel’s Survival
September 4, 2011

It is a mistake to conclude that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s rhetoric on Israel will cause a new world war. This assumption conveniently ignores the hazardous stance of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who depends on political support from religious extremists bent on expanding Israeli territory at any cost.

The Israeli state’s refusal to integrate itself into the new Middle East reality is exposing the fact that, according to author Jonathan Cook, “Netanyahu and other politicians understand that what is really at stake is not Israel’s physical survival but it’s ability to entrench its “Jewishness” against the regional forces of a democratic awakening.” They fear, “… that the real existential threat to the Jewish state’s survival lay [s] less in military defeat that in a gradual demographic erosion, “that will reduce the security of, “…a solid Jewish majority [within Israel].” Therefore; Netanyahu has insisted that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a ‘Jewish State’, “…fully aware that no Palestinian could ever accept such a condition – unless they were prepared to submit to permanent subjugation.” Under such circumstances, is it any wonder that the Palestinians have side-stepped Netanyahu and appealed directly to the United Nations?

Concerning existential threats to the Israeli state, Cook writes, “Like the Iranian nuke, the Arab Spring explodes the myth of Israel as a safe haven.”The Israeli leadership is well aware that the Arab Spring is, “…certain to fuel the ambitions of Palestinians not only to end the occupation but to restore their rights and dignity as a people after decades of dispossession and humiliation.”

Unbeknownst to most of the world, and with terrible historical irony; at least 6 million prosperous Israelis have acquired a second U.S. or European passport. Israeli dissident commentator Gideon Levy writes that, “The foreign passport has become an insurance policy against a rainy day.” These elites are ready to abandon the so-called promised land; leaving their poor cousins to deal with the new demographic reality of a shared state.

Ottawa International Writer’s Festival Throws a Foul With Fowler
October 11, 2012

Thousands of former Canadian Forces members must be very disappointed by the inclusion of Robert R. Fowler's in the Ottawa International Writer’s Festival.
Have you read Tarnished Brass, Scott Taylor's book on corruption in the Canadian military?
Its main character is former DND deputy minister Robert R. Fowler.
Ever wonder why the author was never sued?
What is Fowler writing about: office decor cost overruns and the fine art of ass-covering?
I'm sure they can find another writer to replace the great man. God knows he threw enough people under the bus during his tenure at DND. Just ask Kim Campbell or the guys in the former Airborne Regiment. Didn’t we bail him out recently when an African
“Al Qaeda” group borrowed him for a while? I guess he’s still “entitled to his entitlements”, as David Dingwall once said.

Lorne Gunther to the Rescue
May 18, 2012

Kudos to Lorne Gunther for valiantly facing down the mad swarm of EI locusts set to devour the nation’s wealth. I wonder if he dare apply the same treatment to another parasitic species: corporate Canada and in particular Harpo’s beloved oil industry; who never saw a public dollar they didn’t covet if the following examples are any indication.

These highly-profitable energy companies each receive an unspecified yearly share of the, “…up to $2 billion [yearly] in government subsidies or tax incentives.” They include: Canadian Oil Sands Ltd., Encana Corporation and Shell Canada Ltd.. Royal Dutch Shell actually received $865 million from Canadians and Albertans to finance their anti-pollution efforts in 2011. Talk about “entitlement.”

Since it is safe to assume that Harpo supports corporate tax cuts I might ask him: what do corporations receive in exchange for their taxes? Perhaps defenders of corporate tax cuts forget that taxes fund education, health care, infrastructure, public administration, law enforcement and the military. Without these programs there could be no business and large businesses benefit exponentially from tax-funded public services. Why should working people shoulder the lion’s share of the tax burden while the super- wealthy benefit from an entrenched regime of preferential tax treatment including low tax on capital gains, “business” expense deductions and tax deferral? Not to mention Revenue Canada’s casual approach to deterring tax avoidance by those Canadians who employ sheltered foreign deposits.

I propose that further corporate tax cuts be indefinitely postponed until every penny of the last 13 year’s $200 billion in federal subsidies, grants and low or zero interest loans (corporate welfare) is repaid in full.

Back to Work Legislation for NHL Owners and Players
December 31, 2012

I propose that the Canadian government enact back to work legislation to force NHL players and owners back to the rink where they are well-paid to amuse us. Why not? Such punitive measures have been successfully employed against public servants, airline workers, teachers and other groups. Punishing fines for both parties would encourage compliance and the disputants would be required to pay damages to all those whose businesses endured income disruption due to the strike. A few suggestions:
50/50 sharing between owners and players
Fans boycott NHL until ticket prices drop at least 50 %
Are players really suffering?
Create NHL battalions for next war-aggressive, athletic young men, many of whom seem to enjoy fighting for money
Value of pro sports-jingoistic training ground for military/obedient citizens
Great distraction-useful for elites who hate real democracy
If not for pro hockey-what would they do?

Calian Capers of Leisure Suit Larry: Mr. “Zero Means 5%”
September 18, 2009

While it may be legal for Larry O'Brien's company Calian Technologies to accept city contracts while he is mayor, it seems very unethical to me and it demonstrates a certain high-handed arrogance. Will someone explain to me why it is ethical for this man to profit privately from the affairs of the city he is supposed to represent? How can this practice not be a conflict of interest? I find it impossible to believe that he, or any politician who "recluses" themselves from their private affairs; actually remains uninformed and inactive regarding these business affairs. To believe so is a naive conceit foisted upon the gullible. He owes us all a detailed explanation.

What is Anti-Americanism?
August 2009

I’m not sure if Ottawa Citizen editor Leonard Stern is explaining the futility of torture as an intelligence tool or defending the rights of the U.S. government to employ it in self-defense. Regardless, he doesn’t waste much time mentioning the tired concept of “Anti-Americanism” in what seems to be a an attempt to dismiss and de-ligitimize the views of those who object to America’s shameful history of supporting, arming and encouraging some of the world’s most brutal dictators. He continues with the claim the U.S. government is pre-eminent among those noble entitles whose employment of brutality is a last resort rather than the norm. Mr. Stern is reading different history books than the ones I’ve seen.

Perhaps we need a public debate about the concept of anti-Americanism at a time when the reputation of the U.S. government has sunk worldwide. This would help to dispel the frequent and lazy use of the term anti-American to casually denigrate and dismiss the opinions of anyone who objects to U.S. forgiven policy by snidely implying they these critics also hate all American people and all things American. Beyond this, Mr. Stern’s tactic is a lazy fallacy of reason that allows him to avoid a discussion of the issues.

February 2012

Salim Mansur frequently writes about a place that has never existed: a Middle East where Western intelligence services like the CIA and M16 didn’t sponsor coups in oil-rich nations for the benefit of petroleum companies and local despots. His trite advice that the “West should let Arab-Muslim world be” comes about 100 years too late. Thanks for nothing.

He rallies to the defense of the late Shah of Iran, simply because the old thug was a secular despot deposed by religious extremists. Does it hurt less if the torture is inflicted by believers or secular brutes?

Mansur claims that the ungrateful Iraqis rejected the gift of freedom and chose sectarian violence when the US invaded in 2004. Where does he get this stuff? The poorly-planned US invasion of Iraq created the conditions for violence and inspired Al Qaeda elements to enter the country. Iraqis were well-aware that oil control was the only reason for the invasion and occupation.

I challenge Mansur to boldly address the current terrorism campaign being waged against the Israeli state by Hebrew religious extremists. Now that is a delicate topic in need of coverage.

Ron Melnyk and the Welfare Caterer
May 2012

While we may never know the financial benefits realized by Ron Melnyk before his recent $565,000 fine from the Ontario Securities Commission (OSG) here is a useful comparison from the OSG’s past. In the early 1990s Corel’s Mike Cowpland agreed to pay the OSC $575, 000 after being accused of receiving $20 million in insider trading profits. He paid the fine but kept the $20 million. Both men paid their fines without admitting guilt. That’s a sweet deal by any standard.

Let’s contrast Melnyk’s case with that of Sarah Ierullo, recently convicted of defrauding Ontario Works of $7,656.28 (yes 28 cents). Ierullo, “underreported her income.” Ron Melnyk, on the other hand, “…repeatedly overstated earnings and [concealed] losses to meet earnings forecasts’” according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2008. Melnyk’s punishment from the OSC is an order that prohibits him, like Mike Cowpland before him; “from [serving] as director or officer of a public company in Ontario for five years.” A national regulator would mean a national prohibition and incidentally; that $565,000 fine makes an excellent tax deduction.

The main difference between the law’s treatment of Melnyk and Ierullo is the minor matter of criminality. Back in 1986, the Competition Act was dramatically altered after significant corporate lobbying so the new Act determined that, “… [business and financial] prosecutions were [to be] moved from criminal to civil courts. It was the only time in the history of capitalism that any country allowed its anti-monopoly legislation to be written by the very people it was meant to restrain. “(Newman, Peter, C.) Conversely, the 1996 Mike Harris regime criminalized welfare income reporting mistakes and successfully exaggerated the scale of genuine welfare fraud as a political device to cement core political support.

If the recent financial insanity has taught us nothing else, perhaps we might remember that lying, cheating and stealing must be defined without reference to economies of scale or the status of the individuals involved. That includes both rich owners of professional hockey teams and tricky caterers.

Osama bin Bogeyman
May, 2011

Undoubtedly, Osama Bin Laden was a dangerous terrorist and a killer hostile to Western interests. He was also a handy pawn in a high-stakes power game that continues to plague Afghanistan. Given their ruthless history; it is naïve to think that the CIA actually considered civilian casualties back in 2000 when they found him outside Khandahar at Tarnak Farms in 2000. Prior to that report, the commonly-reported belief was that the CIA had only recently become aware of Bin Laden’s location. This is ludicrous when one considers the awesome power of U.S. military, intelligence and surveillance technology to locate and destroy chosen enemies; if and when such destruction becomes necessary.

It seems most of us have accepted the official U.S. government version of Osama Bin Laden’s demise, and of course; Presidents never lie or engage in cynical manipulation for political benefit. Bin Laden, like Saddam Hussein before him; was a useful bogeyman trotted out occasionally to keep Western populations suitably terrified and distracted from elite political gamesmanship. Saddam outlived his usefulness and now Bin Laden has died a politically-valuable death as President Obama benefits from the killing. In much the same way, 911 was a Godsend for George W. Bush so Bin Laden has actually improved the flagging fortunes of two presidents. Once we’re done kicking Qadaffi around; who will be next?

Some Pepper With Your Hockey Fight?
July, 2009

A recent Ottawa Citizen story about a LaPeche’ man arrested and charged with assault following a Ligue Amateur de Chums hockey game offers a solution for the epidemic of violence in the NHL: mandatory criminal charges for any actions outside the normal rules of the game i.e. hip and body checks.

In the case of the La Peche’ man, the matter is complicated by the fact that his cross-checking victim was an off-duty police officer and the MRC des Collines police are taking pains to emphasize that the police status of the victim isn’t a factor in the case.

This leads me to my argument:
Why do we worship professional hockey players and afford them a lower standard of care in matters of interpersonal violence? Imagine the insanity of a world where every strong man felt free to punch anyone who annoyed them? The rules of the game are clear and the arrest, conviction and punishment of the worst offenders might improve the game and set a higher standard fro the young players who idolize these “professionals.”
I always thought the best way to break up hockey fights would be the employment of a high-pressure fire hose or even pepper spray. A powerful jet of freezing water or a face full of cayenne’ pepper is the approved method for ending rowdy demonstrations – why not apply it to hockey fights? That might cool the goons down a bit and it would provide a novel entertainment for jaded hockey fans – especially the ones who enjoy hockey violence as a vicarious release for their own frustrations.

January, 2010

In spite of his bumbling public persona, George W. Bush is not stupid or naïve so he must at least suspect that invading Iraq, operating secret prisons and authorizing the systematic abuse and torture of prisoners were war crimes by any objective definition. Yes, simulated drowning is torture. There is a body of evidence indicating that Bush and his inner circle conspired and committed these crimes secure in the knowledge that they would be protected by their power and also by public fear, confusion and apathy. Were the Nuremberg standards applied to Bush, Cheney and Rumsfelt they would likely be on trial for their lives because they all participated in planning and waging an insidious campaign of aggressive war, illegal detainment, prisoner abuse and outright torture.

Many low-ranking U.S. military personnel have been prosecuted for their roles in the Abu Graib atrocities while their political leadership remains unpunished. Bush supporters believe that brutal measures are justified when dealing with monstrous enemies like Al Queada. Are aggressive war and torture really OK because we do it for our noble reasons or is this just an ugly lie designed to justify further global aggression?

Divine Bovinity: a critique of shame-based fear, guilt and obedience to dogma
November 30, 2013

Please excuse my exercise in constructive blasphemy. I take things quite a bit farther than humanistic skeptic Kevin Smith. The myriad names for “god” merely exemplify humanity’s various and desperate attempts to establish both a collective and individual identify. While this holds true for all religions; spiritual philosophies like bhuddism, shintoism and taosim are more practical. Such philosophies, particularly the Oriental variety; encourage humble introspection and harmony with nature. Conversely, the major religions are global cults of shame-based fear, guilt and obedience to dogma.
Christianity’s jesus, islam’s allah, judaism’s yahweh and hindu’s pantheon are usually presented as “holy”, “sacred” and beyond criticism. Why is this true and why must major newspapers devote entire pages to primitive superstition, fairy tales and mythology? True, these publications give some space to atheists and skeptics but faith critics are held to an absurdly high standard of decorum in their critique of religious absolutism.
The public’s general reverence for priests, imans, rabbis and pastors has always amused and mystified me. Those who presume to “interpret” the so-called “word of god” for their addled flocks serve their ego more than the need of others. Are spiritual matters really so complex, or; are clergy similar to academics who create arcane vocabulary to mystify the public and protect their privileged positions? If jesus really is “god” he must either laugh or cry at this nonsense.
As scientist Richard Dawkin wrote in the God Delusion, “[it seems as if] religious faith is especially vulnerable to offense and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect…” I both challenge and oppose the practice of paying excessive respect to those who lead cults of obedience, mythology and primitive superstition. Further, I find the privileging of ill-substantiated supernatural beliefs and practices to be both bizarre and dangerous.
As Sam Harris wrote, “We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no natural explanation. When their beliefs are extremely common we call it religious; otherwise, they are likely to be called mad, psychotic or delusional. Clearly, there is sanity in numbers. And so, while religious people are not generally mad; their core beliefs absolutely are.”
To conclude, there may well be an organizing intelligence in the universe. The major religions may even be on the right path. Who knows? One thing is for sure; highly-religious people do good in spite of their absolutist beliefs rather than because of them. Humanity’s kindness and wisdom constrained and distorted by the fear-driven dogmas of formal religion. The inherent fragility and danger of blind religious faith must be exposed as a travesty and betrayal of humanity.