Sunday, January 28, 2007

Enviro-Hysteria Accomplishes (Chicken) Little

When will civility, common sense and moderation return to the discussion of environmental issues? Extremist hijackers of the debate and the media have turned the discussion into a mud slinging ‘end times’ nuthouse shouting match.

How did the temperature of the ‘boil’ come to such a frothing point so quickly and why did we let extremists hijack the debate, framing it in apocalyptic Chicken Little ‘end of the world in ten years’ language? A tiny group of radicals have got hold of the reins and we must wrest control back from them before we go further astray. I am counting on the innate common sense of the average person to intervene and save us from the nonsense solutions of Al Gore, David Suzuki and even more extreme climate change radicals.

Are you going to take fewer showers (Gore's idea, fewer showers, can you imagine???) or ride your bicycle ten miles or more to work (in twenty degree below zero weather)??? Is everyone in the world going to junk their cars and live downtown and walk to work? So millions of us will stampede to vertical finling cabinets in cities??

Come on, the intellectually adolescent George Stromboulopoulos of CBC Newsworld's MTV-like kiddy public affairs program said this week that since Ford was already going to lose $13 billion next year they should just 'junk everything and make only hybrid vehicles.' It's not only the radicals we have to fear but sheer hysterical nonsense like that. Twelve year olds have more sense.

Most climate change scientists agree something is wrong but disagree widely on what the causes are - let alone what the solutions are - or what the timetable should be. Where is consensus on the benchmarks and yardsticks for dealing with the environmental challenges most agree are ahead?

Crashing our western economies in a 1929-style disaster will mean we are unable to develop, educate and rescue the Third World let alone our vulnerable citizens. It could mean an international disaster economic worse than 1929.

We will have neither the money nor technological expertise to deal with climate change, determine its severity and the solutions required - not to mention we won't be able to attend to and ameliorate other environmental and social issues.

Compassion yes. Attention yes. Concentrating industry, government NGO’s, science and international bodies on issues of planetary importance certainly. It is a necessity.

But throwing our entire society away and going back to the caves overnight is not the answer. Moderation, bipartisanship, common sense and a common sense of purpose, it is a moderate steady thoughtful approach to any challenge that will solve or begin to solve any problem, environmental or otherwise.

Speak up. Phone, write, call your MPP and MP's offices, let them know, let the media know we are listening, we know changes have to be made. But make it clear that the current hysterical charge of the lemmings is not the way. Common purpose, common sense. Common good.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Moving Mountains

After 18 years in the same place (a place so big we rattled around in it) we have sold our house, downsized and are in the process of moving the new econo-sized household to a town home from a large three bedroom detached single family home.

They say is that moving is amongst the most stressful things you can experience - along with changing jobs and the death of a spouse or family member.

Ain't it the truth!

The logistical nightmares, moving out of one place and into the's a wonder there aren't 'boutique' concierge-like services (like a wedding planner for instance) who coordinate all the people, companies and parties intertwined and take care of the loose ends like the postal address, changing your driver's licence, car ownerships, letting three levels of government know where you've gone, rerouting mail, notifying the home heating company and electric company, changing newspaper deliveries, marshaling real estate lawyers and agents, negotiating add-ons and deletions days and times with the movers, a never-ending list that seems to keep growing daily as you suddenly recall yet another detail you've not yet looked after.

Back to normal soon though. This is only the beginning of the downsizing. I may be moving again in a year or so and there is no way I can afford (in any sense of the word) to bear this burden again. As poet Charles Fisher wisely believed, too many possessions can weigh you down. And the burden is crushing me at the moment. Rest and recuperation will be sweet.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Signal This

What is it about people who refuse to use their turn signals in their car? This practice predates the digital era, it's a trait of certain irresponsible and sometimes dangerous or aggressive drivers Whether they're preoccupied with their CD player, cell phone or other device or another person or entity in the car they just don't use their turn signals. I'm not perfect but I'm pretty considerate, safe and 'by the book' when it comes to letting other drivers know what my intentions are with my 3,000 pounds of steel and plastic are.

These people are careless and inconsiderate and not very good company on the road. I have always noticed they are the first to give you the finger when things don't go their way - why don't they use that finger on the turn signal lever???

Hey, I said that years before Seinfeld or any of these other funny folks...and it's true.

That's not the signal I meant, Einstein, use the lever.
It's the Real Thi....

I am about to follow the lead of other downsizers. After several years of being unable to finish a full can of caffeine-free Diet Coke in one sitting (leaving the remnants in the fridge for the next day or even two days does not faze me any more, in fact I have actually developed a taste verging on a preference for the less carbonated version of the brown syrup) I am about to switch to those pee wee "half-cans", price be damned. Oops. Maybe not price be damned, I never thought of that. Unlike a wee thrifty person like me.

Okay, check that. Ahem. If the price is comparable or there's any advantage (in addition to the consumption issue) then I'll stick with it. The new pee wee cans that is.

But if not...hey, that less-carbonated syrup...well I have developed a taste for it. And that's not easy with Diet Coke. An acquired taste for such a maligned, disliked beverage.

It's certainly not like some exotic foreign delicacy where you can brag about it like "I had some wicked calamari last night" or "Chez Rudy served me the best snails I've ever had in my life!" It's Diet Coke.

But...I'll try the pee wee's and if that doesn't work, it's back to the "grazing" approach.

This is what passes for excitement in my life these days. When I worked in radio they warned us about February. Okay it's January 25th but we're close. I'll put the month in the fridge for a week like a half-consumed can of caffeine-free Diet Coke..

Just having an Andy Rooney moment...
Maher Arar gets his day: Complete vindication at home

So finally the innocent Canadian Maher Arar has reached a settlement with and received a large compensation package of $12,000,000 from the Canadian government for his execrable treatment at the hands of the United States, Syria and to a large extent the security branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police . He also receives a personal letter of apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (Jean Chretien was PM when the incident took place fyi.) The Chretien government did call an inquiry into the affair and the Harper government accepted Justice Dennis O'Connor's recommendations for a full apology and negotiations leading to the monetary settlement.

Mr. Arar's lawyer said (and correctly so) that no amount of money can undo the wrong(s) that were done to Arar, beginning with the Canadian complicity in his summary "disappearance" and shipping-off to his native Syria where he was reportedly savagely treated by the Baathist secret police, who are so vicious they were the thuggish inspiration for Iraq's own Ba'ath Party four decades ago.

This is not the end of the matter however, as Mr. Arar and his legal team (now rejuvenated with the large award as well as the moral victory of the vindication) is appealing the dismissal in the United States of his lawsuit against US authorities' part in the sad affair. More to unfold there in the coming weeks and perhaps months. reported January 26:

"A U.S. politician, meanwhile, said Friday after the apology was issued to Arar that it is time for the U.S. to look at its role in the Arar affair.

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat who represents Vermont, said the U.S. government could have treated Arar differently than it did.

'The question remains why, even if there were reasons to consider him suspicious, the U.S. government shipped him to Syria where he was tortured, instead of to Canada for investigation or prosecution.' "

Syria is not only an international pariah and a one party dictatorship with a horrible record on human rights according to every organization in the world that monitors such things but an (anti-Semitic) sponsor of terrorism and mischief-maker in Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and other hot spots. They are not, however likely to be in any kind of alliance with Al Qaeda in their terror campaign(s). This begs the compelling question, the twelve million dollar question: Why did the US send Arar to Syria and why did Syria accept him?

Yes some authoritarian and extremist governments refuse to recognize naturalized Canadian citizenship (and this must be defended much more vigorously certainly) but what on earth was to be gained by either the United States or Syria (the two are enemies) in the deportation and torture of this man??? How on earth did the US come to use its enemy Syria in its post-911 anti-terror campaign? Bizarre. (I picture Yves Montand in The Confession.)

I find the most frustrating part of the incident to be not the Canadian complicity in the wrongdoing but the inability of Canada (or any other civilized nation) to hold dictatorships to account in the United Nations, in the World Court, anywhere it seems for their misdeeds against our nationals. (The Mandelas and Solzhenitsyns of these countries should be aided in every possible way in their own struggle for freedom and the rule of law, both by individuals and by our governments and groups such as Amnesty International.) There is at least one Canadian citizen in danger in The People's Republic of China at present and we've all seen and heard the tragic news out of Mexico with not only four Canadians being killed there but the notoriously Clousseau-esque or even corrupt Mexican legal system letting everyone down, even to the point of blaming the murder of a Toronto couple on two Canadian housewives who were holidaying in the same hotel.

I saw Maher Ara driving his car less than a half a dozen blocks from my house shortly after his return to Canada and no doubt it took him a great degree of courage to accomplish even such a small task. His face was troubled and at that time he was still under suspicion by curmudgeons, skeptics and even some fair-minded people perhaps. (I was neither a skeptic nor an advocate on his behalf at that time but my heart immediately went out to him, here was a man who had clearly been to hell.) At his press conference regarding the award and the apology today:

He also said he is stigmatized as a terrorist, and he can't shake that label. He often Googles his own name and sees it tied with the words "suspected terrorist.""There's no amount of money that would compensate me on what my family and I have gone through," Arar said. "I wish there was a way I could buy my life back."

Canadian decency finally won the day but there is much to be done to prevent this from ever happening again and more to be done to protect all Canadians abroad (or in the post-911 United States) from summary kidnapping, incarceration and mistreatment. We await the results of Mr. Arar's US appeal with interest, hope for a vindication in that country that mirrors what he received in Canada and long for a day of accounting for the Syrians most of all.

What on earth had Syria to gain by this awful thing? The Baathists are sadists to be sure and bullies but why in this case??? And again, how and why would the US cooperate with an enemy to do this to the citizen of a friendly country? Yes someone in the RCMP was ultimately partly to blame, that was at least part of the genesis of this terrible thing but the Syrians, why were the Syrians interested??? Al Qaeda has generally stayed completely away from any anti-Syrian campaign in spite of the fact there has been some recent terror (car bombings and machine gun attacks) there.

We have an apology, Canadian decency has triumphed. But the answers why the US and Syria did what they did to this innocent man still have not been answered - and may never be answered.

"The struggle to clear my name has been long and hard," he said, with his lawyers at his side. "I feel now I can put more time into being a good father and to being a good husband and to rebuilding my life."

Arar's American legal team will appeal of the dismissal in the US courts of his case against that government's actions. But how to bring Syria or any other rogue nation to account, that's the nut no one can apparently crack. Those who defend the United Nations and other international bodies and our own Canadian government, diplomats, rights organizations and legal experts must not only investigate, prevent and lobby and but they must also prosecute those nations such as Syria that commit such heinous crimes. Yes, democracies such as Canada and the US must never have a part in torture but there are mechanisms and laws and people here who will eventually ensure that, as in the case of Maher Arar, the right thing will be done. Eventually. Late in this case but right and the rule of law has won out in the end and Maher Arar has had a commission, an apology and an important public debate ensued before during and after all was said. And now a vital precedent has been set in the so-called new post-911 world where "everything has changed." Canada has done the right thing and is a better place because of the way two successive govenments and the system responded to the wrong.

The American legal appeal awaits.

But how can we call Syria to account? That has been answered nor is it likely to be possible to do so until that country rejects its brutal Baathist dictatorship (international courts, diplomatic pressure and rights bodies' efforts notwithstanding). How to make the Syrian Baathists pay?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The media, the Picton trial and us

Even a Wiarton Willie of a human being has probably heard most of the horrible accusations against B.C. pig farmer Robert Pickton. And this is as it should be. A modern liberal democratic society must not only be on guard against criminals and predators but much more needs to be done to understand psychopaths and sociopaths and prevent their atrocities. Perhaps you have encountered strange and disturbed people in your own life, whether socially or at work. Some unfortunates have them in their family - the Unabomber was turned in by his brother when he recognized his opinions and writing style upon its publication in the New York Times by the authorities. We all know they are out there. Read the newspaper, watch TV.

But then there's the Pickton trial. Some thoughtful and concerned people are beginning to question "how much coverage is enough?" And how graphic should it be? I would never describe myself as an ostrich, not even close, I keep well informed on most topics. Sports, entertainment, current events and public policy issues all interest me more than the "average" person. I watch, listen and read material online and in newspapers, magazines quite widely. I love and Daryl Cagle's terrific site at If you're any kind of pol or cartoon nut I recommend both very highly. I also enjoy many of the better 'apparatchik' or 'hack' insider journalism shows like Glenn Beck, John McLaughlin and others on CTV such as Mike Duffy, Don Newman on CBC Newsworld, you get the idea.

But the scope and detail of the Pickton trial and the enormity and potential duration of the terrible thing is prompting me (and others) to question whether the media is overdoing it. Accusations of sensationalism, exploitation of violence for ratings and readers, it's all been discussed quite widely since the late 1960's or the early 1970's, the advent of media studies and criticism by the public at large. The Internet and blogs have only added voices to the chorus of concern. Do we really need a daily running serialized account or must we be our own editors to preserve our emotional well being? When is enough enough?

There was a cartoon in the Ottawa Citizen January 24 by CAM (Cameron Cardow) wherein a group of commuters waiting for their bus were all in various stages of distress, disgust and even regurgitation, reading newspapers about the hellish Pickton trial. But one gentleman in the frame was not, indeed he was the picture of contentment. Why? In fact he was smiling, whistling even (apparently) because he was effectively managing the situation by letting the trial takes its course and permitting the authorities and the legal system to function as they should.

The bottom line is this disgusting thing is going to (reportedly) take a year to conclude his guilt or innocence and mete out "justice" in terms of a life sentence (with no parole ever) if he is pronounced guilty and to paraphrase the presiding judge "if you're squeamish or sensitive - or even just normal be prepared for awful, awful graphic nightmarish details of Satanic cruelty and carnage."

In other words it's going to be a long nasty nauseating haul so take care, check in when and if you need to but also watch that you don't let yourself be eaten up with the revulsion(s) that this horrific trial will produce. I will keep up with it but certainly not on a daily basis (let's also remember that like the Green River Killer and other serial killings this has already been many years in the unfolding, both in the commission and investigation of the obscenity). I cannot say whether my attentions will be on a weekly basis or even once a month but I will be aware of it. I consider it my civic duty and responsibility but I am not going to suffer.

I am not prepared to take it in like the Watergate hearings or even the Dubin or Liberal Sponsorship Inquiry. Sometimes you just have to let the professionals take over. It's too awful. Far too awful. I don't think I'm being an ostrich. I know what's going on and will follow it cautiously - but as for a 'ticker' detail-intense scrutiny or study of the trial, that's not going to happen. It's like drastic surgery. Somtimes it has to take place but that doesn't mean I want to watch the bloody mess on "The Operation Channel." I know it's happening and the surgeons are in charge. I trust the surgeons.

The good guys are on the case, our justice system is working. I'll let it do its work. May justice come as soon and as mercifully as possible. For the families of the victims and for our beloved Canadian society.