Monday, February 28, 2005
[UPDATED: see bottom link and comment.] The President of the world's most populous Arab State, Egypt, yesterday made the startling announcement that he would grant for the first-time multi-party elections, of course with certain restrictions. The country supported by USA$2Billion annually has many groupings ready for this unprecendented opportunity, even on President Hosni Mubarak's terms, to enter the fray, set for sometime this coming September. But the Sept 2005 Egyptian elections for President are vert unlikely to include the readiest grouping of them all, the Muslim Brotherhood in which many extremists nest, even perhaps run things, supported by mosque-preachers influenced by Sunni -Saudi Wahhabism and its branch that requires jihadist action of all its devotees, Salafism.
To concentrate on the two poles of Egyptian politics - Murbarak vs the Salafi-led Muslim Brotherhood - does not do justice to the situation, but has the virtue of singling out the parameters in which the legal opposition will emerge to contest one another for the office of President. I have little idea so far regarding the Egyptian parliament - whether it be appointed, partly apppointed and partly elected, elected by Mubarak's National Democratic Party, or what?. There's further homework to do on this development. Before the actual election, a referendum will be held first to approve the proposal. That too will be of historic proportions, trusting that public approval will be extremely high. As in the case of Iraq, we will soon be able to read of the enabling and restricting legislation for this astounding and outstanding move; we will learn of known groups readying themselves to function as official political parties; and we will see the emergence of new parties, duly registering themselves, and presenting their lists of candidates. The Muslim Brotherhood, for all we yet know, just may be allowed to put forward a candidate, and they've hinted they may do so - perhaps even if they are refused a place on the ballot!
The situation in Egypt is very complex. In the past, open oppositionists with sterling democratic credentials have often ended-up in jail for a period. Besides the intense ongoing pressure from the populace thirsting for the democratizing of the Egyptian State, it was the recent jailing of one of the brightest and most learned of these opposition figures, Ayman Nour, that triggered Mubarak's about face. He had been anticipating the arrival of reps to the G8 Summit, including US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice. But, when Condi heard about the jailing of Nour, she cancelled her trip and informed Mubarak and the world press that this was not the right time for her arrrival on the scene and luncheon along the Nile, thereby appearing to endorse Egypt's "democratic deficit." Maybe some other time, when conditions prove more approrpriate, she said. On the other hand, Paul Martin didn't see any particular problem for Canada in going ahead with the meet ... or was that in regard to China? Anyway, I vaguely recall another of PM PM's two-show on this matter as well as a whole string of others.
Was it more than 48 hours later, or less than 48? In any case, Mubarak quickly reversed the jailing of Nour, set him free, and astounded his own followers - who expressed sheer delight! - by announcing the opportunity of Egypt's people to vote in the first real election they've ever experienced. (In previous cases, Murbarak was the only candidate and a voter selected "Yes" or "No" on the ballot.) Now there will be arguments about future policy, now there will be crowds assembled to listen to candidates other than the present government's favoured ones. There will be unsavory incidents, I would wager (were I a gamblin' man).
Egypt joins the growing list kept by observers of the Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy: Elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, new popular demands for Syria to get out, and for free elections in Lebanon, even the staggered series of all-male municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, more votes scheduled in Kuwait. Have I left out any Arab State that should be on this list? Have I gotten any details wrong? Suddenly, it's just harder to keep track of these opening salvos in a long and difficult process which could possibly engage all of Araby before regular elections everywhere in the Middle East and the Arab world become just the usual course of thtings. - Owlb
The Egypt Blog. This blog is the work of Mamduh Shawqi of Heliopolis, Egypt; watch it for breaking news and Mamduh's response as events proceed. Praying that the democratization and the flourishing of justice may go forward everywhere and for everyone in the land of the Nile!
UPDATE: Legal Steps and Schedule Outlined. osni Mubarak, President of Egypt, hoas outlined his plan in greater detail regarding the steps to be taken before the September election. He has already served 4 terms, but seems interested in serving at least one more and going up against the contenders. Parliament is expected to have the necessary legislation in place in two weeks, taking us into the middle of March. Then a national referendum on the proposed new-style "direct, secret balloting" will take place in May. After the results are counted on the referendum, and hopefully the result clearns the way, the national campaign will begin and Mubarak will go to the hustings. The actual Presidential vote will take place in September. - Owlb, with thanks to Politicarp's Political Events
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 8:03 AM
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Yes, the Sabbath is over, the darkness of the Sunday evening has come, and as I blog, I've got the TV on, watching the Oscars. I'm almost amazed that so far nothing has occurred that roused my ire to turn it off (I'm not that strict!). I have heard no politicizing harangues (so far), and I say that after seeing Sean Penn present the Award for the Best Song won by Jorge somebody, and sung most beautifully earlier by Antonio Bandera, accompanied by the venerable Carlos Santana, I couldn't believe my eyes for seeing Penn so well behaved, nor my ears for hearing "Al Otro Lado del Rio" from The Motorcycle Diaries, written by ... by ... Jorge somebody I don't yet know, for the first time tonite. What a joy, altho I understood just a few words. The tone, the vocalizations were wonderful. Now back to fixing some of the scrambled HTML that messes up my PermaLinks and prevents my list of blogs past from appearing under Politicarp's RSS Calendar of Political Events. Postponed. Now, they've just awarded Jamie Foxx for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the title role in "Ray" (about Ray Charles).
During the commercial on the Tube, I want to mention that the whole presentaion is so superior to what I had become accostumed to ... that I got indifferent to because of it's overdone set (still tonite a big one, but much more tasteful) ... and the Emcee, the Bad Boy, Chris Rock. Update on Chris Rock as Oscar Host Clint just got it for Best Director, Million Dollar Baby. And, now, Clint Eastwood got the Oscar again this year for Best Picture, Million Dollar Baby, which has been denounced for its sad ending and some ideological denunciation by certain Cultural Hawks of the More Miserable Stretches of the Rightwing, way out there on the tips of the furthermost feathers.
I missed an awful lot, but had a really entertaining evening. I should add that Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ, while up for a few Awards, won none of them. Nothing for The Passion of Christ, which was hi-ly favoured by the public, but not the Academy. - Owlb
UPDATE: Mon, Feb28, 4:04 AM
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Don Cheadle - HOTEL RWANDA
Johnny Depp - FINDING NEVERLAND
Leonardo DiCaprio - THE AVIATOR
Clint Eastwood - MILLION DOLLAR BABY > Winner!
Jamie Foxx - RAY
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Alan Alda - THE AVIATOR
Thomas Haden Church - SIDEWAYS
Jamie Foxx - COLLATERAL
Morgan Freeman - MILLION DOLLAR BABY > Winner!
Clive Owen - CLOSER
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Annette Bening - BEING JULIA
Catalina Sandino Moreno - MARIA FULL OF GRACE
Imelda Staunton - VERA DRAKE
Hilary Swank - MILLION DOLLAR BABY > Winner!
Kate Winslet - ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Cate Blanchett - THE AVIATOR > Winner!
Laura Linney - KINSEY
Virginia Madsen - SIDEWAYS
Sophie Okonedo - HOTEL RWANDA
Natalie Portman - CLOSER
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
THE INCREDIBLES > Winner!
THE AVIATOR > Winner!
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT
THE AVIATOR > Winner!
HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT
THE AVIATOR > Winner!
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
MILLION DOLLAR BABY > Clint Eastwood > Winner!
BORN INTO BROTHELS > Winner!
THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL
SUPER SIZE ME
TWIST OF FAITH
DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
AUTISM IS A WORLD
THE CHILDREN OF LENINGRADSKY
MIGHTY TIMES: THE CHILDREN'S MARCH
SISTER ROSE'S PASSION
THE AVIATOR > Winner!
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
THE SEA INSIDE > Winner!
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS > Winner!
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
THE SEA INSIDE
FINDING NEVERLAND > Winner!
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
"Accidentally In Love" - SHREK 2
"Al Otro Lado Del Río" - THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES > Winner! Beautiful!
"Believe" - THE POLAR EXPRESS
"Learn To Be Lonely" - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
"Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)" - THE CHORUS
MILLION DOLLAR BABY > Winner!
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
EVERYTHING IN THIS COUNTRY MUST
7:35 IN THE MORNING
TWO CARS, ONE NIGHT
WASP - Andrea Arnold director > Winner in this category!
THE POLAR EXPRESS
THE INCREDIBLES > Winner!
THE POLAR EXPRESS
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
SPIDER-MAN 2 > Winner in this category!
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES
SIDEWAYS > Winner!
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND - Winner!
AVIATOR > Winner!
------ That's all, Folks! -------------------------
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 11:02 PM
Swanfreak writes that "pictures are of my youngest grandchild, Micah - my son Raymond's little boy. The name of the Snowman remains a mystery to all adults - but Micah obviously feels great affection for his winter friend."
No kids of my own, I wonder, Is this affection for the snowguy, with some small sense of snowbie's time-boundedness, is it? couldt it be? a bit of a hint toward the knowlege of death we all enounter early enuff along life's path, knowing the winter friend will eventually melt away with the shine of the sun and the coming of the warm rain and rise of the green grass? Or does that belong strictly to a later stage of life?
Here in Toronto, too, everything's snow-covered, and again the temperature is sinking way down below Below. But the month of February is almost over. Actually, I rather enjoyed it this year.
Swanfreak, I must share with you e. e. cumming's poem "Spring is a perhaps hand ..., " but maybe we encountered it together forty years ago. Love, Owlb
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 12:24 AM
Saturday, February 26, 2005
I've been reading left, right and center regarding the different current opinions on government immigration policy in the USA and Canada. I've been watching developments in the news online and on TV, what's been happening at the border crossings between our two countries and also event along the border between the US and Mexico (with Canada, that's all three of the NAFTA countries). I've been noting the illegals pouring into Canada by airplane and by ship landing illegals on East Coast, also in containers on Canada's West Coast. And, even more extensively, the arrival from Mexico of desperate illegals crossing into the US Southwest, first mostly into New Mexico, and now mostly into Arizona. These illegals are bleeding Arizona slowly to death. Public opinion against illegals is growing more heated. The continuing and intensifying of underground communities subject to criminal manipulation has created a shadow existence that most Americans cannot openly acknowlege to themselves. Many have crossed a border in their own minds into the realm of denial.
But the problems won't go away, and few have offered a multi-faceted solution that is workable, enforceable, and humane.
Today I finally became convinced that the US President from Texas has done just that, with the plan he has put before Congress. I was pushed over the edge into endorsement of President Bush's plan by an article authored by Tamara Jacoby of the Manhatten Institute, published in the neo-conservative Weekly Standard, Feb 28, 2005, "Law and Borders" where she presents a case aimed at persuading conservatives, especially those in Congress who don't support Bush's plan, arguing that his is the only way to go. I recommend mulling it over. - Owlb
Update: Most Mexican Illegals in US willing to go home after 5 years under Bush plan, some to return legally
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 11:06 PM
Friday, February 25, 2005
This is another Neo-constantinian christian-democratic note to help us make the distinction between a politics of military responsiblity, as against the Leftwing reactionaries who increasingly have composed the dominant élites in USA culture for the last 50 years.
I will have more to say later, but for now I just want to provide you the link to Rabbi Aryeh Spero that appeared recently in Human Events, a rightwing news source with which I often disagree. Spero is also Chairman of Caucus for America, an organization that I had never heard-of until reading his piece. The org's site makes clear it is on the conservative side of things in US politics. You can check it here, and I wouldn't mind feedback of your impressions: Caucus for America. Maybe some of your impressions will impress, and become part of my refWrite-up here.
Also, tho, I want to add another matter to the theme of this blog-entry, when it's updated. I want to reflect on cases like that of Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano.
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 9:51 PM
CPJ Canada excels at economic analysis of Canadian societal discrepancies, presenting cost-analyses to Governments, particularly the Federal Government of Canada, and lobbying for budget allocations that, within CPJ's parameters, are moderate and reasonable, according to a set of priorities that puts poor children first. I'm in accord with these principles of practice, but not always without criticism of the specifics of various proposals, as in this case where I wonder how the allocations for "early child learning" would be distributed. Would provisions be made for mothers in poverty who want to keep their children at home and home-school them, rather than sending them to disease collectors like early childhood government schools, or any schools for that matter? Would some of the funds go to faith-based agencies where mothers in poverty could be trained by experts in early childhood learning, so as to add to their own personal and familial lore? Could these be kept separate from the police-like Welfare and Children's Aid Societies? But I am anticipating the important press release below. I quote the first secton of the lead article in a special issue of Ola!, CPJ's montly email newsletter, somewhat a press release. You can subscribe to Ola! by clicking the title of this blog entry and at CPJ's website, navigating your way to the Subscribe link. Or, by cutting pasting: http://www.cpj.ca Once there, look around. Here's the newsletter item I selected, but I can't endorse every single nuance, nor the general approach of the entire stand on the budget. Nevertheless, Citizens for Public Justice (Canada) is doing a very good work and this is not the place to articulate further reservations. - Owlb :
A TEMPERATE BUDGET ...
THAT LEAVES SOME PEOPLE OUT IN THE COLD
The first way to analyze a federal budget is to look at what's been called for and what was delivered. That's especially helpful this time in a budget called "Delivering on Commitments."
In our brief to the Finance Committee last fall, CPJ called for a limited, realistic mix of measures that would make a serious difference in the level and depth of child and family poverty in Canada.
We asked for funding, by 2008-9, for early learning and childcare to be at $6 billion a year. On affordable housing, we wanted the federal government to be spending $2 billion a year. And for national child benefits, $4 billion a year more (which would get the maximum child benefit to $4,900 per child per year.) We've long critiqued the practice of provinces "clawing back" the National Child Benefit Supplement from families on social assistance. So this year we called for an increase in the Canadian Social Transfer of $0.5 billion a year to offset the costs of provinces ending this practice and putting the federal money into the hands it's intended to be in - families.
At the minimum, we said, the government should make good its election promise to invest $5 billion in early learning and childcare and another $1.5 billion in housing over the next five years. Again, limited and reasonable expectations.
In that light, how did this budget perform? The government came through on its childcare commitment, promising $1.2 billion a year by 2008-9 (so that's short of our $6 billion.) The budget offered nothing new on housing, child benefits or the Canada Social Transfer.
The budget, then, did less than we saw needed. Nonetheless, the child care money is an important financial commitment, one that is long overdue. We hope this budget allocation will give Social Development Minister Ken Dryden a good base in upcoming meetings with his provincial and territorial counterparts. The test will be to what extent they can lay the foundation of a program that truly meets the principles of quality, universal, accessible, developmental child care.
Overall the Liberals spent a tremendous amount of money on a wide array of program and priorities, and CPJ thinks some of them are terrific (like green initiatives, spending on seniors, and international aid.) Big commitments to health care ($41 billion over 10 years) where the provinces and territories signed on with the federal government will help us all. And the provinces receive an additional $33 million in equalization payments and some of that money will go to social spending.
There were some commitments the government made, like giving part of the gas tax to municipalities, which ensures stable funding, and they delivered.
So why is there so little for poor Canadians, with the exception of seniors, who got another boost? This budget leaves low-income Canadians largely out in the cold. But their fortunes affect us all. Here's an example.
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 4:50 PM
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Citizen Action Alert
February 24, 2005
Congress to Debate Religious Freedom Protections
Urge the House of Representatives to Defeat Amendments to Strip Away
Important Religious Freedoms of Community-Serving Organizations
WHY THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT:
If passed, The Job Training Improvement Act (H.R. 27) will permit faith-based organizations to consider an employee's religion when hiring staff to run a government-supported job training program. Preserving the independence and mission of faith-based organizations that accept government funds is a top priority of the President’s Faith-based and Community Initiative. Religious organizations need the protection included in this bill to hire staff who are fully committed to their religious mission and vision and also to protect them from unjustified lawsuits. This vote will set an important precedent for future bills affecting the religious freedom of faith-based organizations.
Opponents of this freedom seek to remove it from the bill during the House debate on H.R. 27 beginning the week of Feb. 28. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and others will offer one or more amendments to strip away this religious freedom. They argue that it is morally repugnant for a faith-based organization to be concerned about the religious commitments of its employees and that the government must not permit such "discrimination" when it controls the purse strings. They insist that Congress knows better than any faith-based organization when faith is or is not important for job qualifications and for building an effective staff. However, for many faith-based organizations, a person's religious worldview is not irrelevant to the delivery of social services. An organization's concern to hire like-minded staff members is not rank bigotry, but is understandable and justified and has been widely recognized for years in other laws.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, setting the basic federal employment civil rights standards, explicitly honors the freedom of faith-based organizations to staff on a religious basis. This freedom was upheld by a unanimous Supreme Court decision in 1987 (AMOS V. CORPORATION OF PRESIDING BISHOPS). If Congress expects broad involvement by community-serving, faith-based organizations, the federal job training program should respect this important civil right.
CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE’S OFFICE THIS WEEK:
You may reach your Representative by calling the Capitol switchboard (toll-free) at 877-762-8762. When you give your zip code, the operator will connect you with your representative.
Click here for additional contact information for your Representative.
Let your Representative know you believe faith-based organizations should be free to take religion into account when hiring staff. When speaking with your Representative's staff, you may leave this message:
"As your constituent, I urge you to protect the religious staffing freedoms of faith-based organizations and vote to reject the Scott amendment and any other amendment that would deny faith-based organizations the full protections they deserve under law when they partner with government as independent, community serving organizations and not arms of the state."
Thank you for your activism!
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP:
Share this action alert with friends and with leaders of faith-based organizations you know. Support the Center for Public Justice
Sign up for an E-Newsletter from the Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom, an advocacy initiative of the Center for Public Justice, to keep up with these and other crucial issues. To subscribe send an email to Stephen Lazarus at stephenNO@SPAMcpjustice.org. [Remember to remove caps]
Background and Additional Resources:
THE FREEDOM OF FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS
TO STAFF ON A RELIGIOUS BASIS, a new book
published by Center for Public Justice, downloadable at:
"Ten Affirmations on Religious Staffing"
URL: http://www.cpjustice.org/charitablechoice/ (scroll down to middle of page)
"Isn't Charitable Choice Government-Funded Discrimination"
For further information, contact:
Stephen Lazarus, Senior Policy Associate,
Center for Public Justice,
stephenNO@SPAMcpjustice.org [Remember to remove caps]
866-CPJUSTICE (275-8784) (toll-free).
The Center for Public Justice
P.O. Box 48368
Washington, DC 20002-0368
2444 Solomons Island Road, Ste. #201
Annapolis, MD 21401
Toll Free: 1-866-CPJUSTICE (1-866-275-8784)
inquiriesNO@SPAMcpjustice.org [Remember to remove caps]
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 9:58 PM
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
The following letter appeared in the Mailbag of the Independent Gay Forum, Friday, Nov 05, 2k4. Rather than use my monikker, the Editors published the piece as "Unsigned." I have remedied that below.
Against 'Gay Marriage'
The root of opposition to so-called "gay marriage," in this homo's view, is its utter irrationality. There's visceral nonsense in the demand to deny the uniqueness and distinctive features of a one-man/one-woman union. Two other kinds of intimate one-to-one unions also exist; they have some similarities and analogous features to marriage, but they are not marriage. Two-women unions are different from both marriages and two-men unions. The differences are clear; the attempt to erase the differences is dishonest and makes for unprincipled and ridiculous law.
There are similarities between all three of these different kinds of unions, but there are important constitutive differences as well. Why two women would want to equate their own lovingly coupled uniqueness and qualitatively different kind of union with that of two men is beyond me.
In the 2004 elections, the public reacted with a viscerally clear logic to what the "gay" ideology and its orgs have tried to foist on us all. The public just knew how absurd the agenda is. What's more the very word "gay" (as Christopher Isherwood told us long ago) makes us sound like "bliss ninnies." But the agenda makes us sound totally absurd. That's why I remain a homo, but not a Gayoid locked into a Gayvoid attempt to erase the differences. -Owlb
You can link to my "Unsigned" letter in IGF by clicking the title of this blog entry. Once you arriave at the Mailbag page, you must scroll down until you find my letter where "Gay Marriage' is not enclosed in quotes, unfortunately. I did not develop on this occasion my agreement with the proposed Federal Constitutional Amendment on defining Marriage according to the traditional norm. At the same time, I agree with President Bush on the Federal principle of leaving other legislation to the States, where it belongs; and I agree that the States should each recognize what exists and what they can't change - namely, 2women intimate unions, and 2men intimate unions. Recognition is based on honesty; lack of recognition is based on dishonesty regarding the structurations of society. Superior state recognitions would investigate whether 2women unions need special provisions added to the basic recognition. After all, 2women unions include two women who have medical and other body-physiognomic needs, as well as social considerations against rape and several other considerations. Some of these perhaps should be provided in added clauses of a basic Recognition law. Perhaps not. The legislatures in each case should study it, if competent. Thus, different States may have different findings and enact legislation that meets the basic honesty rule of Recognition but adds or does not add special provisions for the 2women in relationship. At the very least, such basic Recognition at least precludes unions that involve more than two women at set an age of union requirement, and that development would more likely lead less exploitation of women and younger women and girls. After the several States deal with 2women intimate unions (maybe the women involved want them called "Lesbian unions - the name in law can go several ways - but "civil union" is absurd, encompassing only one feature of the relationship being recognized), after that Recognition of 2women intimate unions, then comes the more difficult and time-consuming task of possible or not recognizing 2men unions, restrictions to 2men and not multple-party arrangements which would destroy the level of intimacy that the State wants to Recognize, and restrictions as to the age of the men involved.
As the States slowly come to their similar but different legislative conclusions, the newly recognized, regulated, and restircted provisions should also spell out the responsiblity of persons availing themselves of these arrangements to society in these special regards. With the meeting of responsiblities, come whatever rights and entitlements beyond basic Recognition that the State grants because the people of that State thru their State Representatives and State Senators have decided to make life more livable and fair for all citizens and residents. The codes should be written so that schools may not use Recognition as a mandate to teach "homosexuality" in the schools, nor to forbid religious expression of dissent against the State's granting of Recognition, etc. - Owlb
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 9:51 AM
Monday, February 21, 2005
A news byte in Southeast European Times alerts us to the new Serbian move to jump out of the stranglehold into which the European Union and the United States have placed it regarding former Serbian generals accused of genocide, along with Milosevich now on trial in the Hague, the Netherlands. Serbia is still sufficiently dominated by Milosevichian ideas that the surrender of the generals is too unbearable a thawt from many to whom his war on Kosovo's Muslims put him forward as the living symbol to a thousand years of resistance to the Muslims of the Ottoman Empire whose capital was Istanbul in presentday Turkey.
Boxed in as Serbia is today, with the EU threatening interminable delays to Serbia's membership in Europe while every state around it is advancing toward that goal, and with the US threatening to cut off aid which will be a body-blow to the Serbian economy, unless it cooperates regarding the generals and negotiates in good faith the status of Kosovo, Serbia now makes an end run to renew the old alliance with China, forged on the basis of the Communist bona fides of both. China would gain a permanent troublemaker to keep Europe off balance and a safe-haven for its spies in Europe - out of the China embassy "mistakenly" bombed by the US airforce under Gen Wesley Clarke during the Battle of Belgrade in the Kosovo War. China could supply Belgrade with cheap goods as a "most favoured trading partner," and Serbia's renewed industries could be set up by China to produce knockoffs using technologies stolen from the US and Europe. These could include expensive consumer goods for sale to consumers - TVs, computers, and much more. Just a few tweaks of the Western designs, perhaps improvements even, and Belgrade's re-activated China-connection could add up to economic advance for Serbia merely as an instrument of China's reassertion of power within Europe.
When one connects such a hypothesis with what China is doing in Latin America and in the building of a string of pearls, a series of fortifified ports in Asian waterways to protect the influx of oil to fuel its burgeoning economy, a special status granted by China to Serbia is not inconceivable. Indeed, just as Turkey's Erdogan announced plans to establish a Turkic University in Tirana, Albania, China could ace the cultural war of its own by negotiating the establishement of a Chinese University in Belgrade, to which young Europeans wanting to learn that language and culture could resort - where they would never have the motivation to enroll in a Serbian university! - Owlb
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 2:06 PM
Sunday, February 20, 2005
The Blogger blogger who puts out Prosthesis has an entry for today that spans a bunch of centuries on the so-called War between Science and Religion, a phoney setup if there ever was one. But in the course of doing so, Prosthesis exhibits a model of research on the Internet which could serve as a valuable lesson in any nonexpert's quest for mastery of these techniques. Bringing together science, religion (particularly the Christian religion in its Calvinist variety of Protestantism), and technology in one feat, should I say feature, while stunning, made me suddenly thirsty for some reference to historian and Calvin biographer, William J. Bouwsma'sJohn Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait (reprint edition 1989). This the book most likely to solve Prothesis' research question. Bouwsma concentrates on Calvin as a Humanist, not of course in the philosophical sense of a devotee of the Enlightenment and committed to the Nature/Freedom tension of ultimate values inherent in most of Western philosophy after the Renaissance and Reformation. Rather, Bouwsma considers Calvin as one of the premiere scholars of his time, conversant with literature in several languages, with Stoic and other philosophies, and interested in all realms of life wherever God has granted humans fine gifts of mind and culture. In this, during his own day, Calvin joins and perhaps supercedes both Luther and Erasmus.
Now, if you're more narrowly theological, I guess you could make do with Alister E. McGrath's more recentA Life of John Calvin: A Study in Shaping Western Culture(200?) - it's a pet peeve of mine that Amazon.com doesn't make the original date of publication, or even of reprint editions, immediately and conveniently accessible. This concealment of highly pertinent information is a bad business practice, and an insult to consumers involved in the commerce in books. - Owlb
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 8:08 PM
Intelligence reports, developed in an inquiry by the Beirut military Judge, Mechid Mahzer, suggest that the assassin of resigned Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's beloved billionaire architect of a 10-year process of reconstruction after the bloody Civil War which ended fourteen years ago, was killed by a terrorist with links to the Sunni-Wahabbist-Salafist islamofascists [I'm trying to give a proper technical Problem-Historical designation here] who are at work in Iraq and are led by Jordanian Wahabbist-Salafist Sunni, Zaraqawi, to whom all non-strict practioners of the sect's definition of Islam, are all in their multiple millions of Muslims, worthy of death.
It is now maintained that Hariri's assassin began his journey from a stay in Saudi Arabia from where he travelled to Iraq, reconnecting with his Zaraqawi-style former comrades and mentors. From there he went or was sent to Syria where two top generals have been implicated in the elmination of Hariri, including the brother-in-law of Syria's President Bashir Assad (the London-trained dentist who succeeded his father as Syria's head of state). Another general involved is apparently Lebanese.
Hariri was a symbol and undoubtedly an influence among the Lebanese population for the demand to withdraw Syrian occupation troops. But his split almost a year ago from Lebanese President, Émile Lahoud, and Hariri's resignation had to do with narrowly political concerns, namely, Syria's enforced extension of Lahound's term of office when Hariri himself wanted to run for that post. Yet the differences between the two Sunnis were deeper underlying policy issues regarding the status of Syria's 15,000 regular troops in the country. Both men were Sunnis, I repeat, adding, and neither were religious fanatics. Yet, Lahoud's role is not without its own mitigating circumstance, despite his being Syria's puppet. Why such a marionette?
To understand that better, it is necessary to consider another close connection, this time with another occupying force in Lebanon, which used other means including do-gooder projects and whose cadres are those of Iranian Hezbollah recruits who constantly replenish the irregular do-gooder Hezbollah force situated to harrass and bombard with missiles launced from Lebanon's south, the population-centers and facilities across the Israeli border. Thus, behind the tension of the Syrian presence which divided the pro-Syrian puppet President Lahoud from his earlier Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who resigned over the differences regarding the Syrians occupation; there is another factor at play: to the minds of Lahoud's Sunni ruling faction. Consider simply that the Baathist-controlled Syrian Army is the only force that can keep the Shi'ite fanatics of Iran-financed and -recruited Hezbollah under control. If only the Syrian Army leaves Lebanon, then Hezbollah's power rises exponentially and will spread to other zones of Lebanon.
But the counterweight to that will be the fanatical side of the polymorphous Sunni community, which is at present conducting multiple attacks on the Shia annual religious celebrations / self-flagellations in Iraq. The Wahabbist - Salafist ideology of this particular wing of Sunnism ardently believes in the destruction of all devotion to past Imams and even destruction of the ornate historical Mosques that become sites of pilgrimage. All this is anathema to Wahabbism out of Saudi Arabia, and to its activist Salafist vanguard who consider themselves the only authentic Muslims. Salafism embodied in Al-Quaeda and Zargawi's brigades in Iraq is a very iconoclastic sect, armed, and capable of any atrocity.
Thus, there is a powerful consideration guiding Lebanon's President Lahoud, to the point of his puppet-policy, whereas Hariri thawt Lebanon could evenutally expell both the Syrian Army and Hezbollah irregulars, thus removing Iran's pernicious influence in the Lebanese south bordering Israel, as well as the Baathist military of Syria's Bashir Assad (who may be something of a puppet himself). - Owlb
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 2:27 PM
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Just as the Gannongate scandal of Gay Republicans in porn, prostitution and infiltration into the Presidential Press Corps, attending Press Conferences in the White House by an agent using the name "Gannon," a former friend of President Bush who secretly recorded conversations with him during his first campaign for Governor of Texas. The former friend says he's still an admirer of Bush but that he sense of history compelled him to make the release now instead after his own entry into the Interim State of death. More details later. - Owlb
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 11:07 PM
Just as an old friend of President Bush revealed audiotapes he had made secretly of Bush unawares in private conversation, when the later President was first campaigning for Governor of Texas (see refWrite entry above), a maverick "reporter" using an alias "Jeff Gannon" (real name: Jim Guckert) who distinguished himself within the White Press corps by rising to ask at Presidential News Conferences remarkably "softball" questions that became rather conspicuous to Leftfwing bloggers. And what the intrepid newsdiggers uncovered! The scandal that doesn't quirte compete with Clinton's, because it doesn't include the President personally, but is already looking much more salacious. More details later.
Update! Here's some useful URLs from various political shades of slant:
Cut & paste URL into your browser
[originated with AntiWar.com - http://wnti.war.com/justin/ ]
[author Conason is a far-left figure; he wrote a lot for Salon.com]
[originated from OnlineJournal, article by S Madsen]
["White House's loyal reporter once worked as gay hooker," by Andrew Buncombe in The Independent, UK]]
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 10:34 PM
Gordon College's professor of political studies, Dr Timothy Sherratt, has published a most engaging analysis of the Iraq elections around the central fact that it was not based on geographic districts or "ridings" as they're called in Canada and UK. Rather, using the device of Proportional Representation on a geogrpahically-universal base as far as the entire territory of the Iraqi state is concerned, Iraq created the possiblity of the expression of a far-more differentiated spread of opinion and representation of minorities sufficiently large enuff to form a party and alert possible andherents/voters.
I agree with this view in general, and in the case of Iraq at the moment, in particular.
But I do not think it prudent to promote PropRep in the abstract as tho it were the pure norm of political representation in would-be democratic societies. Take the case of France, which has had a long history of PropRep (not for its office of President, where run-off votes narrow the final choice down to two, if no candidate receives a majority vote earlier in the race). In its Parliamentary elections, France is notorious for its proliferation of Communist, Socialist, and other Leftwing parties - which together hold a majority of voters, if only they could in, say, the Presidential vote forget party affiliations in favour of one major Leftwinger of some sort. They can't and they didn't, and they brawt Jacques Chirac to power, who in this last round was running only because at the time the French prosecutors wwere highly active against corruption and had their guns drawn on him with handcuffs rattling. as Christopher Hitchens a Socialist analyst of Prench Leftwing decadent politics. Chirac's only out was to run for President again, giving him immunity for past cardinals and peccadilloes. But Jacques had a problem; politically, he was/is a neo-Gaullist and they are outnumbered by representatives of the Left in parliament and in national elections, where they lose as mentioned because they practice internicine party politics as only the French Left can.
But Jacques was saved in the last round, despite the failure of the natural victors of the Left (again because of their multip-party internicine warfare). The earlier round had brawt forward the neo-Gaullists' candidate Chirac as having the single largest bloc of votes, but the second largest was that of LePen the racialist nationalist whose party's gains astounded everyone and put the whole election process into crisis. The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh party's with the largest cuts of votes, which if they were combined, would have outdone not only LePen, but also Chirac, and would have prevented
the need for any run-off vote at all. So, the Communist, Socialist, and Leftwing voters had to stop LePen's possible win by turning out in sufficient numbers to give Jacques Chirac is majority vote and re-election.
The problem is not differentiation of parties into a multiplicity as in the Netherlands and Iraq at the moment.
The problem is political culture.
Who do you think would benefit in the United States of America were there to be an adoption of PropRep at the natoinal level, and a run-off system for the Presidency and Vice Presidency until there was a clear majority for candidates for both these offices? Would a PropRep vote in the USA produce a French or a Dutch or an Iraqi kind of result?
To the extent that in the USA, there would be at least two black parties and two black candidates for President every round (and Condoleeza Rice would not be one of them, but more likely Barak Osama would be facing off against Jesse jackson), there would be at least two and probably three Hispanic parties (regarding whose candidates even I would not yet be willing to speculate, but a Mexican-based party, a Puerto-Rican, and a Cuban would each emerge).
Aside from ethinically-based parties where value-debates would be internally intense for all, there would also be parties of political principle on broader themes like Socialism, non-Socialist General Leftism (Gays would try to set up a major camp here but homos like me would look elsewhere for political affinity). Nader would run for any party that would have him, whether he can retain control over his current bailiwick, the Reform Party, or not. The existing right of right parties like the Libertarians and the Constitutionals would never merge, and aggregate sufficient diehards that they would both want to be on the ballot for President (with run-offs, before which they would attempt to do their horse-tradiing) and Congress (where they would hope to get some seats each.
And what of the vaunted "evangelical vote'? Various TV evangelists would attempt to create their own parties and run, if not themselves, then certain surrogates sufficiently identified with power-brokers behind them; the various shows would try to get as large a slice of the evangelical voter-pie as possible. There may also be real politicla leadership arising out of the Senate and the House who would form an Evangelical Party of some weight, one that would adopt certain national policies such as "a consistent ethic of life," a rather stringently anti-homo stance much harsher than a Traditional Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, which I don't feel is harsh at all, but along with that would come the real negative shit from the political-Evangelical rightwing - because, if a national party of Evangelicals with real political leadership instead of fawning acolytes of TV evangelists were to campaign, it would have to seek that negativist moralistic fundmentalist rightwing, because it does have votes. However, such a party would never be able to please all Evvies and Fundies, so it would have to try to whilttle away a the mass in order to gain however many it could. Each vote could add up to yet another seat in the House or Senate.
I don't think Prof Sherratt and CPJ which publishes Capital Commentary online and by PDF, have as yet done their homework on what consequences are more likely to follow in the USA than in the Netherlands, Canada, and Iraqi at present. I think the French scenario would be more structurally similiar here than there, but that probably the rightwing parties added together would have the majority, and at the same time fall victim to the situaiton of the leftwing parties in France. Of couse, here we could see a strong resurgence of various racisms (Black, Hispanic, and White, as well as a more voracious political Evangelicalism, to say nothing of a Catholic Peoples' Party or two).
Sherratt and CPJ USA should go back to the drawing boards.
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 7:20 PM
Address by Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin
on Bill C-38 (The Civil Marriage Act)
February 16, 2005
House of Commons, Ottawa, Canada
I rise today in support of Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act. I rise in support of a Canada in which liberties are safeguarded, rights are protected and the people of this land are treated as equals under the law.
This is an important day. The attention of our nation is focused on this chamber, in which John Diefenbaker introduced the Bill of Rights, in which Pierre Trudeau fought to establish the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our deliberations will be not merely about a piece of legislation or sections of legal text - more deeply, they will be about the kind of nation we are today, and the nation we want to be.
This bill protects minority rights. This bill affirms the Charter guarantee of religious freedom. It is that straightforward, Mr. Speaker, and it is that important.
And that is why I stand today before members here and before the people of this country to say: I believe in, and I will fight for, the Charter of Rights. I believe in, and I will fight for, a Canada that respects the foresight and vision of those who created and entrenched the Charter. I believe in, and I will fight for, a future in which generations of Canadians to come, Canadians born here and abroad, will have the opportunity to value the Charter as we do today - as an essential pillar of our democratic freedoms.
There have been a number of arguments put forward by those who do not support this bill. It's important and respectful to examine them and to assess them.
First, some have claimed that, once this bill becomes law, religious freedoms will be less than fully protected. This is demonstrably untrue. As it pertains to marriage, the government's legislation affirms the Charter guarantee: that religious officials are free to perform such ceremonies in accordance with the beliefs of their faith.
In this, we are guided by the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada, which makes clear that in no church, no synagogue, no mosque, no temple - in no religious house will those who disagree with same-sex unions be compelled to perform them. Period. That is why this legislation is about civil marriage, not religious marriage.
Moreover -- and this is crucially important - the Supreme Court has declared unanimously, and I quote: "The guarantee of religious freedom in section 2(a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials from being compelled by the state to perform civil or religious same-sex marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs."
The facts are plain: Religious leaders who preside over marriage ceremonies must and will be guided by what they believe. If they do not wish to celebrate marriages for same-sex couples, that is their right. The Supreme Court says so. And the Charter says so.
One final observation on this aspect of the issue: Religious leaders have strong views both for and against this legislation. They should express them. Certainly, many of us in this House, myself included, have a strong faith, and we value that faith and its influence on the decisions we make. But all of us have been elected to serve here as Parliamentarians. And as public legislators, we are responsible for serving all Canadians and protecting the rights of all Canadians.
We will be influenced by our faith but we also have an obligation to take the widest perspective -- to recognize that one of the great strengths of Canada is its respect for the rights of each and every individual, to understand that we must not shrink from the need to reaffirm the rights and responsibilities of Canadians in an evolving society.
The second argument ventured by opponents of the bill is that government ought to hold a national referendum on this issue. I reject this - not out of a disregard for the view of the people, but because it offends the very purpose of the Charter.
The Charter was enshrined to ensure that the rights of minorities are not subjected, are never subjected, to the will of the majority. The rights of Canadians who belong to a minority group must always be protected by virtue of their status as citizens, regardless of their numbers. These rights must never be left vulnerable to the impulses of the majority.
We embrace freedom and equality in theory, Mr. Speaker. We must also embrace them in fact.
Third, some have counseled the government to extend to gays and lesbians the right to "civil union." This would give same-sex couples many of the rights of a wedded couple, but their relationships would not legally be considered marriage. In other words, they would be equal, but not quite as equal as the rest of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, the courts have clearly and consistently ruled that this option would offend the equality provisions of the Charter. For instance, the British Columbia Court of Appeal stated that, and I quote: "Marriage is the only road to true equality for same-sex couples. Any other form of recognition of same-sex relationships ...falls short of true equality."
Put simply, we must always remember that "separate but equal" is not equal. What's more, those who call for the establishment of civil unions fail to understand that the Government of Canada does not have the constitutional jurisdiction to do so. Only the provinces have that. Only the provinces could define such a regime - and they could define it in 10 different ways, and some jurisdictions might not bother to define it at all. There would be uncertainty. There would be confusion. There would certainly not be equality.
Fourth, some are urging the government to respond to the decisions of the courts by getting out of the marriage business altogether. That would mean no more civil weddings for any couples.
It is worth noting that this idea was rejected by the major religions themselves when their representatives appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2003. Moreover, it would be an extreme and counterproductive response for the government to deny civil marriage to opposite-sex couples simply so it can keep it from same-sex couples. To do so would simply be to replace one form of discrimination with another.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, there are some who oppose this legislation who would have the government use the notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights to override the courts and reinstate the traditional definition of marriage. And really, this is the fundamental issue here.
Understand that in seven provinces and one territory, the lawful union of two people of the same sex in civil marriage is already the law of the land. The debate here today is not about whether to change the definition of marriage - it's been changed. The debate comes down to whether we should override a right that is now in place. The debate comes down to the Charter, the protection of minority rights, and whether the federal government should invoke the notwithstanding clause.
I know that some think we should use the clause. For example, some religious leaders feel this way. I respect their candor in publicly recognizing that because same-sex marriage is already legal in most of the country, the only way - the only way - to again make civil marriage the exclusive domain of opposite-sex couples is to use the notwithstanding clause.
Ultimately Mr. Speaker, there is only one issue before this House in this debate. For most Canadians, in most parts of our country, same-sex marriage is already the law of the land. Thus, the issue is not whether rights are to be granted. The issue is whether rights that have been granted are to be taken away.
Some are frank and straightforward and say yes. Others have not been so candid. Despite being confronted with clear facts, despite being confronted with the unanimous opinion of 134 legal scholars, experts in their field, intimately familiar with the Constitution, some have chosen to not be forthright with Canadians. They have eschewed the honest approach in favour of the political approach. They have attempted to cajole the public into believing that we can return to the past with a simple snap of the fingers, that we can revert to traditional definition of marriage without consequence and without overriding the Charter. They're insincere. They're disingenuous. And they're wrong.
There is one question that demands an answer - a straight answer - from those who would seek to lead this nation and its people. It is a simple question: Will you use the notwithstanding clause to overturn the definition of civil marriage and deny to Canadians a right guaranteed under the Charter?
This question does not demand rhetoric. It demands clarity. There are only two legitimate answers - yes or no. Not the demagoguery we have heard, not the dodging, the flawed reasoning, the false options. Just yes or no.
Will you take away a right as guaranteed under the Charter? I, for one, will answer that question, Mr. Speaker. I will answer it clearly. I will say no.
The notwithstanding clause is part of the Charter of Rights. But there's a reason that no prime minister has ever used it. For a prime minister to use the powers of his office to explicitly deny rather than affirm a right enshrined under the Charter would serve as a signal to all minorities that no longer can they look to the nation's leader and to the nation's Constitution for protection, for security, for the guarantee of their freedoms. We would risk becoming a country in which the defence of rights is weighed, calculated and debated based on electoral or other considerations.
That would set us back decades as a nation. It would be wrong for the minorities of this country. It would be wrong for Canada.
The Charter is a living document, the heartbeat of our Constitution. It is also a proclamation. It declares that as Canadians, we live under a progressive and inclusive set of fundamental beliefs about the value of the individual. It declares that we all are lessened when any one of us is denied a fundamental right.
We cannot exalt the Charter as a fundamental aspect of our national character and then use the notwithstanding clause to reject the protections that it would extend. Our rights must be eternal, not subject to political whim.
To those who value the Charter yet oppose the protection of rights for same-sex couples, I ask you: If a prime minister and a national government are willing to take away the rights of one group, what is to say they will stop at that? If the Charter is not there today to protect the rights of one minority, then how can we as a nation of minorities ever hope, ever believe, ever trust that it will be there to protect us tomorrow?
My responsibility as Prime Minister, my duty to Canada and to Canadians, is to defend the Charter in its entirety. Not to pick and choose the rights that our laws shall protect and those that are to be ignored. Not to decree those who shall be equal and those who shall not. My duty is to protect the Charter, as some in this House will not.
Let us never forget that one of the reasons that Canada is such a vibrant nation, so diverse, so rich in the many cultures and races of the world, is that immigrants who come here - as was the case with the ancestors of many of us in this chamber - feel free and are free to practice their religion, follow their faith, live as they want to live. No homogenous system of beliefs is imposed on them.
When we as a nation protect minority rights, we are protecting our multicultural nature. We are reinforcing the Canada we value. We are saying, proudly and unflinchingly, that defending rights - not just those that happen to apply to us, not just that everyone approves of, but all fundamental rights - is at the very soul of what it means to be a Canadian.
This is a vital aspect of the values we hold dear and strive to pass on to others in the world who are embattled, who endure tyranny, whose freedoms are curtailed, whose rights are violated.
Why is the Charter so important, Mr. Speaker? We have only to look at our own history. Unfortunately, Canada's story is one in which not everyone's rights were protected under the law. We have not been free from discrimination, bias, unfairness. There have been blatant inequalities.
Remember that it was once thought perfectly acceptable to deny women "personhood" and the right to vote. There was a time, not that long ago, that if you wore a turban, you couldn't serve in the RCMP. The examples are many, but what's important now is that they are part of our past, not our present.
Over time, perspectives changed. We evolved, we grew, and our laws evolved and grew with us. That is as it should be. Our laws must reflect equality not as we understood it a century or even a decade ago, but as we understand it today.
For gays and lesbians, evolving social attitudes have, over the years, prompted a number of important changes in the law. Recall that, until the late 1960s, the state believed it had the right to peek into our bedrooms. Until 1977, homosexuality was still sufficient grounds for deportation. Until 1992, gay people were prohibited from serving in the military. In many parts of the country, gays and lesbians could not designate their partners as beneficiaries under employee medical and dental benefits, insurance policies or private pensions. Until very recently, people were being fired merely for being gay.
Today, we rightly see discrimination based on sexual orientation as arbitrary, inappropriate and unfair. Looking back, we can hardly believe that such rights were ever a matter for debate. It is my hope that we will ultimately see the current debate in a similar light; realizing that nothing has been lost or sacrificed by the majority in extending full rights to the minority.
Without our relentless, inviolable commitment to equality and minority rights, Canada would not be at the forefront in accepting newcomers from all over the world, in making a virtue of our multicultural nature - the complexity of ethnicities and beliefs that make up Canada, that make us proud that we are where our world is going, not where it's been.
Four years ago, I stood in this House and voted to support the traditional definition of marriage. Many of us did. My misgivings about extending the right of civil marriage to same-sex couples were a function of my faith, my perspective on the world around us.
But much has changed since that day. We've heard from courts across the country, including the Supreme Court. We've come to the realization that instituting civil unions - adopting a "separate but equal" approach - would violate the equality provisions of the Charter. We've confirmed that extending the right of civil marriage to gays and lesbians will not in any way infringe on religious freedoms.
And so where does that leave us? It leaves us staring in the face of the Charter of Rights with but a single decision to make: Do we abide by the Charter and protect minority rights, or do we not?
To those who would oppose this bill, I urge you to consider that the core of the issue before us today is whether the rights of all Canadians are to be respected. I believe they must be. Justice demands it. Fairness demands it. The Canada we love demands it.
Mr. Speaker: In the 1960s, the government of Lester Pearson faced opposition as it moved to entrench official bilingualism. But it persevered, and it won the day. Its members believed it was the right thing to do, and it was. In the 1980s, the government of Pierre Trudeau faced opposition as it attempted to repatriate the Constitution and enshrine a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But it persevered, and it won the day. Its members believed it was the right thing to do, and it was.
There are times, Mr. Speaker, when we as Parliamentarians can feel the gaze of history upon us. They felt it in the days of Pearson. They felt it in the days of Trudeau. And we, the 308 men and women elected to represent one of the most inclusive, just and respectful countries on the face of this earth, feel it today.
There are few nations whose citizens cannot look to Canada and see their own reflection. For generations, men and women and families from the four corners of the globe have made the decision to chose Canada to be their home. Many have come here seeking freedom -- of thought, religion and belief. Seeking the freedom simply to be.
The people of Canada have worked hard to build a country that opens its doors to include all, regardless of their differences; a country that respects all, regardless of their differences; a country that demands equality for all, regardless of their differences.
If we do not step forward, then we step back. If we do not protect a right, then we deny it. Mr. Speaker, together as a nation, together as Canadians: Let us step forward.
© CanWest News Service 2005
I contest this copyright, as the speech, coming from the Prime Minister, is the property of all people in Canada affected by this rhetorically-inflated, fundamentally flawed and pseudo-rights phlut that toys with the right to the title "Marraige" which should be reserved for intimate unions of 1man1woman. - Owlb
*Same text as above but this is Government site, includes Video (Windows & QuickTime)
Martin's 'Gay Marriage'
Yahoo!News gives a good brief contextualization of the opening of the debate in House of Commons. It also gives Links to other articles adding to the context.
Yahoo!'s Report and links give context
This link takes you to the "Speeches" section of the Conservative Party (Tories) website. The entry for Feb 16,2k5 "Address in the Hosue of Commons on Bill C-8" [Definition of Marriage] will give you Tory leader Steven Harper's full text.
Stephen Harper's defense of traditional definition of Marriage
Look for further updates to this blog article.
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 5:19 PM
Friday, February 18, 2005
Here's another report from Tsunamiland, Sri Lanka sent by Poho in an email. - Owlb
The Guilty Heart : A Valentine’s Day Encounter at Butterfly Peace Garden
Rev. Dr. John van Eenwyk received his PhD in religion and psychological studies from the University of Chicago. A clinical psychologist, he maintains a private practice in Jungian Analysis in Olympia, Washington. He is also an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, a clinical instructor at the University of Washinton School of Medicine, and the Clinical Director of the International Trauma Treatment Program. The author of Archetypes and Strange Attractors: the Chaotic World of Symbols, he lectures internationally (Gaza, Costa Rica, the Phillipines, Switzerland, Zimbabwe, South Africa India, Sri Lanka) on Jungian psychology and the treatment of torture survivors.
This is Dr. van Eenwyk’s fifth visit to the Butterfly Garden since 1997. His seminars with the Butterfly Garden animators and staff are translated by Fr.Paul Satkunanayagam SJ and Mr. T. Suresh. The English version below is transcribed by Paul Hogan form journal notes.
Dr.John. I have come to be of service to you in any way I can. May I ask, how may I help? What do you need from me?
Animator 1: In the Garden we are called upon to be happy in the presence of the children but these days many of us are too sad. We are doing our work but it seems fraudulent somehow.
Animator 2: At the time of the tsunami I had hurt my leg in a motorcycle accident. When the water came I hobbled up to the roof of a building near where I lived. I watched people below, both old and young, being tossed about in the water. I was helpless to do anything but watch. I am young and strong. It pains me that I could do nothing to help them.
Animator 3: When it first happened I gathered and prepared clothing to give to those in need. When that was over I felt I needed to be busy doing service for those affected but the Garden was closed and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. I was glad when we came back early from our holidays. Only in the Garden have I been able to satisfy the need I have to be doing something. So many people need help.
Animator 4: I seem ultra-sensitive to this disaster. It had made me feel very raw. And critical. When I hear stories I think,”why didn’t we do something sooner?” The Butterfly Garden did not respond quickly enough. We should have been there for people right away. Where were we? On vacation. But then I found myself also incapacitated. This was so big, this tsunami. I could not find the energy or strength myself to confront it.
Animator 5: I was in class writing an exam when it happened. People were talking excitedly about the water coming but I was too involved with the exam to understand what they were talking about. When the water splashed around my fee I needed no more persuasion. I live with my auntie who raised me. My mother lives by the sea. I did not know which way to turn. I was overcome with confusion at that moment. I chose to go to the sea. I was wading in water up to my neck toward my mother’s house. I realized I could go no further or I would drown. I retreated to high ground and just fell apart. I wept thinking how I
had let both my aunt and my mother down. Miraculously my mother appeared out of the water and stood before me. This is hardly believable but there she was. Both she and my aunt were saved. My family moved to the refugee camp at Manresa. There I found my skills as a musician and animator in the Garden were useful because there were so many children. I helped out however I could, very grateful we were all alive.
Animator 6: The day before the tsunami I had had an argument with my elder sister. That was unresolved when the wave hit my village, completely flattening it. I was able to save some of my family members, though one brother died. When I was re-united with my sister she was still angry with me. Maybe even more angry than before. She blamed me for the miscarriage which occurred as a result of the tsunami in which she suffered the loss of her three-month old child. I was very saddened by this (although we are reconciled now). Other things weighed on my mind. For example, play groups were organized for children in our community almost immediately but the Butterfly Garden did not come to help us even though I am an animator here. We have so many skills here at the Garden. We could have done much to help but we did not. When I come to the Garden now I am a disappointed person. I feel alienated.
Animator 7: My mother has a problem with high blood pressure and my father suffers with asthma. I was at home with them and my sister(s?) when the water came. We four left the house together and ran helping one another to stay ahead of the wave as though we were one body. It was like a black snake was chasing us. We were in a state of utter panic by the time we crossed Kallady bridge. Even to this day the fear has not let go of us. That snake is still chasing us. Especially my parents. I worry about them being home alone when I am work here in the garden. They still feel another tsunami may come. When I hear stories of the children who come into our Garden I feel overwhelmed.
Animator 8: Thousands upon thousands of incidents took place simultaneously during the tsunami. Only know are all the stories beginning to unravel. We are listening to one another and helping each to shoulder the burden of his or her pain. I have an uncle who was disabled. What was his death like? He was utterly helpless. He could only watch himself and those around him die being hurled about in the surf. And another friend I think about was disabled. What was it like for these people? I get angry when I think about it. I find I am easily angered these days.
Animator 9: I am very wary now of the natural world. I distrust it. When I was thirteen I very nearly drowned at sea and in the cyclone of 1978 the wind was so ferocious and brought death and destruction all around me. I cannot bear to hear high wind even to this day. I fear water and air. I do not trust the elements. So what kind of future can there be? At the same time I love this world and would like to live forever. I fear my own death now more than ever.
Animator 10: I was taking care of some business at the police station when this tsunami hit. Afterwards I tried to contact the animators and to make over to Katadi’s house in Kallady. We should have rallied together but people were scattered and the phones didn’t work. This tsunami was more than a physical outrage. It shook us to the core of our being. We were helpless.
Animator 11: I had a beloved auntie who died in the disaster. Now we all worry about the seven-year old son who survived her. He has become demanding and aggressive in a way he never was before. He will only take the food we prepare if it comes from his mother from his mother’s hand. We have to beg him to eat. I am very worried if he continues in this manner. He is also violent at school and with his playmates.
Animator 12: I as in Colombo attending a workshop at the time of the tsunami. When we heard what was happening all around the country we were thrown into a state of shock and disbelief. We called back home for information but it was
impossible to get through in most cases. The lines were jammed. I called the police in Eravur. They were helpful enough to tell me about my own village. When I returned home I found displaced people everywhere. Although my immediate
family was unaffected, I felt useless. I wanted to go to the camps to help but I didn’t because, in searching myself, I felt devastated. I could not find strength anywhere in myself. I did not feel I had anything to offer. I was also afraid another tsunami would come. Added to all this, my own inaction depressed me the most.
Animator 13: many children have come into the Garden from Katankoodi. I went to visit this community and I found some of our children there had died. I am ashamed to say that, to this day, no one from the Garden has visited the families of these children to offer condolence. I ask myself, why is this? We are supposed to be here for the children and their families. One mother asked me to find a photo of the little daughter she lost in the tsunami, a child who was with us in the Garden for some time. I have searched through our photo archive but so far I have not found a picture of her. It would mean so much to
the family. We animators should visit families in which Garden children have been lost.
Animator 2: Now we are busy going to the camps. We had the painting project in the camps and we can see what is happening there. It is clear many people have not worked out their feelings. They are dead to their feelings. Zombies. I can
tell them that they would be better to look into their sorrow now rather than when they leave the camp, but who am I to do that? When they go back home they will find a vacuum. Before the tsunami there may have been an orderly household
in which each member played a role. Now these members are missing. Life is altered forever. So the trauma then, when they return to their former home, will be doubled... One day near the seashore I encountered a grieving mother. She was watching children play under the trees and she told me how disturbed she was that these children lived and her two children died. “My children were hard-working and high-achieving students. These kids are useless idlers. Yet they are still here playing and my children are gone.” …There is a mountain of unresolved anger and sorrow. There is shame and guilt everywhere.
Animator 14: My family was hit hard by the Tsunami. When the first wave came, we went to the front porch. The second wave was higher, so we went inside. We climbed up on a counter, but even that was not high enough as the wave rose above the tops of the doorways. I was holding onto my mother-in-law because she has diabetes and cannot walk very well. I saw my six-year-old son being swept out the door by the water. He cried out to me “Mama, save me!” I didn’t know what to do. If let go of my mother-in-law, she would drown. If I didn’t, my son would drown. Finally, I wrapped part of her sari around my wrist and plunged through the water to my son and I grabbed him as the wave moved on. After the third wave came, we fled to the Butterfly Garden. My mother-in-law put her feet on top of mine as I walked. There was a large crowd there, so we
moved into the convent across the street. We remain there to this day.
Animator 9: It is unbelievable to see what some of our people did to desecrate the memory of those who died. Can you believe they went out looking for corpses and then robbed them of their jewelry? I am so angry about this I would like to shoot and kill these people. I must say it angers me to hear people going around blaming God for the tsunami. God is merciful. The tsunami could have come at night and many thousands more would have died. God is merciful, but these dogs who rob from the dead show no mercy.
Animator 4: There was an ashram-orphanage on the Kallady shore which was home to 26 little boys. I only learned about it after the tsunami. Sadly, I also learned that the swami who lived there and all of the boys died. II felt terrible about this.These were children who should have been coming here to the Garden. They never got their chance. This thought obsessed me. Day after day it returned to haunt me so I decided I to visit Kallady and pay respect to these children in the place where they died. Once there I found myself picking up small mementos of their lives and putting them in by bag: little toys, school exercise books, a slipper, a bracelet. I brought them back with me to the Garden. On the 41st Day after the Tsunami we created a ceremony with the children from the camps. At one point during the ritual, when the sea shells were buried with the kundumuni seeds under the coconut tree near Sampa’s (the pelican) house, I placed the articles I had collected from the ashram in branches of the tree. In that way these children, at last, came to the Garden. The ritual freed me freed from the sadness and depression I had felt about what happened to these kids.
Animator 12: I don’t know what to say to kids who have survived the loss of so many friends and family members, all on the same day at the same time. You know, the other day some kids begged me to let them come into the Garden. They said to me, “When are you going to let us come into the Garden? Are you only going to look after us once we are dead?”
Animator 6: I have seen Newton’s law at work here: every action with an equal and opposite reaction. Take for example anger. It is making the rounds. These days it takes very little to get someone angry. Then they pass it on to someone
of lesser station. The old shout at the young. The big man at the little woman. Mothers lash out at their children.
Animator 3: The children who come into the Garden seem particularly sensitive to abandonment these days. We have to be very careful once we include them in the activities to follow through with them until they have completed everything. One little girl the other day left while I was momentarily attending to someone else. She went off with Jallis. Later she came to me and said she left because I did not care for her or want to be with her. She was very hurt. I tried to reassure her.
Animator 15: We have been going into affected communities and we are doing the work that needs to be done. But let us not overlook the camps. The trauma there is most apparent among adults who are completely preoccupied with their own survival. Kids are getting overlooked, I feel. In particular there is a pressing need to engage with the youth. The camp authorities are not developing any kind of relationships with adolescents between the ages of 16 and 19. We need to look into this.
Dr. John: I feel it is presumptuous of me to come here to speak to you in this Garden but since you have invited me I am here and I shall speak. Something you should know is that you people here at the Butterfly Garden are functioning on the highest level of psychological skill and I sometime think you do not know that.
I have come here five times since 1997. Every time I come I am more impressed by what you do here. Your ability to put together rituals is the best I have seen anywhere in the world. You have been doing it so long and under such complex conditions you do not even know you are doing it.
Now I would like to speak to you not as a psychologist but as a priest. I am a Christian priest in the Episcopal tradition. However, you should know that I do not believe one religion is better than another. Each has its own approach to ultimate reality and they all meet as one in this one reality. I am not here to convert you to anything. The concerns you express today are beyond any psychology I know. They are profoundly religious concerns. Psychologically you are doing fine but you have raised very important religious issues.
I would like to share a story with you from my Christian tradition. It concerns Adam and Eve who, as this story has it, were the original humans and who lived in a paradise where everything was provided for them. They were told they could have whatever they pleased but they were not to eat the fruit of one tree under pain of death. However a snake persuaded them to indulge themselves. “You will not die if you eat that fruit but you will see,” said the snake.
This is an important story because it raises an important question: is it a blessing or a curse to be able to see?
The earth which moved did not see; the tsunami did not see; even the thieves who stole the jewelry from dead people did not see. They all exist at a low level of functioning. The man who steals from the dead does not care about the person he steals from. He sees only jewels and gold. He does not see the person. He steals because he cannot see. People like this are blind. They don’t care about others. They do not feel guilt.
It is good to feel guilty. If you feel guilty it means you care. The problem with guilt though is that it never knows when to stop talking. It keeps up this steady accusatory monologue. We eat the fruit and see. Is it better not to see and feel no guilt, or is it better to see and feel the burden of guilt? Here we are at the Butterfly Garden and we all see and we care. So we are always going to feel guilty.
There are three things that may help you with feelings of guilt. (1) Know your limitations and don’t be afraid to say, “I can’t do it. I’d love to but I cannot.” If we do not respect our limitations, chances are we will find ourselves acting like gods only to discover that we are not. We are only human. Not knowing our limitations we soon burn out if we stretch ourselves beyond
human capacity. (2) There is the issue of control. This tsunami was completely out of control. What it did to communities along the seashore and to the land itself was out of control. What the tsunami did to people’s psychology was also out of control, completely, and it continues to be. Both on the level of the material and the psychological, this tsunami was out of control. It is important to understand this. So that is number (3). Understanding is the third factor you should be aware of in dealing with guilt.
With regard to understanding there are two definitions that should be borne in mind. We can understand something in the sense of “grasping” it and then controlling it. For example, mathematics. We can grasp what numbers are and put them to work for us. But the tsunami must be understood in another way. We can “be present” to it; we can “stand under” it and let its meaning slowly penetrate us and transform us. In being present and bearing witness through seeing with eyes and heart wide open, we gradually integrate and re-constellate meaning in our tsunami-shattered lives.
With regard to psychological trauma we cannot use the first form of understanding. We must go to the second definition of understanding as presence. In working with the children of the Garden we stand by them in what they are experiencing, we accompany them in their daily lives, whether it is the war or the tsunami or just ordinary life as children in Batticaloa. This is
the most powerful form of healing - this presence and constancy - but it is subtle and it takes place over a long period of time.
I make fun of “traumatologists” who are descending on Sri Lanka because their methods imply a quick fix – as if by the use of some easy-to-learn method all the pain and grief of this tsunami will be magically evaporate and life will return to normal. It really makes my blood boil. If any of you dare call me a traumatologist I’m going to go get a gun and shoot you. After all, I am an American. That’s the way we do things.
One further point to remember is that this work in the Garden may seem all fun and games but really it’s very sophisticated and it takes its toll on you. Have you ever noticed the way the kids come into the Garden all agitated and
scattered and go home at peace with themselves, and then how you come into the Garden at peace with yourself and leave in the evening all agitated and at odds with yourself and the world. Well, think about it. Something happens here in
the healing process. Some kind of transference. Some kind of transformation. It goes both ways. You have to be present for this exchange. It is a kind of initiation. You can participate fully in the Garden and reap its harvest only by being aware of it and understanding what’s going on.
One last thought. It’s very important to have a life of your own outside the Garden that is more important to you than the Garden. I remember one of my teachers in the seminary told me, “no one is fully a priest, John, until he can urinate on the altar”.
So the tsunami has released a powerful shock to the collective and individual psyche and its effects will be felt as powerful feelings, one of which is guilt. Some of these feelings will wash quietly about inside you for a long time to come. Others will take you by surprise thrashing you wildly about in their wake, then vanishing. In dealing with the guilt factor, remind yourself
of these three things:
(i) In every way this tsunami was (and is) out of control.
(ii) You are only human and you have limitations.
(iii) Be fully present to the situation you are in.
Through relationship in presence to this situation and to one another you will grow in understanding, wisdom and compassion.
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 1:35 PM
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just finished visiting Albania, where a Turkish university will be established (presumably secular with a Muslim Studies department, but not an outright Muslim or Islamicist university which latter could be expected to export terrorist ideology). Turkey's turn toward Europe and EU membership may lead to a counterforce to Islamic radicalism in such places as Bosnia-Herzegovina (where he is presently visiting), and Kosovo (where he is unlikely to go at present because of political uncertainties there).
Image Credit: ARDIphoto
But at some point Kosovo too would be a natural center for Turkish diplomacy and priority investment and trade, since it too was one of the spots too hot to visit due to current political uncertainties. Another hotspot that discourages Erdogan's visit at present is the Turkish Cypriot poltical entity, which wants to reopen relations with Greek-speaking Cyprus whiere, unfortunately, the parliamentary majority has rebuffed ties on the island. The EU has insisted these problems be resolved, and a minority of the Cyprus parliament has actively campaigned for opening to Turkish Cyprus, because otherwise Cyprus will not be admitted into the European Union.
The same sort of problem obtains for Kosovo. Today, Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, made clear that Kosovo, formally still a province of Serbia-Montenegro (but now with its own elected parliament under UN administration) had yet to meet fully any of the eight requirements which the UN has defined as necessary before talks on Kosovo's status could begin.
"The UN has set out a list of specific, point-by-point targets -- covering areas such as democratic institutions, security and the rule of law, freedom of movement, refugee returns, the economy, and dialogue -- which must be achieved before talks on Kosovo's future status may begin." One of the problems has been the designation of a radical Islamicist as prime minister; and the other chief problem is the refusal of the Serbian population to participate in the elections, on the encouragement of the rightwing government in Serbia. Just recently, rather than Erdogan arriving in Pristina, the Kosovo capital, the Serbian Prime Minister arrived from Belgrade, and then left, promising he would never give up Serbia's claim to sovereignty on this predominately Muslim society. That's the formula for impasse, and for the continued resentment of the majority against the recalcitrant minority. - Owlb
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 5:46 PM
Semiotics is a little-known intellectual and theoretical discipline that studies signs and sign-systems whether footprints in the sand, language-communications with gestures and facial expressions (body language), fashion as statements and questions about one's own identity, and much more. Part of the much more is alphabetic, numeric and graphic signs/displays. Online, even the clickable commercial advertisements you may find on a website and their animated (probably Flash-based) clicked-up product websites are part of the object-field of semiotic analysis and theorizing.
Credits: Image & animation by Adagio Teas
Adagio Teas has created an amazingly inviting online commercial at Sojourners magazine, an outfit I have deep reservations about. But ... Adagio Teas ... that's another story.
The Adagio Teas commercial presents us with an antimated tea-making utility surrounded on 3-sides by a delicious set of still images and text that frame and set-off the active animation. A glass see-thru tea-maker is presented that fills with water, then a scoop of tea is dropped into the maker where the tea is brewed and steeped. After the tea is readied, the second unit of the tea utility, again glass see-thru, is presented to serve as a teapot. With the tea removed, the used grounds of the tea leaves are easily removed as well. Then we are presented with the ensemble, the two glass see-thru elements of the utility, after which four empty tins appear alongside, which are filled with dry tea leaves, and then capped to keep them in dry storage. And the ensemble sells online for a quite reasonable price as well.
The Adagio clickable ad together with the online animated presentation at the Adagio website itself is the best online commercial advertisement I've ever seen, the product is sane, and I suspect the tea comes from a producer worth supporting by redirecting one's tea purchases to the Adagio brand. - Owlbird
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 4:37 PM
Heavy with implications for chemistry, biology, astronomical extraterrestial life-formations, and theology, a scientific team will claim tentatively in the May issue of Nature magazine that life more probably than not, exists on the planet Mars.
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 2:33 PM
Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
NASA researchers are making one of the biggest claims since empirical post-Galileoan science turned its attention to the celestial orbs. The May issue of professional magazine Nature will outline just why the researchers examining feedback from the recent Mars explorations, in comparison to empirical data from discoveries in strange circumstances on Earth, have tentatively concluded that life exists at present in caves on the planet next to ours - you know, on the side facing toward the outer limits of our sun-orbiting planetary system. We (that is, all life-forms on earth) are not alone.
The photo above shows cave openings on Mars that may correspond to similar openings found in Spain where the caves contain pools of highly-acidic water. The viable habitat of Earth-based high-acidity-thriving micro-organisms turns out to be viable for unique life-forms that have a unique metabolic system, allowing them to take nourishment from the otherwise killer water, both here on Earth and now most probably on Mars as well. There's a biological doctrine involved to boot, that's the princple of uniformitarianism - it posits in evolutionary geology that the same processes and laws that obtain in one area of Earth obtain in all others. The uniformitarian idea has been translated into the framework of most schools of astronomy, and now in geological, hydrological, and biological terms it is being drawn upon to unite two very different discoveries - one in Spain in the Rio Tinto area, and astrophotographic analysis of openings to Martian caves.
What's more, the Christian-philosophical biologist, Dr Uwe Zylstra has posited in an important recent article in Zygon that Intelligent Design theory has a huge hole in it, due to its lack of a leading theory of irreducible laws in an ascending order of dependence on one another. In this, he takes a chapter from the work of the reformational Christian philosophers, Herman Dooyeweerd and D.Th.Vollenhoven, who claim only one biotic law in a law order where it places the biotic above the physico-chemical and below the psychic irreducible modes of created reality (to the best of our public-knowledge scientific endeavour to date). In his major revision of his mentors' modal-scale, Zylstra claims three or four irreducible biotic modes. My point here is that with the new discovery on Earth at Rio Tinto, Spain, do we have evidence of another level of biotic law? And, if so, where would it place in the order tentatively being developed along Dooyeweerd's lines by Zylstra? If not, into which irreducible modal category among Zylstra's three or four, would the new phenomena best fit? The answer may be obvious to Zylstra and colleagues in biology who are also in dialogue with reformational philosophy and its prime modal-scale theory, but laity who follow this theory would gain insight into a facet of the new claims regarding life on Mars. How does the uniformity hypothesis fare in this new Gestalt of biochemistry, biology, and photographic empirical measurement and analysis resulting in the claim of life on Mars? - Owlb
Posted by Albert Gedraitis at 2:10 PM