Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Non-military responses to global challenges.   Leave a comment

i-remember-for-peace

Buffy Ste. Marie’s song, Universal Soldier, was probably not a part of the playlist when the U.S.A. was commissioning a new aircraft carrier this weekend. As I remember the song, Buffy sings that “this is not the way to put an end to war“.

Ceasefire.ca has published the following post encouraging Canada to take an alternative road towards attaining peace on earth:

Jul 21, 2017 03:52 pm

With the USA ramping up its global military activity and eschewing UN-led peace and security efforts, Canada must restore and expand its leadership on war prevention and peaceful conflict resolution.

http://www.ceasefire.ca/?p=25208

Posted July 23, 2017 by allanbaker in Canadian society, Peacemaking, Politics

Tagged with , ,

A positive Step Towards Ending Nuclear Weapons   Leave a comment

New UN treaty outlaws nuclear weapons

First Phase Digital

Friday, 7 July at the UN Headquarters in New York more than 120 countries adopted a landmark treaty to ban nuclear weapons. All nine nuclear-armed states, and all NATO members except the Netherlands, had refused to participate in the negotiations.

“These states recognize that the ban treaty would represent a potent stigmatization of the nuclear weapons they still cling to and an act of political and moral protest against their retention.” (Paul Meyer)

The treaty prohibits the possession, development, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and provides for nuclear weapons states to become parties by either a “destroy and join” or “join and destroy” plan for the verifiable elimination of their nuclear weapons. It also explicitly prohibits the stationing of nuclear weapons on the territory of non-nuclear weapons states.

“This new prohibition lays bare the fundamental contradiction between Canada’s legal status as a non-nuclear weapons state under the NPT and our active participation in NATO – a nuclear-armed military alliance.” (Peggy Mason)

The Canadian position on the treaty was, in part, influenced by a U.S. memo from last year that strongly encouraged all NATO allies to vote against negotiations. Andrew Leslie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, went so far as to call the treaty negotiations “premature and ineffective” last month in Parliament. After decades of empty platitudes and inaction on the part of the Canadian government, it’s hard to believe that any forward movement on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation can be considered ‘premature’.

“The integrity of the Canadian position that it really wants to do away with nuclear weapons, but not just yet, is in tatters.” (Douglas Roche)

Despite the refusal of nuclear states and their strategic allies to participate, the treaty represents an historic step forward in the ongoing push for nuclear disarmament, marking a “new, reforming spirit in global nuclear affairs.” Some also see the treaty as a powerful sign that the international community will not be intimidated by nuclear powers.

“It represents a structural change in the power structure between states… Emerging powers believe they can push an agenda that is not only opposed to the interests of the main military powers in the world but also something that condemns them.” (Leonardo Bandarra)

In 1978 Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau told the UN that “we must impart a fresh momentum to the lagging process of disarmament.” In 2017, his son, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had an unparalleled opportunity to help do just that. Instead Canada was not even at the negotiating table.

***

To learn more about the future of nuclear disarmament, join us at the Group of 78 Policy Conference, “Getting to Nuclear Zero: Building Common Security for a Post-Mad World,” on September 22nd.

For an important discussion of what parliamentarians can do to achieve a nuclear-free world, see the “Parliamentary Action Plan for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World: 2017-2020”.

Living in a Glass House type economy   Leave a comment

There is a saying that those who live in glass houses ought not to throw stones. Mea culpa.

I have had an opportunity to complete reading a book by Brian Alexander called; “Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town”. It is an excellent book that gets into some of the nuances of what is happening to “ordinary people” and civic life in the U.S.A.

If you have some Anchor Hocking cookware in your kitchen, you have a connection to Lancaster Ohio, the town that is being destroyed by the current economic system. Of course, it isn’t just Lancaster Ohio.

A review of “Glass House” by Laura Miller can be found at: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2017/02/brian_alexander_s_glass_house_about_lancaster_ohio_reviewed.html

170131_BOOKS_GlassHouseBook

 

This book has helped me to understand a bit about what it is like to live in the U.S.A. at this time in history.

 

Canada does Trump’s bidding with massive new defence spending.   Leave a comment

This material is copied from www.Ceasefire.ca and it relates to the announcement on June 7, 2017 that Canada will increase its spending on the military.

Sajjan

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan released Canada’s new defence policy today and here are the highlights:

–          A 70% increase in defence spending over the next 10 years

–          A staggering 62 billion dollar increase over the next 20 years

–          An increase in the number of fighter jets to be purchased from 65 (under Harper) to 88

–          An increase in personnel in both the regular and reserve forces

The Trudeau Liberals did not campaign on, and have no mandate for, significant increases in the defence budget. There has been no change in the international security environment since their election to justify such astronomical increases. The only change has been the election of Donald Trump.

While there are positive elements of the new policy – particularly Canada’s engagement in support of UN peace operations – the new funding envelope is nothing short of a total capitulation to the American bully, President Trump.

See tomorrow’s blog (at www.ceasefire.ca )for more detailed analysis of the policy and its implications for Canada.

 

Meanwhile, in Toronto, 1,000 families will have their homes taken away from them in 2017 and 2018 because of the lack of government assistance for repairs to affordable housing; an untold number of First Nations people all across Canada will not have potable drinking water; etc, etc.

HOW WE TREAT NEW IMMIGRANTS DEFINES US   Leave a comment

By Jim Taylor – Sunday March 5, 2017

During the depth of winter, when snow lay deep on the ground and arctic winds sucked warmth from bare skin, small groups of people from countries where snow is as unknown as poutine struggled across the world’s longest undefended border into Canada.

Illegally, of course.
IMG_0315

Night after night, TV news showed video of these asylum seekers. Stumbling through snowdrifts, burdened by baby strollers or car seats. Dragging plastic suitcases. Huddled at a roadside, too numbed by bitter cold to go any farther.

They were greeted by police officers. Who led them gently to a warm car. Who helped carry their children. Who delivered them to a border immigration station, where kindly officials helped them fill out their applications to stay in Canada.

This is the Canada we imagine it to be. Compassionate. Decent. Hospitable.

NOT SO WELCOMING
But at the same time, there’s another side. A recent Angus Reid poll found that 25 per cent of Canadians want to impose travel restrictions; over 40 per cent feel we’re being overrun by too many refugees.

As Scott Gilmore wrote in Macleans magazine, “As of last month, Canada has accepted 40,081 Syrian refugees. That’s one refugee for every 857 Canadians.”

Let’s put that statistic another way. Kelowna’s largest arena holds around 6,800 people for a hockey game. Would eight Syrian refugees — yes, just eight — somehow subvert the local culture?

But political parties still foment fears of being overrun. Leadership hopefuls want to grill immigrants to make sure their “values” (whatever that means) won’t conflict with ours (whatever they are).

There are also legitimate concerns. Such as that it’s not fair for some refugees to get a free pass into Canada, while others wait for years in refugee camps.

LEGAL COMPLICATIONS
For the last 15 years, too, Canada and the U.S. have shared a legal agreement to treat each other as a “safe” countries. Essentially, that means we trust the other country’s justice systems to process asylum claims fairly. Refugee claimants must request protection in the first “safe” country they reach. So if they come to Canada through the U.S., we should return them to the U.S. for processing.

So far, the U.S. is the only country considered “safe.” But what happens when a new administration’s xenophobia makes the country no longer feel “safe”?

It’s not as if all of these border-crossers are helpless indigents. Some take taxis to the nearest border point. A few admit coming a long and expensive route: from the Middle East or Asia to South America, up through Central America and the U.S. to the Canadian border.

Legally, we should send them back. But turning away a family with shivering youngsters just doesn’t feel like us.

Gilmore again: “There is nothing we can do to stop asylum seekers from walking into Canada, Samsonite in hand. We aren’t building a wall, or even a fence. Our armed forces don’t even have enough drones to take a group selfie on the parade ground, let alone patrol over 8,000 kilometres of frontier.”

ESSENTIAL DISCONTINUITY
There are no simple answers. Because there is a discontinuity between micro and macro perspectives. You cannot always extrapolate from the small scale to the larger, and vice versa.

Physicists tell me that, at the ultimate micro level, my chair isn’t really there. Neither am I. We both consist of quarks and gluons, which are not things at all but packets of energy measurable only as probabilities.
But I still need a chair to sit on.

If a shopper at the grocery cashier’s lineup can’t find a few missing coins, I will gladly give her what she needs. But I won’t extend the same privilege to every other shopper.

Macro reasoning says that we can’t just throw our borders open, take anyone who shows up, anywhere. Micro says that we can’t callously turn people away.

So what should we do about this discontinuity? Again, Gilmore offers good advice: “We can help them settle into our communities, reducing tensions with those who are less welcoming. We can find ways to help the small towns along the border who are suddenly rattled by refugee families walking over the stubble. We can publicize that crime rates among refugees are lower than among native-born Canadians.

“And we can ignore the bigoted leeches on the fringes of our political system, people cynically turning reasonable concerns into wide-eyed panic….”

Most of all, I suggest, we can make the way we welcome asylum seekers a model for the kind of country that they — and we — want to belong to.

*******************************************************
Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
********************************************************

What Can One Do in These Times?   Leave a comment

Feeling helpless is seldom a solution to responding to what is going on in the world. We all have power, and all to frequently we give that power over to others. The following column was written by Jim Taylor and there are suggestions about how we can act. Taylor suggests that we avoid “wasting energy on efforts unlikely to produce desired changes”.

IMG_0922

Take Responsibility

A week ago Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries where he doesn’t have business ties. He branded them “evil”.

Two days later, a Canadian with far-right sympathies entered a mosque in Quebec City and shot six men in the back as they knelt in prayer. Eight others were injured.

The timing is too close for pure coincidence. If you’re a white supremacist feeling you should take action against people you dislike, what better justification could you ask for than encouragement from the world’s most powerful person?

Trump called Ottawa to offer his condolences. I think he should be charged as an accessory to murder.

So far, the man charged with six murders and five more attempted murders, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, a student at Laval University, has volunteered no information about his motives. But his Facebook page reveals that he paid attention to Trump’s rants.

The Quebec murders are not an isolated incident — although they are the most extreme example of the anti-feminist, Islamophobic, and homophobic outbreaks since Trump’s election. The same mosque previously had graffiti painted on its walls, and a pig’s head dumped at its door during Ramadan.

WHAT CAN WE DO?
Several readers have written, in response to earlier columns, asking “What can we do?”

I hesitate to prescribe anything that I am unwilling — or unable, by my nationality — to do myself.

I know that not everyone can do what Oyama resident Bev Edwards-Sawatzky did last weekend. As a 70th birthday present to herself, she flew to Washington to take part in the Women’s March.

With half a million other women — massively more than attended Trump’s inauguration in person — she pushed her walker through Washington streets. Over a million more joined in marches in 670 locations around the world.

But we can’t all go on marches. And marches in cities Trump has never heard of will have little influence on his policies.
We need to avoid wasting energy on efforts unlikely to produce desired changes.

WORDS OF WISDOM
The widely known Serenity prayer, written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr back in 1934, offers some valuable advice:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

First, then, accept that some things, we cannot change. Mass protests will not undo an election. Clever placards will not unseat the emperor, with or without clothes. Storming Washington with scythes and pitchforks will not eliminate the electoral college.

We cannot, as individuals, reverse Trump’s immigration bans or reshape international diplomacy. We cannot call back the missiles and drones. We cannot make ISIS vanish.
And it’s futile to reason with unreasonable men.
So we need to focus on things that we can change.

Which means that we start with ourselves. We need to ensure that our words and actions never, never, foster the prejudices we deplore — racism, homophobia, misogyny, and bigotry. We must exemplify — nay, incarnate — the virtues we claim to value.

By forcing us to examine what we consider right, Trump may actually have done us a favour. (I don’t recall him ever saying that he would do something because it’s the right thing to do.)

CALLING FOR COURAGE
Doing the right thing might mean offering hospitality to marginalized minorities, regardless of their origins or religions. For me, it requires being scrupulously honest — both with others and with myself. As far as possible, I intend to avoid purchasing products from, or investing in, companies that support Trump’s version of justice.

And I shall try not to remain silent when I hear racial, sexual, or religious slurs.

When the indigenous peoples of Central America were being slaughtered by government-backed death squads, when survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools were being ruthlessly cross-examined in courtrooms, representatives of North American churches risked standing with them. To simply be there.

Perhaps, once again, we need to be companions, to stand in solidarity with those being demonized. A recent report says that Trump plans to change the program “Countering Violent Extremism” to “Countering Islamic Extremism” — despite an FBI report showing that the primary danger to Americans now comes from home-grown white supremacists.
So we may want to attend worship in mosques, with their permission. We could recognize — even celebrate — non-Christian festivals like Ramadan and Divali.

Yes, that may involve some personal risks. That’s why Niebuhr’s prayer asked for courage.

So….
Know what your values are. Do what you can, in accordance with our values. Don’t waste energy on what you can’t change.

But most of all, don’t do nothing.
*******************************************************
Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
********************************************************

Just tell me the TRUTH, eh   Leave a comment

Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners lives in Washington, D.C. That is true.

However, there seems to be some debate beginning about what is true these days, and what is not. This applies to politics in Canada, and possibly elsewhere. I can only speak from my experience of politics in the country where I live.

According to Stanley Hauerwas, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught us that politics “can never be divorced from truth.” Indeed, Hauerwas maintains that Bonhoeffer believed that “cynicism is the vice that fuels the habits to sustain a politics that disdains the truth.”

IMG_0608

The paragraph above is a quote from a posting by Rev.  Jim Wallis, the title of which is “Christians” Call to Speak Truth to “Alternate Facts“. Wallis examines what role Christians may have in the coming days, and years, as he makes the following observation:

Christians are called many times in the Scriptures to be truth-tellers and to reject falsehoods, from scriptural commandments against bearing false witness to Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:

“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…. So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.”

Yes, I believe that we are all in this together. As The New Creed in the United Church of Canada says, “We are not alone. Thanks be to God!”

The full column by Rev. Jim Wallis, from Washington, is available at:

https://sojo.net/articles/christians-call-speak-truth-alternative-facts