Sunday, January 27, 2008

Lebanon is burning again but did it ever stop? On January 27, 2008, street protests ensued in the suburbs of Beirut supposedly because they (not unlike the rest of the country) are on rationed electricity. It started when a group of youths took to the streets of the Chiyah to block off the roads with burning tires. The army responded and the youths started throwing rocks. The army fired into the air and things got worse. The neighbourhood leader for the Amal movement Ali Hamze was killed though the army maintains that they did not fire at the crowd but into the air. Coincidentally, the youths involved have been identified as members of Hizbullah and the Amal movement. From there, things went from bad to worse, as news of Hamze’s death spread, more youths came out to the streets, this time carrying the banners of Hizbullah and Amal. The fighting spread to Ain El Remaneh where a youth on a scooter threw a live hand grenade into the crowd injuring several youths. The fact that Ain El Remaneh is a predominantly Christian area and the grenade was thrown by someone who came into the area on a scooter can be thought to be sectarian provocation of the worst kind. At writing, LBCi had not confirmed the dead or wounded in this latest provocation however, they had confirmed that both Hizbullah and Amal have told their followers to return to their homes. Speeches are pretty words, no actions are following them. The reality is that both of these parties could have prevented these actions by their followers but chose not to. In fact, not too long ago, Hassan Nasrallah in a speech during Ashura threatened the government and told them they would have the followers of both parties take to the streets to get what they want.

It is evident that the so-called opposition is willing to let the entire country burn to return Syrian occupation be it obvious or in the shadows. It is more than obvious that the opposition care nothing for the people they supposedly represent because if they did, they would be cooperating with the members of the Arab league who are trying to broker an agreement. The original argument they had regarding a brokered deal was that it was “American and Israeli” intervention; that argument broke down when the Arab league attempted to broker a deal. Clearly the opposition wants a Syrian-Iranian brokered deal and will accept nothing less
Lebanon is burning again and in reality, we have never stopped. From it’s jnception, Lebanon has always had politicians beholden to outside sources and working to further their own interests. We have yet to see politicians who are fully dedicated to Lebanon or to it’s people. Until we do, Lebanon will continue to burn.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Scandals and Incompetence

The Premiership of Steady Eddie is not yet a year old but it has already seen scandal and gross incompetence.

First up – the scandals plaguing a Premier who promised to govern with “integrity and transparency”. Our first scandal is now old news. The dinner that never was where tickets were beyond costly and those costly tickets gave you a direct line to the ear of the Premier. The hue and cry raised by this little scandal caused the Premier to back-pedal rapidly but the damage was done.

Our next scandal is not directly out of the Premier’s office however it is out of the current sitting government. The placement of a “spy” between the constituents opposing the Alberta Energy and Utilities board. This is absolutely reprehensible and smacks of a big brother style of government. In fact, the average Albertan must wonder if we are living in Orwell’s 1984 or in modern day Alberta. Oh for the days of King Ralph were what you saw was what you got and the skull drudgery was there but on a smaller level.

On to gross incompetence: This is so widespread it is hard to know where to start. Perhaps we could start with the rape of our environment by the companies working to extract oil and natural gas and the complicity of the government. This government is not being the environmental watchdog it needs to be. In fact, it allows the companies working up north to do the absolute minimum amount towards restoring or protecting the environment.

Next up and in the same vein: Royalties paid by the oil companies for the extraction and use of our natural resources. Stelmach’s government likes to quote a survey that says the people of Alberta believe those same companies are paying enough in royalties. One should question where exactly they did they survey; the Petroleum Club perhaps? Or did they ask executives at Syncrude, Suncor and CNRL? Not only are the oil companies raping our environment and gouging consumers at the pumps, they are paying ridiculously low royalties to do so and the gutlessly complicit Stelmach government is ok with it. This is a government who is supposed to be protecting its citizens’ rights and ensuring that as a province we are receiving what is due to us from the sale of our natural resources. Instead, we have big oil controlling what they pay (and they think they pay too much)!!
On to the Vegreville Hospital nightmare where the entire East Central Health Authority board has been dismissed and the report that was released yesterday regarding conditions at the hospital was scathing. This board is an appointed board. They are appointed by the government. Once upon a time they were elected and if they did a terrible job (which in this instance they clearly did) then you could simply vote them out next time around. Now they are appointed and depending on the level of cronyism available to them and the level of public outrage, they may be able to keep their jobs and not pay the price of incompetence. One has to wonder why a Premier that promised to govern with integrity and transparency is allowing these sorts of things to go on under his very nose.

Perhaps the biggest failure, the biggest incompetence without match is the one to make sure that ordinary and low income Albertans have affordable housing. It is one thing to completely mismanage the boom but a whole other story to leave thousands of Albertans on the verge of being homeless because you simply don’t want to regulate the market. It is times like this that define good governance. The basic functions of government include making sure that housing stays affordable in your province. This government has without a doubt failed miserably at this task. The housing crisis has been long in the making and the current and previous governments have just let it simmer to a boil. They have allowed a whole underclass called the working poor to be created. This government needs to be told that housing is a right not a privilege.

One of the biggest myths is that all the homeless are also jobless. This is not true. They work, they go to school, in most cases, they hold down multiple jobs yet they still can’t afford decent safe housing. We have tent cities sprouting up because people are banding together to stay safe on the street. This is not happening in some third world dictatorship, it is happening in the richest province in the country. This is happening here.

When confronted with the issue what did Steady Eddie and his trusty sidekick Ray Danyluk do? They refused to introduce rent controls sparking a firestorm of criticism and controversy. Instead, they chose to leave it to the “free market” because that has been working so well up until now. While they sleep in warm beds and get three square meals a day, ordinary and low income Albertans are making the decision between food and housing, meds and housing, anything and housing. THIS IS HAPPENING IN THE RICHEST PROVINCE IN THE COUNTRY.

How can a man who promised to govern with integrity sleep at night knowing that thousands of Albertans are homeless with many more on the verge of becoming that way. No one is telling them to regulate house-purchase prices, what they are asking for is some sort of rent control so that people can afford to live like humans in rented accommodations. No one is asking them to interfere with their precious free market in a way that could be construed as detrimental to the economy, what people are asking for is affordable housing. Instead of providing that, he is trying to buy us off with money for ring roads and art galleries.

This government is a failure. The Premier is clearly out of his depth as are the ministers surrounding him. One can only hope that when election time comes around, Albertans remember the incompetence and the scandals.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award

I have had the great honour of being bestowed the Thinking Blogger Award by my good friend The Mad Pigeon. Now for those of you who have never checked out Diary of the Mad Pigeon , you should. It is an interesting and sane take on the world. In a world where people are screaming right or screaming left, Pidge takes the time to be reasonable.

Check him out....


Monday, April 02, 2007

Wastes of Space

You know you have a problem when the people of the country you live in are making fun of you in songs with lyrics like:

“Lebanon’s leaders have left, our joy is great. We can live in peace, our country is paradise once more,….We’re tired of listening to their speeches, we’ve put them all on a boat and sent them on a cruise far away from here….”.

Interestingly enough, the leaders referred to in the lyrics are the government and the opposition. One would think that this song pertains to one side or the other but it seems that no, they are sick and tired of both. The lyrics are from composer Ghassan Rahbani, someone long known for being irreverent and cutting when it comes to politicians.

The Arab Summit in Riyadh has Lebanon on the agenda. One would think that the opposing factions could have at least managed to go together but no, each one took a separate plane. One could say that instead of going there to solve the problems, it will be a battle of whose got the bigger ego. My money is on Lahoud.

Emile Lahoud should not be attending this meeting. He is not representative of the will of the people. Before the opposition decided to walk out, certain members were calling for his resignation just as loudly as the present government. He is a national embarrassment only hanging on to his Presidential seat so he cannot be sought in the murder of Rafik Al Hariri and 20 others more than two years ago.

Speaking of national embarrassments, let’s talk about both the sitting government and the opposition. Their combined egos and stubbornness have brought the country to a standstill. Foreign investment has all but stopped and people are leaving as soon as they can get their hands on a visa. When asked by the BBC if the opposition has accomplished anything, Ali Hamdan replied this:
“Up to now, politically speaking, nothing has been achieved. But you need two to tango – we are responsible for the crisis but the one who is holding the power has more responsibility….”
Let me just say that this is garbage. The only things he got right are that they are responsible for the crisis and they have achieved nothing. In fact, unless you count bringing the country to a standstill, all they have managed to do is cause strife and raise sectarian tensions to pre-civil war levels. Great achievements if chaos is what you are going for.

The government is not blameless. Reports received by me out of Lebanon paint a picture of a government so polarized they cannot even manage the basic functions of governance. Papers can’t even get signed. That too is garbage. You don’t need the six missing ministers to get some papers signed, you just need to sign them so life can have some sense of normalcy.

What we need is to throw out ALL of the old and bring in the new. Hopefully, someone will run in the next election that isn’t bound by ego or by an old family name. We need new blood and people willing to work for the good of the country, not just themselves.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Sectarian Disease

If someone were to ask to you “what are you”, what would you answer? Would you answer Canadian? Lebanese-Canadian or Canadian – Lebanese; or would you answer like so many and use a religious identifier? Would you make the mistake of identifying yourself by your sect? Let’s face it, only the truly stubbornly secular don’t answer by religious affiliation in our community [disclosure: I am one of the secular who refuses to id by anything but origin].

Everyone should be proud of who or what they are. Without exception, you should honour your heritage and your ancestry. What no single person should be doing is identifying themselves by religious sect. This has gotten the Lebanese no where in the past and yet we seemed doomed to repeat the mistakes enshrined in our history.

It was the disease of sectarianism that led us to a devastating civil war that destroyed the country, left hundreds of thousands dead or permanently missing and displaced millions who now live around the globe. It was the disease of sectarianism that caused neighbours to slaughter each other, families to break apart and murder on the basis of your government I.D. to become common place.

Why then are we repeating the past? Why are we not facing up to the fact that identifying yourself by sect is wrong? Why are our young choosing to ID themselves by sect as opposed to country?

This sectarian form of identification is causing bigger rifts in our community than can ever exist over political affiliation. Everyone with a modicum of intelligence knows that politics and religion don’t mix. Why then are we allowing political affiliations to become religious? You can agree or disagree with someone’s political stance without making it about religion. You can argue a political motive without ever bringing God into it.

We live in a diverse country and our community is diverse in and of itself. Is it really intelligent to further compartmentalize ourselves by sects? Do we want our children to grow up with the same blights we did? Do we want them to learn to rehash history without facing the reality that sectarianism was our biggest downfall and the disease that ate away at the fabric of our country? What kind of legacy do you want your children to have? One of tolerance and inclusion or one of hate and sectarian law? Think about that the next time you spew what sect you are. It should be the wish of every single Lebanese that Lebanon be united and free; that we live in peace and in love not war and hate. It should be the wish of each Lebanese to have free and fair government, not a government of corruption and sectarianism...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Just in case you are wondering what I think of the latest developments in Lebanon:

One word: Traitors.

Hizbullah's supporters, Aoun (the hypocrite) and all his supporters, all of the people who are rallying against a democratically elected government so they can bring back Syrian garbage should all be deported to Syria and Iran where their real allegiances lay. In an ideal world, I would love to see all of them hanged for treason but alas that is not to be...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Another Murder

Another life, more blood. What else is there to say?