• Pearl Harbor survivors salute during ceremonies honoring the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Reuters)Pearl Harbor survivors salute during ceremonies honoring the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Reuters)

    “… let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan…” … Extract from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, 1865.

    From these few words have grown the gigantic U.S. veterans’ affairs industry. Veterans’ benefits have become one of the “third rails” of U.S. federal/social spending that is untouchable with expenditures beyond criticism and budgets always rising. But when personnel costs are now over half of the defense budget and veterans pensions/benefits a significant portion of these, enough is enough.

    Today’s 21st-century “Total Army” is in no way comparable to the 1960s draftee armed forces and associated military reserves. Today mobilized reservists are expected to have (roughly) comparable competence to active duty forces. And our active duty forces have no match in the armed forces of any other nation.

    For over a generation, we have not drafted a single U.S.

    Read More »from Support our troops: America's veterans expect the best, but it comes at a steep price
  • Members of the Winnipeg Rifles stand at attention at a Remembrance Day service in Winnipeg. (The Canadian Press)Members of the Winnipeg Rifles stand at attention at a Remembrance Day service in Winnipeg. (The Canadian Press)

    The removal of Julian Fantino as Minister of Veterans Affairs in early 2015 by Prime Minister Harper is one of countless indications that Canadians hold strong views about how our veterans should be treated.

    Another is the widespread public opposition to the federal Justice Department spending to date almost $700,000 in legal fees to fight a class action by injured veterans in B.C. seeking lifelong disability payments rather than lump sum settlements. The lump sum approach was an all-party decision under the Martin government that has proven to have disastrous impacts on Canadian soldiers returning from the battlefield. The lifelong monthly payments model should be restored immediately as an option. The crux of the legal case is whether there is a binding social contract on governments for the care of veterans and their families.

    Those who serve in our armed forces, who are wounded while in combat or in training for such missions, should be given assistance to return to military

    Read More »from Support our troops: Canadian veterans shouldn't have to fight for benefits and services
  • Once again alarm bells are ringing throughout the West.

    The terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the subsequent huntdown and elimination of the perpetrators indeed gets attention – especially media attention.

    Conservatives are saying the equivalent of “I told you so.” Bluntly, their concerns have proved valid, not racist Islamaphobia.

    Liberals are offering dithering equivalents of “Don’t overreact.” And, as always, there is an undertone intimation that Charlie Hebdo was playing Russian-roulette with its satirical-style provocation of Islamic fanatics with its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The same platitudes are burbled: “Islam is a religion of peace”, poverty/social deprivation has caused these attacks; etc.

    Enough already.

    The time for fibrillation has passed; the time for action is at hand.

    Opposing viewpoint: David Kilgour

    Different cultures are best served by more understanding, not hatred

    First, we must accept that we are at war. A long, brutal war is in

    Read More »from After Paris: No more politeness, the time for action is at hand
  • The world can be proud of France for hosting the largest protest in its history last Sunday for the 17 victims of the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket massacres. Reportedly, more than 3.7 million people across the country and 1.2-1.6 million in Paris joined the demonstration. Paris was the world’s capital that day.

    Marchers, including representatives from 50 nations, came from many parts of France, Europe and beyond. They were not protesting any religion; they were protesting terrorists pretending to be affiliated to a religion. ‘We stand together’ could have been the banner for all, walking arm-in-arm.

    The New York Times columnist David Brooks asserts that healthy societies allow “room for those creative and challenging (satirists) who are uninhibited by good manners and taste ... those who are funny, uncivil and offensive … don’t suppress speech, but … grant different standing to different sorts of people ... (S)cholars are heard with high respect. Satirists with bemused

    Read More »from After Paris: Effort should be spent on understanding faith communities, not hatred
  • Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State while taking part in a military parade. (Reuters)Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State while taking part in a military parade. (Reuters)

    The world will feel the impact of four international issues in the coming year:

    Oil. The current price war, caused mostly by the Saudi Arabian king’s drive for market share from rising non-traditional producers, has roughly halved the international price of oil from early 2014. Low oil prices will benefit most Canadians, providing vehicle owners and manufacturers with the equivalent of a sizeable tax cut. Our oil and gas sectors, including the oil sands, will suffer in the short run, but some in the industry think both oil and gas do best when international prices are ‘reasonable but stable’.

    Consequences of the oil/gas glut and collapsed prices are already emerging. Ironically, while the U.S. hydrocarbon-fracking sector is a major Saudi target, the U.S. is clearly the biggest national winner. The three per cent real U.S. economic growth expected in 2015 should help Canadian exporters significantly. Africa, the Americas, Asia, and most of Europe will also benefit from low prices.

    Read More »from The world in 2015: Tough times are ahead for all citizens
  • Revelers celebrate during New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square. (Reuters)Revelers celebrate during New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square. (Reuters)

    Having finished our New Year’s celebrations, we have now soberly taken our first steps into the second half of the second decade of the 21st century.

    Many – indeed, most of us – leave 2014 with relief, and view 2015 with trepidation at best.

    But that should not deter us. This forthcoming year is replete with positives. While it would not qualify as “the best of times,” all too often we obsess over the capillaries of the leaves on the trees and ignore the forest. Just think for a moment:

    We are at peace internationally. We have been noting the centennial of the beginning of World War I, but 100 years ago, we were just entering the meat-grinder of ghastly casualties. And 75 years ago, World War II was beginning to warm up slaughterhouses even more massive than in WWI. And 40 years ago, the United States had just extracted itself from the sanguinary frustration of Vietnam. To be sure, there is fighting in the Middle East, but not on the level of Desert Shield/Storm or Iraqi Freedom.

    Read More »from The world in 2015: Entering the new year in peace and prosperity
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein noted optimistically as her Intelligence Committee report on the CIA was released: history will judge (Americans) by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say ‘never again’.”

    Her Senate colleague, John McCain, tortured in North Vietnam decades ago, stressed that its victims rarely reveal anything, saying whatever they think their tormentors want to hear.

    The use of torture by the CIA became widely known in 2003, when Amnesty International revealed its severe maltreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. To his credit, Barack Obama ended ‘enhanced interrogation’ by the agency in 2009, now admitting that the process “did significant damage to America’s standing in the world ... (making) it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners.”

    Whether torture saved lives – as claimed by defenders of the practices  is directly rebutted in the report, which cites the agency’s own documents to conclude

    Read More »from CIA torture: Regardless of the reasoning, we must be better than this
  • The United States is the Great Satan.

    The Statue of Liberty is a syphilitic whore.

    CIA employees are minions of the devil.

    And the current congressional report professes that CIA tortured and imprisoned the innocent. Even worse than the torture, according to the report conclusions, it was done to no useful effect – that is, all of the excesses were performed without obtaining the type of actionable information sought by interrogators to prevent terrorist attacks or lead to the capture of terrorists.

    If true, a damning indictment, perhaps demanding widespread prosecution of any and all involved, at every political and bureaucratic level from the most lowly testicle-twister to the series of CIA directors that implemented these programs and their political masters.

    But does anybody care? That is, does this change the opinions of any observers regarding what the United States is doing and where and how it is being done? Are global opinions currently at such a nadir regarding the United

    Read More »from CIA torture: The tactics are not surprising or unreasonable in the wake of 9/11
  • It has been all Ferguson all the time.

    Circumstances remind one of the old wry observation, “Little did I know that when I started to drain the swamp that I would be up to my hips in alligators.” Our racial swamp seems to produce multiple generations of angry alligators.

    Rioters in Ferguson, Missouri, chose to riot over a grand jury decision not to indict a (white) police officer for shooting and killing a (black) criminal. The grand jury heard 60 witnesses; it produced hundreds of pages of testimony. Expert criminologists predicted the grand jury would not indict the police officer. In that regard, the grand jury took the hard way out — they could have kicked the case to a formal jury trial and avoided what will probably be personal danger for their decision.

    The rioters, however, translated “justice” into burning and looting properties and automobiles of individuals with no connection to the police officer or the victim. Essentially, they wanted the police officer dead their only

    Read More »from Ferguson: African-Americans are responsible for creating real change in the U.S.
  • Missourians are internationally known for their slogan, “I’m from Missouri; show me.” What happened in the state to African-American teenager Michael Brown last August has resulted in two sharply differing versions of what occurred. Significantly better race relations for residents of Missouri and America as a whole will require both sides to show a new willingness to reconcile and an iron determination to avoid similar tragedies in future.

    The protester view is that the unarmed Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white policeman, while his hands were held up. His body was left in the street for 4-1/2 hours. The outrage was compounded when a grand jury refused to indict Wilson for any crime.

    The other side says that Brown had stolen cigarillos from a store just before being confronted by the officer. When ordered to walk on the sidewalk instead of the street, he charged and was attempting to seize Wilson’s gun when the officer fired in self-defence.

    In the background are

    Read More »from Ferguson: Americans must learn to respect their neighbours and act as one national family


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