A forum for comments on FASD, sharing, life challenges, politics and other things that bother us. By GrampaBrian, FASD Advocate (AKA Brian Philcox)

Posts tagged ‘usa’

Our Valiant Troops: Heroes or Victims?

When two of our soldiers were assassinated recently on home soil, there was an outpouring of grief and bewilderment. Why would a fellow Canadian want to do harm to one of our own? So far, there are no satisfactory answers. Were the two perpetrators simply deranged, misguided crazies or was there something else going on in their belligerent minds? We may never know. Meanwhile, support for our armed forces was palpable judging by the attendance at cenotaph ceremonies around the country on Remembrance Day in November of 2014.

Showing support for our men and women in the Canadian Forces is absolutely critical for the troops and for our own sense of self. What I object to is the brutal disregard for their purpose and wellbeing while serving and post service. The current government’s disdain for the welfare of our veterans has been well recorded and is appalling. Perhaps the only solution for that is a change in government. What I primarily have a problem with is the direction and management of our military that appears to be built around a 19th century model. I’m not talking about traditions within the services that add to the esprit de corps of the units and the men and women who serve. I’m really upset about the lack of purpose and sense of mission that our Department of National Defense can’t seem to articulate.

Procurement has turned into a huge boondoggle partly because of incompetence among the planning staff and their political overseers, but also because the long range mission and vision for the Forces does not seem to exist. Too often Canadian Forces are made to appear as some kind of unpaid mercenary team ready to jump to the command of our mighty and continuously at war neighbour to the south. Our token RCAF team flying sorties into Iraq has had negligible impact on the ISIL incursion there. However, we appear to be prepared to spend unlimited resources in a token gesture that serves no other purpose than to show we are a US satellite state.

Canadians join the Army, Navy or Air Force to defend our country and train in the warrior mode. The problem is, most warrior type military operations result in enormous levels of “collateral” damage. In other words, attacking strategic objectives generally results in wide scale deaths of women, children and other civilians as a result of direct bombardment and destruction of infrastructure depriving the non-combatants of water and electricity.

Does no one question the futility of bombing raids into territory that has no specific land targets when more success might be achieved by choking off the resources that sustain the ISIL militants? Why do we let our so-called NATO partner Turkey continue to buy and distribute oil from the captured oil fields in Iraq? Who is buying this oil and who is supplying arms that flow through Turkish channels? Is President Erdogan in the process of turning Turkey from a secular state into an Islamist one? Has the US turned itself into a one solution fits all situations country because of the military/industrial/corporatist stranglehold on the political process? Here is a most apt example of the Maslow dictum that if your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

If we must send our troops off to fight in foreign climes, why don’t we send them to Brazil to stop the deforestation that is destroying the rain forest? Now that would be a real contribution to the struggle against climate change. Or we might think about how we close down the tailing ponds from the tar sands that are spewing 5 times the toxins claimed by the oil companies.

Have you asked your MP what he or she thinks about this mess? Have you thought about what you want your MP to do about this misalignment of resources? Or, do you even care?

Some birthdays are better than others…

Let’s be clear, all birthdays are good — because you have survived yet another year of joy, turmoil, anguish, frustration and accomplishment. However, some birthdays have a little special treat in store.

Today, we received an invitation from NOFAS in Washington DC to attend a gala reception for the honourees who have contributed to the FASD cause. Bonnie & I were named as two of those honourees.

Here’s the invitation: (One of my better B-day presents) Check out “NOFAS Awards Reception: “Bringing Advocates Together”” http://nofasawards2014.eventbrite.com/?aff=estw via @eventbrite

Bonnie and I were honoured several years ago by the National Organization for FAS when we we were inducted into the Tom Daschle NOFAS Hall of Fame. There are many truly distinguished FASD pioneers on that roster. More recently, FASworld Canada was the first organization to be unanimously voted onto Affiliate status with NOFAS. We will be going to Washington next month to join the other Affiliates at the annual Summit and we will have a chance to present the FASworld Baby Bump Campaign to all of the representatives in attendance.

We continue to work with LCBO here in Ontario in the expectation that they will carry the Baby Bump Campaign forward in time for FASDay in September. LCBO has already conducted comprehensive research studies on the campaign creative and has received very positive responses to it. Acknowledging that it is important to avoid alcohol when planning and during pregnancy is a major breakthrough in terms of official recognition.

FASDay in Toronto, 2014

FASDay in Toronto, 2014

They’re all daft…

We need and rely upon our leaders, but let’s face it, they’re all daft aren’t they?

We, as individuals can’t do everything ourselves: that’s why we hire or elect others to do things for us. Let’s agree, it’s better to have our garbage picked up by dedicated teams than each of us take the time to drive to the dump ourselves. It’s better to let specialists work on our teeth, teach our children and fix our cars. Usually, this works out reasonably well. Yet, we continually vote for a broad cross-section of people who appear to be quite sensible but who act like drivelling idiots once they get elected. OK, not every single one, but enough to create a pattern.

Take the federal House of Commons, for example. Where is the civility of discourse in the forum that is supposed to be there for the benefit of all citizens? Isn’t that what they were elected to do — act on behalf of everyone? As a reluctant observer, all I see is a fractious bunch of elderly delinquents trying to one-up each other and score points for the media.

If I hear another politician declare that his or her party has a ‘mandate’ to do whatever  it feels like I may start screaming. The Harper Conservatives keep telling us they have a mandate to build prisons, buy fantasy warplanes and make laws that demand mandatory sentences. Competence and experience of judges be damned, let them all go to jail. Since when does a government that did not get votes from  over 3/4 of the electorate have the gall to claim they have a mandate.

Isn’t it obvious that the first-past-the-post electoral system is a total cock-up? Until we have proportional representation we will never even get close to ‘rep by pop’.

Harper and his gang of incompetent leeches have shown us that every group of people in power have the capacity to succumb to corrupt behaviour — sometimes for financial gain, sometimes for phoney prestige. Think of the behaviour of Defence Minister McKay, who became leader of the PC party with the promise not to sell out to the Reform Alliance Conservatives, promptly did so and scuttled the distinguished party of Sir John A. He then went on to tout the necessity of committing to the purchase of the stealth fighter bomber, the F-35. A ‘stealth bomber’ — are we planning to become a ‘first strike’ nation in sycophantic imitation of the great war beast to the south? Do we really need to continue to be the unpaid mercenaries of the US and the other follow-along NATO nations?

Maybe McKay is just another naive wannabe who thinks he needs to suck up to the US war machine to be considered effective. In fact, he has demonstrated convincingly that the military-industrial complex has more clout than any parliament anywhere.  In Canada’s case we have no discernible, defined role for the entire Canadian Armed Forces, much less the RCAF itself.

Any intelligent, successful business person will tell you that there is no point in proposing a solution until you have properly defined the problem. In my experience as a communication specialist, I was often confronted by marketing managers who routinely asked for specific solutions before they had determined what the real nature of their sales and marketing problems were.

All I’m asking for is a rationale for any defence equipment that will meet the needs of our nation. In other words, what is our national defence role? Is it all McKay’s fault? No, the blame equally lies with the lack of role definition by the guys at DND on the Rideau Canal. Let’s stop pretending we are something we are not and shouldn’t be.

Maybe they are not all daft, but when they get into power they sure act like it.

WikiLeaks: Bombshell or Sparklers?

Now that those diplomatic cables have been made public there has been a surge of protest from the regressive elements in the West. I’m referring here to the Krauthammers, Limboughs and the others from the reactionary right who seem to flood the unfettered airways of America with invective about how WikiLeaks is releasing the truth about classic diplomatic hypocrisy – all in the name of free speech, of course.

However, a thoughtful number of individuals have acknowledged that the recent revelations by WikiLeaks is certainly not of the caliber of Daniel Ellsberg’s revelations known as the Pentagon Papers. From what I have read so far appears to suggest what we’ve already thought is actually true. Blogger David Michael Green (The Regressive Antidote) notes, “This is not the Reagan administration demanding that the world embargo Iran even while secretly selling them missiles, or constantly evoking the great cause of democracy while even more constantly undermining it everywhere on the planet.”

What puzzles me is how there can be such moral outrage over recent WikiLeaks when there was little or no coverage, much less condemnation, when the Downing Street Memos were released in England back in 2005. These memos were minutes from meetings between the top British and American officials as they planned their war in Iraq and their war of lies to cover for it.

What I don’t understand is why it’s OK to kill and maim innocents through lies and chicanery but criminally irresponsible to let the world know about it.

The Obama administration has been a huge disappointment as a result of its ineffective management of the political agenda over the last two years. It has not negotiated effectively with the minority Republicans, usually giving concessions before getting anything in return. While some progressive legislation has been passed, the overall impression is that the GOP (Grand Old Prevaricators) has been the party in control.

So, if you are as powerful and rich as the US, even if the wall street barons, banks and insurance companies have brought the world to the brink of insolvency, you can still let the worst criminals get away, literally, with murder. There is no reason why G.W.Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the rest of that cabal should not face justice.

Of course, we should never forget that, governments are the creatures of the corporatist lust for power. Oh, you thought we had democracies at work here in the West — well, disabuse yourself of that naive notion. Whether the legislators are in Canada, the UK or the US, they would limit the power of corporations to be totally self-interested at their peril. A corporation has , apart from legal constraints, no other responsibility except to its shareholders — not to its employees, its customers and not to the society in which it thrives.

So, is it any wonder we see how big oil, big pharma, big finance (Wall Street, banks, insurance companies), big agra and big war control congress in the US? And are we surprised to discover how our Canadian governments behave like such sycophantic acolytes to the American beast?

And while I’m at it, let’s stop trying to be a petty version of the US and thinking we could have a democratic influence on a tribal country that has resisted the influence of foreigners for centuries. In other words, let’s get our Canadian troops out of Afghanistan now. Not in two years. Now.

Our American Friends – Why We Are Different

 At the risk of , yet again, comparing ourselves as Canadians to our ever-dominant neighbour to the south, I have had some thoughts about how we are truly different from our friends there. 

Canadians often say they are different from Americans but usually have some difficulty in articulating just what that difference is. We certainly enjoy many of the same kinds of things — baseball, junk food, Facebook, and the like — but there are some cultural aspects that definitely do differentiate us. Let me also acknowledge that these comments  are both general and personal. Thinking about this the other day, I realized that I have as many American friends as Canadian. People I respect and have great affection for. At the same time, most Americans in my experience truly believe in their own xenophobic mythology

However, looking at the bigger political picture, I also admit that there are flaws on both sides of our common border. Let’s look at Canada first.

We have a parliamentary system that requires the leader and the senior ministers of the governing party to be present to respond to questions from the members of the opposition. Theoretically, this should keep everybody honest. Yet, our Prime Minister’s Office has become more imperious and controlling — especially since the days of Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Even in a minority government we have seen our parliament prorogued twice in order to protect the backside of the governing party. And, currently, the Conservative Party, having garnered only about 35% of the popular vote in the last election can still stonewall investigations into the treatment of prisoners in the Afghanistan engagement. The PCs stay in power because the Liberals and the New Democrats, who should be on the same side of the political spectrum, can’t seem to abide each other  and are too fragmented to form a sensible alternative.

However, the House can knock the governing party out if the votes are there. The Liberals have no stomach for an election at the moment so we see a farcical charade go on each day that the house sits and the members jeer at each other during question period. Leaving theatre aside, the members can still work together in committee. The critical element is the fact that a majority vote in the House will carry the day.

In the US, a single Senator can hold up proceedings almost indefinitely. Watching the attempts of the Democratic majority over the past year or so has been an exercise in frustration. Observing Republicans and some Democrats go against the best interests of the public  because of the financial clout of corporate interests  is truly frightening. Is the voting public that gullible that they will let their representatives get away with that kind of behaviour? I’d like to think not but watching the antics of the ignorant and misinformed (e.g. Palin & the ‘Tea Party’ bigots) can be really depressing.

So we are countries of imperfect humans who can be fooled by others while thinking we are doing the right thing. That’s not the point of differentiation. Where we are truly different is in the way we think about ourselves. The American mythos is so pervasive that the typical American has absorbed it fully before leaving primary school and it tends to stick for the rest of his or her life. I have worked with Americans, shared business committee decisions with them and had many a sociable time with them. At no time did I ever sense that they felt inferior to any other nation. As far as most of these individuals were concerned, America is the most generous, most noble, most creative nation on earth and whatever America does is the best.

Because these Americans who have not been able to perceive any flaws in their institutions or way of life, they continue to think that whatever they do is for the good of humanity and their way is the best way.

Canadians on the other hand tend to think that others can do things well and even when we do something that is excellent, we know we can always learn from others and improve. 

Americans have a difficult time trying to figure out why there are so many groups, both foreign and domestic that don’t buy into the national mythology. Perhaps they feel that their business interests are more important than the well-being and safety of others. When the corporate interests  of American firms run into objections from other nations who prefer not to have their people exploited, the CIA will move in to disrupt the economy or the power structure of that country. Countries have learned not to mess with the US or the corporate investors will take any steps necessary to fulfill their ‘manifest destiny’ and be backed by the power brokers of the US.

So, are we different because we don’t have the economic clout to bully others? I don’t think so. The real difference is that we do not have a national mythology that imbues a sense of superiority which is dedicated to making everyone else like us. 

A New Year… really?

A new year should be refreshing, rejuvenating, and a chance to renew your aims for a better lifestyle, if not a life itself. But this year has been a stumble start for Canada. We have a Prime Minister who allows his own inner terrors to cripple parliament and the rest of us can go to blazes.

It’s rather telling that he would pro-rogue parliament just a year ago when he was afraid that an opposition coalition would end his reign as PM. Then, when a number of his ministers began to screw up this past fall and it looked like his minority government might not survive being pilloried for their dumb behaviours, he pro-rogued parliament again. He says he needs to “recalibrate” his party’s mission, whatever that means. Considering that he has a ‘de facto’ coalition government anyway – the Liberals continue to have no presence among the body politic and the NDP continue to dwell in the nether regions of the voters’ minds – the likelihood of a defeat in the House is definitely debatable. So, one has to ask, “What is Stephen Harper afraid of.”

Things don’t look so great south of the border either. After close to a year in power, Obama already looks like a lame duck President. After putting his heart and soul into reforming health care, he made the error of thinking that taking a bipartisan approach would be the civilized thing to do. How wrong he was. Republicans got virtually every demand they made to weaken the bill and protect their insurance lobby funders and they still voted against it. So, while our government looks inept, controlling and perverse, at least we haven’t reached the level of idiocracy that seems to be the style of government in the US.