30 January 2014

Wealth gap—the greatest ever?

A couple of items I encountered recently demonstrated perfectly the extremes of the now much talked about wealth gap. First, was a report by Oxfam entitled "Working for the Few" which revealed that the world's richest 85 people own as much wealth as the poorest 3.5-billion, a staggering statistic.

At the other end of the scale, a recent Guardian article nicely illustrated the title of the Oxfam report. It discussed the living conditions of the migrant construction workers building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Last year, at least 185 Nepalese men alone died, over half from some kind of heart failure, which may seem odd for healthy young men but not when you consider they work 12-hours days in temperatures that can top 40C. Figures for the death rates of Indian, Pakistani Sri Lankan and other workers have yet to emerge. In addition to the appalling working conditions, the men live in squalid, overcrowded accommodation.

There is nothing new about a tiny group of the filthy rich living off the sweat of the masses. This is the story of human civilization. Nonetheless, it seems hard to believe that in these advanced times, the gap between rich and poor may be the widest ever. It is hard to imagine workers ever toiling in such lowly conditions as the labourers in Qatar while the richest man who ever lived is with us today—Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire.

Slim's fortune relies heavily on his monopoly over Mexico's telecommunications market, a stranglehold that neatly allows him to transfer money from the poor and middle class to himself. According to the OECD his monopoly, which he obtained largely through political connections, costs Mexican consumers over $13-billion a year excess for phone and internet services.

The rich live opulently while the poor die miserably, building our sports palaces—a story that stains the modern era.

28 January 2014

Crime—a criminal justice problem or a health problem?

Place your finger on your forehead, just above the eyebrows toward the right side. It is now within centimetres of your conscience. Our conscience is not, as long thought, a theological abstraction, but is in fact an organ resident in our skulls. Furthermore, it can be measured and observed in action through brain-scanning techniques.

Our moral compass lies in our orbitofrontal cortex and in its communication with other structures in the brain. Here lies our social intelligence, our emotional regulation, our impulse control—our conscience. If the orbitofrontal cortex and associated regions are damaged, or if our neuronal communications are malfunctioning, we are unable to properly regulate our emotions and reactions; our behaviour may be inappropriate, even antisocial, even criminal.

According to the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, “Case studies as far back as 1835 have reported the onset of antisocial personality traits after frontal lobe injury. Such cases typically involve damage to the orbitofrontal cortex, which clinical observation has associated with ‘poor impulse control, explosive aggressive outbursts, inappropriate verbal lewdness, jocularity, and lack of interpersonal sensitivity.’”

This is intriguing but not surprising. We might expect that people who engage in antisocial behaviour would have different brains. The question is what we should do about it. The traditional answer is to label the more antisocial behaviour “crime” and subject its perpetrators to the criminal justice system.

But is this just? After all, no one chooses to have an abnormal brain. Whether the abnormality is the result of faulty genes, fetal alcohol syndrome, infant or child abuse, or head injury, the victim does not choose his or her fate. Is it just to punish someone for something over which they have no control?

We must always, of course, protect the public. And for more serious crimes, that will mean incarceration, but perhaps it's time to start thinking about incarceration less as a punishment and more as a form of quarantine in the same way we sequester people with contagious diseases. People with impaired brains have, after all, already been punished.

Unfortunately, We do not yet know how to repair a damaged conscience. We are a long way from abandoning the criminal justice system. All we can offer at this time is early diagnosis and therapy—empathic approaches rather than punitive ones. Nonetheless, our knowledge is steadily increasing. We are already recognizing that we can prevent much crime by reducing the incidences of fetal alcohol syndrome and infant and child abuse—healthy pregnancies and healthy infancies produce healthy brains. Drug and psychological therapies, even electronic implants, hold promise that one day we will be able to repair a malfunctioning conscience, perhaps even cure a serial killer.

As we gain ever greater knowledge of the brain, aberrant behaviour may eventually be considered more a health problem than a crime problem, and crime considered more a symptom than a sin. The very idea of punishment may become obsolete.

23 January 2014

Inheritance—the ultimate free lunch

Watching Jon Stewart the other night brilliantly satirizing American right-wingers' laments about the poor exploiting social justice programs for a "free lunch," I was disappointed that he failed to mention the greatest free lunch of them all.

Ironically, while "there's no free lunch" is one of our favourite expressions, down through history most land, property and political power has been gained not by merit, not by the sweat of one's brow, but by that magnificent free lunch known as inheritance. The recipients of the great part of society's wealth and power have long been benefactors of nothing more than being born into the right family. In the case of diverse kings, aristocrats, and inheritors of great fortunes the largesse has been more banquet than lunch.

Since the Industrial Revolution, merit has increasingly replaced inheritance as the primary vehicle for obtaining both wealth and power, but the free banquet is still of great importance. Much of this country's asset base continues to lie in the hands of heirs. And even though political power is now gained primarily by merit through the democratic process, wealth has retained much influence. In the United States, great wealth has produce political dynasties such as the Roosevelts, the Kennedys and the Bushes. Power still flows through blood as well as the ballot.

Nor does wealth have to run for office to have its way. Politicians who are not rich often must genuflect to the rich to succeed. One of K.C. Irving's sons once told a premier of New Brunswick, "My father's never lost a New Brunswick election in his life." Old K.C. never ran for office but he was the richest man in the province and that was as good as being premier. And we are all familiar with ambitious British politicians pandering to press lord Rupert Murdoch and American presidential aspirants pandering to Wall Street for the funding without which they would never set foot in the White House.

We are curiously ambivalent about someone getting something for nothing. We don’t approve of it for the poor. If we must provide charity to keep them off the streets, we will, but sparingly and only until we can wean them off of it. We are concerned about the harm that handouts may due to their characters.

Yet we have no concern about the damage that inheritance, the most lavish handout of all, does to the characters of the rich. If we were as concerned about their characters as we are about those of the poor, and if we really believed merit should determine success in gaining either wealth or power, i.e. if we believed people should earn their rewards, we would be more determined to wean the rich off the free banquet than the poor off the free lunch.

22 January 2014

Capitalism—an irrational system in an age of climate change

Capitalism is generally recognized as having one great strength. That, of course, is as a creator of wealth. Aided by the remarkable advance of technology (some would say inspired and facilitated by capitalism) it has created wealth unknown before in human history.

Capitalism is also generally recognized as having one great weakness. It is a lousy distributor of wealth. Indeed, that goes against its basic nature which is to accumulate. It is based on greed, not altruism.

In order to balance these two characteristics, to ensure that all would benefit from the wealth generated, Western countries invented the welfare state, one of the greatest of human social inventions. Capitalism would create the wealth and the welfare state would distribute it—a just and sensible balance. The rising tide of wealth would raise everyone's financial boat. However, the system is now breaking down. The rising tide is no longer raising everyone's boat, indeed it is raising increasingly fewer boats, and with globalization, capitalism has escaped the nation state and therefore the moderating influence of the welfare state.

And there is an even bigger problem. At a time when we are polluting the planet to the point of changing its climate while simultaneously exhausting its resources, a system committed to endless accumulation is no longer rational.

Simple good sense demands an economic system designed to fit comfortably within the limits of both the environment and the Earth's resources. Fortunately such a system is readily available—co-operation. Co-ops are tried and true economic vehicles, functioning with great success at local, national and international levels. A global economy based on co-operation, with our fellow global citizens and our environment, could escape the rat race of competitive capitalism that is compromising the health of the planet. And, as the icing on the cake, co-op's one member/one vote structure offers equality and democracy to workers and consumer/owners alike, unlike the plutocratic one share/one vote of capitalist enterprises.

Those who persist in defending capitalism must explain how it can be curbed to adapt to a world facing runaway pollution and resource exhaustion, particularly that it has now broken the leash of the nation state. If they can't, they have nothing to offer.

21 January 2014

Mr. Harper's pilgrimage to Israel—more Canterbury Tales than trade mission

Trade missions have always been questionable vehicles for boosting the Canadian economy. Nonetheless, some can be justified by, if nothing else, the trade potential of the host country. For example, Jean Chrétien's Team Canada mission to China in 2011. China is now our second most important trading partner and the world's largest market. Huge potential there.

But Israel? Israel is a minor trading partner and offers but a small market. Yet our government is sponsoring a 208-strong mission led by our PM and including advisers, press secretaries, cabinet ministers, MPs, senators, chief executives of Canadian companies, lobbyists, RCMP security staff, various bureaucrats, members of the press, a priest and 21 rabbis. This motley assortment of travelers, particularly the priest and the rabbis, suggest the tour is more pilgrimage than trade mission, more Canterbury Tales than Team Canada.

This occasions no surprise given the Prime Minister's evangelical support of Israel. His justification of Israel's invasion of Gaza in 2008 in which 1.400 Palestinians were killed, mostly civilians including some 300 children, as an "appropriate response" was as Old Testament as it was distasteful.

Most of the expense for the pilgrimage will be picked up by Canadian taxpayers, some of whom
will no doubt object to paying for Mr. Harper's spiritual adventures. Faith-based trade policy is not in the best interests of Canada, nor is faith-based foreign policy.

20 January 2014

Our 150th birthday bash ... all about war

If there was any remaining doubt that the Conservative government has a militaristic view of history, check out Canada 150, the website for Canada's 150th anniversary. Note that the only subject with its own heading is "World War Commemorations." Then click on the "Road to 2017" and peruse the milestones. You will discover that out of 22 milestones listed, over 40 per cent commemorate war.

Apparently this does not reflect the interests revealed by Canadian Heritage-commissioned focus groups on the Canada 150 logo. TNS Canadian Facts, who conducted the research, reported, "From the words that people chose to describe this event, it is clear that the communications should focus on the celebration of Canada’s diversity and multiculturalism as a country, as well as appeal to the younger generation as much as possible." As for the younger generation, I counted only two milestones that originated after WWII. An extensive study by the Canadian Capital Cities Organization that included a Facebook campaign, an online survey and cross-country consultations seemed to agree with the focus groups. The words "mosaic" and "multicultural" came up repeatedly. Acknowledging First Nations treaties and contributions also came up frequently (incredibly, the government's milestones ignore the signing of the treaties, some of the largest peaceful land transfers in history).

Nor do the government's milestones mention Medicare and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, arguably the two most important Canadian achievements post-WWII, not only in themselves but in the fact that they are "live" history; they continue to affect us today in critical ways and will continue to do so well into the future, unlike the "dead" history of names, dates and old battles.

An informal online survey by the CBC had "Confederation and events of 1867" and "1982 constitution and charter" as the two most popular of the seven choices offered with "Canada's wartime contributions" and "past political leaders" least popular. The latter two provided most of the government's milestones.

The government's choices show a disturbing lack of generosity for any interests other than those which strongly appeal to Conservatives, particularly to their maximum leader. Most problematically, they represent a re-writing of history.

So, if the Conservatives still form the government in 2017, and the government's milestones are a sample of things to come, our 150th birthday celebration will be a very military exercise.

18 January 2014

Religious persecution on the rise

The Pew Research Center recently published a study of religious persecution over the period 2007-12 and the results aren't pretty. Of 198 countries and territories included in the study, 29 per cent had high or very high government restrictions on religion and 33 per cent had high or very high social hostilities involving religion. Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions and Pakistan the highest level of social hostilities. Over the period, religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas.

Religious minorities suffered abuse in forty-seven per cent of the countries for acts perceived as offensive or threatening to the majority faith, and in 39 per cent of the countries threats or violence were used to compel people to adhere to religious norms.

Women were harassed over religious dress in a third of the countries, and religion-related mob violence occurred in a quarter. About a fifth of the countries suffered religion-related terrorism and sectarian violence.

In 2012, the top five countries for very high social hostilities involving religion were Pakistan, India, Somalia, Israel and Iraq. The top five for very high government restrictions on religion were Egypt, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Also in 2012, the Middle East and North Africa saw both the highest levels of social hostilities and of government restrictions.

Government restrictions and social hostilities didn't necessarily coincide. For example, Jews faced social harassment in many more countries than they faced government harassment, whereas Sikhs faced government harassment in more countries than they faced hostility by groups or individuals.

That discrimination and hostility are occurring because of religion, either by or to members of various faiths, isn't surprising—bigotry and violence have always followed religion around. The extent surprises me, however, as does the fact that, in recent years at least, it is increasing.

17 January 2014

World Economic Forum backs the Pope on economic inequality

Every year the World Economic Forum hosts a confab of the world's elite at the Swiss resort of Davos to discuss the state of the world. The Forum is funded by its 1,000 member companies, global enterprises who play a leading role in shaping the future of their industry or region. As this year's meeting rapidly approaches, the Forum has announced that the greatest threat to the global economy in the coming years is the gap between the rich and the poor.

On reading that, I immediately thought about the similarity of the pronouncement to the words of Pope Francis in his recent attack on the evils of unfettered capitalism. "Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world," said the Pope, "This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."

These words earned him a torrent of abuse from the political right, including accusations that he was a Marxist. His response, "The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended," didn't help.

But what is the right to say now that an association of the world's leading capitalists appears to agree with him? With both the religious and corporate elites onside, it would seem that the argument about inequality is settled for conservatives, at least rational ones. The prevailing inequality in the world is a grave threat both morally and economically. Case closed.

The Conservatives turn on PR

It's not that all Conservatives are opposed to proportional representation. Senator Hugh Segal is onside and Conservative MPs Peter Braid, Stephen Woodworth and Scott Reid have presented Fair Vote Canada petitions to the House of Commons on behalf of their constituents.

Even Stephen Harper complained about our electoral system in a 1996 essay entitled "Our Benign Dictatorship" he co-authored with Tom Flanagan. "First-past-the-post voting encourages parties to engage in a war of attrition," he wrote, "Although we like to think of ourselves as living in a mature democracy, we live, instead, in something little better than a benign dictatorship." But that was then. Now Mr. Harper is the dictator and has put PR on his enemies list.

A Conservative pamphlet declares "Conservatives say NO to proportional representation" and suggests that it is to be rejected equally with Tom Mulcair and Elizabeth May. The pamphlet claims that "Our country was founded on the principle of Equality of Ridings first and foremost." This will come as a surprise to historians. Democracy, of course, is about the equality of citizens, not the equality of jurisdictions.

That the Conservatives should be frightened of PR is hardly surprising. If we had a fair voting system, truly representative of the Canadian electorate, a party that couldn't quite get 40 per cent popular support would never have been able to unilaterally form a majority government. In his essay, Harper prophetically stated, "Our parliamentary government creates a concentrated power structure out of step with other aspects of society." He has, it seems, decided to prove the truth of his own words.

16 January 2014

The tar sands—our climate change nemesis

While Neil Young very publicly feuds with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and its ally the Canadian government, tar sands production continues to systematically advance Alberta's position as the country's pollution province. Already producing more greenhouse gasses than Ontario, despite having less than 30 per cent of its population, tar sands expansion will have it producing almost 80 per cent more than Ontario by 2030.

This will not surprise anyone but what may is that according to Canada's Sixth National Report on Climate Change, without tar sands production Alberta would be responsible for about the same emissions as Ontario. Furthermore, those emissions would actually shrink despite population growth. With tar sands production, on the other hand, emissions will increase by 40 per cent from 2005 to 2030.

The report predicts emissions will fall in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Quebec over that same period. Tragically, increased emissions from the tar sands will overwhelm the achievements of the other provinces.

Neil Young's arguments may occasionally slip into hyperbole, but his voice is nonetheless the voice of sanity. Albertans, and Canadians, will never meet their climate responsibility to the international community as long as they indulge in bitumen production.

Is Harper Americanizing our Supreme Court?

When I first heard about Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati's challenge of the federal government's appointment of Justice Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court, I had little interest, thinking this was just some esoteric legal matter that had little meaning to us laymen. But the more it I learn about it, particularly listening to the views of various legal experts, the more I begin to think Galati hit on something of great importance that many of us missed.

There is, for instance, the matter of Nadon's qualifications. According to constitutional expert Bruce Ryder of York University's Osgoode Hall, "He's a very accomplished person, but there are better qualified people, particularly on the Quebec Court of Appeal." And then there's the potential problem of the semi-retired Nadon assuming the onerous burden of Supreme Court duties.

And to this the haste in putting him on the bench, only 72 hours from the announcement of his nomination to his appointment. University of Ottawa law professor and former Supreme Court clerk Adam Dodek suggests that the vetting process, conducted by a committee of MPs, was "too narrow, too shallow and it was far too quick."

But these problems, and for that matter the obvious ideological cast of the appointment, shouldn't in themselves disqualify the man. Of greater importance is whether or not his distance from the practice of Quebec's unique form of law (he hasn't practiced in the province for 23 years) defeats the spirit of the constitutional requirement for Quebec's three representatives. Then there's the questions of whether his appointment meets the criteria set in the Supreme Court Act and whether the government has the right to unilaterally change the Act.

This latter it did with a legislative hustle that has become all too characteristic of this government. It inserted two clauses amending the Act in its 2013 omnibus budget bill. It was this little trick that first raised my suspicions.

One of these clauses specifies that a candidate who has "at any time" worked as a lawyer or judge with Quebec's civil code qualifies as a Quebec representative to the Court, thus qualifying Nadon. University of Montreal professor Paul Daly claims that if Parliament is permitted to make such "sweeping changes" to the nature of the institution, "it could pack the Supreme Court of Canada with sympathetic jurists" and even "do away with the requirement that appointees to the court be lawyers" or indeed abolish the Court altogether.

Suddenly the issue doesn't appear to be so innocuous. Is our Prime Minister intending to model our Court after the American institution, a repository of political partisans? Or is he trying to undermine an institution he doesn't much care for? Or does he just not consider the Court worth wasting valuable time on?

The Supremes have heard the arguments pro and con re the government's position and have now reserved their decision. I will await it with considerable interest.

09 January 2014

The folly of aping U.S. emissions policy

Our federal government's policy on greenhouse gas emissions is simple: whatever the United States' policy on greenhouse gas emissions is. And that means a target of reducing emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 to 2020. But, as the Pembina Institute pointed out this week, there is a very large fly in that particular ointment. And the fly is that the two countries have very different emissions profiles.

The biggest challenge for the U.S. in meeting its goal is power emissions, particularly from coal-fired electricity. President Obama recognizes this and is committed to regulating new and existing facilities in that sector, and has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to do just that. Once Obama’s climate plan goes into effect, the U.S. should have a reasonable chance of achieving its 2020 goal.

But Canada's major challenge to meeting the goal is oil and gas sector emissions, particularly from tar sands production. So does our government have a plan to deal with oil and gas sector emissions? Not according to Prime Minister Harper. His government is—you guessed it—waiting on "our major trading partner." The problem is that the oil and gas sector being a much less important part of their emissions profile, the Americans are proceeding at a rather leisurely pace in imposing regulations. And of course they don't have a tar sands sector so they will never write emission regulations for bitumen production. Waiting to match the U.S. targets in this sector could mean a very long wait indeed.

In summary, the Americans are dealing with their biggest emissions problem and we are not. And then there is the further unfortunate fact that we are already way behind in meeting the 2020 target. We are lost, folks, we are lost.

04 January 2014

Iraq—an Al-Qaeda playground

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The U.S. and its coalition of the willing invaded Iraq with the justification that it had weapons of mass destruction and Saddam was conspiring with al-Qaeda to use them. The country had to be cleansed of both. But of course there were neither WMDs nor al-Qaeda to be cleansed. So how ironic, and profoundly tragic for the Iraqis, that the country has now become a hotbed of al-Qaeda activity.

Violence in Iraq is growing every year, with 8,868 victims of sectarian killings last year, ninety per cent of them civilians. The violence escalates as the Shia-led government cracks down on Sunnis and the Sunnis respond with revenge attacks against the Shia.

All this is grist to the al-Qaeda mill. According to Iraq Body Count, a British-based NGO, "Al-Qaeda in Iraq has found fertile ground in all this discontent and has attacked the Iraqi government … by killing members of its army, its police forces, its politicians and journalists, as well as its Shia population. The last six months have seen the massacres of entire families as they sleep or travel to a holy place."

The Americans and their friends took the lid off the cauldron of sectarian hate and then left. And the prime beneficiary, in a textbook case of unintended consequences, is al-Qaeda.


03 January 2014

The Americans love us

Everyone likes to be liked and, boy, do our southern neighbours like us. A recent Pew Research Center survey reveals that of all the countries in the world, we are the Americans' favourite. Eighty-one per cent have a favourable opinion of us.

Oddly, Americans are not so well disposed toward their other neighbour. Only 39 per cent have a favourable opinion of Mexico. Yet Americans visit Mexico far more than any other country, over two million visits a year compared to second-choice Canada with 12.5- million visits. Another surprising result of the survey was that both Germany and Japan are much more popular with Americans than Israel, one of their closest friends. As might be expected, it is more of a favourite with Republicans than Democrats.

Not surprising, only a third of Americans look favourably upon China and Russia although, fortunately, only a small minority see them as adversaries. One country that is not much liked at all is Saudi Arabia. Despite its excessive influence with the U.S. government, barely a quarter of Americans have a positive view of that unpleasant dictatorship.

But they love us. Kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy doesn't it?

02 January 2014

Afghanistan—the mother of all unpopular wars

There are unpopular wars, and then there are really, really unpopular wars. The Afghan war falls overwhelmingly into the latter category. According to a CNN/ORC International survey released this week, 90 per cent of Americans supported the war in early 2002, now 82 per cent oppose it.

This dramatic change in opinion is not confined to the U.S. Over 70 per cent of Brits supported the war in 2002, falling to 30 per cent by 2008. Similarly in Canada, support collapsed from 70 per cent to 35 per cent by 2010.

The rationale for Canadian participation was always muddy. While Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham was touting our role as "quintessentially Canadian ... helping to rebuild a troubled country," Chief of Defense Staff Rick Hillier was blustering about killing scumbags and bragging, "We are the Canadian forces and our job is to kill people." Prime Minister Paul Martin later said, "I had no sense that it was war. ... Our purpose was reconstruction." Stephen Harper’s first Defense Minister, Gordon O’Connor, suggested  the war was about “retribution” for the 9/11 attacks.

All this confusion wasn't surprising when our real reason, which no one in government would admit, was to placate the Americans for our failure to join the coalition of the willing in Iraq. Even Prime Minister Harper was sounding distinctly skeptical as our combat role wound down.

Yet it doesn't seem all that long ago that he and Peter MacKay were visiting the troops and puffing themselves up in flak jackets á la George W. Bush. Now they, and we, seem to be quietly forgetting the whole thing. I imagine a lot of Americans would like to do the same.

01 January 2014

My persons of 2013

If Time Magazine can choose a person of the year, I can choose two: a man and a woman.

The woman, of course, is Malala Yousafzai, the courageous young Pakistani champion of education. Malala started speaking out—blogging actually—about education at the tender age of 11. In 2012, she paid a horrific price for her advocacy. Sentenced to death by the Taliban, she was shot in the head by a young extremist.

But she survived and has turned the tragedy into an opportunity to proclaim the good word for education to an international audience. She has become the world's most prominent advocate for girls' education, indeed for education and women's rights generally, and her courage, resiliency and charm have done more to undermine the cause of the religious fanatics than all the violence waged against them. She has exposed their message as the shriveled residue of barbaric misogyny that it is.

My man of choice is Edward Snowden. Time chose the Pope and it was a good choice of a good man. He is after all the leader of a community with 1.2-billion members, and he does seem to be turning the Church in a more humane direction. Snowden's accomplishment was of quite a different order. He has given the world a forceful reminder of the dangerous partnership of power and secrecy by exposing the Orwellian mischief of his country's National Security Agency and its allies.

The Agency, ostensibly protecting the nation's security, has in fact run amok. It has collected the calling records of millions of its own citizens, tracked mobile phone users around the world, listened in to the democratically-elected leaders of its allies, spied on oil companies and energy ministries, attacked private encryption systems, and tapped into fiber-optic lines used by companies such as Google and Yahoo. And it has had the full co-operation of its Canadian colleagues. Big Brother is indeed watching.

We know about these excesses only because of Edward Snowden. We owe the man a very big thank you.

I doff my tuque to these two remarkable people and their remarkable deeds.