30 August 2014

Sister Simone for pope

What you may ask is a non-Catholic, indeed a non-Christian, doing recommending someone for pope. Well, it's partly tongue-in-cheek, of course, even if American Sister Simone Campbell might very well make a better pope than anyone else around, including Francis himself. I am quite aware that the Catholic Church, immersed in misogyny as it is, keeps women in their place and that place doesn't include running the outfit.

My inspiration to recommend Sister Simone regardless of Catholic dogma came from an article in the August issue of Harper's, "Francis and the Nuns" by Mary Gordon. Ms. Gordon outlines the current pope's treatment of nuns and finds him wanting. She lays out a sordid history of men religious dominating women religious in the oldest Christian faith, a domination that continues under Francis.

She gives as an example the reaction to an open letter to Congress written by Sister Simone, head of Network, a progressive Catholic lobbying group, and cosigned by dozens of Catholic sisters' groups, including the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The LCWR represents the leaders of 90 per cent of America's 59,000 nuns. The letter was in support of Obamacare. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had opposed the legislation on the grounds it would require Catholic employers to cover contraception and abortion, a claim the nuns' letter disputed.

In response, the Vatican initiated a 3-year investigation of the LCWR and ultimately censored the group. Further, the Vatican imposed an "apostolic visitation" that would examine in minute detail the works, prayer lives and finances of every nun in an apostolic community in the U.S. To put it bluntly, the nuns were to be harassed for their effrontery and masculine authority clearly established. Author Gordon provides a number of other examples of the male church flaunting its power to discipline uppity sisters.

But Sister Simone is not intimidated. Further to the Obamacare letter, she organized Nuns on the Bus, a cross-country tour to protest the cutbacks to social services proposed by Catholic Congressman Paul Ryan. And the good sister's work has not gone unnoticed. She has been a guest on The Colbert Report, spoken to the Democratic National Convention, and was invited by President Obama to the signing of the Affordable Care Act into law.

She is a highly intelligent woman of courage, she is charismatic and an excellent organizer. She has all the characteristics of a good leader. But why a leader of a church specifically? This is why. When asked where she got her courage, she answered, "It's not courage, not really. When your heart's been broken, nothing can stop you. And living beside the poor, I had my heart broken every day. ... When you are with the poor, you weep with them, you weep for the world. Weeping becomes part of your prayer."

I may be an atheist, a mere observer of the religious scene, but this sounds to me close to what the gentle Jesus was all about. It is something many bishops never seem to discover, but something a pope should have above all else. And Sister Simone has it.

28 August 2014

Putin leads Russia from Communism to Fascism

Russian president Vladimir Putin is on record as saying that the collapse of the Soviet Union was one of the 20th century's major geopolitical disasters. Some might say this suggests he is an unregenerate communist but that, I suspect, is not the case. He was comfortable enough in the USSR, serving the state as a member of the infamous KGB, but I doubt he misses communism very much. The empire, yes, and certainly the strongman rule.

A communist would not, for example, restore the power of the church. Putin has overseen the reconstruction of some 23,000 churches that had been destroyed or fallen into disuse and returned all church property that had been seized during the Soviet era, making the Russian Orthodox Church the largest landowner in Russia. He has flaunted his own faith, into which—rare for a KGB agent—he was baptized as a child.

The support is mutual. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Rus', who has referred to Putin's rule as a "miracle," commented during street protests against Putin’s return to the presidency that “liberalism will lead to legal collapse and then the apocalypse.” Father Alexey Kulberg adds, “The President’s ideology for developing Russia coincides with the direction of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

That direction includes demonizing homosexuals, providing Putin with a convenient scapegoat. When the czars felt their people were getting fed up with their ruler, they would institute a pogrom as a distraction. As one Russian interior minister was reputed to have said, "If the people can't hate the Jews, they'll hate the Czar." Under Czar Putin, it appears gays are the new Jews.

So how do we describe this new Russia? Fascist would seem to fit the bill. Historian Roger Griffin describes fascism as having three core components: "(i) the rebirth myth, (ii) populist ultra-nationalism and (iii) the myth of decadence." This fits Putin's politics rather neatly: rebirth of the nation's spiritual traditions, encouraging chauvinistic attitudes, and rallying his people against the decadence of the West.

Rebels in the eastern Ukraine claim their violence is justified by excessive fascist influence in Kiev. How ironic. The fascism they should be concerned about lies in the east, not in the west.

26 August 2014

Evidence for Democracy

Our current federal government's aversion to facts is now, unfortunately, well-established as a fact itself. Examples are legion, but I will just mention one.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose has assured Canadians that her government is a firm believer in science-based policy. Unfortunately, in a recent CBC interview she went about proving herself wrong. On the subject of drug treatment, she stated, and repeated with variations, a number of times, "There is no evidence at this point that heroin—giving heroin to heroin addicts—is any way an effective treatment." Science, it seems, disagrees. A study by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, prepared by researchers with the National Addiction Centre at King’s College in England, states:
"Over the past 15 years, six RCTs [ randomized controlled trials] have been conducted involving more than 1,500 patients, and they provide strong evidence, both individually and collectively, in support of the efficacy of treatment with fully supervised self-administered injectable heroin, when compared with oral MMT [methadone maintenance treatment], for long-term refractory heroin-dependent individuals. These have been conducted in ... Switzerland ... the Netherlands ... Spain ... Germany ... Canada ... and England."
It appears Ms. Ambrose isn't even familiar with the most recent research in her own country. Canadians who despair at a government that has such little regard for facts in their policy making, have ample opportunity to respond. They can, for instance, support any of the other three major parties. They can also support Evidence for Democracy (E4D), A national, non-partisan NGO that "advocates for the transparent use of science and evidence in public policy and government decision-making."

E4D is looking for experts from all fields to help monitor and report on whether government decisions are being based on the best available evidence. Even if you aren't an expert on anything, volunteers are needed to help with research, social media, communications, graphic design, video production, campaigning, fundraising, writing, and English-French translation. It's an opportunity for every Canadian, at least every Canadian who believes in evidence-based policy (and what member of Progressive Bloggers doesn't?), to do their bit for science and enlightened governance.

Calling the bluff on "we must compete in the global marketplace"

The soul-numbing mantra "we must compete in the global marketplace" is much heard these days. Conservative politicians and business groups toss it out tirelessly as an argument to reduce taxes, and weaken labour and environmental laws. Unfortunately, their argument is valid. Trade agreements have so reduced the ability of national governments to tax and to provide legislative protection for workers and the environment, or indeed to act in way that might reduce corporate profits, they are now largely at the mercy of corporate whim.

Governments have seen their power slip away, turning democracies into plutocracies. Indeed, that and not trade often seems to be the primary goal of these agreements. One answer to this challenge is global agreements on worker rights and environmental policy. Another is global taxation.

Movement in this direction is showing signs of life. For instance, 11 members of the European Union have agreed to create a financial transactions tax (FTT), sometimes called a Robin Hood tax, to be levied on trades of shares and some derivatives. The FTT is popular among the European public because it generates new revenue from the under-taxed financial sector. It may also dampen speculation that contributes to financial crises. The tax is expected to have only marginal effect on economic growth. Other countries may join later although the U.K. is opposed to an FTT (as is the U.S.).

In his best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, French economist Thomas Piketty goes much further, arguing for a global wealth tax. He refers to the tax as “the only civilized solution” for avoiding capitalism’s "endless inegalitarian spiral.” It must be global, he argues, because it has become too "difficult for any single government to regulate or tax capital and the income it generates.”

Piketty admits the idea is utopian, but the idea is in itself useful. It can serve as an effective challenge to the conservative argument that government taxing power is limited by our need to compete in the global marketplace. We can counter by pointing out that that is a choice, not an act of nature as they seem to imply. We can liberate ourselves from corporate blackmail by matching global trade with global taxation. If they reject the idea, then they are choosing to undermine democracy. We can, in other words, call their bluff.

23 August 2014

Who would you believe—Stephen Harper or Willie Nelson?

Apparently the $24-million of our tax money the federal government spent on an ad campaign to promote Canadian oil and the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington has gone down the drain. According to experts on Canada-U.S. relations, the campaign was a bust. "Buy our oil because we’re nice people—that doesn't fly," said David Biette, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre in Washington.

But the feds had better keep their ad blitz going because Willie Nelson is coming to town. Well, to a farm near Neligh, Nebraska, actually. He will join our very own Neil Young for an anti-Keystone concert in a local cornfield. Yes, cornfield. The field is in the path of the pipeline—a group of farmers, ranchers and Native Americans, along with artist John Quigley, carved an anti-pipeline message into it earlier this year. The concert is September 27th.

And why, one might ask, should anyone believe what a couple of singer/songwriter/guitar players have to say about pipelines? Well, one might ask the same question about the Harper government. Nelson and Young are, in fact, both long-time environmentalists, but that's not the point. We are talking about promotion here. What will best reach Americans' hearts and minds? Ads by the Canadian government or the warmth and charm of a country music icon? I'm betting on Willie.

22 August 2014

RIP—and thanks for the beer, Ed

The inventor of my favourite beer died this week. Ed McNally, former lawyer and barley farmer, who founded Big Rock Breweries in 1985 and introduced Traditional Ale (Trad to us aficionados), the world's finest beer, a year later.

Ed was a pioneer in craft beer. Unimpressed by the pale, fizzy, lagers mass-produced by the major breweries, he decided to exploit Alberta's barley and glacial waters to make traditional European-style beer without additives, preservatives or pasteurization. The result was Big Rock Breweries, now the largest and longest-running independently-owned craft brewery in Canada.

Much more than an entrepreneur, Ed was also a philanthropist and will be missed by Calgary's arts community, of which he was a strong supporter. He was a member of the Order of Canada and has been inducted into the Calgary Business Hall of Fame.

If there was a heaven and God liked his beer, no doubt the two would be having a pint as we speak. Cheers!

21 August 2014

Hillary Clinton—a very dangerous lady

During the Democratic nomination race for the 2008 U.S. presidential election, my preference was torn between a woman president or a black president. I was leaning toward the woman, Hillary Clinton, when, watching her on a TV interview, she stated that if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons she would "totally obliterate" Iran. I almost fell out of my chair.

What the hell was this all about? Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons and it hasn't attacked another country in centuries, so why was she tossing "obliteration" around—the slaughter of millions? This was reckless speculation that one would really not like to see in the president of the world's most powerful country. I quickly switched my hopes to the black candidate.

And, indeed, the black candidate duly won—the nomination and the presidency. Apparently Clinton's militarism also cost her the support of people who could actually vote on the nomination. But she soldiers on, almost certainly aiming for the Democratic nomination in 2016. I find her no more appealing now than I did then.

Very recently, in an interview in The Atlantic, she trotted out a series of bellicose views on American foreign policy that would have had Dick Cheney applauding: advocating a tougher stance on Syria, zealous support for turning the war on terror into a new cold war (sounding a bit like a jihadist herself), cheerleading Israel's brutal treatment of the Palestinians, denying Iran the right to any uranium enrichment at all, and advocating a more belligerent approach on foreign policy generally, while all the time bad-mouthing Obama's overly "cautious" approach. (Any progressive tempted to support Clinton should read this interview—it's a mind changer.)

All this was accompanied by a chauvinistic view of U.S. foreign policy achievements not always rooted in fact. For instance, while wallowing in a little American exceptionalism, she and her interlocutor agreed that the U.S. defeat of fascism and communism had been "a pretty big deal" for the U.S. But of course their motherland defeated neither. Fascism was defeated primarily by the Soviet Union (80 per cent of the casualties suffered by the German military were inflicted by the Soviets) with the support of the U.S. (and others) and Communism was defeated largely by the citizens of the Soviet Union and its satellites, to say nothing of collapsing under its own dead weight, although again, the U.S. might be credited with a supporting role. Clinton's Hollywood view of history does no credit to a woman who was U.S. Secretary of State for four years.

Maybe she is just flaunting her tough guy bona fides, necessary it seems for a U.S. presidential candidate, no doubt more so for a woman. But I think she does too much macho strutting for it to be an electoral gimmick. I think she means it.

Nonetheless, I would love to see a woman win the presidency. So please, please, Democratic Party, take courage and convince Elizabeth Warren to run in 2016.

Why is Purolator tackling hunger?

I confess that one of my minor pleasures is watching CFL games on TSN. Among the endless game interruptions is an ad/public service announcement in which genial Chris Schultz, member of the TSN football panel, hosts a presentation about the Purolator Tackle Hunger program. According to its website Purolator, the parcel delivery company, uses the Tackle Hunger program to work "closely with its teammates, customers and food banks across Canada to collect donations and help raise awareness about the issue of hunger in Canada."

I cringe every time the bit comes on. Not to disparage Purolator's charity, but in one of the richest countries of the world, why on earth are we depending on a corporation to feed our people? For that matter, why are we relying on food banks? This is something for us to be deeply embarrassed about, if not ashamed.

It's not as if food banks generally and Purolator specifically are tackling hunger successfully. Food bank use rose steadily after 2008, hitting a high of 872,379 people per month in 2012. Over a third of those helped are children. One wonders how often these thousands of kids go to school hungry. And food banks aren't the half of it: a survey by Human Resources Development Canada indicated that only a quarter of Canadians who go hungry use food banks, and many of those who do still go hungry at times.

The reason we have food banks is, of course, low incomes: low pay (12 per cent of households helped are employed) and inadequate social welfare. Food Banks Canada (yes, there is actually a national organization) makes a number of recommendations, including long-term federal funding of affordable housing, increased social investment in areas with high levels of food insecurity, increased support for programs that help vulnerable Canadians get training for better-paying jobs, revolutionizing social assistance so people can build self-sufficiency rather than being trapped in poverty, and helping people in low-paying, part-time, and temporary jobs get better-paid, long-term employment.

All good ideas and all will take money, but fortunately there's lots of that around. Our governments have no excuse for not ensuring all Canadians have a standard of living adequate for a healthy lifestyle. According to Statistics Canada, private non-financial corporations in this country are currently sitting on a cash hoard of $630-billion. It's time we instructed the tax man to dip into those billions companies aren't investing so we can invest them in decent incomes for the poor, allowing them to buy food with dignity. Then, instead of branding hunger, Purolator can stick to delivering parcels.

19 August 2014

What keeps Canada together?

The above is the title of a survey commissioned by the Association for Canadian Studies and carried out by Leger Marketing earlier this year. The answer to what unites the country, from the 1,509 Canadians included in the survey, was clear. Of the 11 possibilities offered, the top two choices by a wide margin were the Charter of Rights and Medicare. Even hockey wasn't close.

Except among the youth (18-24 year olds) who ranked Medicare (surprising) and hockey (not surprising) as our top two ties. Francophones ranked the Charter first but chose hockey and respect for provincial jurisdiction slightly ahead of universal health care. A couple of the old unifiers, threat of Americanization and the monarchy, ranked dead last, suggesting a certain confidence in the country.

One suspects the top two choices of Canadians would definitely not be those of our federal government, which appears to have little use for the Charter and only reluctant support for Medicare. The monarchy would, no doubt, rank high on its list. But then in 2011, a survey known as an election showed that over 60 per cent of Canadians would prefer not to have the current party running the government, so it's hardly surprising we disagree on what's important to us.

16 August 2014

PR tops journalism in U.S.

If Americans often seem uninformed or misinformed about current affairs, it may be because they get more propaganda than news. There are now five times as many public relations experts at work in the U.S. than reporters. Furthermore, the difference is growing. While the number of reporters in the country dropped by almost 9,000 from 2004 to 2013, the number of PR experts increased by over 36,000. The PR people are also better paid, on average 25 per cent more, and the income gap, too, is growing.

As a result, Americans get increasingly more of their information from press releases rather than from news reporting and often this material isn't vetted or contextualized. A study by the Pew Research Center on the 2012 presidential election coverage reported "how journalists in that campaign often functioned as megaphones for political partisans."

For young Americans seeking a lucrative career, the best advice would seem to be choose propaganda over news. Both the pay and the prospects are much better. A University of Georgia study found that graduates entering public relations earned about $5,000 more than those starting at daily papers and $6,000 more than those working in TV. The prospects for a well-informed American public are not quite as promising.

15 August 2014

Harper—not a man for our time

Vladimir Putin is a corrupt bully and I don't like the guy. Nor do I like the mischief he's up to in Ukraine. Nonetheless, I am not impressed by Stephen Harper's self-righteous ranting about him.

I find Harper very hard to agree with even when he's on the right side of the issue. Not because of the position he takes but because of the way he takes it. He has a black and white, us vs. them, approach to every issue which is not only questionable but dangerous. Few issues are black and white. There are shades of grey, nuances, subtleties, which are often critical to understanding an issue thoroughly.

Such is the case in Ukraine. As thuggish as Putin's actions are, they have a certain justification. Russia has been catastrophically invaded on a number of occasions throughout its history bringing horrors we can hardly imagine, from the Mongols in the thirteenth century to the Germans in the twentieth. Russians have a right to a little paranoia when it comes to security along their borders. The pillar of Soviet foreign policy during the Cold War was maintaining security against western invasion. We can hardly be surprised that Putin is not going to accept a hostile state on Russia's western border. And unfortunately the West, particularly the U.S., has been making its own mischief in Ukraine.

As for the Crimea, it belonged to Russia from the time of Katherine the Great until 1954 when Nikita Khrushchev rather generously gave it to Ukraine. Of course at the time, Ukraine was a Soviet republic so it was really just keeping it in the family. Putin seems to be saying, now that you've left the family you can't take it with you. Furthermore, Russia sees the Crimea, home of its largest warm water naval base, as critical to Russian security.

Harper seems to appreciate none of this. When the U.S. decided to protect its security by invading a country not next door but on the other side of the world, and justified the invasion with lies, Harper wanted very much for us to participate. He went so far as to publicly chastise us in the U.S. for not doing our bit. He simply cannot see the analogy to Putin's behaviour in Ukraine. To Harper it's the United States (friend) good, Russia (foe) bad. This kind of simplistic thinking leads to nothing but dangerously biased and rash decision-making. And, of course, it precludes any possibility of Canada acting as a negotiator and peace-maker, the most important role we can play in international disputes. This prime minister is simply not a man fit for leadership in a volatile and complex world.

14 August 2014

Libya—another dictator replaced with chaos

Political use of the term "blowback" first appeared in the CIA's internal history of the 1953 Iranian coup. Orchestrated by Britain and the U.S., the coup replaced the democratically-elected Mosaddegh government with the Shah. The term proved most appropriate as the big power mischief ultimately led to the Iranian Revolution and alienation of Iran from the West, essentially the opposite of the intended consequences.

Judging by two recent examples, overthrowing dictators can equally result in some nasty blowback. The usual suspects, Britain and the U.S., led the invasion of Iraq which successfully overthrew Saddam Hussein. The theory was that with the overthrow of Hussein, the Iraqis would shower their liberators with candy and flowers, embrace democracy and become good friends with Israel. It didn't quite work out that way. The invasion resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands, millions of refugees, massive destruction of the country, and a nation declining into chaos. The Kurds have taken control of their ancient lands in the north, Sunni insurgents attack Shias and the brutal Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has seized control of several major cities in the northwest. The country may not survive.

Things are hardly better in Libya. In 2011, NATO aided rebels in their fight against Muammar Gaddafi by launching massive air attacks. NATO participation was vital in successfully bringing Gaddafi down. Britain and France, who led the bombing, proclaimed they had delivered democracy to Libya. Well ... not exactly. Three years later, Gaddafi is gone, but rival militias fight each other and government forces in a chaotic civil war that leaves no one safe. A number of countries, including the U.S. and Canada, enthusiastic supporters of the NATO intervention, have abandoned their embassies. The country is rapidly becoming a failed state.

Every action can have unintended consequences, but it seems that when Western countries interfere violently in other people's business, the consequences are all too often tragic. The West can and should do a lot of good in the world, but it might be advisable to confine its contributions to more constructive instruments than bombs.

13 August 2014

Israel vs. Hamas or Likud vs. Gaza—framing the issue

A major goal in a propaganda war is to frame the issue on your terms. For example, in labour disputes, businesses (and their political and media allies) often claim the argument is not with the workers but with the "union bosses." The objective is to convince the public and perhaps even union members that management has no quarrel with their decent, hard-working employees, it's all the fault of the trouble-making union leaders. This is nonsense, of course. Unions are thoroughly democratic organizations and their leaders legitimately represent their members. But if management can successfully sell its message, and it often does, it can gain the upper hand in public opinion, an important advantage.

Israel, with its powerful publicity machine, aided and abetted by Western political and media elites, has been highly successful in just such a framing of its assault on Gaza. It has sold the issue as Israel vs Hamas, sending the message that Israel is not assaulting the good people of Gaza but rather just this terrorist organization called Hamas. The hundreds of Palestinians who die, and the thousands injured and driven from their homes are not the enemy, just unfortunate collateral damage, victims not of Israel but of Hamas.

But Hamas is in fact the democratically-elected government of Gaza. Khaled Mashal's Hamas is just as legitimate a representative of Gazans as Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party is of Israelis. Israel vs. Hamas makes no more sense than Likud vs. Gaza. The conflict should correctly be framed as either Israel vs. Gaza or Likud vs. Hamas. But by selling "Israel vs. Hamas," Israel has created the impression that Netanyahu truly represents his people whereas Hamas represents only its members, a bunch of terrorists, a highly useful lie in the propaganda wars, a lie completely swallowed by the Western media.

Israel not only has the biggest guns, it also has the best PR. The Palestinians get beat up on both fronts.

Frank's 10 happiness tips

Pope Francis may still be immersed in a certain amount of traditional Catholic misogyny, but he is nonetheless a breath of fresh air for the church, and for that matter, Christianity. In a recent interview he offered 10 tips to achieve happiness. The tips are worth repeating not only because they make good sense but because they are rather surprising coming from the world's top Christian:
1. "Live and let live."
2. "Be giving of yourself to others."
3. "Proceed calmly" in life.
4. Have "a healthy sense of leisure."
5. "Sunday is for family."
6. Be "creative" with young people and find innovative ways to create dignified jobs.
7. Respect and take care of nature.
8. Stop being negative.
9. "The worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes."
10. Work for peace. "We are living in a time of many wars. The call for peace must be shouted."
Surprisingly, other than Number 5, they ignore the Ten Commandments. Indeed Number 1, which sounds like a Canadian motto, seems in direct contradiction of the Commandments' dictatorial tone. Along with Number 9, it also violates what I have always thought to be a Christian duty: spreading the good word and converting everybody gullible enough to take it seriously.

Now if only other Christian leaders, along with a parcel of Imams, would emulate il Papa, lay off the proselytizing and preach a little more "live and let live," the world would be a much better place.

11 August 2014

Why a lifelong Dipper is disappointed with Thomas Mulcair

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, I've been a supporter of the CCF/NDP since before Thomas Mulcair was born. The major reason is simply that Canada's social democratic party has always been the voice of the vulnerable and the oppressed. And that is also the major reason I am uncomfortable with its current leader, specifically with his failure to speak out strongly about the atrocities being inflicted on the people of Gaza. His statement on the issue was nothing more than a mealy-mouthed piece of political pap.

Where is the outrage? The suffering of the Gazans ought to inspire any self-respecting social democrat to righteous wrath. Yet Mulcair lays the blame for the slaughter almost entirely on Hamas while tiresomely repeating the refrain that Israel has a right to defend itself, ignoring the fact that violence from Gaza is entirely the result of Israel's imprisonment of its people, including the million refugees denied their moral and legal right to return to their homes solely because of their race. Oppressors lose any right to punish their victims for retaliation by the very act of oppression itself. However, perhaps Mulcair's pusillanimous reaction is not surprising—he has said in the past he is "an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances," a position disturbingly similar to Stephen Harper's.

None of the leaders of our major political parties has the courage to speak in defence of one of the most long-suffering people on earth. All three cower from the political correctness that smothers discussion of Israel in this country. Harper's motive may be the purest. He has a keen eye for political advantage, but his black and white view of the world blinds him from finding fault in a nation he considers a friend. Trudeau's position is just ... well, your guess is as good as mine. But Mulcair betraying his party's proudest tradition is simply unforgivable.

No doubt some NDP MPs are as frustrated about this as I am. But party "discipline" under Mulcair allows only the leader and the party critic to speak publicly on the issue, another aspect of his leadership that troubles me. Fortunately I am a mere member of the party, so I am free to criticize both Israel's behaviour and the party's response to it. Some wit has suggested that the N in NDP now stands for Neoliberal. Say it ain't so, Tom, say it ain't so.