Sunday, 20 December 2015

Proud to be Non-Conformist

All my life, I've had trouble fitting in.  Being left out is no fun.  But you know what's worse than being left out?  Selling out - something that a lot of people have tried to make me do.  For example, I have been told more times than I can remember to be more physically active and eat healthier.  Yes, it's true, I don't live a healthy lifestyle.  I eat a lot of fatty foods and I seldom eat any fruits or vegetables, but I'm not going to apologize for that and I'm not going to change it just because other people want me to, no matter how close they are to me.  They can have my double cheeseburger when they pry it from my cold, dead hands!  

And as for not being physically active, I make no apologies for that either.  I don't care if you're a loved one or a medical professional.  Stop bugging me about my weight, stop telling me to work out and stop judging me for wanting to be sedentary.  I'm sorry, but the gym is not my friend, has never been my friend and never will be my friend.  Furthermore, I'm sick and tired of people bragging about their healthy lifestyles and how much they hit the gym.  If that's the way you choose to live, that's fine.  Just don't expect me to live that way.  Besides, I'm sure that many people who say they're happy about living a healthy lifestyle were once couch potatoes like myself.  Well congratulations, folks!  Way to sell out.  You're not living a healthy lifestyle because you wanted to.  You're doing it because you gave in to the pressure to do it.

The same goes for people who take an interest in something just because everyone else is doing it. I remember reading the short story of someone who was bullied and teased at school because he was one of those "nerdy" types who studied a lot.  Then he decided to do what the other kids were doing and he was finally accepted.  But to me, this isn't a happy ending.  This is a story of surrender.  Yes, it's true that if you don't think like everyone else and don't have the same interests that everyone else does, you'll probably have a very hard time fitting in.  But that doesn't mean that you should give up who you are.  And if you do want to change who you are or what your interests are, you should only do it on your terms and when you feel like it, not when someone else tells you to.  

I spent the better part of my life trying to adapt to the customs of my peers in order to fit in, without seeing any results.  So by the time I hit my 20's, I decided that I wouldn't try to fit in anymore.  I may be lonely, but at least I have my dignity in knowing that I have not surrendered who I am. Besides, history remembers those who didn't go with the flow and tried to change the world around them rather than conforming to it.  This is the way I would like to be remembered.    

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Go Uber Go!

Last week, a multitude of taxi cab drivers clogged up the streets of downtown Toronto to protest the continued proliferation of Uber X, to which they have been losing many of their customers.  But the honest truth is that the cabbies aren't losing customers to the popular ride-sharing app just because their costs are higher and they face more stringent regulations.  They're losing customers because Uber X provides much better customer service than they do.  Anyone who has ever taken a cab in Toronto knows what I'm talking about.  I don't know how many times I've heard people talk about how bad taxis in the city can be.  Oftentimes, people getting into cabs are greeted by a putrid stench and find themselves debating whether that stench comes from the cab itself or the person driving it. Then perhaps they'll ask themselves why the seat they're sitting in is so dirty and sticky. And as if riding in a dirty, stinky cab isn't bad enough, the driver of that cab is a rude and surly individual who chastises you if you don't pay him in cash.  Worse still, you might not even get the "privilege" of riding in a cab driver's dirty, smelly vehicle if he thinks driving you won't yield him a big enough fare.  Taxi drivers are just upset because for the first time in what feels like forever, they have competition that is offering better service than they do.  For the first time, they're not the only game in town. They can't keep taking customers for granted anymore, as they've been doing up until now.  I couldn't be happier about the rise of Uber and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way.

In fact, beginning this week commuters in Toronto have another reason to love Uber.  That reason is Uber Hop, a new service introduced by the ride-sharing company which allows people in certain Toronto neighbourhoods under-served by the TTC to be picked up by Uber drivers and taken to the downtown area.  The service began rolling out this past Tuesday and already the TTC union and other supporters of Toronto's public transit monopoly are crying foul.  They say that the intrusion of Uber onto the TTC's turf will compromise the safety of commuters.  LOLOLOLOL!  The real reason the they don't want Uber encroaching onto the TTC's territory is because just like the taxi drivers in Toronto, the TTC has taken riders for granted.  For decades, the TTC has been shortchanging Toronto commuters with overcrowded transit vehicles, surly staff and unreliable service.  Now that they've got a little competition all of a sudden, they're scared stiff.  And again, I couldn't be happier, especially since I have long called for abolishing the TTC's monopoly on public transit in Toronto (see, for example, Abolish the TTC Monopoly on Public Mass Transit in Toronto, Because Competition is "The Better Way").  Indeed, I think the more Uber keeps muscling onto the territory of traditional transit providers, the more Torontonians will benefit. Therefore, I say GO UBER GO! 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Is a Negotiated Peace Possible in Syria?

Recently, Syrian opposition groups met in Saudi Arabia to discuss prospects for a peaceful settlement of the country's four year old civil war.  These groups hardly present a united front, for although they all seek to depose dictator Bashar Al-Assad, they each have their own agenda and their own vision for the war-torn country, as do their external supporters throughout the international community.  Iran and Russia support President Assad, while the West, Saudi Arabia and most other Sunni Arab states as well as Turkey support the groups fighting to overthrow him.  With so many conflicting interests, it's hard to imagine a peaceful resolution to the conflict.  I believe, however, that a peace agreement may still be possible and I think I also have a good idea of what such an arrangement would look like.

A Two-State Solution for Syria?

The question of whether President Assad stays or goes is not the only impediment to peace in Syria, though I believe it is probably the biggest one.  My thinking is that a compromise arrangement is possible whereby Assad would be removed as Syria's president, but would be the leader of a newly independent Latakia.  Latakia is Syria's coastal region and the area in which the Alawite Muslim sect forms the overwhelming majority of the population.  Assad himself is an Alawite Muslim and the bulk of his support and power base comes from his co-religionists in Latakia.  The region is also home to the Russian naval base that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin wants to retain at all costs.  By allowing Latakia to break away from the rest of Syria, it may be possible to placate the demands and interests of Russia and Iran, because Russia would get to keep the naval base and Iran would maintain its foothold in the region.  At the same time, what remains of Syria would be free of Bashar Al-Assad and his Alawite-led regime.

Now of course, simply removing Assad and giving him a new state in Latakia to rule wouldn't resolve the Syrian conflict entirely.  As I've already said, the myriad of opposition groups in the country all have their own agendas and axes to grind.  There are so-called moderate opposition groups, like the Free Syrian Army and ethnically-based opposition groups, such as the Kurds in Syria's northeast.  Then there are the Islamist movements, the most prominent of which is of course the so-called Islamic State.  No one in the international community wants to hand power in Syria to the Islamic State or any other Islamist terrorist group, though just to be fair, leaders in the Sunni Arab states and Turkey are widely suspected of clandestinely supporting Islamists as part of their efforts to depose President Assad.  You know the old saying, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  I think, however, that once the issue of Assad is removed, the leaders of the Middle East region will concentrate on making Syria stable again by supporting the more moderate groups against the Islamists led by the Islamic State.  With international support, these moderate forces will be able to form a stable government in Damascus that can exercise control of the country.

Key to maintaining this control will be the Kurds in the country's northeast.  The Kurds have had the greatest success in holding back the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq.  Hence, if Syria minus Latakia wants to keep existing as a country, its new leaders will have to accept Kurdish autonomy in exchange for their help in keeping the Islamic State in check.

Now just to be clear, although I've written here about what I think a peaceful resolution to the Syrian civil war may look like, I don't believe that it is the ideal outcome.  Indeed, if it were up to me, Latakia would be a separate state, but not with Assad as its leader.  The only place that I believe Assad belongs is in the docket of the International Criminal Court.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

My Proposal for a Permanent Solution to Palestinian Terrorism

For almost two months now, Palestinians have been conducting their most recent wave of terror using anything they can get their hands on - guns, knives, molotov cocktails, rocks and even their own personal vehicles - to kill Israelis.  Israel has responded to this latest wave of terrorist attacks the same way it has for decades: More police, more soldiers, more checkpoints...Well, you get the idea. But of course, none of these security measures will put a permanent end to Palestinian terrorism. So what will?  My answer to this question doesn't involve trying to negotiate a two-state solution or unilateral territorial withdrawals, because both of these haven't worked.  Israel has been trying for more than two decades since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 to give the Palestinians a country of their own, only to be turned down multiple times because Palestinian leaders aren't looking for a state of their own to coexist alongside Israel.  They're looking to destroy the State of Israel and replace it with a state of Palestine that would no doubt end up being just like the rest of the Arab dictatorships.  Israel has also tried handing back land to the Palestinians without any prearranged agreements.  But did Israelis get peace in return?  No.  Just more terrorism, in the form of rockets reigning down on their towns and villages.  So much for the argument that removing the so-called occupation would lead to peace.

So what else can be done to end Palestinian terrorism once and for all?  I think the first step is to get rid of the entire Palestinian leadership altogether, because they are the ones that have been inciting young Palestinians to commit acts of terrorism ever since Israel achieved independence.  Hence, I believe that Israel should imprison, exile, and if necessary, even kill each and every senior Palestinian leader both within the pre-1967 armistice lines and in Judea and Samaria.  Not one should remain. Not one should have the opportunity to further incite Palestinian youth to injure and kill Israelis. Once this is done, Israel can begin re-educating Palestinians to live in peace with their Jewish neighbors.

For at least one generation, I believe that Israel will have to exert strong control over Palestinian education and mass media in order to create a new Palestinian ethos that is economically productive and friendly to the continued existence and prosperity of the State of Israel.  Palestinians must be taught what their current leaders refuse to teach them: The fact that the Jewish people have the right to independence and self-determination in the land of their forefathers and that opposing this right is morally wrong and counterproductive to their well-being.  In time, a new Palestinian leadership should emerge that will support the State of Israel rather than seek to destroy it.

At the same time that Israel is re-educating the Palestinians and weaning them off their decades-old diet of anti-Jewish hatred and Islamist fascism, it must also make massive investments in Palestinian social and economic infrastructure so that the Palestinian people will enjoy the same socio-economic fruits of Israel's existence that Jews do.  Hence, Israel must make a concerted effort to ensure that it narrows the gap in living and education standards that exists between Jews and Arabs in the country. After all, the Palestinians will never accept Israel, let alone support it, if they do not reap the benefits that come with the state's existence and continued prosperity.

The reality is that it is up to Israel to resolve the problem of Palestinian terrorism by itself.  The current Palestinian leadership only seeks to fuel this terrorism while the rest of the world naively and foolishly continues to blame Israel for causing Palestinians and other Israel-haters to commit terrorist acts against it.  Talk about blaming the victim.    

Friday, 20 November 2015

Construction and Road Closures in Toronto. Enough Already!

They say that in Canada we have two seasons, winter and construction.  This is especially true in Toronto, although after living in this city all my life, it seems that even when winter starts, construction doesn't stop, nor do the seemingly endless road closures associated with it.  If you drive in Toronto like I do, it's probably very difficult for you to drive anywhere in this city without having to negotiate yourself around a construction zone.  They're everywhere!  Okay, I understand that there's a lot of work to be done to this city's infrastructure.  Roads need to be resurfaced, water mains need to be replaced and potholes need to be filled.  But what I don't understand is, why must these projects take so long, be coordinated so poorly and inconvenience Toronto residents so unnecessarily?

Anyone who lives in Toronto can probably name one of this city's numerous construction disasters. Projects like the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way or the subway extension to Vaughan. These are projects that have been both way over budget and way behind schedule, not to mention the pain and frustration many Torontonians faced.  Everything from traffic jams to lost businesses, just because our politicians and bureaucrats can never seem to get it right.  Now of course, the St. Clair streetcar and the subway extension are two of Toronto's best known construction follies, but what about the construction problems that don't make the news?  I'm talking, for example, about regular traffic jams brought on by construction crews leaving their equipment or material lying idle in the street, blocking lanes for what could be months on end.  Or how about when you're stewing in a traffic jam and out your window, you can see guys in orange vests doing little or no work at all?  You know the routine, right?  One guy works, another two or three guys stand around watching him and drinking coffee.  It's no wonder that construction projects in Toronto take forever.  In fact, can anyone reading this tell me about a project in this city in which construction was completed on time and on budget?  Anybody?

Honestly, every time I pass by a road closure brought on by seemingly endless construction, I think about an important episode in Israeli history.  In 1948, when Israel was fighting its war of independence, Israeli forces built half a highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in a month.  Yes, that's right, a month!  Under fire, I might add, so that they could get food and supplies to Jerusalem and rescue it from siege and starvation at the hands of Arab forces.  Were it not for this urgent and massive construction effort, my father and his family may very well have starved to death and I wouldn't be alive today.  Yet here in Toronto, where we have much more money, manpower and materials than Israel did in 1948, it takes us three years to fix a few water mains on Avenue Road. How pathetic are we!?      

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Wake Up, Europe!

This past Friday, several terrorists acting in the name of the so-called Islamic State murdered at least 120 people in cold blood in Paris.  It was the worst violence the French capitol had seen since World War II.  The people of France will no doubt want to see justice done to those who were involved in this heinous massacre and I don't think anyone in the international community is going to stand in there way, nor should they.  But what if such an attack had occurred in Israel?  Actually, this is a pretty stupid question, because Israel has always been under constant threat of terrorism, and its people have been the victims of countless terrorist acts.  So what would happen if the international community were to react to the terrorist attacks in France the same way that it usually reacts to attacks on Israel?  There would be a chorus of leaders calling on France to show restraint and not exact a heavy price on the terrorists and their supporters.  There might even be demonstrations around the world calling on people to boycott French products because France is participating in the "oppression" of Muslims by conducting air strikes on the Islamic State.  France would be the victim of a worldwide de-legitimization campaign because of what people would call its heavy-handed tactics meant to stamp out terrorism against French citizens.  Can you imagine a global campaign against the existence of the French state?  Probably not, but this is exactly how the international community has always reacted whenever Israel and its citizens are victims of terrorism.

In fact, just a few days before the City of Lights became a city of bloodshed, the European Union, which of course includes France, officially decided to require the labeling of Israeli products that come from the "occupied" West Bank.  This decision came at the same time that Israelis have been enduring a wave of terrorist attacks by Palestinians involving stabbings, shootings and cars being used as weapons to run over and kill Israeli citizens.  So now that France has endured its worst terrorist attack in its history, will Israel react by enacting measures that would harm France's exports? Certainly not.  Rather, Israel will wholeheartedly support any action that France takes to bring the terrorists responsible for the bloodletting in Paris to justice, no matter how proportionate or disproportionate that action may be, because Israel stands behind those who are fighting terrorism. My question is, when is Europe going to wake up, realize who its real friends are, and support Israel when its citizens are the victims of terrorism?

Friday, 30 October 2015

Affirmative Action is Nothing but Negative

A couple of months ago, I had a conversation with a work colleague of mine, who had just obtained her credentials as an Ontario Certified Teacher.  She told me that she was afraid of being passed over for job opportunities as she tries to start her teaching career simply because she is a white female.  I was reminded of this conversation by an article I read a few days ago about a man who claims to have been passed over for promotion at Revenue Canada because he is white (see: White worker says Canada Revenue Agency discriminated against him).  My co-worker's concerns about her job prospects and the allegations mentioned in the article that I have cited both have to do with the same theme: affirmative action.

To make a long story short, affirmative action basically means favoring people from disadvantaged groups, such as visible minorities, women and people with disabilities, when determining, for example, who to hire for a job or who to admit into an institution, like a university or college.  It's a longstanding practice that its proponents say helps people from disadvantaged groups access employment and other opportunities that they would otherwise be denied.  Personally, I find the term affirmative action to be a very ironic name for a practice that I consider to be nothing but negative.

I am actually a member of what affirmative action supporters would call a disadvantaged group, namely people with disabilities.  I won't go into specifics about my disabilities, but I will say that if someone told me that I should get a job simply because I have a disability and not because I'm qualified, I would be insulted.  From my perspective, it's like someone telling me that because I have a disability, I can't get a job based on my own merits.  In fact, I would go further with this analogy and say that affirmative action is an insult to all disadvantaged groups, because those who support and implement the practice are basically telling anyone who is a woman, a visible minority, a disabled person, etc., that they can't get opportunities on their own merits, but only by denying those opportunities to others who are not considered part of any disadvantaged sector of society.  Maybe it's just me, but I feel like the folks who support affirmative action are saying that two wrongs make a right.  In other words, we must fight discrimination against women by discriminating against men. We must fight discrimination against visible minorities by discriminating against white people.  We must fight discrimination against gays by discriminating against heterosexuals.  I don't know about you, but I was brought up to believe that all forms of discrimination are bad.

I am a firm believer in doing whatever we can to help people from disadvantaged groups meet their full potential, but this should not include affirmative action.  Rather, we should give disadvantaged people the help and support that will enable them to get where they want to get by themselves. History shows that individuals and groups of people who we would consider disadvantaged or oppressed went on to achieve great things, not because of some affirmative action policy, but because they rose above the disadvantages and prejudices that plagued them, either by working harder than those who were not disadvantaged, or by finding ways to work around whatever disadvantage or discrimination that they were victims of.  My favorite historic example of this is my own people, the Jews.

Antisemitism is one of the oldest prejudices in human history.  Indeed, ever since the Jewish people came into existence, they have been the victims of discrimination and persecution right up until today.  Nevertheless, the Jews have not fought against the relentless hatred and discrimination that they have constantly suffered from by demanding affirmative action policies.  To the best of my knowledge, no Jews living in a part of the world in which they comprise a minority population have ever demanded that they be given jobs or other opportunities simply because they are Jews.  Instead, Jews worked harder than non-Jews had to in order to achieve what they desired, or they found innovative ways to get around the roadblocks that antisemites put in their way.  So for example, if universities put limits on how many Jews they would admit, Jewish students worked harder than their non-Jewish peers so that universities would accept them.  When hospitals in Toronto would not employ Jewish medical care providers, the Jews of the city created their own hospital, Mt. Sinai.  In fact, I would say that the ability of the Jewish people to combat discrimination through hard work and innovation is one of the reasons why they have historically been disproportionate contributors to human civilization.

But inasmuch as the Jews have a history of being victimized for thousands of years, most proponents of affirmative action would probably not consider them a disadvantaged group.  Ironic, isn't it? Actually, I think it's safe to say that many of the supporters of affirmative action are also the same people who say that Israel is an apartheid state and that Jews are responsible for the oppression and mistreatment of other disadvantaged people.



Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A Trudeau Majority: Welcome to My Nightmare...And Canada's

Yesterday, Canadians made a terrible choice.  They elected Justin Trudeau as their next Prime Minister.  Yes, I understand that many of my fellow Canadian voters were strongly motivated by their hatred of Stephen Harper and a strong desire for change, but that's no excuse for electing a man whom I warned would run the country into the ground (see: Canada Votes on Monday.  The Worst Case Scenario?  A Trudeau Majority).  Then again, maybe I'm being too hard on Canada's electorate. After all, it's not the first time the Liberal Party has fooled people into voting for them by hijacking another party's platform and presenting it as their own.  Yesterday's election was just another example of this Liberal trickery.  The Liberals simply stole the NDP's platform, forcing the latter to move closer to the center to differentiate itself from the Grits, thereby alienating much of its traditional left wing base and setting themselves up for a crushing defeat on election day.

Still, most of the people who voted in yesterday's election actually didn't fall for the Liberals' bag of tricks. In fact, the Grits managed to garner just under forty percent of the popular vote.  But of course, under our ridiculously primitive and undemocratic first-past-the-post, winner-take-all electoral system, Trudeau's Liberals managed to win enough ridings to control most of the seats in Parliament and receive 100% of the power for the next four years.  Some democracy, eh?  And for those of you who were hoping for electoral reform after this election.  Forget about it!  Now that the Liberals know they can once again get a majority under the current system, they won't even think of changing it.

So what happens now?  Well, normally once the Liberals have won an election by swinging left, they almost immediately swing back to the right.  I still remember a former leader of the federal NDP, Alexa McDonough, famously saying back in the 1990s that the Liberals campaign like New Democrats, but govern like Conservatives.  My sense, however, is that this tradition of campaigning from the left and governing from the right will not continue under Justin Trudeau.  Nope.  He and the Liberals are going to destroy Canada's finances the same way the Liberals destroyed Ontario's (see: What Would Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister Mean for Canada? Look at Ontario to Find Out).  God Help Us!  And if that isn't enough, he's going to re-open the Pandora's Box that we call multiculturalism and take it where it's never been before, to the point where Canada's values as a modern democracy will cease to exist.

Now of course, I've already mentioned much of what I think Justin Trudeau will do to this country in previous blog posts, so I don't want to repeat myself too much.  I did not, however, mention that in addition to wrecking Canada's finances and gutting Canada's values, Justin Trudeau will also make a mockery of Canada on the world stage.  Indeed, when Trudeau's victory was announced, some of the first people to celebrate were probably the terrorists of the Islamic State, since our soon-to-be prime minister promised to remove Canadian forces from the fight against them.  And do you know who else is celebrating?  Dictators, like Russia's Vladimir Putin, who is bound to look at our new prime minister and laugh.  For those of you who thought Rob Ford was embarrassing, you ain't seen nothing yet!


Friday, 16 October 2015

Canada Votes on Monday. The Worst Case Scenario? A Trudeau Majority

Just one weekend to go before Canadians cast their ballots in the federal election on Monday.  At the start of the election campaign, the opinion polls had the NDP out in front with the Conservatives in second and the Liberals trailing in third.  Fast forward to the climax of the campaign and now most of the polls put the NDP in third place, the Tories in second and the Liberals in first place.  In fact, according to some polls, the Liberals are closing in on "majority" territory.  In other words, they may win enough seats in the election to form a "majority" government.  I use quotation marks because as Canadian voters should all know, the word majority in the context of Canadian federal and provincial elections means that one party wins most of the ridings up for grabs, but almost never commands a majority of the popular vote thanks to our first-past-the-post system election system that I hate so much.  If Justin Trudeau's Liberals do manage to win enough ridings to form a majority goverment, you can pretty much kiss our great country goodbye.

I've already talked about what kind of disaster awaits Canada if Justin Trudeau becomes prime minister and destroys the country's finances the same way his best friend on the campaign trail, Premier Kathleen Wynne, has destroyed Ontario's (see: What Would Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister Mean for Canada?  Look at Ontario to Find Out).  Unfortunately, however, there's a lot more than Canada's finances that will be under threat should Trudeau and the Grits form a "majority" government.  Canadian values will also be at great risk.  Whereas the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau began the destruction of Canada and its values by imposing his ideology of multiculturalism on the country, Justin is on course to finish what his father started by taking multiculturalism farther than ever before and into extremely dangerous territory.  A woman covering her face with a niqab during a citizenship ceremony will be the least of our worries.  Before you know it, Trudeau will have polygamy legalized.  He'll argue that we can't avoid it because we're a multicultural country and we cannot discriminate against the values and practices of other cultures, no matter how barbaric and discriminatory those values and practices may be and no matter how much they contradict Canada's values as a democracy that respects fundamental human rights.  And Trudeau probably won't stop at polygamy either.  Female genital mutilation anyone?  Before you know it, Canada's days as a modern democracy will be coming to an end and people will be scrambling to get out of the country the same way so many immigrants and refugees are scrambling to get into it today.

Indeed, immigration will be one of Justin Trudeau's most potent weapons as he seeks to mold Canada in his image.  Since the days of Pierre Trudeau, no party has used immigration and immigrants themselves more cynically than the Liberal Party.  The Liberals' strategy has always been to bring in anyone who they think will vote Liberal upon becoming Canadian citizens, regardless of whether or not they share Canada's values and regardless of their ability to contribute to the country economically.  So I think we know what kind of immigration policy we're in for if Justin Trudeau becomes prime minister; the kind where potential newcomers to this country are not screened for security concerns; the kind where would-be citizens do not have to learn about Canadian values like freedom, democracy and equality, let alone promise to uphold those values; basically the kind of policy that devalues Canadian citizenship to the point where it won't matter whether someone covers their face when taking their oath of citizenship, because under Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, that oath won't mean anything anymore.

To sum it all up, Canada under Justin Trudeau and the Liberals won't be Canada anymore.  At least, not the Canada that we know.  So what will it be like?  Maybe it will be like communist China, since Trudeau has previously expressed his fondness for that country's dictatorship.  Or perhaps it will resemble Saudi Arabia, because we all know how Trudeau has no trouble tolerating and even embracing barbaric, anti-Western beliefs and practices so long as he can win votes.  Whatever Canada becomes under Justin Trudeau, it's probably not the kind of country that either I or many other Canadians would want to live in.  Hence, if Trudeau does become Prime Minister of Canada with a "majority" government, we may want to start packing our bags.

I understand that the prevailing mood in Canada now is one in which there is a strong desire for change.  But if change is what you're looking for, I strongly suggest that you park your vote somewhere other than in Justin Trudeau's lot.  Vote NDP, vote Green, vote for some fringe party that doesn't have a hope in hell of winning any seats, but don't vote for Trudeau's Grits, because you risk destroying this great country we call Canada.

Best Case Scenario: A Minority Government

My belief is that NO party, especially Trudeau's Liberals, deserves a so-called majority government unless they are able to garner a majority of the popular vote.  Furthermore, I would contend that if any party manages to win enough seats to form a "majority" government on October 19th, those of us who want to see elections where every vote counts can just forget about it. The Conservatives are dead set against any electoral reform, and while both the Liberals and the NDP have pledged changes to the way we elect our federal politicians, precedent tells us that whenever either party holds power, whether at the provincial level or both the provincial and federal level in the case of the Liberals, neither of them manage to enact changes that would result in fairer electoral representation for Canadians.  


Sunday, 11 October 2015

A Message of Hope for the Middle East

One could easily argue that prospects for peace and prosperity in the Middle East have never looked dimmer.  Indeed, the last few years have been extremely tough for the region, to say the least.  From the civil wars in Syria and Yemen to the brutality of the Islamic State, not to mention the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there just doesn't seem to be any end to the bloodshed and misery.  It's no wonder then that people both inside and outside the Middle East are pessimistic about the region's future.  I too believe that the situation in the Middle East will worsen.  Yes, I'm afraid that the region will see a lot more blood spilled and a lot more ammunition spent, but I also believe that eventually, a new Middle East will be born - a Middle East in which people prosper and live in peace and tranquility with each other.  Why do I believe this?  Because I know my history.  I know, for example, that there was a time when many if not most people in Europe never believed that the bloody conflicts that had raged throughout the continent would come to an end.

If you have at least some general knowledge of European history, you will know that conflicts between the various peoples of the continent have lasted far longer then, say, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The peoples of Great Britain and France, for instance, fought each other for a millennium. In fact, the two countries only achieved a genuine peace in the early years of the twentieth century. France and Germany too were once the bitterest of enemies.  But fast forward to the late 20th century and the two countries forged an alliance that has been a key impetus for the creation and expansion of the European Union - a union that was prophesied by Winston Churchill just after World War II. Indeed, it is remarkable that immediately after the worst conflict in European and world history, the British Prime Minister predicted that there would be what he called a "United States of Europe."  Yet less than half a century later, the European Union was formed out of nation-states that just a few decades earlier were at each others' throats.  This union now spans most of continent's nation-states, including some that just one generation ago were part of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, meant to wage war against the nation-states of western Europe.  Now of course, modern Europe has not been entirely free of violent conflict.  As many people reading this might know, the last decade of the 20th century saw the outbreak of wars in the Balkans.  Particularly brutal was the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina that saw atrocities reminiscent of those committed by the Nazis in World War II.  But what a difference less than thirty years makes, because now most of the states involved in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s are well on their way to EU membership.  Two of them, Slovenia and Croatia, are part of the bloc already.  The point I'm trying to make is that if in just a few decades, the countries of Europe were able to go from bitter enemies to strong allies in a politically and economically integrated Europe, so too can the countries and peoples of the Middle East go from hated adversaries to solid partners in a new, peaceful and prosperous region.

As I've said before, I believe that there is still much more violence and bloodshed to come in the Middle East.  Things in the region will get a lot worse before they get better, just as they did in Europe.  But in the end, the peoples of the Middle East will join together to create a region that is free of war, free of violent conflict and free of the kind of despair that has befallen the region for so many years.      


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Syria: The Staging Point for a Third World War

Today, Russian warplanes bombed targets in Syria.  The Russians say that they were targetting the Islamic State.  Unfortunately, this is just another one of Putin's lies.  Indeed, Putin's claim that he is helping fight terrorism in Syria is just as hollow as his assertion that his forces are not directly involved in the occupation of eastern Ukraine, not to mention his takeover of Crimea last year.  In the short term, Putin is simply giving more support to fellow dictator, Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. In the long term, however, he's doing something even more dangerous.  He's creating a staging point from which he and his Iranian allies can conquer the entire Middle East.

Russia's military buildup in Syria has barely started, yet it is already substantial and includes soldiers, tanks and even anti-aircraft weapons.  I know I'm not the only one asking why Russia needs anti-aircraft systems to fight the Islamic State when the latter has no air force to speak of.  It's time to face up to the facts.  The forces that Putin's Russia has deployed to Syria are not there to fight the Islamic State or any other terrorists.  They're there to defend Bashar Al-Assad's regime and safeguard the strategic Russian naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus.  Putin already lost an ally in the Middle East when Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi was deposed and he does not want to lose another one. Actually, it is very unfortunate that the Western powers did not intervene in Syria as they did in Libya, not only because doing so would probably have saved thousands of lives, but also because Assad's removal from power in Syria would have significantly curtailed Russian and Iranian influence in the region.  Russia would likely have lost its naval base in Syria and their foothold in the Mediterranean, while Iran would have lost their most important ally in the region, along with much of their ability to support Hezbollah and Hamas in their attacks on Israel.  Hence, the Western powers missed a golden opportunity to curtail Russian and Iranian influence in the region.

Syria and World War III

Over a year ago, as the world commemorated the anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, I wrote a blog post arguing that the possibility of a third world war was very likely and that such a war would pit a bloc of countries led by the West against another alliance of states led by Russia, China and Iran (see: World War I Began One Hundred Years Ago.  How Likely is Another World War?  Unfortunately, Very Likely).  So how does Syria play into this scenario?  If you read my blog, you will notice that I mention the Middle East as being one of the key fronts in the third world war, where some of the bloodiest battles will take place.  I even suggest that the war may begin with an attack on Israel.  If such an attack is indeed what starts World War III, I believe that it will be staged from Syria and will be part of a wider offensive by Russia and Iran to conquer the entire Middle East region.  

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Why Do Many Canadians Not Vote?

Many years ago, I remember driving through the Kensington Market neighbourhood of downtown Toronto and seeing some graffiti posted on a brick wall that said, "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."  If I remember correctly, the graffiti post was done by members of a socialist youth group, but I'm not certain.  Regardless of who did do it, the point is that there are people in this country that don't think voting in elections changes anything.  In fact, a lot of people think this way. But there are also a lot of people that think voting is a civic duty and that no one should ever miss the chance to vote in an election, be it municipal, provincial or federal.  Some people even think that voting should be mandatory.  So why such a difference of opinion on exercising one of our fundamental democratic rights?

Chances are that the people who tend to stay away from the polls and think voting doesn't change anything are people who feel disenfranchised; people who believe that no one standing for election cares about them.  But who are these people?  Well, in most places where people do enjoy the right to elect their leaders, the usual suspects among non-voters are the poor, marginalized ethnic or religious groups, and almost always young people under the age of 30.  So it's no surprise that in Canada, if you're young, poor, aboriginal or perhaps more than one of these things, you're less likely to cast a ballot come election time.

The people who do tend to show up at the polls are, at least in my opinion, mostly folks who do believe that the candidates up for election will represent their views and concerns - at least to an extent.  These are often the same people who will tell you that if you don't vote, you forfeit the right to complain about the issues because you failed to show up at the ballot box.

Personally, I think if you have the right to vote, you should exercise it.  I make it a point to vote in every municipal, provincial and federal election and have done so since I was in my early 20's.  This includes the most recent Ontario provincial election when I "declined" my ballot, which in effect meant that I voted none of the above.  But hey, I still showed up, which is more than I can say for almost half of the eligible voters who didn't cast a ballot in that election.  So do I agree with the argument that failing to vote means forfeiting your right to complain?  I most certainly do not, for a number of reasons.

Say, for example, that in the upcoming federal election, there is a candidate in your riding that you think deserves your vote.  So what's stopping you from going to the polls and casting a ballot for him or her?  Well, how about the fact that the candidate you want to vote for is running for a party that has no chance of winning in your riding.  After all, even if you do vote for that person, you'll be throwing your vote away because not only does he or she not get elected, but since Canada still uses the ridiculously antiquated first-past-the-post, winner-take-all electoral system, which has been abandoned by most mature democracies, your vote won't even make a difference in how seats are distributed in the House of Commons.  Think about this and you realize that voting for the person you want is a waste of time.

Heck, even if your ideal candidate is running for a party that will have seats in the next parliament, you still might be wasting your time going to the polls.  Your chosen candidate may, for instance, be a New Democrat, and I think it's safe to say that there will be NDP members in the next parliament. But before you start trotting off to the ballot box to vote for the Orange Crush, remember that you're in a riding full of staunch Conservative voters, and based on what the opinion polls are saying, the NDP has virtually no chance of winning in your riding, which means that by voting for an NDP candidate, you'll basically be throwing your vote away.  The same goes for someone who wants to vote for a Conservative candidate, but lives in downtown Toronto where the lefties rule the roost.

Now of course, there are municipal elections where candidates don't run on party tickets.  But as most of us know, municipal politicians don't even have half the power that their provincial and federal counterparts do.  Let's face it, folks, the real power is based in Canada's provincial capitols and Ottawa.  And worse still, that power isn't even in the hands of the candidates you cast ballots for.  It's in the hands of their party leaders, who don't give a damn about what their backbenchers think.  So perhaps you're full of joy when your favourite Liberal Party candidate wins in your riding, because you know that he or she is just as opposed to allowing abortions as you are.  Then you find out that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau told his caucus a long time ago that anti-abortion votes in the House of Commons won't be tolerated.  To make a long story short, the person who won the election in your riding with the help of votes from people like you can't even represent you properly because he or she is too busy towing the party line.  When you realize this, you might be asking yourself why you bothered to vote at all.

I think it's safe to say that if folks who believe that voting in elections is a duty read this, they will probably tell me that we can't take our democratic rights for granted and that we should exercise these rights in the name of all of those brave people who fought and died so that we could keep them.  To these people, my response is that we've already taken our democratic rights granted.  We've taken them for granted by allowing party discipline to get so draconian that our elected politicians represent their party leaders rather than us, and by allowing the continuation of an electoral system that perverts the will of the people, gives more representation to parties that don't deserve it, and gives little representation, if any, to people and parties that do.    


Sunday, 20 September 2015

My High Holiday Rant

Jews call the period that begins with Rosh Hashana and ends with Yom Kippur the "High Holidays", because it's supposed to be the most important period of the Jewish calendar from a religious standpoint.  It's the time when even the most secular of Jews attend synagogue.  Not me, though.  I remember dabbling in synagogue in my childhood, but now I make it a point not to set foot inside one unless it's for someone else's sake.  And personally, I don't know how people who do go can stand it.  For one thing, it's expensive, at least if you live in the Diaspora.  Here in Canada, the High Holidays is when the synagogues hit you with their membership fees, which are usually a small fortune.  I honestly don't understand why people would pay thousands of dollars when they only attend a few services during the High Holidays.  It just doesn't make sense to me.  And as if the synagogue membership fees aren't bad enough, there's also all the other inconveniences that come with attending services during this time of year - the overcrowding, the repetitive prayers, the endless getting up and sitting down, the rabbis who just want to hear themselves talk forever, and of course the boredom.

Okay, so going to synagogue during the High Holidays is a drag, but there are good things about the High Holidays too, right?  Meh, sort of.  It's a time for family togetherness, which I think is a very good thing.  But other than that, I don't really view this time of year as a time of joy.  Now just to be fair, Yom Kippur was never meant to be a joyous occasion, but rather the time we ask forgiveness from the Almighty for our sins.  Someone should explain to me, however, why Rosh Hashana has to be so somber.  Indeed, if you're Jewish and your Rosh Hashana is anything like it is for members of my extended family here in Canada, it consists simply of a family dinner and synagogue.  This is a far cry from the way most people in the world celebrate New Year's Eve on December 31st. Fireworks, parties and so forth.  It's unfortunate that the most festive thing we Jews do for our new year is dip apples in honey. Wow, big whoop.  I would personally love to see fireworks light up the sky all over Israel on Rosh Hashana.  But instead, I keep hearing stories about Israelis packing the airport to leave for the High Holidays because they want to be in a happier place.                

Sunday, 30 August 2015

What Would Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister Mean for Canada? Look at Ontario to Find Out

If you want to know what Canada with Justin Trudeau as prime minister would look like, you need look no further than my home province of Ontario, where the provincial Liberal Party has been in power since 2003.  So what does Ontario look like after over a decade of Liberal rule?  Do you really want to know the answer to that question?  Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Ontario under the Liberals has suffered from years and years of fiscal mismanagement and scandal after scandal.  As soon as they came to power, the Liberals didn't waste any time in tearing the province apart.  The first major blow came shortly after Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty was elected.  One of his first moves was to bring in a very large new tax known as the Health Premium.  According to the National Citizens Coalition, this amounted to the largest tax grab in Ontario's history - and from a party that promised not to raise taxes if it was elected.  Then came the HST and skyrocketing hydro rates.  Indeed, ever since the Liberals came to power, Ontarians just can't get a break from their seemingly endless money grabs.  The results?  Lost jobs, lost businesses and a lot of pain for the average Ontario taxpayer.

Worse still, the Liberals have squandered Ontarians' tax dollars in one fiasco after another.  If you live in Ontario and follow provincial politics, terms like eHealth, gas plants and smart meters all provoke the memories of scandals that cost the province and its taxpayers billions of dollars.  Ontario's debt has more than doubled, its debt-to-GDP ratio has risen significantly and its credit rating has been downgraded.  But what does this have to do with Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals?  A lot, unfortunately.

Trudeau is basically pitching the same kind of tax and spend policies that have run Ontario into the ground for over a decade.  He's announced plans to run budget deficits for the next four years if he becomes prime minister.  Clearly, he's not afraid of a backlash by more fiscally prudent-minded voters.  And why should he be?  After all, running big deficits and racking up debt has unfortunately not hurt the Ontario Liberals.  Heck, they went from a minority government to a majority in the last election!  The question is, will all of Canada make the same mistake that Ontario voters have made three times already?  I sincerely hope not, because just as the provincial Liberals under Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne have made Ontario a have-not province, their federal cousins under Justin Trudeau will make Canada a have-not country.      


Friday, 28 August 2015

Canada Votes 2015

Well Canada, it's that time again.  Time to stand up and make your voices heard at the ballot box.  So is anything different in this federal election than in previous ones?  On the surface, not much.  The issues are pretty much the same.  The economy, health care, and so forth.  Also the same are our choices.  As in other elections prior, our choice is primarily between the three fat cat parties, the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democratic Party, whose leaders are all equally uninspiring.  Yes, there are other players, such as the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois, not to mention a bunch of other fringe parties that most Canadians have never heard of.  But in a country that still uses the unfair and antiquated first-past-the-post, winner-take-all electoral system, none of these parties have a chance of forming the next government or even taking part in it.  Most of them will be lucky just to win seats in the next parliament.

And as if our electoral system doesn't make our elections unfair enough, the current government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has changed the rules so that this year's election might be the most unfair in Canada's recent history.  For starters, the election campaign is a record eleven weeks long.  Why does this matter?  Because the Tories have more campaign funds than the Liberals and New Democrats combined, so they are much more capable of sustaining an effective, long-term campaign than their challengers.  The Tories have also phased out the per-vote subsidy, public funds that were allocated to political parties based on the number of votes they garnered in the past election.  This subsidy helped small parties like the Greens compete in an electoral system that heavily favours large parties with deep pockets.  To make a long story short, the Conservatives have stacked the rules in their favour and made it a lot harder for the opposition parties to remove them from power, not to mention the fact that they've spent millions of our tax dollars on partisan government advertising that has essentially given them a giant head start over their challengers in winning the hearts and minds of Canadian voters.  Still, the latest polls show a tight, three-way race between the main parties with many voters undecided, hence Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair, the leaders of the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democrats respectively, all have a chance to become Canada's next Prime Minister.  So what do I have to say about these three uninspiring party leaders?  Plenty, believe me.

Stephen Harper: The Increasingly Arrogant Incumbent

I have traditionally supported our current prime minister, especially in matters related to foreign policy.  But over the last year or two, he's been trying my patience with his growing arrogance.  He's been arrogant with our tax dollars, spending millions of them on partisan ads promoting his so-called Economic Action Plan.  Some action plan, Mr. Prime Minister!  You put all of Canada's eggs in one basket, relying solely on oil to fuel the country's economic growth.  So now since the oil boom has become a bust, what's your plan for the future?  I'm still waiting for an answer, and until I hear one, I'm going to assume that your arrogance has blinded you to the needs of anyone who lives and works outside of the oil patch.

Unfortunately, the only thing Prime Minister Harper has been good at of late is bribing Canadians with their own tax dollars, promising bigger tax cuts; tax cuts that will see more money flow mostly into the pockets of wealthy Canadians instead of into programs and initiatives that will give help to those who really need it.  Universal prescription drug coverage?  Affordable childcare?  Dream on, Canada!  Prime Minister Harper needs to feed his wealthy friends.

Justin Trudeau: The Little Boy Who Won't Grow Up

I want to be honest with everyone reading this.  I hate the Liberal Party.  I have for ages.  Furthermore, I have never voted Liberal in any federal election and I don't know if I ever will, especially when the party is headed by a juvenile incompetent like Justin Trudeau.  The current Liberal leader is essentially a wannabe.  He seeks nothing more than to fill the shoes of his father, the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau.  Personally, I think that if he didn't share his father's last name, he wouldn't even be on the map as far as Canada's political scene is concerned.  Moreover, the only trait that Justin seems to have taken from his father is his arrogance.  Yes, I believe that Justin is just as arrogant as his father was, if not more so.  The big difference is that Pierre Trudeau actually had a vision for Canada, whereas his son Justin does not.  Actually, having original ideas is very uncharacteristic of the federal Liberal Party outside of the Pierre Trudeau era.  The federal Liberals have a history of stealing ideas from the New Democrats and Conservatives and winning election campaigns with them.  So in a way, Justin Trudeau is the perfect leader for the Liberals.  He is certainly not, however, a good candidate to be Prime Minister of this great country we call Canada.

Worst still, the young Trudeau knows nothing about what it takes to govern a country.  He's never held a post in any government on any level.  He can't even hack it as an ordinary Member of Parliament.  If he could, he wouldn't have held the infamous distinction of having the worst attendance record of any MP.  So inasmuch as you may be annoyed by those frequent Conservative ads saying that Justin Trudeau is "just not ready", the truth is that he isn't ready in any way, shape or form to be the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Tom Mulcair: A Liberal Pretending to be a New Democrat?

If I didn't know better, I'd swear that NDP leader Tom Mulcair was actually a Liberal.  Much to the chagrin of some NDP faithful, Mulcair is probably the most centrist of leaders in the history of the party.  In fact, he used to be a Liberal, at least at the provincial level, having served as a member of Quebec's National Assembly since the mid-90's and eventually making his way into the provincial cabinet.  He actually became a New Democrat less than ten years ago, winning a federal by-election in a Quebec riding in 2007.  Now of course, it is certainly not uncommon for politicians to switch allegiances, but the question I have to ask is, does Mulcair actually believe in the traditional left-wing principles of the NDP, or is he just disguising himself, campaigning like a New Democrat, but planning on governing like a Liberal if he wins the election?

Pick Your Poison, Canada

Well, there you have it.  We get to choose between an incumbent prime minister, who doesn't seem to care about anyone without deep pockets, an inexperienced young buck who is so bereft of ideas on how to run this country that he makes everything up on the fly, and a guy who wraps himself in NDP orange, perhaps only to cover up the Liberal red underneath.  Isn't democracy great!?  



Monday, 20 July 2015

Are Jews and Arabs Really So Different?

I think it's ironic that Jews and Arabs currently find themselves in such a divisive conflict, because the truth is that we're not that different from one another.  In fact, we share several attributes in common, starting with our origins.  For those of you who know your Bible, you're probably familiar with the story of Abraham, which is found in the Book of Genesis.  Abraham is considered a patriarchal figure by both Jews and Arabs.  Why?  Because both Arabs and Jews are descendants of Abraham's offspring.  The Arabs are the direct descendants of Ishmael, Abraham's first born son.  The Jews are the direct descendants of Jacob, whose father was Isaac, Abraham's second born son.  Hence, the Jews and Arabs are cousins.

It is probably no coincidence then, that Jews and Arabs have similar languages.  Any linguistics expert who is familiar with the languages of Africa and the Middle East will tell you that Hebrew and Arabic are both in the same family of languages - the Semitic family.  And as someone who has studied both Hebrew and Arabic, I can tell you that the two languages are very often quite similar to each other.  Many of the words are either the same or at least somewhat similar.  I can still remember how much easier it was for me to learn Arabic than it was for the others I studied it with since I already had a working knowledge of Hebrew at the time.  I also had a work colleague from Egypt who said that she took a Hebrew course and achieved a grade in the high 90s because, as she told me, the two languages are very similar and knowing one makes it a lot easier to learn the other.  Those of you who have studied languages probably know that studying a new language is a whole lot easier if you already know a language of the same linguistic family.

So Jews and Arabs clearly have commonalities in both origins and language, but our similarities don't stop there.  Jews and Arabs also share various cultural traits and values.  For example, both Jews and Arabs in general have the frequent tendency to use hand gestures to communicate.  This is a cultural trait that is common not just amongst Jews and Arabs, but amongst all Mediterranean cultures, including the Italians, Maltese and Greeks.  Jews and Arabs also share another commonality with other Mediterranean cultures in that both peoples have a very special relationship with food.  If you've ever been to a meal in a Jewish or Arab home, you'll understand what I mean.  Indeed, if you do get the opportunity to be hosted by a Jewish or Arab family, you'll quickly find out that food is big part of our common tradition of hospitality.  Now of course, being hospitable is not something distinct to Jews and Arabs, but I would say that the two peoples are more well-known for it than others.  Jews and Arabs also both have a long tradition of being very family-oriented.  I can tell you from personal experience that for many Jews and Arabs, the family is the number one priority.

The fact of the matter is that Jews and Arabs have more similarities than they do differences.  Unfortunately, it is the differences between the two peoples that the Arab-Israeli conflict has magnified.  These differences are mainly political, though there is one other important factor that has divided the children of Abraham: The fact that while the Arabs have remained in their homeland, we the Jews were largely exiled from ours for approximately two thousand years.  Why is this important?  Well, a lot can happen to a people when they are dispersed and largely absent from their original homeland for two millennia.  One thing that happen was that the Jewish people, particularly those of us who lived in the Western world, went through cultural, linguistic and even racial changes.  We were also exposed to modern, Western ideas that had largely not yet made their way to the Middle East.  Hence, by the time we Jews began returning to the Land of Israel, we and our Arab cousins didn't recognize each other anymore.  The Arabs looked at us and saw just another wave of European colonizers, while we looked at them and saw a primitive people who had no grasp of modern civilization as it was understood in the eyes of Europeans.  So what should have been a joyful family reunion instead became the beginning of a long and bitter family feud - a feud that I hope will soon come to a peaceful end. 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Building a True Peace Between Israel and its Arab Neighbours

In my last blog post, Iran Nuclear Deal is Bad, Bad, Bad!, I concluded that now is the time for Israel and the Arab world to bury the hatchet for the sake of collective security against an Islamic Republic of Iran that will surely emerge much stronger and much more dangerous after sanctions are lifted.  So how can the decades-old Israeli-Arab conflict be brought to an end?  Most people who have at least a general understanding of politics in the Middle East will probably say that the key to resolving the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours lies in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  I do agree that without an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab states is unachievable, but I also believe that even if and when such an agreement is reached, there will still not be true peace between Jews and Arabs.  What do I mean by "true peace"?  I mean a peace in which Jews and Arabs respect not just their mutual borders, but also each other.

Right now only two Arab states, Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, have peace agreements with Israel and have since established diplomatic and economic relations.  But it is a cold peace at best.  The fact of the matter is that Israel is still viewed as the enemy by the general public in both Egypt and Jordan just as it is in the other Arab states that do not recognize Israel.  Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may bring peace between the Israeli and Arab governments, but it won't immediately bring peace between the Jewish and Arab peoples.  For Jews and Arabs to be at peace with each other, both peoples will have to change how they see each other.

Promotion of Discriminatory and Racist Attitudes Must End

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably know that Jews and Arabs in the Middle East don't view each other very fondly.  In the Arab world, for example, it is quite easy to get a hold of anti-Jewish writings, such as Hitler's Mein Kampf or the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  Holocaust denial in the Arab world is also rampant.  Television and newspapers in the Arab states are full of anti-Jewish stereotypes.  Worse still, it is not uncommon for Arab media outlets to promote and encourage the killing of Israelis and Jews in general.  The amount of Jew-hatred in the Arab world is actually ironic since very few Jews now live in the Arab states where there were once hundreds of thousands of them.  The reason for this?  Repeated campaigns in various Arab countries to murder Jews, expel them and seize their property.  Indeed, the Jewish exodus from the Arab states following the creation of the State of Israel is just as worthy of attention as the plight of Palestinian refugees, if not more so.  Unfortunately, the international community doesn't see it that way.

Anti-Arab racism certainly exists in Israel, but not to the extent that Jew-hatred exists in the Arab world.  Whereas those who advocate expelling Arabs from Israel or killing them just because they are Arabs are on the margins of Israeli society, those who advocate killing Jews and Israelis and wiping Israel off the map are considered mainstream in the Arab world.  Hence, although Israel does have to make more of an effort to root out racism amongst its people, the Arab states have a far greater task in erasing Jew-hatred from the minds of their citizens.  Until now, unfortunately, the governments in the Arab states have only been fueling Jew-hatred, and this has to end if Arabs are ever to view their Jewish cousins with respect.

Historical Narratives Must be Respected

Both the Jews and the Arabs have a different view of history in regards to the creation of Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict.  For example, Jews view the creation of Israel as the fulfillment of the Zionist enterprise to restore Jewish independence for the first time in two thousand years.  The Arabs, in contrast, view the creation of the State of Israel as a tragedy, or Nakba, in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs were expelled from their homes and made into refugees.  The fact is that although ethnic cleansing was certainly not the agenda of the leaders of the new State of Israel, expulsions did take place, crimes were committed against the Palestinian Arab population and much of their property was seized.  It is also true that throughout Israeli history, different Israeli governments have sought to erase the country's Arab heritage through various means.  Many Palestinian villages were destroyed and replaced with Jewish communities.  More recently, some Israeli politicians have sought to prevent Palestinian Arab citizens in Israel from commemorating what they view as the Nakba. 

Meanwhile, the Arab world still refuses to recognize any modern Jewish connection to what they call Palestine.  Many Arabs, for instance, refuse to acknowledge that the holy Jewish temple that once housed the Ark of the Covenant once stood on the grounds where the Muslim Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque are now.  And whereas Israel has accepted the principle of compensation for Palestinian refugees, I have yet to hear even one statement from a leader in the Arab world acknowledging the crimes committed against hundreds of thousands of Jews in Arab countries who were murdered, expelled and/or deprived of their property, let alone talk of compensation for these people.

For a true peace between Arabs and Jews to exist, both peoples must acknowledge the crimes that they have committed against each other.  In fact, if and when Israel does establish relations with the Arab states, both sides should look to set up a truth and reconciliation commission similar to that of post-Apartheid South Africa, so that witnesses can come and testify as to the crimes allegedly committed against them, and the alleged perpetrators can acknowledge their wrongdoings without fear of prosecution.  There must also be fair compensation and/or restitution not just for the Palestinian refugees, but also for the Jews who were expelled from Arab countries and deprived of their land and possessions.

Both Arabs and Jews must also stop trying to negate the heritage of one another in the Holy Land.  For the Arabs, this means recognizing that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland and that the State of Israel is the embodiment of that right.  It also means acknowledging the historical legacy of Jews in the Arab states, including the future state of Palestine.  For Jews, it means making efforts to acknowledge the history of the Palestinian Arabs in parts of Israel where they are no longer present.  For example, it would be a good idea for Israel to create a memorial at the site where the village of Deir Yassin used to be in order to acknowledge the existence of the previous Palestinian Arab inhabitants and the massacre that occurred there at the hands of Zionist militia.

I believe that the Jewish and Arab peoples both have the right to their own perspectives on history, especially as it concerns the Israeli-Arab conflict.  So if, for example, the Arabs want to view the creation of the State of Israel as an event that brought misery to the Palestinian people, then they should be entitled to this opinion, just as much as Jews should be entitled to view Israel's creation as a positive event in their history.  The Arabs cannot and must not, however, use the way they see Israel's creation as pretext to delegitimize the existence of the state, for it is the embodiment of the Jewish people's inalienable right to self-determination.  They also cannot and must not deny historical fact, which includes but is not necessarily limited to denying the fact that the Holocaust did take place.  In the same respect, Jews cannot and must not deny that crimes were committed against the Palestinian Arabs during efforts to create and maintain the State of Israel.  The fact of the matter is that there can only be true peace between the children of Abraham once Jews and Arabs are prepared to respect and tolerate the way each of them perceives their history.

When True Peace Between Jew and Arab Comes, so will Collective Security

Creating an environment in which Jews and Arabs view each other with respect will allow Israel and the Arab states to form a strategic alliance against the terrorist menace that is the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Such an alliance is vital as Iran presents an existential threat to all the independent states of the Middle East region.  It is my hope that upon ending their conflict once and for all, Israel and its Arab neighbours, or at least those not under the proxy control of Iran, will unite to form this alliance - a military alliance similar to NATO.  One that obligates each of its members to defend one another from external threats, whether those threats come from Iran or anywhere else.  If the countries of the Middle East can put aside their differences and create this strategic military pact, it will be much harder for the Islamist regime in Iran to achieve the dominance of the region that it seeks.  If they fail to do so, however, the Iranians can start picking off each independent Middle Eastern state one by one, and before you know it, the flags of Iran's Islamo-fascist rulers will be flying over the capitals of Baghdad, Riyadh, Jerusalem and so forth.  So I sincerely hope that the leaders of the Middle East will choose to pursue unity over division.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Iran Nuclear Deal is Bad, Bad, Bad!

So it turns out that U.S. President Barack Obama is the 21st century's Neville Chamberlain after all, just as I said he was.  He's going to go down in history as the man who opened Pandora's Box by signing an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran that basically gives them a free pass to continue its efforts to dominate the entire Middle East.  This is an agreement that as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said does not prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, but rather paves the way for them to the bomb.  Actually, it does even worse than that.

I won't go into details about the agreement itself, but you can get a better idea of why it is an epic mistake by clicking here.  Now just to be fair, the agreement on Iran's nuclear program that was just signed in Vienna is not all Obama's doing.  He was joined by the leaders of five of the world's other most powerful countries, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.  They all must be patting themselves on the back right now, believing that they have brought "peace in our time."  Sorry, but all you appeasement-lovers brought upon the world is fear and terror.

Yes, it's true that Iran's big market will open up once sanctions are lifted so that folks around the world can start striking those billion dollar oil deals that they've been dreaming about since the talks with Iran started.  And what do you think the regime in Iran will use the billions more in revenue that it stands to gain once they are no longer curtailed by sanctions?  Will the ayatollahs use the extra money to benefit their people?  Nope.  They'll use it to buy more missiles for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip so that they can rain fire on millions of Israeli civilians.  They'll use it to strengthen their military back home to prepare for the day when they can conquer their neighbours; countries like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.  Heck, even with the sanctions still in force, they've managed to take control of much of Iraq (whatever parts are not controlled by the Islamic State and the Kurds) and most of Yemen.  Just think of what they'll be able to do once they don't have any economic sanctions stopping them.  Their latest deal with Russia to buy advanced anti-air missiles is just the beginning.  There will be more arms deals to come, I can assure you.  Unfortunately, none of these aforementioned arguments, whether they are put forth by me or even by a world leader as intelligent and experienced as Prime Minister Netanyahu, seem to matter to the leaders of the big powers, which is why they fell right into Iran's trap and signed off on the worst agreement since the one Chamberlain made with Hitler in 1938.

Believe it or not, however, there could be one good thing that comes out of this agreement, though it won't come from the agreement itself.  The Iran nuclear deal gives Israel and the Sunni Arab states a golden opportunity to make arrangements amongst themselves that will strengthen their collective security.  The reality is that Israel is not the only country in the Middle East that views this agreement with immense skepticism.  Most of the Sunni Arab states, especially those in the Persian Gulf region, like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are extremely skeptical if not fearful of what the Iran nuclear agreement will mean for them.  And I believe that their fears are well-founded, because contrary to what many may assume, Israel isn't the only country that Iran's regime wants to wipe off the map.  Indeed, Iran's ayatollahs yearn for the destruction of all the Sunni regimes in the Middle East as much as they yearn for Israel's demise.  Hence, Israel and the Sunni Arab states have a common enemy in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and you know how the old saying goes: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

What needs to happen now is that Israel and the Sunni Arab states need to make peace with each other and do it as soon as possible.  I understand that this is easier said than done since the Israeli-Arab conflict has dragged on for almost seventy years.  But it can be done and it must be done, because Iran poses a bigger threat to both Israel and the Sunni Arab states than they pose to each other.    

Monday, 13 July 2015

Capitalism Needs a Makeover

For better or for worse, capitalism has allowed us to achieve the level of civilization that we find ourselves at today, because it has allowed us to use one of the most inherent elements of human nature - greed - in order to produce better products and better ways of doing things that ultimately benefit multitudes of people - and make someone very wealthy.  Try to ask yourself if many of the products and services that you use today would exist if not for capitalism.  For example, would many of us be carrying iPhones if the folks at Apple thought they couldn't make a fortune selling them all over the world?  How about the car you drive, the soda you drink, or the food that you eat?  The fact is that these things and many others would not exist if the people who invented them didn't think they could get rich off their creations.  Unfortunately, I can't really think of any example of someone creating something so innovative that it changed the world without first asking himself or herself, "What's in it for me?"  The truth is that capitalism and the greed upon which it is based is the key driver of civilization.  It is ironic then that what is driving our civilization is also destroying it.

Indeed, it is capitalism that is causing us to destroy our environment and fight wars over increasingly scarce resources.  So what do we do about it?  Do we ditch capitalism in favour of some other alternative?  Well, for those you who know your history, you'll know that we've tried to ditch capitalism before - and failed miserably.  In the last century, a large part of the world embraced the ideology of communism because they thought it was the path to a utopian society where everyone was equal and poverty didn't exist.  But of course, the communist experiment failed because the masses had no incentive to create or innovate when they knew that whatever they produced would ultimately become the property of the state.  After all, what's the point of creating something new or making something that already exists better when you know that the communist party bosses are going to reap all the benefits anyway?

Okay, so communism was a flop.  Any other bright ideas?  Maybe we don't need an alternative to capitalism.  Maybe we just need to make capitalism better.  But how do we do that?  Well, let's start by asking ourselves, what's wrong with capitalism today?  If I ask a bunch of people this question, I think I can predict what some of the answers will be.  Someone might say to me, for example, that it's unfair that such a tiny percentage of people control the vast majority of the wealth in any given economy.  Another person might mention the fact that there are a few tycoons out there zipping around the world in private jets while billions of people don't even have enough food to eat.  And perhaps someone else will tell me that it's wrong for big company bosses to be raking in millions or even billions while their rank-and-file employees struggle to get by on what passes for a minimum wage.  But of course, all of these people would be referring to the same problem, and if they wanted to, they could just tell me what the problem is in one word: inequality.

Yes, the fact of the matter is that although capitalism's rising tide may lift all boats, it doesn't lift many of them enough and it lifts a few of them so high that they ultimately drown the poor folks in the boats below them.  Now don't get me wrong.  I'm actually a very staunch capitalist.  I firmly believe that people who work harder or smarter should get more than those who don't work as hard or are not as smart in the way they work.  However, I do not believe in the kind of capitalism that creates a world in which people must choose between feeding the kids or paying the rent, or worse, a world where one's very survival is threatened by simply not having enough food to eat.

As I've already said, we do not need to find an alternative to capitalism.  We just need to make it better, just like any good capitalist who wants to get rich makes a product that already exists better.  The capitalism that I espouse is one in which people can still get rich, but not to the extent that they can accumulate so much wealth that they inhibit the ability of democratically-elected governments to ensure that people who are not rich can at least have enough food to eat, a safe home, a good education and all the rest of the social and economic rights that everyone is supposed to be entitled to.

There are already countries in the industrialized world that have made great strides towards the kind of capitalism that I'm talking about.  But it is not enough for just some countries to move towards a more humane, socially just capitalism, because their ability to maintain it will always be curtailed by having to compete with economies that do not strive for more equality.  So for example, as long as there are countries like China and India, where workers are not paid a living wage, it will be very difficult for workers in developed countries like the U.S. and Canada to acquire a living wage when the businesses that would have to pay that wage can just pick up and move to a country where workers aren't paid what they deserve.  Hence, for a more just capitalism to permanently take hold anywhere, it must take hold everywhere.    


Thursday, 9 July 2015

Is Jewishness Possible Without Judaism?

One thing I don't understand is why so many Jews think that in order to be Jewish, you have to be Jewish from a religious perspective.  Here in Canada, there are a lot of Jews, including many members of my family, who think it is necessary to at least be members of a synagogue.  I think the reason for this is that many Jews living in Canada or elsewhere in the Diaspora believe that if they don't join a synagogue and attend services at least on the so-called High Holidays, they'll forget they're Jewish.  Personally, I think this is silly.  Moreover, I believe that it is possible to be Jewish and have little or nothing to do with Judaism.  I understand that although the Jewish people and Judaism are heavily intertwined, they are not synonymous.

In fact, Jews from ancient times right up until today have remained Jews with precarious ties to Judaism, or none at all.  In ancient Israel, for example, it was not uncommon for Israelites to worship pagan gods in addition to the God of Israel.  One interesting tidbit from Biblical times is that King Solomon, one of the most significant figures in Jewish history, both from a political and religious perspective, was not as strict about intermarriage as many Jews are today, which is why he had no problem marrying the daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh, even though the Egyptians at that time worshiped pagan gods.  Fast forward to the 19th century CE and you'll find one Jew who wanted nothing to do with Judaism or any religion for that matter: Karl Marx, the founding father of communism.  And he would not be the first Jewish person to swear off his religion while remaining aware of their Jewish identity.  Indeed, Jews have historically been very well-represented in communist movements, from the days of Karl Marx to the days of Leon Trotsky.   

I would also contend that Israel exists today because someone, namely Theodor Herzl, believed that the Jews were a people, not simply a religious denomination.  Had Herzl interpreted Jewishness as being something solely attached to Jewish religiosity, he probably would not have founded the nationalist movement that we call Zionism, and we wouldn't have a State of Israel today.  I also think that if Herzl could see the State of Israel today, he would be quite upset at the kind of power and influence that the narrow-minded religious establishment has therein.  After all, he wanted Jews to have a country that kept its rabbis in their synagogues just as much as he wanted one that kept its army in their barracks.  I believe, therefore, that if he were alive in Israel today, he would probably be one of those Israeli citizens who, like me, would like to see the Chief Rabbinate and other state-religious institutions abolished so that Israelis could do things like take a bus on Shabbat and marry whomever they please regardless of their national or religious identity.

Now I hope that while you're reading this, you don't think that I hate people who consider themselves to be observant or religious Jews.  On the contrary, I respect the right of all Jews to live as they please, regardless of how they choose to observe Judaism, or not observe it.  In fact, I especially admire the people that call themselves religious Zionists because even though they are strongly committed to their Judaism, they are just as strongly committed to the State of Israel, and they contribute significantly to the state's defense and prosperity.  What I resent is the fact that some Jews try to impose their version of Judaism onto me and anyone else who would prefer to maintain a Jewish identity that is more cultural than religious.

Why does being Jewish always have to do with synagogue and prayer?  It doesn't.  It is just as possible to be culturally Jewish as it is to be religiously Jewish.  Take our holidays, for example.  Many of them have just as many historical and cultural roots as they do religious roots.  Passover, for instance, is as much about celebrating our ancestors' freedom from bondage and freedom in general as it is about God's covenant with Moses and the divine events that led to the liberation of the Israelites.  Shavuoth, which falls not too long after Passover, actually has its roots in a harvest festival, hence its significance is not solely related to when God gave the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel.  How about Rosh Hashana?  Although it is considered one of the so-called High Holidays, there's no reason it can't be celebrated as a secular holiday, the same way as New Year's Day is celebrated in much of the rest of the world.  My point is that Jews can choose how they celebrate their Jewish heritage.  They can choose to celebrate it culturally, religiously or both.  Why should Jewishness only be measured by one's commitment to Judaism?  My answer is that it shouldn't and that we as Jews ought to broaden our perspective on what being Jewish means.


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Fat and Proud!

I'm being honest when I tell you that I don't live a very healthy lifestyle.  I'm overweight, I exercise very little and I don't eat very healthy.  But you know what?  I don't give a damn!  You know why?  Because it's my life and my choice.  And quite frankly, I'm sick and tired of people telling me how to live and trying to impose a certain lifestyle on me.

I have my reasons, of course, for why I choose to be fat.  First of all, I like to eat and I like to eat things that taste good, which means plenty of fatty foods and plenty of calories.  Why don't I eat more healthy stuff, like fruits and vegetables?  Because healthy food tastes like crap!  Experts are always debating why people don't eat healthier.  They usually point to things like not being taught to make healthy choices when we're young.  Did it ever occur to these "experts" that people, especially children, don't eat healthy because healthy food doesn't taste as good as unhealthy food?  Seriously.  When you give a 10 year old a choice between some salad and a nice, juicy cheeseburger, what do you think he or she is going to choose?  The fact of the matter is that we grow up learning to eat unhealthy, not because our parents didn't teach us any better, but because our taste buds tell us that the unhealthier food just tastes better.

Now some people will tell me that if I don't want to eat healthy, I should at least exercise.  But of course, I have my reasons for not doing that, too.  My biggest reason?  Exercise is just plain boring and tedious.  A lot of people like to brag about how often they go to the gym.  Personally, I won't set foot in a gym.  I honestly don't even know how other people can stand it.  If I want to be in a place where a bunch of people are sweating and stinking all over the place, I'll just take the subway during rush hour.  At least on the subway I usually don't have to listen to the crappy music that they often pump into the gyms these days.  I do know that you don't have to necessarily go to a gym to exercise, but I've never been too into sports or any other outdoor activities, and I'm not going to apologize for that.  I've gone through stints in the past where I exercised and even went to the gym, but I never felt good about it, so I didn't continue.  By the way, for those of you who think you feel good after a workout, you're deluding yourself.  You're just making yourself think you feel good after exercising, because that's what the hacks in the health and fitness industry want you to think.  And they're raking in tons of money making you think that way. 

I'm not against exercise itself.  It's just that there are other things I would rather be doing with my time.  And clearly, there are a lot of people who feel the same way, otherwise we wouldn't be bombarded with one study after another saying that we're too fat and don't exercise enough.  The truth is that many of us would rather play Call of Duty, surf the web, or chat with our Facebook friends simply because we find doing these things a lot more fun than exercising.  Plus, aren't our lives stressful enough that we have to add the sweat and pain of exercise to them?  Believe me, many people who've just come home after a long day at the office just want to sit on the couch and relax.  And I don't blame them one bit.

Now I hear a lot of folks, including the people who criticize my lifestyle on a regular basis, saying that I'm on the fast-track to an early death.  Yes, one would think that the people who live a healthier lifestyle will outlive the ones who don't, but this isn't necessarily the case.  It is true that a healthy diet and lots of exercise might help, and even I have my limits as to how unhealthy I'm prepared to be.  For instance, I'm not about to eat one of those donut burgers that they sell at the Exhibition.  But personally, I think that our fates are ultimately decided by our genes, which means that if your DNA is a recipe for dying young, then there may be very little you can do about it other than try your best to live life to its fullest.  I've heard of plenty of cases where people who were living a lot healthier than I do now suddenly pass away because they just drew a bad hand when it came to their genetics.  I've also heard of and even witnessed cases of people who didn't live very healthy lifestyles, yet they lived well into their 80s. 

I understand that nowadays it's very trendy to live a healthy lifestyle, which is why I see a lot of people who do so bragging about it.  Let them brag.  If they want to be fit and proud, that's fine, because I'm fat and proud!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Israel Must Abolish Its State Religious Institutions

The Israeli government has just struck down reforms put in place by the previous government that were supposed to make conversion to Judaism easier.  This isn't a surprise since cancelling the reforms was part of the coalition agreement that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made with the two Haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism (see: Government strikes down conversions reform).  What I want to know is, why should the state be involved in regulating conversions in the first place?      

The State of Israel is the embodiment of the Zionist ideal that the Jews are a people rather than simply a religious group.  Yet Israel's government seems to be more preoccupied with safeguarding Jewish religiosity, or at least a certain narrow-minded view of it, rather than Jewish nationhood.  Yes, I understand that Jews and Judaism are significantly intertwined, but they are not synonymous.  The role of the state in Israel should be to protect the Jews as a people, not a religious denomination.  The state should only intervene in Jewish religious affairs in order to ensure that adherents of Judaism continue to have access to their holy sites and can practice their Judaism in any way they please.  Therefore, I would argue for the immediate abolition of the Chief Rabbinate, the rabbinical courts and all other religious institutions or regulatory bodies controlled by the state.  The Jewish community in Israel should be able to conduct its religious affairs privately, without state interference or sponsorship, just as Jewish communities do in other democratic countries.  I would also advocate dismantling the state-sanctioned institutions of Israel's other religious groups.

Abolishing Israel's state religious institutions and regulatory bodies would of course open the door to what many non-religious Israelis have wanted for decades: freedom from religious coercion, especially in regards to matters of personal status, such as marriage and divorce, which are now the exclusive domain of state-backed religious authorities, such as the Chief Rabbinate.  I don't know about you, but I don't want some rabbi dictating to me how to be Jewish or telling me who I can and cannot marry, and I'm betting that many Israelis feel the same way.               

Friday, 3 July 2015

Want Better Transit? You'll Have to Pay for It

The people of metropolitan Vancouver have voted in a referendum on a proposal to add an extra half a percent to the provincial sales tax in order to fund transit upgrades throughout the Vancouver region.  The results are now in.  The proposal was rejected by approximately 62% of voters, so now the region's local politicians along with their provincial counterparts will have to find another way to fund mass public transit - a service that everyone wants to see improve, but not willing to pay more for.  Here's the grim reality: If people living in big cities like Vancouver or Toronto want more and better transit, they're going to have to pay for it.  How they pay for it, whether it's an increase in sales taxes, a hike in property taxes, or that two-word phrase that no one who drives a car in a big city wants to hear - road tolls - is subject to debate, but make no mistake.  If you live in a vast metropolis and you want public transit that will move you from point A to point B faster and more conveniently, you're going to have to pay up.

Now I understand that no one wants to pay more taxes, especially when they think their tax dollars won't be spent wisely.  Indeed, according to the article that appeared on the front page of The Globe and Mail today (see: Voters reject sales-tax hike to fund transit), voters in the Vancouver region may have been influenced by the bad publicity that the regional transit authority, TransLink, has received in recent years for its alleged mismanagement of taxpayers' funds.  The criticism that TransLink has faced is not too dissimilar from that faced by Metrolinx, the regional transit authority created by the Province of Ontario to plan and oversee public transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.  It's just an unfortunate fact that we don't have very much trust in our elected politicians and the bureaucrats they appoint to manage our mass transit systems the way they should be.  But of course, this is ultimately our fault because we're the ones who put the bums in office in the first place.  We're just going to have to get better at electing the right people and hope that better would-be leaders step up to help us do that.

There is always the alternative of allowing private interests build and operate mass transit systems in our big cities, which I mentioned in a past blog on transit in Toronto (see: Abolish the TTC Monopoly on Public Mass Transit in Toronto, Because Competition is "The Better Way").  But even if Canada's large cities did choose the path of competition, there would still be the need for more public funding, meaning funding from taxpayers like you and I.  After all, when have you ever heard of big private companies participating in massive public works projects without government funding?  I haven't.

So if you're tired of overcrowded buses, subways and streetcars, and you want less cars on the road so that traffic can move more smoothly, don't expect not to pay.  In fact, even if you're not tired of inefficient public transit and increasing gridlock, you and every other taxpayer are going to pay anyway, since traffic delays cost the economy billions of dollars every year, not to mention the pollution that we're all breathing in from all those cars that are on the roads because transit just doesn't work the way it should.  Gas mask, anyone?