Wednesday, October 7, 2009


It would be too easy for those of us with 12 cents in our pockets to gloat at the demise of the Asper empire known as Canwest Global.

In truth, the whole affair is sad.

Watching the sons destroy the good and clever work of the father is hardly a new story, even here in Canada, where Eatons, Woodwards and Seagrams, among others, leap quickly to mind.

Arrogance and vanity are often at the core of these tales, and I think it is fair to say that these qualities have been noticeable here.

But in the end, it is sad to witness the death of a kind of family - the family enterprise. It is a type of living organism that, when it fails, is like a family brought to its premature end by divorce.

It is also sad to see the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of employees who have suffered and will suffer with loss of jobs and incomes.

I was one of 550 people "terminated" in late October 2008 because of the Asper financial woes. At the time I was being paid $200 to write a Province newspaper column every few weeks. Boo hoo.

Sadder still is what impact all of this may have on the city of Winnipeg.

The Aspers are at the corner of almost every activity in civic life. Their flagship building anchors the redevelopment of Portage and Main. They own sports teams, ball parks and community centres and they have been the lead backers of the rich cultural life that still thrives in a city with major social and economic problems.

May the bleeding not continue too long into the night and may the people involved not suffer wounds too deep.


Thanks to Janine Benedet, a UBC Law professor, for writing an excellent piece in this morning's Globe decrying the calls for legalizing prostitution.

Here's her opening paragraph:

"Supporters of the prostitution industry want us to believe that women would be safe if men's purchase of women for sex is legalized. In the name of women's security, they are arguing in an Ontario court this week that male johns and pimps have a constitutional right to buy and sell women. They are claiming that prostitution is women's work and that legalizing it would advance women's liberty. Opposition is dismissed as based on “moral panic.” A closer look at the violent reality of prostitution exposes the utter fallacy of these claims."

Her argument is simple and straight forward and right:

Legalization wouldn't make prostitutes safe

The violence in prostitution comes not from the law, but from male pimps and buyers

Read the entire column here.


Mazel tov to Willard Boyle, the Canadian scientist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for inventing the technology that led to the digital camera.

This technology is not only a great amusement for millions of families and shutterbugs all over the world. It also is now central in astronomy and microsurgery.

Boyd's story is Canada in microcosm.

A Nova Scotian, he did his great research work at Bell labs in New Jersey.

His triumph underscores our continuing lack of commitment in real dollars to science and research.

We continue to be a B Movie.


Christopher Shaw is a vocal and up-front highly visible critic of the 2010 Olympics.

The RCMP are now questioning his friends and relatives. The police show up at people's homes and places of work and school.

News flash:

Terrorists are very quiet.

They sneak about in the dead of night and under many innocent guises.

They don't advertise their opinions in front of the Art Gallery.

I don't know Mr. Shaw. Maybe he has a lab in his basement. Maybe, like me and many of you, he questions the enormous expense of these games in the light of more pressing issues on which public funds might be spent.

Thus he is acting as a responsible, thinking citizen.

For this, his friends and family should be harassed?

This Olympics has become an increasing tire iron in the spokes of democracy.

It is becoming an embarrassment.


A network of half-way houses in B.C. has declared that the member houses will stop taking parolees who are part of criminal gangs.

This action has arisen in light of two recent assassinations of gang members practically on the steps of these houses.


I ran a "half-way house" (It was way much more than that.) for 10 years that is still running successfully and it would never have occurred to us to take into our family of men, women and children some psychopathic gang member.

Halfway houses have themselves in an understandable stranglehold. They are funded by various levels and departments of governments, and the piper calls the tune.

Nevertheless, they have always had the power and they still have the power to state clearly their goals and limitations.

Meanwhile the real onus here rests with Corrections Canada who should be smarter and simply not ask little non-profits in local neighbourhoods to do their dirty work for them.

Criminal gang member psychopaths who live and die by their own movie land code are not the same as some goof who got into trouble, did his time and now needs a place to stay while he transitions from the joint to the street.

Next time you're looking for blame about the shoot-out in your 'hood, folks, look first at the perps and then at the officials, who almost always get it wrong.


For those of you regularly puzzled, as I have been, by President Jimmy Carter's public positions on Israel, this article by lawyer and author Alan Dershowitz might shed a little light.

Begin forwarded message:
Subject: Ex-President For Sale, by Alan M. Dershowitz

Jimmy Carter is making more money selling integrity than peanuts. I have known Jimmy Carter for more than 30 years. I first met him in the spring of 1976 when, as a relatively unknown candidate for president, he sent me a hand written letter asking for my help in his campaign on issues of crime and justice.

I had just published an article in The New York Times Magazine on sentencing reform, and he expressed interest in my ideas and asked me to come up with additional ones for his campaign.

Shortly thereafter, my former student Stuart Eisenstadt, brought Carter to Harvard to meet with some faculty members, me among them. I immediately liked Jimmy Carter and saw him as a man of integrity and principle. I signed on to his campaign and worked very hard for his election.

When Newsweek magazine asked his campaign for the names of people on whom Carter relied for advice, my name was among those given out. I continued to work for Carter over the years, most recently I met him in Jerusalem a year ago, and we briefly discussed the Mid-East.

Though I disagreed with some of his points, I continued to believe that the was making them out of a deep commitment to principle and to human rights.

Recent disclosures of Carter's extensive financial connections to Arab oil money, particularly from Saudi Arabia, had deeply shaken my belief in his integrity. When I was first told that he received a monetary reward in the name of Shiekh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, and kept the money, even after Harvard returned money from the same source because of its anti-Semitic history, I simply did not believe it. How could a man of such apparent integrity enrich himself with dirty money from so dirty a source?

And let there be no mistake about how dirty the Zayed Foundation is. I know because I was involved, in a small way, in helping to persuade Harvard University to return more than $2 million that the financially strapped Divinity School received from this source.

Initially I was reluctant to put pressure on Harvard to turn back money for the Divinity School, but then a student at the Divinity School Rachael Lea Fish -- showed me the facts.

They were staggering. I was amazed that in the 21st century there were still foundations that espoused these views. The Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-up - a think-tank funded by the Shiekh and run by his son hosted speakers who called Jews "the enemies of all nations," attributed the assassination of John Kennedy to Israel and the Mossad and the 9/11 attacks to the United States' own military, and stated that the Holocaust was a "fable." (They also hosted a speech by Jimmy Carter.) To its credit, Harvard turned the money back. To his discredit, Carter did not.

Jimmy Carter was, of course, aware of Harvard's decision, since it was highly publicized. Yet he kept the money. Indeed, this is what he said in accepting the funds: "This award has special significance for me because it is named for my personal friend, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan." Carter's personal friend, it turns out, was an unredeemable anti-Semite and all-around bigot.

In reading Carter's statements, I was reminded of the bad old Harvard of the 1930s, which continued to honor Nazi academics after the anti-Semitic policies of Hitler's government became clear. Harvard of the 1930s was complicit in evil. I sadly concluded that Jimmy Carter of the 21st century has become complicit in evil. The extent of Carter's financial support from, and even dependence on, dirty money is still not fully known.

What we do know is deeply troubling. Carter and his Center have accepted millions of dollars from suspect sources, beginning with the bail-out of the Carter family peanut business in the late 1970s by BCCI, a now-defunct and virulently anti-Israeli bank indirectly controlled by the Saudi Royal family, and among whose principal investors is Carter's friend, Sheikh Zayed. Agha Hasan Abedi, the founder of the bank, gave Carter "$500,000 to help the former president establish his center...[and] more than $10 million to Mr. Carter's different projects."

Carter gladly accepted the money, though Abedi had called his bank-ostensibly the source of his funding- "the best way to fight the evil influence of the Zionists."

BCC isn't the only source: Saudi King Fahd contributed millions to the Carter Center- "in 1993 alone...$7.6 million" as have other members of the Saudi Royal Family. Carter also received a million dollar pledge from the Saudi-based bin Laden family, as well as a personal $500,000 environmental award named for Sheikh Zayed, and paid for by the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates.

It's worth noting that, despite the influx of Saudi money funding the Carter Center, and despite the Saudi Arabian government's myriad human rights abuses, the Carter Center's Human Rights program has no activity whatever in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have apparently bought his silence for a steep price.

The bought quality of the Center's activities becomes even more clear, however, when reviewing the Center's human rights activities in other countries: essentially no human rights activities in China or in North Korea, or in Iran, Iraq,the Sudan, or Syria, but activity regarding Israel and its alleged abuses, according to the Center's website.

The Carter Center's mission statement claims that "The Center is nonpartisan and acts as a neutral party in disputeresolution activities." How can that be, given that its coffers are full of Arab money, and that its focus is away from significant Arab abuses and on Israel's far less serious ones?

No reasonable person can dispute therefore that Jimmy Carter has been and remains dependent on Arab Saudi Arabia .

Does this mean that Carter has necessarily been influenced in his thinking about the Middle East by receipt of such enormous amounts of money? Ask Carter. The entire premise of his criticism of Jewish influence on American foreign policy is that money talks.

It is Carter-not me-who has made the point that if politicians receive money from Jewish sources, then they are not free to decide issues regarding the Middle East for themselves. It is Carter, not me, who has argued that distinguished reporters cannot honestly report on the Middle East because they are being paid by Jewish money. So, by Carter's own standards, it would be almost economically "suicidal" for Carter "to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine."

By Carter's own standards, therefore, his views on the Middle East must be discounted. It is certainly possible that he now believes them. Money, particularly large amounts of money, has a way of persuading people to a particular position.

It would not surprise me if Carter, having received so much Arab money, is now honestly committed to their cause. But his failure to disclose the extent of his financial dependence on Arab money, and the absence of any self reflection on whether the receipt of this money has unduly influenced his views, is a form of deception bordering on corruption.

I have met cigarette lobbyists, who are supported by the cigarette industry, and who have come to believe honestly that cigarettes are merely a safe form of adult recreation, that cigarettes are not addicting and that the cigarette industry is really trying to persuade children not to smoke. These people are fooling themselves (or fooling us into believing that they are fooling themselves) just as Jimmy Carter is fooling himself (or persuading us to believe that he is fooling himself).

If money determines political and public views -as Carter insists "Jewish money" does -then Carter's views on the Middle East must be deemed to have been influenced by the vast sums of Arab money he has received. If he who pays the piper calls the tune, then Carter's off-key tunes have been called by his Saudi Arabian paymasters. It pains me to say this, but I now believe that there is no person in American public life today who has a lower ratio of real [integrity] to apparent integrity than Jimmy Carter.

The public perception of his integrity is extraordinarily high. His real integrity, it now turns out, is extraordinarily low. He is no better than so many former American politicians who, after leaving public life, sell themselves to the highest bidder and become lobbyists for despicable causes.

That is now Jimmy Carter's sad legacy.

Author Biography: Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter professor of law at Harvard Law School and author of The Case for Israel.