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Paul Harris is self-employed as a consultant providing businesses with the tools and expertise to reintegrate their sick or injured employees into the workplace. Canadian businesses can reach him at paul@working-solutions. He has traveled extensively in what is usually known as "the Third World" and has an abiding interest in history, social justice, morality and, well, just about everything. Paul is also a freelance writer and can be reached at paul@escritoire.ca. He lives in Canada.
by Paul Harris It seems appropriate, although disheartening, while such a high degree of doting admiration is being showered on Ronald Reagan (all out of proportion with the reality of the man), to see that Canada may finally be catching up with the heavy shift to the right that Reagan represented.

by Paul Harris

The ‘shunning’ of an individual is the act of deliberately avoiding association with him or her. The historical punishments of ostracism and exile were forms of shunning. Today, shunning in an official, formalized manner is practiced by only a few religions, although it continues to be practiced informally in every sort of human grouping or gathering.

Shunning aims to protect a group from members who have committed acts seen as harmful to the shunning organization, or who violate the group's norms.

For some religious groups, shunning might be seen as the ultimate act of rejection by disconnecting an individual from the group. Historically, the practice is sure to have been initiated for spurious reasons from time to time – but as a social agent to ensure civil behaviour, it is a powerful tool. It serves a function similar to the amputation of a right hand in Islam.

by Paul Richard Harris

With Canada’s winter election presently in a holiday season hiatus, perhaps it’s time to have a good look at what we’re going to end up with when a small number of us venture out to vote on January 23. We know the turnout will be paltry, that’s been the trend in recent years; and it’s Canada, there’s a good chance the weather will affect the vote in at least a few places across this vast and frozen land. Besides, we know already the resulting government is going to be either Gang of Thugs A, or Gang of Thugs B. It is astounding to me that anyone could find either of those alternatives to be even mildly palatable, but that’s Canada for you.

I think, however, that we might be well advised during this election hiatus to put aside the eggnog and give some thought to the future, to the election that will come after this one. It is too late now to make fundamental changes to our system of government before January 23, but we can certainly start planning for further down the road.

by Paul Harris

Everyone who is supposed to know about these things, knew that Katarina was coming. They didn’t know her name, and they didn’t know when to expect her, but they knew she was coming. They had known it for years.

Among those who are supposed to know about these things, the responsible ones had predicted with a chilling accuracy what would happen when that unnamed category four or five hurricane finally took direct aim at New Orleans. Weather experts, engineers, environmentalists, anyone who had lived through a category three hurricane in New Orleans, knew that when the big one came there would be hell to pay. Because they knew they weren’t ready, they knew with a grim certainty that the levees would not hold, that the sea or Lake Pontchartrain would rush in through those levees and the city foolishly built below sea level would learn what ‘below sea level’ really means.

by Paul Harris Over the past couple of weeks, especially as movement in the long-held positions of Syria’s troops in Lebanon has unfolded, mainstream media pundits have once again toadied up to the trough. It isn’t clear if they simply have nothing of value to say, or if they are continuing with a long-entrenched pattern of deliberate obfuscation. Articles and news commentaries have started to fill the screens and papers of the world with mea culpas, as well as with fawning adoration suggesting that President George Bush might have been right to invade Iraq. Not because an increasing number of dead Iraqis and American troops is a good thing; but because it seems the Middle East might be starting a move toward democracy. Even Peter Mansbridge himself, the guru of national news in Canada, has written in the March 14 edition of Maclean’s Magazine that there is reason to believe that freedom may be on the march across the Middle East and that Bush’s foreign policy might be behind it. But he draws some hasty conclusions on slim evidence.
The Myth of Democracy
by Paul Harris

This article was prompted by an email exchange I had with a reader who had written to me about an article I published some while back (it doesn’t matter which one, this reader doesn’t like anything I write). After a few messages between us, the reader finally concluded by saying that I promote anti-Americanism, that I am probably on the payroll of some group in Teheran or Beirut, and that I actively discourage democracy. I confess to being opposed to most internal policies of the United States (which might be none of my business) as well as most external policies (which are). Alas, I am not on anyone’s payroll; but it was his final accusation that caught my attention. How exactly do I discourage democracy? I am fervently hoping that people will once again participate in democracy and I hope my writing reveals that I am actively trying to engage them to do so.

We’ve all heard variations on the statement, usually ascribed to Winston Churchill, that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others; but somebody define democracy for me. The Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1992 pocket edition) says it is: “1. government by the whole population, usually through elected representatives; 2. classless and tolerant society”. Does everyone agree that’s what makes a democracy and does anybody know where I can find one of those?

In a report released August 2, 2005, Greenpeace has alerted the world, and thereby God, to the fact that Monsanto is about to challenge God’s patent rights to his creations … again. This time, it’s the pig.

Canadian readers might remember the plight of Percy Shmeiser, a Western farmer who lost a Supreme Court battle against Monsanto in 2004 over their genetically modified canola seed. People the world over have sat up and taken notice.

Shmeiser’s troubles began in 1997. He was routinely spraying herbicide along a ditch and discovered that some of his canola plants appeared to have become herbicide resistant. It turned out that his canola had been contaminated by pollen from Monsanto’s patented herbicide-resistant canola that was being grown in a nearby field. Shmeiser wasn’t impressed to find his canola tainted but he continued with his normal crop cycle, which includes harvesting and replanting some of the seed from his field. He also sold some of the seed he gathered.

In 1998, Monsanto sued him for patent infringement. They alleged that he had acquired and planted their patented seeds without obtaining a license from them, and that he then sold his harvested seed and further infringed their patent. Ultimately, Monsanto had to take Shmeiser all the way to the Supreme Court where, in a stunning 5-4 decision, Monsanto earned the right, for themselves and all other corporations, to patent life.

by Paul Harris Carrying on its fine tradition of open dialogue and freedom of speech, Concordia University has demonstrated again that it is operated by cowards: another former Israeli prime minister is coming, and he won’t get to speak in those hallowed halls.
by Paul Harris Back when I lived on Canada’s frozen prairies, I had a friend who was pretty convinced there were only two secrets to avoiding hangovers: the first was to stay awake until the effects of the alcohol wore off; the other, was simply to stay drunk. The latter of these basic principles is the one followed by the United States when it comes to war and international relations. Rather than having to deal with the effects of large numbers of troops coming home and putting a drain on domestic jobs or slowing the economy with reductions in the manufacture and sale of weaponry, the US has decided to stay at war. For a long time.
by Paul Harris Azarias Ruberwa is, or was, one of four Vice Presidents of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Leader of one of the largest rebel groups to fight against the government in DRC’s civil war (1997-2002), RCD-Goma, Ruberwa joined the coalition government that arose from the multi-party negotiations which ended the civil war. The current government is considered to be ‘transitional’ and its goal is to rebuild DRC infrastructure while guiding the nation through to democratic elections in 2005.

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