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Today's letters: Afghanistan, propriety in politics (and elsewhere) and Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts – Ottawa Citizen

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Afghanistan’s problems need even longer-term solutions

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There are many reasons why Afghanistan is in the chaos it is today. One of the most important reasons is the logic used by the politicians in our Western democracies. Our politicians cannot acknowledge that a problem exists unless they can also describe the solution in simple “sound bite” terms. No politician is willing to admit they don’t have a solution to every problem. Thus, complex problems cannot be acknowledged.

In Afghanistan, politicians saw what they wanted to see: Afghanistan functioning as a democracy with a robust military for self-defense. So, the Afghanistan problem had been solved. No one asked the hard questions, and any evidence to the contrary was ignored or ridiculed.

What they refused to see, as they had no simple answer for it, was that Afghanistan was a house of cards. An inept and corrupt government mismanaging a highly divided country, backed by a poorly trained and under supported military. No politician wanted to admit the truth, that after 20 years and countless Billions of dollars spent they had failed.

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“Solving” Afghanistan by building a real working democracy will take many years. No one knows how to build a democracy in a country so divided by cultural, language, religious and tribal differences. There is no simple solution. To make loyalty to a central government more important than loyalty to the local tribal or religious leader is an incredibly difficult task that will take strong honest Afghan leaders, and multiple generations to solve. It won’t be fixed by any politician’s sound bites.

Keith Dawson, Nepean

Fiasco in Kabul is a blow to the West’s image

The huge blow to the United States prestige and image caused by their hurried withdrawal from Afghanistan and deadly blast at Kabul airport has incalculable consequences. It’s also a big slap in the face for all Western countries. including Canada.

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These events, tragic as they are for the Afghanis, will have wider consequences. Firstly, they will diminish significantly the U.S. and Canadian influence in geopolitical dealings with other states. Matters such as trade, human rights and even climate change will be harder to negotiate with aggressor countries such as Russia or China who do not respect the weak.

Secondly, the sworn enemies of the West, such as Al Qaeda, and Isis, will be emboldened in their minds to strike against the West again. The perception that the role of U.S. as world’s policemen has ended, has been solidified. To put it simplistically but bluntly, when cat’s away the mice will play.

Rafal Pomian, Ottawa

Alienating the Taliban could prove risky

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Re: “Britain to urge sanctions on Taliban,” Aug. 23

Human organizations are never homogeneous. United by some beliefs, members often disagree on others; the Taliban are no exception. They appear to be united by a desire to rid their country of foreign troops and to replace what they perceive as a foreign-installed puppet government. They share a religious identity. However, they appear to disagree on concepts like inclusive government, the role of women in society, and revenge on former enemies. The leaders who held a press conference, and were interviewed by a woman on TV, tried to make it clear that they were different from those who held power 20 years ago. Some of the people in the field are acting as if they disagree.

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If we want to help the Afghan people, we need to show respect for, and work with, those whose positions we find positive. Blanket condemnation of all Taliban may make our leaders look “strong and tough” but will strengthen the position of those with whom we disagree most. Countries that refuse to recognize a new government, who call for strong sanctions, and refuse to work with those in control will harm the people they claim to want to help.

Dave Parnas, Ottawa

Profanity is everywhere: what happened to propriety?

RE: “How American profanity has colonized its political discourse,” Aug. 25

Kudos to Mr. Cohen for putting my, and hopefully more people’s thoughts into words regarding profanity and vulgarity. I have been saying this for years, until friends and family cover their ears at my rant: Why do we need such foul language in all movies, and TV? It is getting more and more difficult to find something to watch that isn’t offensive.

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Impossible to watch with children and teens. Gee, I hate to mention the word censor, but was it so bad when people on TV, movies and public life had to curtail their basest comments? Has no one any manners or sense of propriety?

As for the treatment of politicians, this has also gone downhill. Maybe the individual person is a nitwit but the office he or she serves deserves respect. What to do, what to do?

Patricia O’Reilly, Ottawa

It’s a certificate or a card, not a passport

At last someone has the sense to use the correct term. Passport is what we need to leave the country and enter another, they cost quite a lot of money to obtain.

Politicians seems to want to make it difficult, every province has a health systems, all we need is a very basic version (using the KISS principle) with only the information on it about the vaccine, photo, date if birth (important for youngsters) official reason for not having the vaccine, and the type received in two shots.

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To all those who refuse to be vaccinated I would like to see a fine imposed, and if they do get sick, they have to pay all medical expenses so that they are not a further burden on the health costs of each province. Draconian I know but they are being extremely selfish because they risk infecting everyone else.

Roger Webber-Taylor, Ottawa

Mental health is a problem that deserves real solutions

Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole’s assertion that one in five Canadians suffer from mental disorders and/or operational stress is an indication that we have a real problem. Indeed, it means more than 7 million need some help. His promise to provide $50 million over each of three years amounts to $6.56 per patient per year. Real problems deserve real solutions, not tokenisms.

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Richard Andrews, Nepean

No wading pools? That’s not cool, Ottawa

With an exceptional heat wave all over Canada and the isolation that many children have endured during COVID, the City of Ottawa does not have it in their heart or budget to keep the wading pools open until school starts. Shame on you, shame on us for allowing this blatant discrimination of many underprivileged families, who have nowhere else to go in this terrible heat. I am glad I am taking three of such children with me to swim at “my place” for the day and give them a day of joy and respite and cooling off. I suggest that starting next summer, all wade pools stay open until school starts. This, in anticipation of climate change that will cause this heat for many years to come.

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Yvonne Temple, Ottawa

Sir John A would likely still sit in Britain

Two days ago, after an absence of more than two years, I found myself in the arrivals section of the Ottawa Airport. Much to my surprise I found that the famous (now infamous) bench sculpture of Sir John A Macdonald and Sir Georges-Etienne Cartier had gone. After reading Kelly Egan’s piece I realized why.

While I understand why Macdonald is now so reviled, it seems a shame that so many wonderful pieces of art and sculpture are being arbitrarily removed for the sake of political correctness. My family emigrated back in 1967 from Britain, a country not unknown for its often brutal occupation of colonial countries but I have yet to see monuments to Queen Victoria and other royals being demolished. Is it because the Brits are less sensitive to past activities of the Mother country or see it as part and parcel of history, good and bad? Perhaps it is time for Canada to also get the same kind of balance.

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Alexandra McAllister, Ottawa

We ought to remake Landsdowne

Re: “Ottawa, let’s build the new Civic Centre elsewhere,” Aug. 24

Lansdowne is a botched job, even financially, for all those involved in the partnership. This has been so ever since Larry O’Brien and our City Manager, Kent Kirkpatrick, suddenly cancelled the design competition. In favour of who? Yes: through a sole-sourced deal with a trio of big developers.

Even our present day mayor had a chance to stop this catastrophe when he was campaigning for the first time for the job. But he didn’t. And where does he get his campaign financing from? A substantial amount comes from the development industry; this is not illegal, in Ottawa anyways. But it doesn’t look good.

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Levine presents us with a completely different yet wholistic vision of both the present Lansdowne pickle, and what we could have at a site such as Hurdman. Plus he’s covered all the important other angles such as public transportation, environmental considerations, and the detailed differences between amateur sports and professional levels, on what happens in our city, on a day to day basis, in both realms.

My own sense is that there ought to be plenty of room to remake Lansdowne as the more public space it was going to be. The Y could be invited to run a lot of the activities on the city’s behalf, and the city could finally have its own proper athletic facility that includes and indoor running and cycling track amongst other elements.

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Brian Tansey, Ottawa

The legacy of Rolling Stones’ drummer Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts is a wonderful example that less can be more. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Woods were expressive and flamboyant on the stage.

Then there was Watts, providing the all important beat. His drum kit consisted of one-half, or less, the number of pieces many drummers use. His expression was always serious bordering on deadpan. His drumming style was controlled; no twirling drumsticks and no wild drum solos. I was always drawn to his playing even with everything else that was happening on the stage. He could also be feisty — he was reported to have said to Mick Jagger, “I’m not your drummer; you’re my singer”

Mr. Watts, your were more, much more!

Bill Reid, Ottawa

Another lesson, courtesy of Mr. Watts

The passing of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts marks the end of his great drumming career. His “evening job” with a blues band has seen him travel the world and bring joy to so many.

A lesson for all of is that there are few limits to what we can do, even as we age, reach our retirement age and in his case keep working for a few more decades.

Keep drumming in Heaven.

Dennis Fitzgerald, Melbourne, Australia

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Women in politics | Watch News Videos Online – Globalnews.ca

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Historically, women have been chronically under-represented in politics. Many are saying have two women in the race to become the next Manitoba PC Leader and Premier is a step in the right direction. But as Marney Blunt reports, there’s still a long way to go for equity in the political world.

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Texas politics takes over American politics – POLITICO

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A strict new abortion law kicked off a huge national backlash. Thousands of Haitian migrants seeking asylum prompted mass deportations and scrutiny on Border Patrol policy. State officials announced four new reviews of the 2020 vote.

And that was just in September — and just in Texas.

The massive, Republican-controlled state has dominated the national political spotlight this year, driving increasingly conservative policies into the heart of big debates over everything from voting to public health initiatives, critical race theory and more. These legislative moves have positioned Texas as a counterweight to Democratic-dominated Washington — and a leader charting the potential course of the Republican Party nationally.

This year, the state was one of the first to reverse mask mandates and block local Covid-19 vaccine requirements. In the summer, Democratic state lawmakers fled Texas for a month to delay GOP voting legislation, which passed shortly after they returned. Laws that allowed carrying a gun without a permit, penalized reducing police budgets in large cities and limited discussion of systemic racism in classrooms went into effect on Sept. 1.

And other times, big events in Texas took center stage: A massive winter storm exposed the state’s weak energy infrastructure in February, and Texas’ southern border has been at the front of this month’s national news.

Even for a big state, Texas has seen an outsized amount of political attention as conservatives try to break new ground, expanding on decades of GOP control and a national political environment that tilts toward Republicans. Two more key trends are also behind the attention-grabbing policy drive: The Republican governor is preparing to face primary challengers in his 2022 reelection race and potential presidential run, while conflicts are mushrooming between diverse, liberal cities and the Republican-dominated state government — mirroring the same tensions animating national politics.

“You put all those things together, and I think there’s been basically no lane markers for Republicans in this session,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, which conducts public opinion polling in the state. “They’re very confident about the 2022 election given recent precedents and… a Democrat in the White House, so there have been no natural checks.”

Former President Donald Trump’s influence still looms large in the state’s politics — as seen in his open letter to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott last week. Trump demanded the state legislature pass House Bill 16, which would allow state officials to request an electoral audit for future elections as well as for 2020.

Despite Trump’s nearly 6-point win over Biden in Texas last year, the secretary of State’s office soon announced a “full and comprehensive forensic audit” of Collin, Dallas and Tarrant counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as well as Houston’s Harris County. The release did not provide any details but said the agency expects the state legislature to fund the effort.

Former Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs, who previously called the 2020 election “smooth and secure,” resigned in May when the state Senate did not take up her nomination. The Texas secretary of State’s office is currently helmed by a former Abbott staffer on an interim basis.

In a Fox News Sunday interview, Abbott said election audits by the Texas secretary of State’s office already began “months ago.”

“There are audits of every aspect of government,” Abbott said when asked about the potential waste of taxpayer money. “Why do we audit everything in this world, but people raise their hands in concern when we audit elections, which is fundamental to our democracy?”

But the top executives in three of the four counties have called the move unnecessary: “It’s time to move on,” Republican Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley told the Texas Tribune.

After thousands of Haitian migrants fled to Del Rio this month, Abbott directed hundreds of state troopers and Texas National Guard members to create a “steel wall” with patrol vehicles to prevent more people from entering the country. The state has budgeted more than $3 billion over the next two years on border security, adding nearly $2 billion of that funding earlier this month.

“Because the Biden administration is refusing to do its duty to enforce the laws of the United States, they have left Texas in no position other than for us to step up and do what we have to do,” Abbott said of his decision to forcibly stop and imprison migrants this month.

“As much as these issues are in the national news, they’re very, very local,” said GOP state Rep. James White. The national attention after the recent border struggles, for example, could “move the discussion where we need it. … Maybe it moves [Biden] to really pick up his game.”

The past few months have also stirred up new engagement among Democrats, said Democratic state Rep. Ron Reynolds, one of the more than 50 lawmakers who walked out of the first special session in July to meet with federal lawmakers in Washington.

“All of these things play out, people really understand like, ‘Oh, this isn’t normal? You mean other states aren’t doing this?’” Reynolds said. “It helps lay people understand that this isn’t just politics, this isn’t normal.”

The scale of conservative policies has been a “game changer” for Democratic state Rep. Erin Zwiener’s constituents, she said. Legislation like Senate Bill 8, which allows virtually anyone to sue someone who had assisted with an abortion after six weeks, didn’t get as much fanfare during the regular legislative session this year because of the baseline confidence in Roe v. Wade.

Her district’s mix of suburban and rural constituents didn’t think they needed to vote on issues like those, Zwiener added. The onslaught of agenda items about gun control, voter rights and other Abbott priorities didn’t help, she said.

“It’s hard for anybody to decide what to pay attention to when there’s a new crisis every day,” the state representative said. “People just had a hard time keeping up with which thing they should be angry about that day.”

As for the governor’s seat, many in the state are still skeptical of the possibility of ousting Abbott, especially since assumed candidate Beto O’Rourke hasn’t even made an announcement yet. Reynolds said if O’Rourke maintains a centrist message, he could be in a good position to win over vulnerable moderates and independents that are increasingly disappointed in Abbott’s performance.

While some Democrats in the state are cautiously hopeful about a changing tide, Zwiener said it will take a much more concerted effort to prove Texas is more of a swing state than others assume.

“Democrats have been out-organized by Republicans, and we’re not going to start to win and win sustainably until we match them for that organizing and think beyond the next election,” Zwiener said.

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Letter: Playing politics with the virus – Cowichan Valley Citizen

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Playing politics with the virus

Have always been of the opinion that politicians worldwide chose to play politics with the COVID-19 virus instead of stopping it from spreading by closing their respective international borders. Either they learned nothing from the Spanish flu pandemic which spread worldwide via the soldiers returning from the First World War or they chose to ignore it?

It appears that these viruses have a definitive life cycle. The Spanish flu faded into oblivion after the forth wave. The P.H.O for B.C informed us that all pandemics have four waves. So if they knew how the COVID-19 virus would react, how many waves there would be etc. why did they not take steps to prevent it from arriving in Canada? Politics, is my opinion. How many elections have we had in Canada, called by political parties whose only ambition is extending their power base and time in office?

My cynicism and distrust of the motives for the handling of this virus were confirmed while reading the following.

Dame Sarah Gilbert, the lead scientist from Oxford University, and the brain behind the vaccine manufactured in India as Covishield, stated the following: “The virus cannot completely mutate because its spike protein has to interact with the ACE2 receptor on the surface of the human cell, in order to get inside it. If it changes its spike protein so much that it can’t interact with that receptor, then it’s not going to be able to get inside the cell. So, there aren’t many places for the virus to go to have something that will evade immunity but still remain infectious.”

Dr. Gilbert is reported as saying that the virus that causes COVID-19 will eventually become like the coronaviruses which circulate widely and cause the common cold.

She also stated, “What tends to happen over time is there’s just a slow drift, that’s what happens with flu viruses. You see small changes accumulating over a period of time and then we have the opportunity to react to that.”

“It has been pretty quiet since Delta emerged and it would be nice to think there won’t be any new variants of concern. If I was pushed to predict, I think there will be new variants emerging over time and I think there is still quite a lot of road to travel down with this virus,” she said.

So thanks to our political masters, we are going to have this virus around for some time. Wonder if they think the cost in financial and human terms was/is worth it?

Ian Kimm

Duncan

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