This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Monday, May 31, 2010

In Defence of Peace

There, that should make a whole lot of people ecstatic. Yet another unwholesome smear to blacken the reputation of a country whose international regard already teeters beyond acceptable. Is this Democratic Republic of Congo, ordering UN peace-keeping troops out of the country to enable the mass rapes and killings to continue unabated? North Korea being roundly condemned by the global community for a cowardly act of war that it denies despite undeniable proof? Sudan, still refusing to view Darfurians worthy of life, limb and property?

Ah, that's it: Iran has finally been rejected for its incendiary pledge to destroy another country, for its obvious and determined intention to obtain nuclear weapons, unsettling the world community with its lunatic agenda. No? Well then, a total rejection by the civilized world of Hamas and Hezbollah, creatures of Iran and Syria whose threat to annihilate Israel and its people will no longer be countenanced? None of the above? What on Earth, then? Ah, China, for its carelessness about its vast ignored rural under-privileged.

Burma? Rwanda? Zimbabwe? South Africa? No, no and no. Well, what is all the fuss about then? Israel. Again? Don't those people know better than to belligerently insist they have a right to exist? Don't they realize that the world is not fond of Jews who push back? Cannot they get it through their thick Jewish skulls that a cowering, submissive Jew is one who just might elicit sympathy in some corners of the world?

Strange, most peculiar to say the least, how revenant the Jews are. Hit them and they pop back up. Gas them in immense numbers, organize a methodology so diabolical that the inventors of brave new devices to rid the world of an unbridled pestilence have good reason to believe that they have finally found the template to mass extermination. Finally, the world finds its conscience, and views Jews as human beings. But this is a temporary lapse and sanity is soon restored.

So that the world is finally ready once again to embrace the most mendaciously evil manipulations of public opinion to revel again in the mass understanding that Jews must somehow be stopped before they reach their goal of controlling the entire world. Expunge them from the Middle East where this ancient people has once again settled among a larger population worshipping another higher order entirely, and the presence of Jews presents as an unbridled affront.

For their intellectual mastery in science and technology, in medicine and culture is a mere facade behind which stands menacingly, glowering, a monster of false superiority. A monster which threatens the security and well-being of the very populations that threaten its own security. No problem; with a built-in psychological aversion to Jews, the anti-Semites of the world unite and public opinion is readily assembled in denunciation.

A country embattled at its borders, and within its borders, for democratically welcoming residents non-Jews as citizens and as members of its ruling elected governing body, is construed as and considered to be racist because it demands recognition as a Jewish presence. Thus alienating the entire world, all of whom are assembled themselves in countries that present as homogeneously Chinese, Arab, Japanese, Serbian, Russian, French, Belgian, Spanish, African, Icelandic - and so on ad infinitum.

Take a country like Ireland and like Turkey for example, inhabited by the Irish and by the Turkish, who look with disfavour upon a country whose majority citizens are those devilish Jews; unheard of and more than slightly unacceptable. Point out, time and time again, that the Jews are racist and intent on exterminating other peoples whom they see as adversaries. Form violent groups dedicated to terrorizing those recalcitrant Jews.

Because those Jews have learned their lesson well, they will no longer go quietly into that dark night; they insist on light and openness and self-defence. Intolerable. Well then, provoke the beast. In broad daylight, assemble a seething mass of Jew-haters and bait the Jews. Provoke them into acting in ways that will help form opinions critical of those vile people. Be a 'peace activist', and bring life-saving goods to a blockaded people whose rulers seethe with hatred for Jews.

Everyone, all over the world, respects that word, 'peace', and by extension those who hold aloft a dove, while behind their backs hangs a Kalashnikov. Arrange a life-saving, blockade-crushing seagoing aid convoy, loaded with goods for an oppressed people whose overseers strike terror into the hearts of civilians whose culture is other than theirs. Cultivate an aura of selflessness. Invite international dupes as enablers.

Mount a violent attack, then claim to have been violated, your trust as a peace activist taken in vain, the Jews, those Israelis - or is it the Israelis, those Jews - have proven yet again their black hearts and utter lack of conscience in attacking the innocent, the vulnerable, the helpless.

The applause is deafening.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Culture Of Peace

That would, of course, describe the Islamic Republic of Iran, a country that devotes itself to internal peaceful relations among its citizens and its religious elites, and among its neighbours and within the world at large. Iran does this by arresting, imprisoning, torturing, raping and murdering its political dissenters. It expands this complimentary action toward gays, members of other religions, and those whose actions irritate the ruling theocracy.

As a peace-loving nation it frees up scarce funding for needed interior infrastructure and reform to arm and fund extra-territorial militias subordinate to their instructions and anxious to help Iran spread good cheer and companionship and love of humankind through the region. Syria is a willing abettor of Hezbollah and Hamas, through its political impositions upon Lebanon which it once again plans to absorb; all satellites of Iran's ambitions.

Peace-loving Iran assures its Arab Muslim neighbours that their best interests are at the heart of everything Iran plans for their futures, with its own commanding presence ensuring their security. The big stick it shakes is the certainty of nuclear arms, bright on the peaceful horizon. A situation that alarms the world of the West with whom Iran is not particularly comfortable, considering the repugnance of their religious liberalism and other failings.

Suddenly, Israel's quiet nuclear arsenal becomes the cudgel that strikes a chord with its neighbours for though despising Iran, Egypt seems to feel that if Israel surrenders its nuclear deterrence capability, Iran will no longer be interested in building its own. Which, in any event, according to Brazil and Turkey and Spain does not exist other than a feverish figment of U.S.-Israel imagination.

To relieve the tension a stratagem was devised between Iran, Brazil and Turkey that took the United Nations and everyone else threatening sanctions against Iran rather off guard. An issue that was discussed at the UN Alliance of Civilizations Forum in Rio de Janeiro. As host, Brazil's president opened the forum themed "peace through the interconnection of cultures", by speaking of the avoidance of violence.

Iran's intentions are clearly peaceful in nature; whereas those of the United States threaten a state of violence. "The theses on a suspected fracture of civilizations in the world, that would lead inexorably to conflict. These theories are criminal when used as a pretext for military actions so-called preventive", stated Lula. To which one can only respond, WHAT?! But Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan clearly knows what's up, since he emphatically agrees.

According to Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdogan, formerly friend of the West and of Israel, Iran is beyond reproach and the West is hypocritical in its behaviour and demands of Iran. "When we hear those who speak of preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, we realize that they themselves possess nuclear weapons", waxed Erdogan indignantly.

And foreign affairs ministers from Brazil, Spain and Turkey defended the 'diplomatic resolution' to the Iran nuclear position.

Spain's foreign minister, Morantinos was clear on the subject: "I think diplomacy is the only way to solve this important issue ... we're trying to build a new global order,and for that we cannot create a nuclear disorder", said he. Spain too, it appears, exists on Cloud Cuckooland.
Brazil's minister claims a "culture of peace", contrasted with a "culture of conflict".

"Brazil believes in an understanding that makes the guns silent ... the world needs a peaceful Middle East, and obviously Brazil is not out of this need. We defend a country free of nuclear weapons. We believe that nuclear power should be an instrument for promoting development, not a threat", Lula enthused. Shades of Hugo Chavez and Dear Leader Kim Jung-il.

Therefore, a resolution by the Non-Proliferation Treaty's nations, supported in the end by the United States. A resolution that mentions Israel solely, with no mention of Iran, calling on the State of Israel to surrender its nuclear arsenal in the interests of a world free of nuclear weapons. From Toronto, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting, a statement was issued.

"This resolution is deeply flawed and hypocritical. It ignores the realities of the Middle East and the real threats facing the region." Yes, doesn't it? But that will not deter the advance of a regional conference in 2012 to forward the goal of a nuclear-free Middle East. That two-hear hiatus should give Iran more than ample time to get its nuclear ducks all lined in a row and ready to blast.

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Lead The Way

Mexican President Felipe Calderon's visit to Canada left a bit of a sour taste in its aftermath. A bit of a surprise too, that President Calderon would take the opportunity of the visit to criticize Canada's environmental record, in not at this time pursuing an agenda of leaping four-square into the green movement to the extent that Mexico and many other countries of the world would like to see wealthy countries undertake.

Of course, it was pointed out to him in a fairly diplomatic manner that Canada is constrained to a degree to what it can commit to, until and unless it sees how the United States will meet its own challenges on the environment. Given the inter-relatedness of the two countries in every conceivable criteria from manufacturing and shared lakes management to emissions standards and environmental protection across borders.

It did rankle, no doubt about it, that the president of another country on a diplomatic visit would raise the topic, even as it was introduced initially in a conciliatory manner, with an emphasis on the perception that Canada has drawn back from its leadership role in environmental protection. Canada truly does not need Mexico to remind it that this is a matter that confronts and confounds us all.

Greenhouse gas levels are a global problem, but not quite entirely "scientifically corroborated" with respect to causation. President Calderon's allusive comments were difficult to overlook. And he was out of his depth; had he wished to speak of the matter with Prime Minister Harper in a closed session, that would be acceptable; speaking of his concerns in a public forum as he did however, was decidedly not acceptable.

Of course he is a desperate man, heading a desperate country, facing a dreadful drought: "We cannot wait for the developed countries to make a decision. Some of them, like the U.S., could take another eternity. We will act because we know the quality of life and the future is at risk - I mean the future of a great part of humanity." Noble words, those. And how will Mexico act, one wonders...?

Mexico is in dire straits, people are dying in the streets because their government cannot enforce law and order. Powerful drug cartels are as much the law in some parts of Mexico as is the government. Murder and mayhem appear to be the order of the day, every day, and people in Mexico are aware that their quality of life has plummeted. There is that outstanding concern. How will President Calderon address it?

Municipal water systems in the country are in dire disrepair. Mexico City is depleting its supply aquifer, and the city's watermain infrastructure is in need of upgrading. Mexicans can no longer rely on the potability of the water provided them, and they are sick of boiling tap water to ensure its safety. School children must buy bottled water from kiosks. Street vendors sell litre bottles of water, and in restaurants diners must purchase bottled water.

Mexicans consume more bottled water than any other country.

Empty plastic water containers litter the environment. A mere one-eighth of the 21.3 million plastic water and soft drink bottles emptied every day in Mexico are recycled. The country's former president, Vicente Fox, as a Coca-Cola executive, thinks the soaring sales of soft drink and bottled water represents a brilliant economic-growth phenomenon. Mexico's bottled water market represents 13% of the world's total.

The little official recycling of those plastic bottles that is available is actually done in China, where Chinese plants grind the bottles into fibres to be used in carpeting and other products imported back into Mexico for consumer consumption. Does this sound like a country committed to environmental protection, and the safety and well-being of its citizens?

Critic: heal thyself.

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Pretty Pathetic Professionalism

That's quite the statement of resourceful engagement and dependable authority that the almost three-thousand-strong Canadian military troops in Afghanistan have to support their presence in a perpetual war zone. A commanding officer whose clumsy handling of an automatic firearm resulted in two discharges in a vulnerable area on a military landing strip, in the presence of his superior officer.

A commanding officer who agreed that the incident warranted a court martial, and when found guilty of less than professional care in his handling of said firearm was fined $3,500 as a course lesson in equality within the military; if it is good enough for Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard to discipline any of the men under his command for sloppy handling of firearms, and fine them appropriately, the same could be said for him, it naturally follows.

In the Canadian military some behaviours are simply not countenanced from the country's professional soldiers. Among them, when in an active theatre of war, sexual engagement is forbidden. Not only among members of the military who are unattached, but also when a husband and wife are serving together, intimacies are suspended; their attention must at all times be to the matter at hand, their dedicated comportment as military personnel.

This is a well understood and followed tradition, to ensure that eyes are on the ball, to ensure that commanding officers do not take advantage of their position with respect to subordinates, to ensure that everyone knows the score, and it pertains to everyone, without exception. And, in all likelihood, just about everyone, without exception, was shocked to learn that their commanding officer was removed from active duty in Kandahar Province.

Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard, a married man with a family, one of the military's rising young stars, having attained an elite executive position at age 41, failed signally in his commitment as commanding officer by having an affair with a female soldier under his command. His judgement has been called into question. And if the sound judgement and moral accountability of the commanding officer is not in place, then he should not be in that place.

He is being replaced, by the former commanding officer for Task Force Kandahar, who will be arriving on the base within the week. Given the fact that Canadian troops will be facing a large-scale combined NATO assault within a few weeks, the changeover in command at this critical juncture is no slight matter.

It represents, however, a principled decision that Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard, was forced to make in his role as commander of all Canadian overseas troops, following information divulged that Brig.-Gen. Menard has been engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer.

Pity, that.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Tragic Waste

But then whenever human beings conspire to incite violence on one another it is a monumental tragedy. In the case of huge numbers of people comprising a distinct ethnic, religious and social group within a specific geography, there is always a search for a place of their own, where they will feel themselves free from the tyranny of others who do not recognize them as equally entitled, and who prey on them as lesser peoples.

The Turks and the Greeks are forever at war with one another and Cypress is a good example of how unresponsive people can be to the need to respect one another equally. The Kurds live in areas controlled by Iraq, Iran and Turkey, with no homeland of their own, because of borders established by successfully powerful interests that excluded them from claiming a geographic homeland.

We see the same thing playing out in the Middle East where ancient Judea was historically demolished and its people sent into mass migration, while neighbouring tribes claimed the geography as their own. And where to the present day Arab countries remain adamant that they will not accept the presence of a renascent Jewish presence in the Middle East within a state of their own.

And there are the Tamils, who live in Sri Lanka and in India, who languish as second-class citizens, scorned by the majority Sri Lankan Muslim population as an inferior and dis-entitled group subservient to the majority. Rebellions break out everywhere in those areas of the world where tribal groups have been separated with the often-arbitrary selections of borders separating countries, leaving groups separated and adrift.

This is a common enough occurrence in Africa, where various African tribes battle one another for supremacy in a shared geography. The world witnessed the slaughter in Rwanda when the Hutu targeted the Tutsi population in a terrorizing initiative to slaughter an indigenous population. We see the same problem repeated in Democratic Republic of Congo with aggrieved brutalization of people reflecting the same tribal offences.

Canada has seen its share, at a remove, of its own citizens being involved in territorial disputes and racial-directed abuses. Canadian citizens suffered a terrorist atrocity in the bombing of Air India flight 182, killing hundreds of Indo-Canadians as a result of the political conflict between Indo-Canadian Sikhs and Hindus in the dispute for a region to be called Kalistan, a homeland for Sikhs, carved out of greater India.

Canada is also host to one of the greatest diaspora-numbers of Tamil Sri Lankans, among whom, like the Sikhs, support was given to a group whom much of the world - because of their extreme violence, exacted both against the Sri Lankan majority and the Tamils themselves - held them to be terrorists. Despite which, because of the despicable treatment of Sri Lankan Tamils by the government of Sri Lanka, many Tamils abroad supported and helped finance the Tamil Tigers.

Reading about Canadian-Sri Lankan-Tamil Surish Sriskandarajah, as an active supporter in helping to finance and arm and smuggle arms and finances to the Tamil Tigers one condemns the man. But the devil is always in the details, such as his having witnessed at first-hand the wretched living conditions of Tamils living in Sri Lanka, the withholding of necessities of life for them, and the dire conditions that led to violent confrontations.

One cannot but have some measure of compassion for this young man, a brilliant student and entrepreneur, a compassionate humanitarian who, because of his passion for justice, lost his way and now, though he has been a Canadian for much of his life, must face deportation to the country of his birth, which continues to persecute his people.

It is all a supremely tragic waste.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

The Suicide Plague

Stories abound about the high suicide rate in China. Yet there are many other countries of the world with much higher rates of suicide. Understandably, given the fact that the immense country has reversed its heritage and traditions, a fundamental transition from rural to urban life has taken place and with it the gradual disappearance of traditional values. In urban China there is a steady upsurge of wealth, while in rural China there is stagnation and poverty reigns.

It is claimed that in China greater numbers of women commit suicide than men. Yet with the one-child-per-family policy, men outnumber women, and it is men who face a lifetime alone, not women; theoretically, in any event. Rural suicides appear to outnumber urban events. Stress and depression seems the causation of 70 to 80% of urban area suicides, where the most popular method is to jump off buildings to achieve death, according to the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center.

What has been in the news of late is what is termed a stream of suicides taking place in a huge campus serving as the world's largest electronic manufacturer. Foxconn Technology, which supplies global companies like Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard employs a whopping 800,000 people in its several installations. That is an enormous labour pool. Ten consecutive suicides have taken place at its plants, with young men jumping off the buildings and committing suicide.

Delivering a message? Surely they are; that they find their lives wearily non-worthy of further commitment. Ten out of almost a million? Nothing like jumping to alarmed conclusions with slight reason. The company's labour practises are being questioned, with employees claiming that they are over-worked, to the extent that they must account for every moment they're on duty at the factory. On the other hand, they are well-remunerated, with wages above the average for the country.

And since China has a large and unhappy and restless demographic of unemployed, those with well-paying jobs would be thought to be satisfied to have them. So perhaps it is not the company and its labour practises at fault, but rather that the matter is a reflection of a society finding itself newly rootless, in its expansion into a huge global economy, with old values taking second place to China-style capitalism.

Perhaps all the attention the world media is placing on Foxconn Technology is misplaced.

Since statistics appear to demonstrate a far greater number of women suicides in rural areas, with the method of self-destruction to imbibe pesticides. Those who try to understand the whys and wherefores point to restricted social communication, familial disarray, low levels of education and presumably allied with that, lack of opportunity to realize aspirations. This is all in the realm of educated guesswork; theory.

Suicide in China is now ranked fifth in death-prevalence, after cerebro-vascular diseases, bronchitis, chronic emphysema, liver cancer, and pneumonia. It ranks, however, as the leading cause of death for those between 15 and 34 years of age. And claims are made that the traditional family and clan structure has undergone a massive alteration, placing people under stress they cannot fathom nor surmount; and this has occurred during the space of a single generation.

That, in fact, parents with a sole offspring placing undue expectations on the success of that child is thought to be an intolerable burden for a single child. To be successful now in the new one-child China is to become wealthy. In a newly sibling-less society, there are fewer opportunities for young people to discuss in depth problems they may feel afflict them, leading to social alienation and despair.

Where once several generations lived together and the elderly among them were cherished, that is now gone. Often enough rural people migrant to the city to find work, and they leave their children behind, to be raised by their grandparents.

The world average for suicide per country is about 100, per million. China's rate now stands at 2.3 times that. The Beijing Youth Daily writes that "suicide and psychological crises have become important public health problems in China"; well, they are that everywhere in the world.

That the media is highlighting China for high suicide rates seems a little out of whack with reality. Given that there are so many countries where suicides are far more prevalent, greater in number than China with its astounding population base. The World Health Organization lists many other countries with far greater rates of suicide than China.

Take, for example, Belarus, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary and Japan, all with higher suicide rates. So the problem appears to be perception and the wish to find fault in a society where none particularly exists; not in that particular vein, in any event.

The simple fact of the matter is, suicide prevention is an imperative in many countries of the world, where authorities are very well aware that people from disadvantaged backgrounds finding no comfort in their life seek to destroy themselves.

Canada has a distinct problem in high rates of suicide among the country's aboriginal population. Male suicides in Canada are greater in number than in China. Just a little perspection and introspection.

2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Both sexes
number of suicides
All ages1 3,692 3,650 3,765 3,613 3,743
10 to 14 27 35 27 28 43
15 to 19 207 215 216 210 213
20 to 24 296 277 306 270 296
25 to 29 288 265 245 275 228
30 to 34 326 325 295 316 283
35 to 39 441 415 434 390 381
40 to 44 452 432 463 409 495
45 to 49 457 437 454 446 476
50 to 54 389 378 404 393 407
55 to 59 258 267 292 275 294
60 to 64 154 174 187 174 166
65 to 69 104 121 142 121 138
70 to 74 125 115 105 108 99
75 to 79 91 83 85 88 113
80 to 84 36 58 53 63 66
85 to 89 30 37 34 36 31
90 and older 11 16 23 11 13

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After The Fact

After New Orleans was hit by the devastating Hurricane Katrina that destroyed homes and buildings in many parishes in Louisiana, the Bush administration was accused long and loud of having sat on their hands. The drainage canal levees failed and 80% of the city of New Orleans was flooded. The famous U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for so much of the waterworks throughout the United States, designed and built those levees, to withstand the worst that nature could throw at the coast.

In the end, the storm managed to lay to waste all that lay before it, creating the most serious engineering disaster in the country's history. The city has still not yet fully recovered, five years later. A perceived failure to act swiftly and effectively was laid at the feet of federal authorities. It was clear after the fact that the levees were not built to the extreme specifications that they should have been, and the coastal wetlands had seen alterations whose effect managed to minimize their impact on protecting the area.

Hindsight gives us clever solutions to problems that were not, beforehand, fully appreciated because the events leading to the disasters that resulted were not foreseen. Naturally enough, complacency leads to diminished awareness and the dismissal of the need to enact adequately protective measures. President Bush managed to weather 9-11, but he and his administration did not do quite as well with the aftermath of Katrina.

President Barack Obama, for his part, has vowed to do everything, domestically and internationally, differently from his predecessor. He would be better prepared, more proactive, obviously more capable to meet any challenges to come his way. When he inherited the global financial meltdown, thanks largely to inadequate economic legislation that impacted everywhere with the U.S. finance collapse, he dealt with it just as his predecessor would have.

U.S. finance is doing very well, those who engineered the diligence-lapses and worthless paper have been well remunerated, and their representatives in fact now sit as top advisers to the president. The little guy on the street, those who lined up to vote for Barack Obama, well they're not doing quite as well; their tax dollars went to bail out finance and their own finances are pretty anaemic with joblessness rampant.

Barack Obama wanted the world to love and admire America again, so he set out to mount a charm offensive, aiming it at the very huge portion of the world hosting and encouraging raving lunatics whose ambition was to impact the U.S. with as much damage as possible to its institutions and the well-being and comfort of its entitled population. A softening of the distaste for America in the world of Islam has resulted. Not much else.

A great imperial capitalist country drives its economic growth and political-social success on energy; that of its entrepreneurial corporations and their energy-sucking mechanisms. The vast geography of the United States is rich in all manner of mineral resources and fossil fuels as well, but jut not enough to fuel the engine. So new sources are always on tap, and because of the need to discover and make use of new sources, full speed ahead prevails.

Is there some kind of poetic justice in the fact that it is a massive British oil firm, not an American one that has been responsible for visiting the Gulf of Mexico oil well disaster on the United States? The relaxation of rules and regulations is the responsibility of the government of the U.S. The misfortune of an unforeseen mechanical malfunction leading to the disaster of oil gushing from under the sea floor represents the confluence of dysfunction.

Americans are angry and upset, and nowhere more so than coastal marine America where the nation's fisheries and important wetlands will not be the same for an awfully long time to come. There are assurances coming from the administration, that they are on top of the situation, and everything will work out just fine, eventually.

British Petroleum has attempted to calm the situation by describing the gushing oil leak as far less serious than it in fact is. They are using mechanical methods inadequate to the situation in desperate attempts to cap the gusher. The latest attempt has worked elsewhere, but never at the depth of this particular well, but hope is that it will succeed.

The huge extent of the catastrophe has now been recognized and voiced, far worse than the previous worse oil spill, the Exxon Valdez. BP executives in attempts to be reassuring say "...the first thing to recognize is that this is an unprecedented accident" ...but not unforeseen ... "The industry has been working in the deep water for 25 years and not had to contend with this."

Leaving President Obama and his spokespeople to talk of holding BP to account, making them pay, forcing them to find a solution because the administration cannot, even though they hinted that they would kick BP out of the picture and forge on themselves, only to be reminded by those who know that the technology needed to somehow surmount this dreadful problem is BP's.

Now, isn't that a tangled web of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", when careful initial evaluation of the environmental impact of a potential spill could have resulted in more stringent legislation that would insist all protective mechanics be in place prior to drilling, avoiding the current hysterical attempts to cap a rogue well?

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Emerging From The Same Nest

Well! A new report from Amnesty International. And here's an amazing conclusion they managed to reach: the United Nations Human Rights Council, they bitterly claim, appears to be rather ineffectual. Ineffectual?

Why they do their damnedest to pick out those countries of the world with which the general consensus is that their very presence is anathema. Since the Council seems fairly top-heavy with representative countries whose own human rights records are past dismal, what, truly, does Amnesty International expect?

As far as Israel is concerned, Amnesty International blames the United States and member countries of the European Union of obstructing international justice by their presence on the UN Security Council to ensure that Israel is not held fully accountable for the purported war crimes committed during the defensive strike on Gaza. Right; far as Amnesty is concerned it was a deeply offensive strike.

Countries should obviously remain complacent sitting ducks while they're being bombed.

Seems that the UNHRC and Amnesty International are actually singing from the same hymnal, since the UN human rights body also singles out Israel whenever it can for hollow accusations, irrespective of whether or not their own dreadful records should have them being singled out for deep censure, or whether other countries of the world like North Korea, Syria, Iran, Burma, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Congo have something to answer for.

Sitting high on their pedestal of righteous dudgeon, the rights group, in Amnesty International Report 2010: State of the World's Human Rights points out: "Powerful governments are blocking advances in international justice by standing above the law on human rights, shielding allies from criticism and acting only when politically convenient".

And it seems as far as Amnesty is concerned, 2009 was a "landmark" year.

Their just-issued report documents human rights violations - alleged or proven - in fully 159 countries of the world. Canada rates an entry, in reflection of allegations tossed about by the country's leftists: "Canadian officials failed to protect the rights of indigenous peoples adequately. Concerns persisted about human rights violations associated with national security laws and practises as well as Canadian overseas mining operations".

In Canada's instance, somewhat reflective of Israel's in that sense, getting slammed for national security provisions under the law where those suspected of, arrested for, standing trial for, documented and proven instances of terrorist activities claiming their human rights and/or their protection under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are being thwarted through the process of apprehension and prosecution.

Amnesty gets some highlighted instances of human rights abuses right, and many more verging on the edge of hysterical denunciation just for the sake of flailing about, accusing everyone. The government of Sri Lanka did indeed target, entice and sequester Sri Lankans in their battle with the Tamil Tigers, and in the process deliberately killed innocent civilians. As did the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam themselves.

Why expect the United Nations to act decisively and with required force of opinion and protective arms in Sri Lanka when it could not move itself to do the same with Rwanda? The United Nations itself has a tedious proven record of inaction and anguished fence-sitting, while wringing its hands with dismay over the bad behaviour of world governments in waging wars, both internal and external.

Why should it be anticipated that the failed predecessor of the current UN human rights body represented an unfortunate anomaly once it was pointed out beyond denial that those who sat on it were themselves abuser states dominating the agenda, and that it would, in its re-invented state, rise above partisan protection of one another against denunciations as human rights violators?

It's a truly sad state of affairs when the international world body that was initiated by the war-time League of Nations to ensure that fairness and justice prevailed on this Globe - that human rights would be recognized as the overriding concern and need for protection of the entire world - would succumb to its current status as a tired, unstable, ineffective institution.

That the critical nature of its offshoots like the Human Rights Council would still be a pretentiously odious sham, and that the once so-highly-respected and effective Amnesty International has somehow lost its way in recognizing and holding to account authentic situations of human rights abuses.

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Red Cescent At Work

The International Committee of the Red Cross is busy doing good things for humanity. This is quite simply what they do. It is their mandate. A self-imposed mandate to be sure, a proud and distinguished one with a proud and distinguished history through disruptive world events of great and not-so-great wars.

The Red Cross, of course, is seen as rather peculiar in some countries of the world which prefer the symbol of a crescent moon, and that is perfectly fine with the ICRC. Mind, it had some problems with the symbol of a Magen David, but eventually got around that.

Israel's Magen David Adom, the Jewish equivalent of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent finally received approval in 2006, receiving official recognition previously denied it by the ICRC, and admitted as a full member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. Although it must use an altered symbol of a Jewish star within a crystal shape when operating outside Israel.

So it can be safely assumed that the Red Cross International is not always completely 'neutral' in its decision-making, however it claims itself to be. As it does now, when it has released information that it was, through its Red Crescent persona, providing first aid training and medical kits to members of the Taliban.

This, the ICRC emphasizes, is their humanitarian goal. To 'save lives in Afghanistan'.

Clearly any and all lives. That they are providing basic first aid training and emergency medical kits to "over 70 members of the armed opposition", appears to satisfy the ICRC's urge to do good in the world. They emphasize their neutrality. They are saving the lives of insurgents who target and kill NATO troops - and not necessarily through direct conflict, but by stealthily and too-often-successfully laying IED devices to blow Canadians and others to hell and beyond.

This makes those Taliban killers. But then, the ICRC obviously rationalizes, so too are trained Western troops. Potentially. NATO personnel may not set out to kill per se, but they will if and when challenged violently. They do not set lethal homicidal traps for the Taliban to fall into while pursuing their business, however. There is that difference. But to the Red Cross or the Red Crescent, it is all the same, obviously.

On the other hand, it might save lives if there were fewer Taliban around and about to pursue their vision of a return to Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Certainly with fewer Taliban in operation there would be fewer deaths among NATO troops, among civilian Afghans who are also targets of the Taliban, and fewer children getting sprayed in the face with acid; fewer children whose lives are impacted by loss of parents.

In their neutrality they are affirming to the Taliban that what they pursue is worthwhile; the religious fascism they impose on a population denying children an education, women freedom of movement and freedom to pursue employment. They impose harsh restrictions on how people may live their lives, and when those restrictions are challenged, torture and death may be meted out. This is what the ICRC is supporting by their 'neutrality'.

How is it possible for any clear-minded, justice-seeking, humanitarian-concerned individuals to handily overlook the evils of violating the human rights of others? By enforced piety; by forcing women to encase themselves in all-encompassing garments lest they provoke the unbridled rage of the mullahs; by forcing young girls to be pledged into marriage and drudgery; by forcing young boys to submit to rape.

If the Red Cross/Red Crescent sees it as their universal obligation to mend the broken bodies of victims of misfortune, disasters, wars, this is as they see themselves. But their notion of neutrality is an evil in and of itself, for they are actively aiding in the vicious subjugation of large segments of a society by a religiously-entitled oppressing entity that has little sympathy for human rights other than their own.

To extend this humanitarian mandate to assisting religious fascists dedicated to violent jihad, to mend themselves through the generosity of the transfer of their medical knowledge and equipment, to enable healed 'warriors' to return to the battle, represents an odd and peculiar and quite unfamiliar qualification of neutrality.

This, clearly, is not an organization that many people who view matters differently would wish to support. This, clearly, is a mandate that has undergone a puzzling and corrosive sea change.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Return: To Basic Training

Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard has the deep affectionate regard and respect of his peers. And, needless to say, of the men under his command. Who are many indeed.

Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard is described as an "outstanding, dedicated and exceptional leader". Which is hugely commendable, because this is precisely the type of individual whom Canadians want to rely upon for the safety of our troops and for the measure of security that we are meant to feel.

This man is a highly decorated commander. And quite obviously, a man of stout principle. When he erred, he took complete responsibility.

Holding himself to a military, ethical and moral standard no less than he does the men under his command. Should any of those enlisted men serving under him somehow manage to clumsily discharge a firearm at a most inconvenient and high-profile event, they would be held to account.

And since Brig.-Gen.Daniel Menard embarrassed himself by doing just that very same thing, he held himself to account. To do less would be to do a grave disservice to the Canadian military, to himself and to the esteem in which he is held.

The man has been fined $3,500 at a court martial that he himself initiated. He pleaded guilty of neglect in handling his C8 rifle.

As Brig.-Gen.Menard explained the situation, he was attempting to put his weapon on safety when, confoundingly, two rounds were fired at Kandahar Airfield as he was preparing to board a helicopter with his boss, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk.

Now that truly is a head-banger of an embarrassing moment, anyone would agree.

The shots - as Brig.-Gen. Menard held his weapon at waist level - landed in between two armoured vehicles by the runway, where two Blackhawk helicopters were parked, and where ten soldiers were within range of fire.

Later, when the rifle was inspected by a weapons inspector, it was proclaimed to be in fine working order.

"If I knew exactly why it got fired, I don't think I would have been here today. Two rounds were fired from my weapon. That's what I know for sure." Well, for sure, Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard, it was a regrettable incident-accident.

One never to be forgotten, and one which will provide more than ample fodder for good-natured guffaws over tankards of brew.

An unblemished military record will now carry a charge of neglect causing prejudice to "good order and discipline", and that is unfortunate. On the other hand, what's done is done, and one must carry on. Bravely. Hats off and a salute to your impeccable character.

And kindly get thee to a reprise of basic training in weapons-handling, good man.

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Flapping The Accountability Bird

It's like that wonderfully majestic goose that looks so great in flight, and good too waddling along the greensward. But its odious leavings, well that's another matter entirely. Not just in Canada where the Canada Goose leaves unwanted heaps of guano; in the U.S. where the birds are extremely unpopular for that very reason, they're called "Canadian geese". So, um, where to start?

Auditor General Sheila Fraser, wrapping up her official stint, in an idle speculative moment of harmlessly shallow thought, ventured the opinion that it might be a good idea, after a long hiatus where no audits have been performed on MP accounts, to have a look. As a parting gesture, a good-will gesture, just to cement her already-admirable reputation for no-nonsense, practical, down-to-earth, getting the job done.

Accountability is where it's at. And Canada Goose-types are notoriously unaccountable, they just do not give a damn where they toilet themselves. Other Canadian representatives do; they are admirably discreet. Our esteemed Members of Parliament, elected by the public taxpayer and installed in Parliament to do the bidding of the electors are privy to handsome expense accounts.

Is it too much to ask where the money goes? Oh yes, we know, in a broad, generalized way where the money goes, notionally. But it's those devilish details that evoke such curiosity in us. After all, the ordinary Canadian is held accountable for his/her earnings, and taxed so that needed public services can be implemented, and the House of Commons can seethe with incivility.

It's just a little thing, after all, isn't it? Why the frantic denials? No one is holding any distinguished politician in the House to any standards we're not ourselves prepared to observe. Don't think so, anyway. And here is Auditor General Sheila Fraser, without doubt the most trusted public servant on record, confessing she hadn't meant by her musing, to use a magnifying lens on MPs' expenses.

In a more broad, generalized manner she meant to do a "performance" audit. Which might, or might not have led to a more intensive expense review of MP accounts. She was interested in contracting, human resource management, management of information technology and security in the House of Commons. So she could assure Canadians we're getting our money's-worth.

Instead, she came up against a blank wall of denial. Fearful denial. When that kind of defensive attitude surfaces it's just natural that people looking in from the outside think: uh-oh, what's going on here? Who is trying to hide what, and why? So, why the panic running off in all directions?

Why not have had the good grace to hear out Sheila Fraser's proposal? Troubled conscience?

"It was never suggested that it would be an audit of MPs or MPs' expenses, and certainly never, never an audit or any kind of assessment of MPs' performance", she explained. So now, look where jumping to conclusions gets you, hmmm? The public is suddenly wary, offended and disgruntled over the reaction of MPs to the very idea that an audit need be done on their expenses.

Conservatives to the rescue! They are prepared to offer a "proposal" to opposition parties in an effort to come to an agreeable working arrangement respecting MPs' expense audit. A compromise that just might work for everyone concerned; Members of Parliament, that amorphous, audit-averse nest of squawkers. And the dear, departing Auditor General.

So good on them! Transparency is what it's all about, hey! Eh?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Setting The Stage

The prime minister of Lebanon has come to Washington. To warn President Obama, in case it escaped his notice, that there is a "pervasive" Arab frustration associated with the stagnating Middle East peace efforts.

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, on his first official trip to the U.S., discussed with President Barak Obama concerns that Syria may be arming Hezbollah guerrillas. Needless to say, Mr. al-Hariri, whose government is one of 'national unity', of which Hezbollah plays a distinctly large role, had no idea whatever of where the United States may have picked up such absurd concerns.

He must surely have put President Obama's mind at rest over such purported, unrealistic matters. After all, even if Lebanon itself doesn't mind Syria continuing to dominate its politics and enjoys its superlative relationship with Iran's puppet militia, itself hugely dominating Lebanon's politics and social and religious affairs, the presence of UN troops on the border with Lebanon and Israel should be sufficient reassurance. No?

Can this be for real? President Obama discussing the growing momentum toward achieving more stinging sanctions against Iran, with a government official whose position is tacit support of Iran? Of course Prime Minister al-Hariri knows nothing of the problems that the U.S. faces with respect to Iran. That other Arab states in the Middle East are troubled, does not trouble Mr. al-Hariri.

He is troubled by a militant Israel with its intolerance for violent provocation.

And his message to the American president was simple enough: "The clock is ticking, and it is ticking against us. I also pointed to the pervasive frustration and skepticism in the Arab and Muslim worlds regarding this issue", said Mr. Hariri, post-White House meeting with the amenable president.

"This issue", clearly not one of nascent Iranian domination, and threat of nuclear weaponry, but obviously the intention of Israel to remain in situ.

Lebanon, it must be remembered, was invaded by Israel; once, twice, followed by one tardy, one swift withdrawal, both representing victories - for Lebanon and justice. UNIFIL, in place in southern Lebanon to ensure that Hezbollah withdrew from border mischief and did not re-arm, has been capably able to oversee a complete re-arming of the terror group now in proud possession of advanced missiles.

Scud missiles from Syria, along with M-600 guided rockets capable of carrying a 500-kg warhead with fair accuracy, within the range of Tel Aviv. That's for starters, since they've also been supplied with anti-aircraft and long-range ballistic missiles, through very successful covert operations.

Of course, once Hezbollah begins lobbing missiles into Israel and Israel lobs them right back, the UN force can complain it has been targeted by Israel.

The convenient distraction of escalating hostilities between Lebanon/Hezbollah and Israel, is a very nice cover for Iran's nuclear entitlements. And the sacrifice of a country like Lebanon to an incendiary war with Israel, this time no-holds-barred is just and fair, considering Iran's larger purpose.

Damascus and Tehran have laid their careful plans, and Turkey and Brazil are nicely on side.

The Jews must be ejected from "Palestine" as a first order of business. And then everything else will fall neatly into place. Presumably, the Arab states not in concert with Syria and Lebanon may be quaking in their desert boots, but this is, after all, the Middle East. The Palestinians have been well prepared for the accomplishments leading to the solution of a Jewish state in an Arab geography.

This is where the United States has been so very useful. For thanks to the outstanding work by U.S. Lt.Gen. Keith Dayton, Palestinian Authority security forces have obtained superior military training, becoming a formidable risk to Israeli troops' capabilities of securing the safety and security of Israel, thanks to their own superior training as has been evidenced in the past. But that was then, and this is now, an entirely different era.

These are Palestinian Arabs trained in American-style military action. Trained, equipped and educated as a military force by American soldiers. As a proper infantry force with attack capabilities, resolute and proud of their new military prowess. Not readily given to surrender.

Their American military mentor acknowledges his personal belief that 'his PA army' would attack Israel should Israel not surrender to international demands of peace-making as set out by the Middle East Quartet. Lt.-Col. Dayton seems quite complacent about this situation. He as much as spelled it out a year ago at a Washington lecture.

His opinion was that were Israel not to agree within a two-year time frame to international expectations, the Fatah forces he and his American officers are so proudly training, would eagerly turn their U.S.-provided guns and professional military on Israel.

Good thing Israel has the United States on its side.

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Broadening the Mind and Opportunities

Travelling is said to broaden the mind. By, obviously, opening one's parochial eyes to the world outside the borders most familiar, of one's own country. It's irresistible, the urge to travel, to see other countries of the world, to become at a slight remove, familiar with other traditions and heritage, other social structures and infrastructures. It's instructive and exciting, and who doesn't like to be stimulated by learning new things about the world and the people who inhabit it?

Of course there are risks inherent in travel. Airplanes (seldom) fall out of the sky; motorists risk imperilling themselves and others on unfamiliar roads with unfamiliar signage and unfamiliar speed limits and driving laws. One risks being mugged, held for ransom, robbed of passport, wallet, and even one's life. These dangers are present, but not omnipresent. An alert traveller can save himself the grief of having his wallet lifted, and the wary and careful tourist will stay where it is safe.

On the other hand, just crossing the street unheedingly at an intersection in a city most familiar to you could have you come a cropper. That's life, right? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So we tend to discount the minimal risks involved in travelling and we head out with great anticipation and a huge tolerance for discomfort, since there's no place quite as comfortable as home. Travelling is great fun and a great leveller, but we're so relieved when we come back home.

You've been to some exotic locales, you have the photographs to show for it, the tawdry little souvenirs, and the glow of satisfaction sitting on your sunburned face. And then you get a call from your local health agency with an invitation to show up at your local hospital for some tests. That is, if you haven't been there already worried you've picked up Lyme disease or something similar. This invitation is a cautionary one. Just to undergo a few little tests.

Because it might very well have happened that on your flight of hundreds of people coming back from that terrific trip, some individual with contagious tuberculosis might have been sitting next to you, or behind you, or in front of you - even a few rows removed from your seat. Coughing. Someone who might quite possibly have been infected with a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis.

Uh-oh, what a right royal pain in the old arse.

The Public Health Agency of Canada scientists consider this type of situation quite troublesome. And growing in incidence, as it happens. Some 2,472 individuals who, the passenger manifest revealed, sat close to such tuberculosis-stricken people on flights might have been contaminated. Tuberculosis is an airborne disease; tiny particles remain suspended in air.

"It is a concern whenever you have someone flying who has open TB. It's certainly not desirable ... The more people you have flying, the more risk you have"; thank you, Dr. David Haldane, microbiologist at Dalhousie University. Planes do filter cabin air, so it's the long flights, people sitting for long periods of time en route to their destination, where they're more likely to become contaminated.

A report published in the journal Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, pointed out that 104 tubercular patients were identified taking flights between 2006 and 2008 into or out of Canada, with another 65 identified last year. Of that total number nine had strains of tuberculosis highly resistant to one or more antibiotics; four of whom had multiple drug-resistant bacterial strains.

Canada may be relatively tuberculosis-free, after our long battle with the scourge, but there are many countries of the world where it remains a distinct, endemic problem. Most of those identified as being tuberculosis carriers were born outside of Canada.

Tuberculosis causes millions of deaths around the world yearly. Within Canada it is primarily recent immigrants and aboriginal peoples who present with tuberculosis, some 1,600 active cases annually. The lungs are affected with symptoms of chest pain and bloody coughs. Not remotely pleasant; to be avoided at all costs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa comprising health ministers from 46 Member States declared tuberculosis an emergency in the African region - a response to an epidemic that has more than quadrupled the annual number of new TB cases in most African countries since 1990 and is continuing to rise across the continent, killing more than half a million people every year. The Stop TB Partnership launched its Action Plan to Stop Tuberculosis 2006-2015.

The Plan aims to cut deaths from TB in half in the next ten years and provide treatment for 50 million people. It requires $56 billion to carry out its aims – less than $1 per day of healthy life gained, with 14 million lives saved by 2015. At the launch of the Plan, which took place at the World Economic Form in Davos, Bill Gates pledged to triple investment through the Gates Foundation, taking the amount committed from $300 million to $900 million. The total funding gap to carry out the Global Plan is estimated at $31 billion.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Muslim "Mainstream and Silent Majority"

Isn't human nature incredible? We reel from the insults we perceive that others hurl at us in disrespect of our beliefs, yet we hesitate not one moment to insult and threaten and harass those who are innocent of any ill intent toward us. This, needless to say, is the universal "we", for "we" do not all subscribe to the same modus operandi.

Heightened sensitivities to one's own agenda, ideology, religious beliefs, traditions, heritage appear to make some groups highly insensible to the insults they impose upon others. And so it is that we are informed through the media that Muslim organizations in the United States have chosen to highlight their presence in a most incendiary, ill-conceived and utterly incompetent manner.

The plan is to build a huge $100-million mosque and Islamic centre with all manner of social amenities, including a 500-seat theatre, daycare centre, swimming pool and basketball court, in the shadow of Ground Zero, New York. This religious edifice would be capable of accommodating 2,000 worshippers.

"We want to create a platform by which the voices of the mainstream and silent majority of Muslims will be amplified. A centre of this scale and magnitude will do that", according to the director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, backing the project. Incredibly the proposal achieved a vote of confidence at a meeting of the New York Community Board.

The community of non-Muslims in New York City appears, however, not to be at all confident that this is what they would like to see ensconced in an area that had been destroyed by the events of September 11, 2001, when Islamist jihadists struck the World Trade Centre towers, destroying that landmark and murdering almost 3,000 people.

The proposal verges on the indecent; indecent to the memory of those who died, of the people of New York who underwent a dreadful trauma, of wounds that will never completely heal due to an act that brought the world to a breathless suspension of belief.

For a religious community that screams bloody murder every time they feel slandered, this is a breath-takingly incredible move.

"What could be more insulting and humiliating than a monster mosque in the shadow of the World Trade Centre buildings that were brought down by an Islamic jihad attack? Any decent American, Muslim or otherwise, wouldn't dream of such an insult. It's a stab in the eye of America." Indignant disbelief stated by the director of a group named Stop the Islamicization of America.

But there is this about Muslims; they steadfastly assert the authority of the Koran, of the righteousness of Islam, of the peaceful nature of their religion and urge all others to make an effort to understand and respect them. While in their turn they appear to be unable to grasp that respect must be mutual and genuinely shared.

The mosque proposal is an incendiary indication of disrespect.

And of course when it is pointed out that Islam - which saw the light of day millennia after Judaism, and over a thousand years after Christianity, from whose roots each followed one another sees itself as the culmination and perfection of that source - feels justified in building its holy places of worship directly over those of its predecessors.

Muslim innocence of underhanded intent prevails.

If the intention truly is that an edifice and a religious centre needs to be built on such a scale to represent the needs of the "mainstream and silent majority", then it should be located elsewhere, and quite obviously needs to be.

Perhaps if "mainstream and silent majority" Muslims featured themselves far more prominently in rejection of violent jihad they would also earn more general respect. But never to the extent, logically and emotionally, that they should feel entitled to mount their presence upon territory destroyed by fanatical coreligionists.

To do so would make of New York, heavily populated by a Jewish tradition and presence, an spiritual offshoot of what Islam has perpetrated on Judaism in Jerusalem, imposing the al-Aqsa Mosque atop the Temple Mount.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Assault On Kandahar Base Repelled

Oh. Repelled. That's good. Isn't it? NATO security forces managed to repel an attack by "a small number of insurgents attempting to enter the base on the north side". Good thing their attempt was foiled. "No insurgents have penetrated the base perimeter", according to a NATO statement. Now that is a huge relief. And we also learn that no Canadians were involved in repelling the attack, according to the chief Canadian military spokesman.

"All military and civilian personnel on the base are being instructed to stay in safe locations as a precaution"; again a NATO statement. As it was, several NATO troops and civilians were wounded in the attacks. Evidently they were unable to take precautionary action to ensure their personal safety because the Taliban made no effort to pre-warn them of an impending attack. Not very civil, but then what can you expect from "13th-Century failed state" representatives?

They are skilled in a type of predatory, no-holds-barred, warfare that civilized countries simply do not engage in. When they strike, it is for the jugular. Or for the unwary military personnel on duty travelling along dusty provincial roads that have been booby-trapped very effectively by 'home-made' explosive devices. Many of which can be identified with constituent parts from Iran, one takes it. Many of whom were trained in the border regions of Pakistan, one takes it.

Spurred on by their irredentist, fanatical-religious-jihadist mentality to coax foreign troops from their home geography. Figures, right? NATO military members, on the other hand, are polite and well-behaved and follow orders. They also, quite logically, inform the enemy well beforehand that strikes are in the planning stages and will be mounted on specific, well-publicized dates.

The latest are efforts to secure Kandahar City and four other districts. So here's the plan. We'll simply expand on the successes seen thus far by those intrepid Canadian troops who have unfortunately had ramp ceremonies for 146 members of the Canadian military ... and counting. "The first guys on the beach here are the Canadians." And the Canadian forces are providing counsel for the U.S. surge-troops.

"History will write that the Canadians came here and for years fought and struggled as the situation got worse. Their brigade did what four brigades-plus are going to be doing and their hands were full." So went the comradely homage to Canadian efforts in war-ravaged Kandahar province by U.S. marine Col. David Bellon. It does present as an existential dilemma; well trained and armed Western troops unable to completely repel a rag-tag guerrilla army.

And in Canada, troop morale is getting a big lift out of carefully watching the unfolding military court trial of Captain Robert Semrau, accused of second-degree murder in the death of a Taliban fighter. Who had, mere moments before been stationed up in a tree with his companions, firing on the Afghan National Army troop to which Captain Semrau and his buddies were attached, as advisers.

The court martial sitting in judgement must sift through the witness accounts that conflict with statements made by others, some in Captain Semrau's defence, others condemning him. For executing a severely wounded-unto-death Taliban fighter whom Afghan fighters refused to treat, left to die in agony of his wounds. A mercy killing, said Captain Semrau.

Had he and his buddies been accurately targetted by the Taliban fighter and his crew it would have been quite without mercy.

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Animal Rights

God made all the creatures and gave them
our love and our fear,
To give sign, we and they are his children,
one family here. Robert Browning
Animal rights? Have they got any? They're just animals. Sensate perhaps, but incapable of acting and reacting to stimuli other than a push here a shove there, a loud voice, maybe a whack in the ribs. That gets them moving, right? They are incapable of distinguishing nuances, of understanding human communication and mood. They just ... are. Lumps of flesh vastly inferior to the integuements of humankind. They do our bidding, or we discipline them. They disobey our orders and pay the price of violent reaction.
Nature teaches beasts to know their friends. William Shakespeare.
It's heart-rending to read newspaper accounts, little fragments of stories that appear from time to time about people violating the trust of companion animals. Cats and dogs tortured by idiotic teenagers. Whom psychiatrists tell us will mature to become abusive psychopaths, and that figures: apprenticing; try out the violence on those incapable of defending themselves before graduating to the higher animals, also unable to defend themselves from what has become a skilled predator.
The behaviour of men to the lower animals, and their behaviour to each other, bear a constant relationship. Herbert Spencer.
One reads on occasion - on too many occasions, if truth be told, and it should be - that people who start out with a distinct attraction to animals, with the intention of giving them safe haven, starting out with one or two abandoned animals, then compulsively picking up ever more to the point where they are functionally incapable of serving their needs, are outed. When animal welfare agencies move in and find the animals starving and diseased, their haircoats feces-clad, in an absolutely pitiable state.
A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast. Old Testament.
It does not really take all that much physical effort and mental determination to understand the needs of a companion animal. In fact, a dependent animal taken into a home as a companion is little different in needs than any other animal, humans as well. Paramount are the needs of security, food and water, fresh air and exercise, and emotional understanding. With those provisions the resulting companionship is worth its weight in gold.

Only a complete and utter imbecile would fail to understand.Behold a beast of nature black;
When one attacks it, it fights back! A Nony Mouse

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Canada/Israel Relations

That's very nice, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel will be paying a courtesy visit to Canada, invited by our very own Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who looks kindly upon that country, as a member of the democratic union of politically, socially, technologically, morally advanced countries of the world. News reportage out of the visit will be intriguing, to say the least. Which is to say, how the various news media will portray the visit, its portent and potential.

If they can get themselves beyond the rather unpleasant, rather un-Canadian spectacle of a taxpayer-funded cabal of ultra-leftist radicals who detest the very idea of a predominantly Jewish state. And whose collective voice echoes that of the Palestinian Authority which authorizes yearly mourning ceremonies to celebrate the creation of Israel in 1948. This group, whose main presence is within Palestine House in Toronto, is organizing a protest against Prime Minister Netanyahu's May 30 visit.

This group, in fact, characterizes Israel's Prime Minister as a war criminal. He is a criminal because he is head of state of an 'illegal' nation, one that the United Nations, in better times, created through the partition of Palestine, apportioning one segment to Palestinian Jews, the other to Palestinian Arabs. The Palestinian Arabs were decidedly unpleased with this turn of events, and they had the full and furious support of the Arab world, which immediately attacked the nascent upstart nation.

Israel would dearly love to shed its responsibility of protecting its people against ongoing Palestinian Arab attacks, but there seems to be little let-up in sight; one effort after another failing, to obtain a peace settlement and to welcome Palestinian Arabs to the geography as a distinct and legally-attained sovereign state. The sticking point always seems to be the actual presence of Israel. Israel continues to be unaccommodating to requests that it a) voluntarily self destruct, or b) succumb to violent attacks.

As far as Palestine House and its supporters are concerned - as Canadians espousing values somewhat distant to those of most Canadians - they have the right and the power and sufficient indignation fuelled by their version of world events to protest to their government and specifically to Prime Minister Harper, his warped wisdom in inviting and welcoming a leader of a fellow democratic state. They stand together in a fusion of incendiary opposition to normalcy with Israel, and in hatred for its presence on the world stage.

And now look what's happening...! Even the Province of Ontario is getting in on the act with Premier Dalton McGuinty leading a six-day trade mission to Israel and Lebanon. Lebanon, all right, that can be understood, but Israel? Giving legitimization to Israel, affirming its right to exist, saluting its enterprising entrepreneurs by courting their attention? What is the matter with Premier McGuinty, characterizing Israel as a "world leader at commercializing good ideas"?

Israel happens to present as a world leader in medical equipment patents, attracting more venture capital per capita than anywhere else in the world; not too shabby an accomplishment for a country of 7.2-million people. The rate at which it churns out cutting-edge technological companies is amazing. As far as Premier McGuinty is concerned, he is interested in recognizing "another part of the world we should keep our eye on", aside from the powerhouses of India and China.

Practical, good common-sense. We could use more of it. But we're likely to be exposed to far less of it. Given the fact that Jews within Canada are becoming increasingly vulnerable to attacks having little to do with their citizenship entitlements and everything to do with their ethnicity; all estimated-350,000 of them.

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Solid Achievements, Soiled

The 1999 publication, Prime Ministers: Ranking Canada's Leaders, by historians Norman Hillmer and Jack Granatstein was generously congratulatory toward former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. According him, through what has been termed his "solid policy record of achievement within Canada and internationally" a fairly high score as an effective leader. He was rated eighth, just ahead of Jean Chretien, and three back of Pierre Trudeau.

There are certainly many Canadians who still wince at the thought of those Right Honourables, while many more hold them in high regard. You just cannot please all the people all the time. There will always be some drawback in character or values or historical performance of one kind or another that people will remember about past leaders. Since those three go back not so far in the past as leaders of the country, memories of their qualities are still fairly resonant.

Prime Minister Trudeau had flair and his sometimes-outrageous personal style, aligned with his sabre-sharp wit and intelligence gained him admirers and detractors, both. His antics and his foibles are mostly what people recall about him, along with his "just watch me" handling of the October crisis in Quebec facing up to the threat posed by the Front de liberation du Quebec. And, of course, his sterling relations with Western Canada and their energy resources, and his repatriation of the Canadian Constitution.

Most of us did not detest him, however; his good qualities seemed to outweigh his lapses. And he never, to anyone's knowledge, tried to advantage himself materially through his public office. Whereas the same thing simply cannot be said for his protege Jean Chretien who, when he was prime minister, was not above manipulating underlings to act on his behalf to further his economic interests. The little guy from Shawinigan burnished his home reputation at taxpayer expense, then went on to line his retirement potential with China contacts.

And then, smack in the middle was the deep-baritoned, deep-chinned, smarmily-inclined Brian Mulroney, famous for his "Irish Eyes" duo with U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Mr. Mulroney was so inordinately self-besotted that his oiled presence grated on all sensibilities. His public record? If we can steer past the visceral dislike so many Canadians had for the man, he did some fairly innovative and honourable things. Like challenging Apartheid South Africa, and teaching the U.S. what acid rain meant to the environment.

He actually, despite himself, was well on his way to building a solid legacy, as an honourable man lurking behind the persona of a greaseball politician. And then he unaccountably soiled himself. Revealing himself for the tawdry personality many people knew in their gut was there all the time. His actions revealed him for what he was, giving people the opportunity to view an open window into the man's character.

Preparing to retire from office and from 24 Sussex, eager to 'sell' the furniture back to the country. Preparing to retire from high office pre-arranging a special deal to earn himself a few hundred thousand dollars. Guess he didn't count on law firms lining up to hire him for his name-recognition value. Guess he overlooked the potential in huge fees on the speaking circuit. He wanted, he said, to be able to provide for his family in the manner to which they had become accustomed and were, he felt, quite entitled to.

So he would rent himself out as a lobbyist for a German munitions and military vehicle manufacturer, enabling them first to set up business in Canada. Sometimes all the ducks don't feel like lining up in the row they're supposed to, and they begin quacking, and people realize hey, those ducks are sending a pretty nasty message. Quite aside from the still-resonant quacks about kickbacks on Airbus planes to Air Canada.

It'll be fascinating to see and hear and learn of Judge Jeffrey Oliphant's conclusion reached in his report on those secret, so unfortunate, so lapsed, so innocent of ill intent, cash under-the-table dealings with Karl-Heinz Schreiber.

Regardless of the conclusion, the stench remains.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Animal Abuse Responses

Cruelty to animals seems to many people to represent an unspeakable atrocity. We focus for the most part on the quality of life, or lack of it, borne by the animals that become companions to people, who depend upon the good qualities that reside within human nature to respect the burdens that come with one animal dominating and controlling another, as people do with their pets. Domestic animals are completely dependent upon their human owners.

The quality of life that they are permitted to live through the humane attention of those who claim to own them reflects the quality of the human being to whom they become attached. A sensitive and caring person will accord to his or her companion animal care and attention one would toward another human being. Those who inflict pain and suffering on animals can rightfully be regarded as dregs of society.

Vicious and violent criminal acts are meted out to animals by those who claim to own them, and who feel it is their right to behave toward those animals who trust them, however they wish. There are no real laws in protection of animals with any kind of teeth that would make violators of animals' trust and well-being think twice before regarding an animal as 'property' to be disposed of as they wish.

Human conduct toward animals is that of the regard of the disposable. When an animal that someone has undertaken to care for becomes a nuisance their needs are neglected, they are abandoned and society attempts to pick up the sorry pieces through adoptions. Neglect and violence experienced by trusting animals reflects poorly on all of us.

So when the plight of individual afflicted animals who have been tortured and killed by their owners or by others comes to public light and animal defenders make an effort to alert the public to these dreadful abuses, they are demonstrating their humanity. If we cannot defend the rights of animals other than ourselves to live healthy and cared-for lives, we diminish our humanity.

For groups representing the victims of child abuse or sexual abuse to raise a hue and cry about values, denouncing animal defenders who demonstrate on behalf of abused companion pets, claiming them to be less concerned about humans than they are about animals, misses the point entirely. If we cannot extend sympathy and a will to protect animals, it's unlikely we would care to extend the same to humans.

This reflects one of the weakest links in society, the dependence of helpless animals on the good will of those who 'own' them, and feel free to dispense violence against them because of their purported ownership. This is not a private issue of ownership. This is a very public issue of the rights to humane existence of animals other than humans.

That people will defend the rights of animals does not mean they are uncaring of the rights of children and women. We have ample human resources to represent the interests of all of society's abused and vulnerable.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Western Terrorism Central

The country is all abuzz with the new militancy of thugs bored out of their skulls by the tedium brought on through living in a secure society with all its social and cultural and variable pluralistic attributes, and opportunities for general advancement open to all. These thugs have chosen to call themselves social activists to give themselves an aura of acceptability among certain elements in our general society who proudly claim themselves "anarchists", prepared to upset the social order in the name of justice and social accountability.

All this activity centered around, for the moment, the upcoming G8 and G20 summits preparing to take place in Huntsville and Toronto, respectively. Just wait for the action to really get going. Meanwhile, Ottawa was thrilled to have been chosen as the site of the initial 'protest', with the Royal Bank of Canada branch in the Glebe fire-bombed and a gleefully-produced video aired in honour of thumbing dumb noses at law, order and social values.

In Toronto, meanwhile, the Toronto Community Mobilization Network hosted a press conference where their constituencies representing activist aboriginals, socialists, the disabled, feminists, unions, environmentalists, gays, Arabs and illegal aliens gave notice of their right to "mobilize" against the collective malign powers of global finance as represented by Western nations. Any group with an ax to grind welcome to come along and make havoc.

On the website of this network of society's disaffected clamouring to be heard, is a logo. That logo cleverly depicts a nominal cartoon of the needle-end of the CN Tower held aloft by a mob, piercing the G20. Now that is rather familiar. And quite obviously has its inspiration in the cartoon of an airplane hitting the top of the World Trade Tower, the symbolism clear enough in its sinister intent: hitting the imperialist U.S. financial heartland-center.

The still-growing and evidently quite comfortable convergence between Canada's extreme left and radical Islamist groups is also quite in evidence here. Canadians representing a number of 'peace and social justice' groups made it their business to attend a series of conferences in Egypt named the Cairo Anti-War Conference, initiated by the British Socialist Workers Party, where they mingled with Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Solidarity, brothers. Those attending these conferences were urged to take "direct action" to demonstrate unequivocally their dedication to their vision of collective-leftist collaboration. Hit the fat-cat capitalists at every opportunity, and hard. The kind of direct action that Islamist jihadis embrace that translates to violent guerrilla warfare against all entities that refuse to acknowledge the primacy of their vision; the political-religious ideology of conquest.

Westerners think of themselves as being socially advanced, responsible, intelligent and responsive to social needs wherever they are located. These extreme social-conscience entrepreneurs are being manipulated by groups funded by Middle East oil money, who recognize the frailty of mind of the dedicated anti-social elements within Western society with their own penchant for self-abnegation and self-sacrifice.

With the helpful connivance and joyful participation of Canada's very own social and economic and political "activists" - disaffected and largely ignored by the larger stable, socially accepting community - the creeping legion of Islamist Western-society-destroyers have handily manoeuvred themselves into a entry position to launch their corrosive agenda.

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The Auld Sod

Once-proud Britain is still proud of herself. Though it is becoming increasingly questionable why that should be so. Little news items scattered here and there throughout one's newspapers are supremely instructive with respect to the state of conflicted insecurity of that once-empire-building country. One can only wonder where sanity has fled in the face of what can only be construed as a fatally endemic state of political correction gone dreadfully awry.

Two men apprehended as suspected al-Qaeda terrorists whose plans were to annihilate innocent Britons as they went about their leisurely pursuits in a packed shopping centre and whom a British court accepted that they were both guilty of planning an "imminent attack" in Manchester, before being arrested, have 'won the right' to remain in Britain. To hold them accountable, and to move to deport them to Pakistan would, alas and alack, breach their human rights.

As a former colonial-vestige country of the yet-proud British Empire, Pakistan which broke away from India in 1948 to form its own state, has a long tradition of grudging allegiance to Britain, along with disdain for its former colonial power. The greater preponderance of attacks on British soil by home-grown or visa-carrying jihadists are Pakistani in origin.

Pakistan, where Saudi Arabia built and bankrolled religious schools that urged on young Muslims the need to prove fealty to Allah by sacrificing themselves to vengeful jihad against the infidels and the Crusaders. Of course Pakistan and Afghanistan are not the only countries where these fundamentalist-style Wahhabi madrasas are ensconced; they exist throughout Europe and North America, as well.

The presiding judge of the Special Immigration and Appeals Commission declared himself "satisfied" that ringleader Abid Naseer "still poses a serious threat to the national security of the United Kingdom", but given that the country's human rights law disallowed deportation if the receiving country might visit violence upon them, it could not be permitted. Would-be mass murderers are to be given haven from their country of origin which might punish them.

Even while the judge was convinced that this jihadi sent "sinister" coded emails to al-Qaeda contacts detailing his determination to carry out a "mass-casualty attack", his hands were tied. And, according to a former British anti-terrorism police chief: "Our counter-terrorism legislation has been knocked into a cocked hat and we haven't got the measures that people need in this country to keep them safe."

Yes, but they do benefit hugely from the nice, warm feeling of brotherhood and all's well with the world, with the enactment of "human rights" laws which protect all the vicious malefactors who choose to afflict society, since they are sadly misinformed and know not what they do. The superior-minded human-rights defenders can smile happily in their death-throes.

Another example of the auld sod slipping more than a few of its neural cogs:

A woman of 95 years, a lovely old widow living in the Swansea area had the unmitigated gall to become momentarily confused as she was sorting between recycling bags. This elderly widow actually placed an empty, and nicely washed butter tub into the incorrect recycling bag. She had carefully laundered 15 tins for recycling, and tossed them all, along with the tub into a green bag. The tub belonged in a black bag.

Gaspingly, incredibly sloppy. What must she have been thinking? When the recycling crew - formerly described as garbagemen, now known as recycling engineers, arrived to collect the contents of the green recycling bag they were aghast to discover the empty butter tub lying innocently, but with evil intent, within. An official notice was stuck to the bag warning this aged miscreant that her bag was not collected for the obvious reason that it had been contaminated.

Instructing the homeowner that mixing up recycling can lead to prosecution....

Oh, we're not finished, not yet. Here's another beauty.

Disciplinary action is being sternly considered for a British magistrate in the wake of his having characterized two teenage boys as "absolute scum". Them's fighting words, to be sure. The remark just slipped out of Austin Molloy's outraged mouth when he was sentencing two 16-year-olds in Blackburn, Lancashire for their rather socially-averse behaviour.

The boys had entered Blackburn Cathedral, and set about scribbling racist and sexually-rife abusive remarks on the pages of prayer books. They took a cross said to be priceless and with considerable effort bent it out of shape. In total causing an estimated $4,500-worth of vandalizing damage. These boys were so brilliant they signed their names in the church's guest book. Which led to their apprehension.

At their sentencing they were fined and sentenced to probation. But the 57-year-old magistrate, told the boys: "Normal people would consider you absolute scum". To which a delicate-minded court clerk objected, calling the language 'inappropriate', and taking it upon herself to see that an enquiry be launched to determine whether judge should be disciplined.

Fittingly enough, the father of one of the boys has responded: "I totally agree with what Mr. Molloy said, and I've not got a problem with him whatsoever. I back Mr. Molloy 100%. As far as I am concerned, Mr. Molloy should get his job back. The whole family is absolutely disgusted. I've worked my whole life, and my son was brought up as a Catholic boy going to church, so why he has done what he has done, I don't know... He was been a stupid boy."

That too, is unsurprising. The entire country appears to have gone soft in the head; becoming rather collectively "stupid".

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