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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Canadian Citizen

Anyone who, in their naivete, believes that an already-radicalized Omar Khadr, who has been in American custody since the age of 15, was not further indoctrinated into indissoluble hatred of the West and further resolved to continue his chosen destiny as a warrior of Islam, belongs to a certain school of sand-loving ostriches.

Thanks to his father's determination that all his children should become jihadists, intimately involved in learning how to handle weapons, how to make explosive devices, trained in battle techniques, and exposed to guerrilla operations and a willingness to become martyrs, Omar Khadr was, at the age of fifteen, a fledgling but determined jihadist.

Boys and youth in the Middle East and Africa where tribal antipathies and religious fanaticism initiate them to early adulthood are commonly enough involved in violence. It seems, moreover, to be bred in the genes. Omar Khadr appeared a physical child at age 15, but he was modelled, like his older brothers, to become another jihadist in the legion of Islamist honour that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda exemplified.

We are all, in greater degree, the result of our early exposure to certain values and priorities. And although we also are imbued with free will, the freedom of our willingness to resist and deny what our parental authority figures whom we emulate and usually admire and seek to please, is all too often lacking. As gregarious and emotional creatures we want to do as we're told.

Which is what Omar Khadr did. But while in incarceration alongside other jihadists he learned some tricks of the manipulative trade. To elicit sympathy from the wider public by claiming to have been abused and tortured. To use his youth while he could, to bring empathy to his cause, representing himself as a helpless youth who had no choice but to obey orders.

He was indoctrinated by birth and by a lifetime of exposure to the usual Islamist litany of grievances against the West, and taught to think of himself proudly as one of Islam's mujahadeen. His sublime obligation to the divine was manifest in his having defied the American soldiers he and his Taliban comrades came up against, rather than surrender when it was clear they were defeated.

He was prepared to martyr himself on the battlefield, and he is now busily being martyred in life. He will too soon return to Canada, to resume life here, which was interrupted when his father yanked his family back to their Islamic roots, as a companion to Osama bin Laden. His mother, complicit with his father in grooming him as a jihadist, still believes in that mission and hisses contempt for Canadian values.

This is the sizzling atmosphere of detestation and commitment to fanaticism that Omar Khadr will be returning to, where his mother and his grandmother can continue to foster in him the resentment and violence that his father originally imbued him with. This is what is returning to Canada.

This is a citizen of Canada.

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On Trial for Treason

Osama bin Laden had been favoured by Pakistan and particularly by the military and its intelligence agency, with a peaceful existence in Abbottabad. There, he took the youngest and latest of his wives to sire four more children with her, to while away the tedious hours. A hunted man must live a careful, albeit precarious existence. With the help of his friends, of course.

The military garrison close by and the nearby homes of elite officers guaranteed respect for his anonymity.

Ah, but one of his closest neighbours harboured his own suspicions. Dr. Shakeel Afridi, aware that his government boasted its friendship with the United States and trumpeted their common cause in battling terrorism, saw little amiss when he was recruited by the CIA to aid them in discovering just who that mysterious recluse might be.

They thought up a scheme to vaccinate the town's residents for hepatitis B. In the process, procuring DNA samples from those living in that compound.

Dr. Alfridi took it upon himself, responsibly, to maintain a watch on his neighbours. He reported activities of interest to the CIA. And possibly was able to validate suspicions through DNA testing, that the children living there were related to Osama bin Laden. Ergo, the tall, silent ghostly figure likely was Osama bin Laden himself.

The lightning, split-second-timing SEALs raid that ended the life of al-Qaeda's leader, constituted an embarrassment for Pakistan, revealing its administration and its military and intelligence agency for the duplicitous, treacherous 'friends' they are. They hadn't officially been alerted to the planned raid because suspicions were robust enough that they would alert bin-Laden.

It's taken awhile, but the government in northwest province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where bin Laden had lived has fired Dr. Alfridi on disciplinary grounds. "The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has issued a notification of dismissal of Dr. Shakeel Alfridi", announced the provincial health secretary.

Dr. Alfridi is not merely fired. He is in police custody. Seventeen additional medics who worked on the same vaccination program that had been arranged for through collusion with the CIA have also been fired. Fifteen female health workers were dismissed last summer. A female doctor and an assistant coordinator were fired earlier this month.

Dr. Afridi had worked for years as a government surgeon.

An investigative panel looking into the bin Laden raid has put forward the recommendation that Dr. Afridi be tried for treason. He is suspected by Pakistani officials of having led the U.S. to Osama bin Laden. This is the very same Pakistan that pledged, in return for yearly American funding to the tune of multiple billions, to form an alliance against terror with the United States.

This is the Pakistan that claimed it had no knowledge whatever of the presence of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad; for that matter, anywhere in Pakistan. The SEALs raid, however, represented an insulting violation of the country's sovereignty. And, of course, Pakistanis were outraged, along with their furious government.

Even so, the American government was not completely certain of the identity of the man they targeted in that fateful May 2 raid on the Abbottabad compound. It just happened, after all, to be Osama bin Laden. And he was summarily dismissed from life. "Paid" stamped on a debt of revenge, or natural justice.

And Dr. Shakeel Afridi will now go on trial for treason against his country. Does that not speak absolute volumes?

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Government Business

Our governments are hyper-hypocritical. The social ills that we acquire through the use of tobacco, alcohol and gambling are well enough known, as addictions to all three are a problem for society, and not the least for susceptible individuals and their families. These social ills are not illegal. They are recreational in nature, and when used and indulged in in moderation they may do little harm (with the exception of tobacco).

While being recognized by the medical fraternity as a source, along with recreational drugs, of personal instability when over-indulged, our health care system is geared to cope with the fall-out and aftermath of addictions and failing health. We pay, through our taxes, for universal health care to help patch up the dismal failures in physical and psychological health that ensues with addiction.

We are not always successful, since the fall-out from various addictions leads to criminal activity as addicts become desperate to be able to pay for their drugs of choice. Which brings the police and the justice system into the picture alongside the medical community. Homelessness, prostitution, break-and-enters and gang activities all result from addictions.

But the sale of tobacco, alcohol and gambling enriches the coffers of government. The Government of Ontario, through its Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation arm, has announced its intention to build a few more casinos. Daily, weekly and monthly lotteries draw people to buy tickets in the hope that they will strike it rich.

And people addicted to gambling find themselves losing their bank accounts, their self-respect, their families and their possessions as a result of their inability to cope with the irresistible urge to gamble. While building new casinos, and launching new lotteries, the province extolls its humane side through advertising the work OLG is doing to help counsel addicts.

Know your limit. Play within it.

Welcome to KnowYourLimit.ca, your source for information about how gambling works in Ontario, myths and facts, game odds, and helpful tips to keep gambling fun.

At OLG, Responsible Gambling (RG) is a central pillar of our business. The logic is simple: we don’t want problem gamblers playing our games; we want healthy players who can manage their play over the long-term. To do this, we’ve developed a robust and innovative RG program, comprised of prevention-based initiatives designed to educate players and encourage healthy play habits. For players who are concerned about their gambling, or exhibit signs of potential gambling problems, our staff is trained to refer them to third-party support services.

Isn't it all, just so precious?

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Missing The Penny

We're always on tenterhooks when a new budget is brought down. This time, a federal budget, carefully put together by a majority Conservative government, two days after the provincial Ontario budget was brought down. Ontario is in dire financial straits, with a burdening and burgeoning debt and hefty deficit. Whereas the country as a whole, driven by the federal government, is in fairly secure shape, yet with its own relatively modest deficit to be tamed.

Canada came out of the world-wide recession in fairly good shape, famously. While the PIGS - Portugal, Italy, Grace and Spain - have experienced real recessionary pain, whose legacy is true austerity, high unemployment, rising debt costs and dwindling social services. The Harper government keeps reminding us how fortunate we are.

Of course, we'd likely have no deficit at all had the federal government of a Conservative government which it is, adhered more seriously to fiscal conservatism.

On the other hand, that's not the Canadian way; social services are simply too important to us as a whole. And, as a wealthy country, endowed with vast natural resources that drive our trade machine, we can afford those social programs that mean so much to us. One of which has just had a crimp put in it, the Old Age Security program.

It's a crimp, not a fatal bite, and we'll weather it. Despite clawbacks geared to income, perhaps a further restructuring could make it less universal in nature, and more geared to responding to the needs of seniors whose situation reveals a meager income. There are federal government departmental cutbacks, some fairly substantial, and cut-backs in federal civil servant positions.

Those cutbacks, however, still will not reflect the rates that were present when the Conservatives first came to power. It can be argued that since the population, mostly through a generous intake of immigrants is steadily growing, and thus there is a concomitant requirement for the public service to grow as well, but there is also a lot of overlap and redundancy.

Such as is seen in a wide array of governmental IT services, which to be more economically feasible, should be consolidated and integrated. And that process has begun. Federal civil servants, with their pot of gold at the end of their rainbow employment in the form of defined benefits in their retirement, will also be paying a higher proportion into their retirement funds.

It's too bad that Members of Parliament and the Senate will not as immediately be paying more into their own retirement funds, and looking at a lengthier period before entitlement than having served six years; their golden parachute is somewhat excessive. Various government departments will have a bit of a struggle to accommodate their needs to a smaller budget, but they will manage.

The CBC for all its moaning and groaning will manage to get by despite the modest-enough reduction in its financial underpinnings. Its value to Canadians is far less now than it once was, and what it receives to keep it gloriously afloat should reflect that; they might want to return to the basics of expressing views amenable to all Canadians on all sides of the political spectrum - or not.

It remains to be seen whether we'll miss the penny.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Syria's Trials and Tribulations

So the score is on target for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and implausible deniability for the United Nations/Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who continues to brim with enthusiastic optimism that he has talked sense and conflict resolution to President al-Assad. Convincing him of the dire necessity to honour his obligations as President of Syria to cease murdering Syrian citizens. The optics are bad, very bad.

Although Kofi Annan appears to have problems recognizing that al-Assad's assurances are thin gruel to feast on, it seems clear enough to others involved in attempting to find a solution to the ever-more-vicious situation that his agreements are meaningless. A bid for time. No different than when the Arab League-dispatched observers were on the ground, witnessing the regime smashing the resistance of the protest.

China and Russia, both now recognizing the inevitability of an ongoing, brutal civil war, reflective of Lebanon's agony, have discovered that their influence with Syria is far less than they might have assumed of a purported ally, one whom they have groomed, and encouraged, and armed. On the other hand, in its bid for even-handedness, Moscow urged the Syrian opposition to "follow the example" of Damascus.

In that they were successful, for the Syrian opposition has indeed followed the example that Damascus demonstrated, coolly proceeding with its mission to utterly smash the opposition. Encouraging in turn the opposition to continue its mission to smash the regime. And the bloodshed and trauma continues. Not only does it continue but it has become increasingly gruesome and unforgivably inhumane.

The Arab summit scheduled for Baghdad was rather poorly attended. The indignation and furore originally manifested throughout initial meetings of Arab League have been somewhat neutered. The Arab League, it seems, is tiring of the issue. It is abundantly clear it has no influence on Syria, and its inability to make any inroads in the situation has clearly deflated its enthusiasm for intervention on any level.

A draft resolution produced for debate by Arab foreign ministers breaks no new ground, calling on the Syrian regime to "...Immediately stop all actions of violence and killing, protect Syrian civilians and guarantee the freedom of peaceful demonstrations for achieving demands of the Syrian people." It failed to impress Bashar al-Assad before, and will have no impact now.

As Syria's foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi has said, Damascus intends to reject any initiative stemming from the summit. "Syria will not co-operate with any Arab League initiative at any level."

And, this just in from Navi Pillay, UN human rights chief: hundreds of children are being incarcerated, interrogated and tortured.
"They've gone for the children - for whatever purposes - in large numbers. Hundreds detained and tortured. It's just horrendous. Children shot in the knees; held together with adults in really inhumane conditions; denied medical treatment for their injuries, either held as hostages or as sources of information."

Wait, there's more: Rebel forces have also been reported to be involved in abuses of children. The UN special representative for children in armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said she has information that the Free Syrian Army is using child soldiers.

And this, absolutely too-precious statement from Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari: "We cannot be impartial on this matter of daily violence, killing and bloodletting."

All, it seems, is quite normally functioning in the Arab world, with the ongoing trials and tribulations of the Arab Spring.

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Deadly Insouciance

The Axis of Evil that Iran, North Korea and Syria represent - (excluding for the sake of recognizing the more immediate threats, though Pakistan represents the initial crucible of information-sharing on nuclear technology) that has much in common with one another and their front in sparring with the United Nations' IAEA, the Security Council, the United States and the West - feels itself to be invincible.

They know from experience that there is much bluster with the condemnations that erupt each time they initiate yet another step to defying world security in their inexorable move toward nuclear threats aimed at spreading terror and cowing their enemies. They know how effective it is to dole out little dollops of hope from time to time, to gain time to continue furthering their expansion ambitions. They know how unwilling their detractors are to committing to physical means.

They encourage one another, and give robust aid and assistance surreptitiously, under cover of appearing to temporarily accede to the demands of the world body to honour its promises to cease and desist in their conquering quest. And the laxness of their pledges and the fearsome ambitions that they represent, bring chilling fear to those with the imagination to foresee an impulsive threat delivered and humanity suffering.

Not merely at their own hands through the deployment of powerful, far-reaching missiles which they continually perfect, with the covert and deniable assistance of those whose advanced technology aids them, when those agencies purportedly work within the Security Council itself, but at the not-altogether unlikely prospect of their sharing those deadly technologies with their non-state terror proxies.

North Korea has proceeded with the preliminaries of its planned launch of a powerful missile, ostensibly to launch a satellite, despite its promise to respect the UN Security Council resolution that it refrain from "any launch using ballistic missile technology". In the process, it is spending millions that could feed its starving people. The emergency food aid that the United States had offered to provide to North Korea in exchange for its honouring that resolution has been cancelled.

Official North Korea has responded to the American president's condemnation of its activities as "confrontational, duplicitous and insulting". This could very well be a Monty Python skit writ large; wryly amusing if it were not completely, delusionally, bitterly threatening of world peace. It is well enough accepted that North Korea is developing intercontinental ballistic missile technology to be fitted with nuclear warheads.

Japan, in self-protection, has ordered interceptor missile units in preparation for the latest celebratory (anniversary event honouring their revered founder) North Korean missile launch. Both Japan and South Korea have issued due warning of their intention to shoot down any parts of the rocket that violates their air or land space. Threats that North Korea characterizes as "war-mongering".

Syria is being condemned by the UN, the Arab League, the United States, the European Union, for continuing to attack and slaughter that significant majority portion of its population that continues to demand regime change, despite its agreement with the peace treaty that Kofi Annan presented Bashar al-Assad with. And the G5+1 is set to re-start negotiations with Iran yet again over its nuclear program, in April.

The unifying tactics all employ is promise, delay, divert and ignore. A highly successful formula to date.

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Incarcerants' Vexatious Complaints

The Government of Canada, through the Correctional Services of Canada, is obviously attuned to its obligations in ensuring that federal penitentiary inmates receive their full and due considerations under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. From aging serial murderers receiving their old age security cheques, to the recognition of the importance to incarcerates to be able to cast their ballots in federal elections.

And of course, to ensuring that inmates' health conditions are flagged, and adequate medical care be given. And should they require medication or specially designed footwear, for example, these details must be assiduously understood and provided to ensure the maintenance of good health and morale. After all, society, through the government they elect and the agencies which do the good work of the nation, has a deep obligation to recognize the entitlements of all its citizens.

And although Canada has its ample share of sociopaths and psychopaths and ordinary garden-variety criminals who wreak havoc when they are loose in society, there is the prevailing wisdom that these people are human beings, just like anyone else. And as such they have inalienable entitlements which must be respected. Their morning porridge must be served hot, the cream fresh, their coffee good quality, though not necessarily organic free-trade.

But then we currently are being led, in Canada, by a Conservative government. A law-and-order government that seems to feel that it is well and good to look after the needs of people, even those incarcerated through sentences meted out by judge and jury who have carefully considered the effects of the anti-social, violent and criminal behaviour of those behind bars, but that they should serve those sentences completely.

Still, Conservative MP Roxanne James has introduced Bill C-293, that would have the effect of allowing the Commissioner of Correctional Services to identify trivial and troublesome claims that emanate from various prisoners on a personal mission to tie up the system by complaining about everything in the normal course of their prison day, objecting about services they feel to be substandard, and demanding recourse to correction.

Some of these same inmates that commonly lodge vexatious complaints because they are enabled to through the grievance process, also sue for monetary compensation when they lodge a complaint claiming that they have been ill done by. And then, if an adjudicator finds for the plaintiff who just happens to be a convicted criminal, the taxpayer not only pays for his incarceration costs, but for his hurt feelings as well.

Don Head, commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada testified before the House of Commons public safety committee about the problems mounted by inmates responsible for filing numerous yearly complaints of minor and non-existent failings. Which the grievance process must then consider and deal with, swamping the corrections staff with complaints of "too small" eggs, or "too cold" ice cream" or "too hot" light bulbs, or potatoes "not the right size".

The legitimate grievances of inmates also calling for attention, some of whom are afflicted with mental health issues, can be drowned out by the deliberately frivolous complaints. "...because of the way the law is written right now ... [the offender] can be unhappy with an answer and immediately file a second-level grievance" in the four-level grievance process.

A cumbersome bureaucracy in the prison system, just as there is in any government installation. However, "Making a hobby of filing meritless grievances, I believe, makes a mockery of our correctional system and the entire grievance process", said Ms. James. "This bill is going to seek to address that small loophole we need to close to make sure our system actually works the way it was intended to."

Those on the public safety committee who represent the Opposition, have, as one might expect, expressed concerns that the bill as proposed lacks specific criteria to identify vexatious complainants, and could result in correctional officials abusing this new 'power'.

If all of this is not entirely predictable, what then is it?

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"They Preferred To Kill Him"

It is impossible to overstate the presumptive entitlements of people in the most impossible of dreadful situations who yet claim that though they or theirs have done irreparable wrong to society, committing the most odious of human acts, they deserve sympathy and compensation for their irreplaceable losses.

It is just as well to believe that the loss of the life of Mohamed Merah is irreplaceable, but it is not. He may be gone to his Maker (who may in full distaste for what the man represents, disown him, so much for martyrdom and Paradise and countless Virgins), but there are more where he came from. Men full of hatred and assumed grievances that consume them to the point of requiring emotional release that can only come at the cost of death to innocent others.

Mohamed Merah was a special breed. Just as well there are not legions of them, otherwise the world would become a charnel house. But there are enough of his type ambulatory and seeking their opportunity to trigger an event of carnage with enough blood spilled and horror evinced by the community that will guarantee him his moment of fame and celebration in jihadist circles, bringing further infamy to al-Qaeda.

So proud of what he meant to accomplish, and indeed did; the valorous act of redeeming Islam and defending poor innocent Palestinian children from the oppressive presence of Israeli military who seek to hold back the tide of suicide missions meant to destroy Jewish children, that he was eager to have his video of point-blank shooting young Jewish children displayed in all its glory and gore for all to admire in the jihadi blogosphere.

"In accordance with Al-Jazeera's code of ethics, given the video does not add any information that is not already in the public domain, its news channels will not be broadcasting any of its contents", was the announcement from the Qatar-based network. How noble a response to the demand by Nicolas Sarkozy that they refrain from showing the monster's footage.

But, then, another issue has erupted for France to deal with. Mohamed Benalel Merah, the piously grieving father of Mohamed Merah, who threatens France with a lawsuit for dispatching his child, tells another story yet again of the place of Algerians in French society. Assimilation is not for them; assassination more their style, for those Muslims who dare to assimilate, and for those Jews who handily present themselves as unknowing victims.

His pain of loss of a son whose vicious murders shocked a nation and the international community has precedence over any normal human being's shocked horror that one of his sons would commit such unforgivable atrocities. As a values judgement, symptomatic of preferences and allegiance, it is understandable that the apple fell very close to the tree that bore it.

The mother, married to a second man, this one whose son is imprisoned as an al-Qaeda operative, so that the sympathies of the family as a whole, and that branch in particular lead inexorably to a drama whose conclusion took the headlines of the world's news by storm. And now, Mohamed Benalel Merah insists on retribution from a government whose authorities preferred to kill the mad dog rather than take him alive....

Would that they had, in actual fact.

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"Alternative Sentencing"

"Aboriginal communities are not a separate category entitled to less protection because the offender is Aboriginal. Where the breach of a [long-term supervision order] goes to the control of the Aboriginal offender in the community, rehabilitation and reintegration into society will have faltered, if not failed." Justice Marshall Rothstein
It was a nice, liberal bow to the culture and heritage and insistence of First Nations that their form of restorative justice worked better for aboriginals than the White Man's version of criminal prosecution and subsequent punishments reflecting the severity of the crime committed. In deference to aboriginal sensibilities, it was thought useful to instruct judges to consider sentencing in light of aboriginal ancestry.

In so doing, society was giving if not a 'free' pass, then something closely aligned to it, to First Nations people who tested the boundaries of society's patience in persistent and sometimes very violent criminal acts committed in their own communities and further throughout general society. It is true that aboriginal inmates in federal penitentiaries are over-represented in their incarcerated numbers.

But it is not so true that the fault for that fact, that First Nations youths in particular in committing various types of crimes against society and one another, should be given lighter sentences in recognition of their background. Much crime is ignited by the use of alcohol and drugs, and it is also a fact that aboriginals are highly susceptible to such addictions. And those addictions are often the cause of criminal acts.

But aboriginal backgrounds also include the fact that despite the original unblemished culture so dreadfully spoiled by the appearance of the White Man on North American shores that were already occupied by people whose ancestral lands it represented, at the present time First Nations living on reserves do not frequently parent well. Children brought up in homes where parents are disinterested in their welfare and more interested in drinking and drug use do not make ideal role models.

Manasie Ipeelee, a 39-year-old Inuk from Iqaluit became an alcoholic by age 12 after his alcoholic mother died leaving him an orphan. By age 19 he had 36 convictions of brutal beatings, and rapes. Frank Ladue, a 50-year-old Dene Indian was orphaned by the death of alcoholic parents. Sent to a residential school at age five, he began consuming alcohol at age nine, then went on to using drugs. His speciality was assaulting women, raping them when they were drunk or unconscious.

Neither of these two men represent potentials for rehabilitation and integration back into the communities where they terrorized and threatened people, committing their brand of violence. Correctional Services of Canada has done their best to be conscious of the aboriginal background, attempting to imbue their inmates with the support of aboriginal elders through culturally specific measures.

But these were not men in search of their cultural roots, prepared to worship their heritage and reform their brutal natures. They were clearly psychopaths and it is unclear how much of that character that they presented was due to their native heritage corrupted by misfortune and neglect, or just plain nasty inherited genes, such as can be found in any society represented by any ethnic group.

The tender ministrations attempted on behalf of people such as these two is horribly misplaced. Miserable criminals who inflict terror and dreadful violence on others are simply incorrigible. The result of their predations on others should be incarceration to protect society from their malign presence.

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Bringing Closure

It's really hard to figure what more the Canadian Forces could possibly do to prevent a soldier returning from overseas duty from being depressed to the point where they eventually attempt suicide, and eventually succeed. If someone is that determined, they will succeed. No one can be kept on a 24-hour suicide watch. And someone who had attempted suicide no fewer than five times and who finally succeeded did so because he needed to.

Cpl. Stuart Langridge, who had served in Bosnia and had been involved as a member of a high-risk reconnaissance unit in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan in Kabul, died in 2008, buried on his 28th birthday. His grieving mother and step-father seem to feel that the military is at fault for failing their son. What possibly is inexplicable and damaging to the military is that Cpl. Langridge's suicide note was withheld from his family for over a year.

But what the military, who clearly mourn and heavily regret any loss of their own, surely cannot be accused of, is abandoning one of their own at his time of anguish and need. But solutions do not necessarily come readily to hand. Particularly when someone has succumbed to some perceived inner need and turns to alcohol and drugs and becomes addicted to both, thus complicating an already complex emotional need.

The family claims, and their lawyer reiterates, their belief that Cpl. Langridge was an unfortunate victim of post traumatic stress syndrome. An acute form of PTSD, according to reports in the media. His mother and stepfather have mounted over 30 allegations of wrong-doing on the part of 13 military police officers, impacting on their son's state of distress and eventual successful suicide mission.

The military, for their part, insist they did what they could, using all the professional expertise available to them. They feel, also that it was Cpl. Langridge's addictions to alcohol and drugs that are heavily implicated in his depressive states and suicide attempts, and not, as his family claims, any condition relating to trauma experienced overseas.

Shortly before his death Cpl. Langridge had completed 30 days of psychiatric treatment, leaving hospital to return to CFB Edmonton. Several days later, an argument with his girlfriend saw him living in his truck, and he asked base surgeon Major Richard Hannah to be returned to Alberta Hospital which at the time was not possible because its psychiatric unit was full.

He was instead accommodated with a bed at his unit, Lord Strathcona Horse, and was carefully followed. At the time he hanged himself he had traces of cocaine in his system. Major Richard Hannah insists Cpl. Langridge's problem was drug and alcohol addictions. "Cocaine can cause people to commit suicide."

He also pointed to the fact that no fewer than three separate psychiatric reports conclude with no evidence of PTSD. "I busted my butt to take care of Cpl. Langridge. He was a troubled young man who had many problems. I wanted to know whether we had dropped the ball. If I made a mistake I wanted to know. I didn't want Cpl. Langridge to die. That was the last thing I wanted to happen. If I had made a mistake, I would have put my hands up and admitted it."

It is a horrible dilemma for the parents of a young man to accept that he was in such torment that he chose to end his life rather than continue living. To ease their own grief and anguish, people look for reasons. And they grasp at the potential of being able to find those reasons, and if those reasons come complete with someone's neglect causing death, that too brings closure.

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"Where Are Ontarians?"

Oh yes, the Ontario budget. Which the government has presented, almost completely snubbing the Drummond report that was to have inspired it to practical heights of decision-making to extract the province from its truly dismal financial position. According to the Liberal plan of self-rescue, the $15.2-billion 2011 deficit will stand still in 2012, and spiral downward by several billion the following year, in a gradual diminution until 2017-18.

We should live so long, as that sweet old saying goes. But perhaps not under a Liberal government.

Ontario's net debt this year is $260-billion. Servicing that debt is roughly analogous to the amount allocated for the entire provincial higher education budget. Which is to say almost $11-billion in interest payments alone, the third-highest expense in the provincial budget. And that represents a whopping $19,250 debt for every one of us Ontarians.

What did we do to deserve this unenviable status? Why, we brought Dalton McGuinty to power.

And then, gluttons for punishment, and in the face of all the wasteful scandals and half-baked favourite projects that lost money one after the other, voted him back in again, for three successive terms. Aren't we proud of ourselves? What's that old adage; we get what we deserve? Do we really deserve the position we are now in, with a growing debt and deficit and shrinking economy?

Once the engine of the federal economy, now reduced to having become a 'have-not' province. So that this year the federal government will see to apportioning hand-outs under the equalization program, with Ontario receiving three billion of its own back, in an envelope-under-the-table tryst with regrettable ignominy.

So, over to the public service sector that has benefited so handsomely over the eight-year period of government-union negotiations. A unionized wage freeze. The imposition of a further two-year freeze on executive compensation in the public sector, Queen's Park included. Public service pensions will be henceforth topped up by public servants themselves to a greater degree.

In their greater-than-thou-Drummond wisdom, full-day kindergartens will proceed full speed ahead. Who said that Ontario doesn't deserve a publicly-funded day-care operation? Like it or not, it's here. The estimated $1.5-billion it costs is just another fact of life; the Liberals have thus decreed. And for those well-off middle-class families who send their young to college and university, that 30% rebate will continue.

The middle class won't wince too much at that, so it's over to those on welfare to tighten their belts a little more, because welfare payments are set to be reduced, and that's that. The downtrodden don't tend to be as vocal, as impressively indulged as those that have, nor do they vote quite as vigorously as perhaps they should.

Sure, the public health drug formulary will be altered, so that retired singles making $100,000 annually or couples earning $140,000 annually, will have to pony up more of their own funds for drugs; roughly $680, annually. As though with that kind of retirement income they might find it difficult to come up with that sum to acquire the prescription drugs they require to prolong their lives.

The Conservatives are fuming. The NDP, not so much, though they should be. They will do anything to forestall the potential of the Conservatives being voted in as the next government should this one fall. Not on their watch, though. "Where are Ontarians? Are they happy with the budget or are they not happy with the budget? Do they want to go back to the polls or not?"

Are you offering?

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Shamefully Distinguishing Themselves

So is it then just coincidental that on many days of newspaper scrutiny Arab or Muslim names crop up in reports of malfeasance, of drug dealing, of criminal activity, of theft, of beatings, of murder? This has become so common it is impossible not to notice how disproportionately those names are mentioned in reportage of various types of criminal activities.

It is, of course, socially indelicate to bring attention to this type of thing; it is counter to the prevailing social attitudes of a country dedicated to full and unquestioning acceptance of its immigrant population. Canada is a country comprised of pluralities. And one cannot point a finger at any one given ethnicity, religion, culture or heritage. Truth is, no one group has a lock-hold on criminal or psychotic behaviour.

And it is always well to remember that Esmaili and Ahmadiyya Muslims not only profess amity with other religions, and comport themselves faultlessly as minority Islamic sects, they also do not represent among those who commit cardinal sins of human rights abuses against others.

Sunni and Shia Muslim youth, on the other hand, appear to be vulnerable to all manner of criminal activities, ranging from misogynistic violence, socially averse criminal acts, and outright acts of violent terrorism.

As example, Mohamed Jama Yusuf, 23, knocked an innocent 51-year-old man off his bicycle in Ottawa on August 26, 2008 (the case has just gone to trial) and then when the man fell off his bicycle, the larger, younger Yusuf proceeded to kick and stamp Sean Murphy in the head and body which caused a massive head injury and death.

Yusuf bragged later about what he had done, having run from the scene, leaving one of his friends to rifle through Mr. Murphy's pockets. It had been assumed that Mr. Murphy was a victim of a hit-and-run accident. A video from the bar to which Yusuf & company had returned showed him high-fiving his friends, after the attack.

Same newspaper, same date, other reports in the City section list an arrest in the January stabbing death of a 24-year-old in ByWard Market. Navid Niran died after being stabbed outside Studio nightclub. Ahmed Hafizi, 19, appeared in court to face a first-degree murder charge, ordered in the interim not to communicate with the family of Mr. Niran with whom he had got into an altercation, and whom he had stabbed to death.

Another updated report on Zakaria Dourhnou, 19, charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death a week ago of 20-year-old Khalid Doreh. Additional charges of assault with a weapon, injuring Ibrahim Iman and Mohamud Ahmed are expected to be upgraded to attempted murder.

Ibrahim Iman was charged with weapons trafficking last March. The same Ibrahim Iman had been arrested in 2007 for trafficking in drugs in the city. Zakaria Dourhnou had recently been released from prison after having served a year as an accessory to murder after Yazdan Ghiasvand Ghiasi, 16, had been murdered over a bag of drugs in December 2010.

These are all manifestations of Muslim and Arab youth distinguishing themselves shamefully on the streets of Ottawa. Simply as an example of the type of reportage that is so commonly read in our local newspapers.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Assisting The Process

"There won't be working relations with them, conversations, passing papers, making visits, exchanging information, consulting one another, attending meetings. That's work, and it will not take place."
"We had been participating in meetings, discussions, arranging visits to Israel. All that is over. We are not working with them any more."
"They systematically and serially make all kinds of decisions and condemnations against Israel without even symbolically considering our positions."
Yigal Palmor, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman
What took so long? And why on Earth would Israel have continued to have formal diplomatic ties with the very most dysfunctional, hypocritical agency tied to the United Nations? Finally, Israel has taken the step of severing official contact with the UN's Human Rights Council. All it took was the umpteenth instance of unjustified, blatantly insulting, demagogic accusations of human-rights injustices against Israel.
"I have no doubt that it is in the interest of Israel to cooperate with the Human Rights Council on this investigative mission, not least so that it can explain its own policies and actions to the independent commissioners once they are appointed."
"The most recent example of refusal to cooperate is Syria, which did not permit either the Human Rights Council mandated Fact-finding Mission or the Commission of Inquiry to enter the country." President of the UN Human Rights council, Laura Dupuy Lasserre
Such innocence of purpose, such a surprised reaction that Israel has finally had enough of being demonized by the Human Rights Commission, the very body that accepts and honours nominations on behalf of the most egregious human-rights abusing countries in the world. Hugo Chavez ran for a seat on the Council, as did the Libyan Ghadafi regime and Syria's al-Assad regime; now there's human rights legitimacy for you.

This is the world body's outstanding forum for focusing on the observation of human rights throughout the Globe, where it sits to consider blatant instances of human rights abuses, taking care not to 'name and shame' and apportion blame, but to chide, to move the errant country closer to approximating what any intelligent being would recognize as the basic requirements of human rights entitlements.

But naming and slandering is what occurs regularly from that human rights body when it comes to one single state: Israel. The Human Rights Council has seen fit to issue no fewer than 91 decisions of condemnation, and of those 39 highlight Israel's presumed lack of attention to its obligations in observing human rights. In contrast, three decisions of condemnation related to Syria, and one, one single condemnation toward Iran.

At no time does the Human Rights Council consider the Palestinian Authority's lauding of the martyrdom of those Palestinians whom it encourages to invest in "resistance", the code word for violent action against Israel and Jewish settlements. This is the authority that lionizes murderers of children and entire families, paying their own families handsome sums in reflection of rewards for their sacrifice of a terrorist son.

It is the Palestinian Authority that resists returning to the bargaining table to resume peace talks, insisting that Israel must, without equivocation, surrender to the PA's demands as a prior condition before talks can resume. The illogic of the demand seems to escape the PA, for should Israel agree to all demands, what use then is there of peace agreements; there would be no Israel to bargain with, if it met all the demands. And therein lies the strategy.

Leaving the Palestinian Authority the usefully manipulative option of mewling to the UN body to condemn Israel for occupying portions of the land it plans to use for its own Palestinian state - the message that goes out to the international community, to screen the real intention of managing by any means conceivable, the retaking of the entire geography that Palestinians claim belong rightfully to them.

The name of the game, both with the Palestinian Authority through its clever, but transparent ploys - opaque to those who wish to see nothing untoward - is to discredit Israel. And it is succeeding admirably, only because it has such an eagerly willing collective of ears to impress with its 'side of the story', sitting comfortably in their pews at the Human Rights Council.

The resolution to "dispatch an independent, international, fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem"... will commence apace, and reach its foreordained conclusion.

Unless it harbours a suicide wish, why would Israel seek to assist in the process?

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Another Integrity-Deficient Mayor

Ottawans deplored the result of the municipal election that brought Larry O'Brien, a businessman, not a politician, to the Mayoralty. There was some valid questioning that took place about the legitimacy of his behaviour during the election, and a police investigation did turn up questionable activity, although he was later acquitted due to lack of evidence.

That having been put behind him, he proved to be a divisive fumbler as mayor of this capital city. Not many were too saddened to see him lose the following election to Jim Watson, who had been mayor of Ottawa years back, before retiring to private life as CEO of the Canadian Tourism Commission, then running again for public office as an MPP, ending up in the Ontario legislature.

Then, eyeing Ottawa again, deciding to run once again for mayor, against Larry O'Brien. In so doing, being critical of the performance of Mayor O'Brien and for good reason. He meant to restore public trust for the City of Ottawa among the electorate. And when he was elected, by a hefty margin of votes by people thankful to be rid of Larry O'Brien, he promised a new era of accountability.

He had an excellent rapport with City Hall staff, and with his councillors, and matters were running fairly smoothly. And then a year ago, whiffs of impropriety in the hiring of a man who had been a staunch volunteer for a succession of mayors, a Liberal who has proven the old adage that it's who you know that gets you there: Brian Guest.

Who, while working on a full-time basis for the Plasco waste diversion company seeking a lucrative contract with the City, also worked here and there for various city contracts. With no one, from the city manager, to the mayor to any of the councillors remarking that it looked suspiciously like a situation of conflicting interests.

And now, the same Liberal insider, still working for Plasco, but with his own consultancy firm, Boxfish Group, has been revealed to have been rewarded with a series of contracts, most of which have no paperwork attached to them, let alone the formality of a written contract, in total coming out to in excess of $300,000.

City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick has lamely explained that it was a simple matter of administrative oversight that there were no contracts, no outlines of expectations, let alone the work to be fulfilled; just casual suggestions about consultations and speech writing, that kind of thing.

The city has its own very well remunerated professionals fully capable of producing whatever it is that Brian Guest has done. Whatever happened to the virtuous declaration by Mayor Watson that "a capital city like ours should be a shining light of openness and transparency"?

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Getting It Together

Now there's an interesting side issue to come out of the concluding 52-nation conference on nuclear security that took place in Seoul, South Korea. Upon the very doorstep of the country next door that has been doing overtime business in terrifying the world about its nuclear ambitions. Partnering with that other global nuclear pariah, Iran, North Korea has viewed askance the summit taking place next door.

Threatening to take umbrage anew each time it perceives itself as being criticized for its nuclear ambitions and perceived entitlements. And, not that Canada is being placed in a similar category, but simply that another critical safety issue was broached during the conference. Relating to Canada's premier place within the international community as a major producer of medical isotopes. And its nuclear safety responsibilities.

Fact is, the nuclear technology that Canada has traditionally employed, and continues to, in its processing of medical isotopes, is with the use of weapons-grade uranium. Weapons-grade uranium that, in fact is procured from the United States. Processed at the federal government's Chalk River reactor. Which, the Government of Canada has pledged to close down by 2016.

And to move to a different type of processing, where a newer isotope production facility is to make use of non-weapons-grade uranium. A move that Belgium, France and the Netherlands are also undertaking, alongside the United States. Only those countries have earmarked a date a year earlier than Canada to fulfill their obligation.

Nordion, one of the world's largest producers and suppliers of medical isotopes, has recently signed an arrangement with Russia to run to 2020, a ten-year agreement signed in 2010. The processing will be with the use of weapons-grade uranium obtained from Russia itself. It is estimated that 100,000 medical procedures each and every day are undertaken, reliant on the use of medical isotopes using that grade of radioactive substance now in contention.

Fears are that terrorists or criminal organizations are eager to obtain that radioactive material; weapons-grade uranium. Securing the material is of critical importance. One might say better that it be in the hands of a competent agency in a non-nuclear-producing country with full safeguards than that it languish in the vaults of countries that feel more casual about guarding the material.

In criticizing Canada there is also an element of competition involved. That Nordion will see a production advantage over its international competitors who are moving toward the use of non-weapons-grade uranium, while Nordion continues to use weapons-grade until its contract with Russia runs out.

Although the current Canadian government defends the Nordion-Russia agreement, emphasizing its commitment nonetheless to eliminate the use of weapons-grade uranium from medical isotope production, it might be a good idea for the company and government to get together seriously on the issue to ensure they're singing from the same hymnal.

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Save Your Daughters; Teach Your Sons

"The evidence in the record about the violence faced by street prostitutes across Canada is, in a word, overwhelming. One does not need to conjure up the face of Robert Pickton to know that this is true." Judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal
So, there it is, carried forward yet again. Another decision, this time by the Ontario Court of Appeal that has struck down some of the country's anti-prostitution laws. On the basis that those laws have the effect of placing unconstitutional restrictions on the ability of prostitutes to adequate protection. And if any group of people need protection it is women who are vulnerable to violence, most especially those in the profession of selling sex.
"Prostitution is a controversial topic, one that provokes heated and heartfelt debate about morality, equality, personal autonomy and public safety. It is not the court's role to engage in that debate. Our role is to decide whether or not the challenged laws accord with the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land." Three majority justices of the 5-judge panel
It's an odd thing, newspaper editorials wax eloquently sanctimonious in their stated solicitude about prostitutes. Starting off their declarations with the reminder that the profession is always viewed as an assault on decency, and that the very act of renting out space temporarily in someone's body, strikes most people as indelicate, rudely disgusting. And, they say, what parent could foresee this as a profession for their daughters?

Daughters? What about parental attitudes toward the possibility that their sons would become exploiters of women's bodies? Women would have nothing to sell if it were not for the fact that men hunger for what they sell. Men's desire have created the profession. While the societal taboo and dread of young women selling sex has never abated, what about the responsibility of parents to inculcate in their sons a distaste for exploiting women?

The simple fact is, and has always been, men from all walks of life, from the building trades to lawyers and judges, tend to gravitate toward buying sex from women in the profession. That profession is there solely because there is an undeniable demand for it. If the most famous heart surgeon in Canada was capable of seeking out a street prostitute, someone whose medical profession should have taught him better, what recourse is there for women?

And because so many poor and marginalized women, many of them addicted to drugs and alcohol are mired in the profession, and society prefers not to 'notice' their presence, because it is so abhorrent to decent, law-abiding people, we just don't care what happens to them. Because society turns a blind eye to their need to be protected, the violent psychopaths among those who seek them out feel justified in doing anything they wish to them.

There are unsolved murders of prostitutes in every city, where police simply run against dead ends, unable to solve the mystery of who it was who had such profound contempt and searing detestation for these women that they slaughter them. There erupt from time to time, serial murderers who feel justified in exacting their hatred against general society against these defenceless women.

It is long past time for the governments of this country to fully understand that all its citizens are due and entitled to full protection under the law. And women who walk the streets are as entitled to protection as are any of us. The simple fact is their profession is one that draws the attention of vicious psychopaths. Our concern for the well-being of these women is hard to discern when police too persecute them following the letter of an uncaring law.

For inspiration, the Canadian government should look toward Sweden, Norway and Iceland, where it is illegal to buy sex, but not against the law to sell it. The criminality is placed on the customers, not on the sex workers.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

"A Declaration of War"

Taken in again. The United States administration, similar to those before the current one, occasionally demonstrates an appealing though tendentious naivete in opting to place trust in the promises of co-operation offered time and again by regimes that are proven to be expressly untrusworthy. So it is with Iran and so it is with North Korea. Both of those states conspire continually to foil all attempts by the United Nations and the U.S. to honour their global and treaty commitments.

And each of them from time to time hold out the hope of an olive branch. The result of which is that both the United Nations and the United States as well as other members of the Security Council believe that they can at last trust the good word of Iran and North Korea. Both of which simply play for time, revelling in their view of how simple-minded and easy to forestall the two sources of commitment to international peace are, how vulnerable to manipulation.

Each time that the United States seeks to mollify North Korea with promises of financial aid or with the provision of emergency assets like food for a starving nation of impoverished people whose government lavishes funding on nuclear arms, the agreement inevitably falls through when North Korea's Kim family tires of its submissive role and resumes the kind of pugnacious behaviour they feel is more suited to them.

This time the pledge from Pyongyang to suspend nuclear and missile tests and uranium enrichment in return for food aid, lasted all of several weeks before the regime released an announcement that is is preparing to launch a high-powered missile in celebration of the centenary of the birth of their founder. President Barack Obama has personally warned Kim Jong-un not to proceed with that breach of United Nations sanctions.

"Bad behaviour will not be rewarded. We have indicated to them very directly, because this was part of discussions that had taken place among negotiators, that it would be difficult to move forward with that package. That is just one example of the kinds of consequence that will take place", referring to the delivery of 240,000 tons of food that will now be suspended if Pyongyang proceeds with its plans to deploy that celebratory missile and purported satellite.

"I will also note that every time North Korea has violated an international resolution, the Security Council resolution, it has resulted in further isolation, tightening of sanctions, stronger enforcement. I suspect that will happen this time as well." And one suspects that this will have little impact on the imperturbable impression of entitlement emanating from North Korea; that no world body let alone superpower has the right and the means to halt their plans.

At the time that the agreement was made with North Korea to suspend nuclear and missile tests in exchange for food aid, the United States triumphantly considered it yet another breakthrough. but there have been many of those same types of 'breakthroughs', each of which has had an impression of having succeeded in taming the wild ambitions of the country, but lasting a very short time before the regime simply reverted to doing what it had pledged itself not to.

A scheduled 53-nation Nuclear Security Summit opened in South Korea this week. North Korea, not invited to attend, nor will there be delegates present from Iran or Syria, has given due warning that should any reference to its nuclear program be made in any communiques emanating from the summit, the regime would regard that as "a declaration of war". Accordingly, China has urged that the summit not stray into the topic of North Korea in its discussions, which given its purpose, would be difficult indeed.

Japan, feeling threatened by the prospect of a powerful missile being shot in the direction of its territory, is considering taking preventive action and launching its own missiles, to shoot down the North Korean missile, should it stray, as anticipated, into Japanese territory. That too has been declared by North Korea, as a prospective declaration of war.

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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Sends shivers down one's spine, to think of the very notion of being folded into a very cramped space in an underwater submersible whose specifications must be such that it is capable of resisting water pressure a thousand times over the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level.

People are very crushable, when an elephant, for example, sits on them. The elephant in this case, the extreme level of the Mariana Trench.

Of course at that extreme depth - 35,756 feet - the rays of the sun, let alone light of any kind does not penetrage; it is dark, pitch dark. Lights, of course on the submersible, can provide some opportunity to view what surrounds one in the trench.

For there is life down there, both aquatic plant life and creatures swimming about in those profound depths.

And this is where filmmaker James Cameron spent three hours of his time in a submersible he had specially built so he could dive within it about 11 kilometers deep in the Pacific Ocean. It is dark there and it is impressively cold, around the freezing mark.

Cameron plans to film in three-D down there, his journey to the depths of the world's warm ocean.
This is called the Deep-Sea Challenge project. There will shortly be another scheduled dive, this one by another adventurer-explorer, Richard Branson.

Cameron planned to return with scientific data and specimens. With that kind of financial expenditure, and for the furtherment of science, might it not have been a very good idea to send down a willing biologist, eager to uncover some of the mysteries of nature at that impossible depth, rather than a rank amateur?

If you have the celebrity and the wealth to proceed, and the ego to push you along, the very thought of surrendering yourself to the practical value of furthering science to that degree is, one supposes, irrelevant.

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Sufficient Reason

Just one of thousands and thousands. One that went berserk. All those thousands upon thousands of second, third generation French-Algerian kids, living in those public 'estates', on public assistance. Some of them, like Mohammed Merah opting out of school, preferring not to complete his education for a more exciting lifestyle.

Didn't take too long before the bored and resentful kid became a juvenile delinquent. There's a lot of juvenile delinquents in the banlieues; the police know them all. They harass and chase after them. Being careful to wear those knife-proof vests. Looking out for drug dealers, petty thieves, gang members, suspects in mass car barbecues.

"I just cannot believe he did all that. He was one of us; he wasn't some religious fanatic. He never even went to the mosque." That's what one of his childhood friends in Toulouse living in the same suburb of Izards as Merah said, wonderingly. That wasn't the carefree, ebullient kid he knew; it was someone else, really strange.

He never even went to mosque, but he did adapt himself to the Salafist ideology, a fundamentalist -based faith that would have been very strange to him if it were not for the fact that it fit so neatly into the even more 'radicalized' notion of violent jihad, the dire necessity to prove your faith by pledging yourself to terror.

Mohammed Merah's mother, Zoulikha who made no effort to dissuade her son from continuing his campaign of resistance to French police, because she asserted she would have no influence on him, says now she is "wracked with guilt", because she was unable to prevent his killing rampage. "She is asking herself whether she could have stopped him" her lawyer helpfully added as she was released from custody.

Does this mean she was aware of his activities and simply stood by? His brother Abdelkader, with his younger brother Mohammed during the initial stages of the siege that kept French special-unit police very busy for a day and a half, claims complete innocence. He had no knowledge, none whatever, of what his brother was up to. Whatever it was, though, he "was very proud of him".

The piety of Salafism appealed to Mohammed who never entered the confines of the local mosque. In prison he invited the opportunity to learn more about retribution and revenge. The French are only now recognizing the threat contained in the prison system where the virus of radicalism spreads like the dread disease it is.

Merah was prepared to become a French Foreign Legion member before he decided he would prefer to kill French military members. Killing French Jews was just a natural. No emotion, no compassion whatever in grabbing children to make them stay still so they could be shot at such close range that powder marks blemished their pale, dead faces.

He wanted to be famous as an admired mujahadeen. That camera strapped to his chest would do it. All the videos he had watched of beheadings wouldn't compare to the ones he was prepared to post himself. The interior minister has a response to questions, more or less:
"The DCRI follows lots of people involved in radical Islam. Expressing ideas, espousing Salafist beliefs is not a sufficient reason to arrest someone."
Wait and watch. Murder gives sufficient reason.

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Not Too Likely, Chums

Well, it's over and done with. The NDP leadership convention in all its vibrant excitement, theatrics and boasts, a thing of the past. The goal was to elect a leader capable of impressing voting Canadians who might wish to change their allegiance in the glow of expectations for the future. The question was who had the feet that would fit that footwear left by the previous leader?

Ottawa MP Paul Dewar thought he could comfortably fit into those shoes, but the opportunity was whisked out from under his feet. Life's like that. But he did run a 'fantastic campaign', in so doing allowing as how he 'touched' many people. If he does say so himself. He also claims to have 'shooked' a whole lot of hands, at the NDP leadership convention. So he's all shooked up.

Perhaps not quite pleasurably. From the photos he looks rather grim. Just like those delegates that he thrilled with the vibrancy of his speech, to listen and applaud and then park their damn votes elsewhere. After putting himself out as he did, going to the vast trouble of learning French, imposing his presence intimately on his one-on-one French teacher's family over Christmas.

We're left to wonder if this former teacher, expressing himself through a rather challenged and limited vocabulary in English, might have done such a bang-up job in the teaching profession that their loss is Parliament's gain. How do we expect Canadian kids to learn a second language when a determined member of the teaching profession is so groaningly inept at both official languages?

Newly elected New Democratic Party leader Thomas <span class= right,
Newly elected New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair, right, celebrates with fellow leadership candidate Brian Topp at the NDP Leadership Convention in Toronto Saturday, March 24, 2012. Photograph by: Darren Calabrese, National Post

Wouldn't you know, an upstart would win. "It's over and we have a new leader. I'm very proud to support him. He's going to be an excellent leader." No, it wasn't Paul Dewar who said that, it was Brian Topp. Very conciliatory. Despite that none but Martin Singh actually endorsed Mr. Mulcair as second choice initially. It would seem that the NDP establishment is none too thrilled at the leadership choice of the membership.

But that's the way things go; awry, whenever they can. Just like mischief makers were giving the convention a hard time, 'jamming up' the computer system. Mightn't have been the contractor for the Internet vote collection was having a hard time with their own system; the NDP has to nudge at sinister dark forces at play - to give us a hint of things to come in the House, where the Conservatives will be accused of all manner of dastardly influences.

It will be a lively time, though. Where Thomas Mulcair can demonstrate and prove his mettle as a rabble rouser. "As we unite our party to take on a government that is dismantling the very institutions that we hold dear, we will do so without excluding or demonizing those who disagree with us." Take that. With a baby-strength Aspirin. And wait for the demonizing to flourish.

And, of course, party unity above all. So Thomas Mulcair, who has had ample experience as an MP, and as a Liberal Quebec Cabinet Minister who later played touchy-feely with the Conservatives before settling on the NDP will lead the party to victory. As Ontario MP Charlie Angus said, his second support finally went to Mulcair because he believes he can beat Stephen Harper and become prime minister.

Without wincing, can we just see the NDP taking the reins of government and managing its economy? Our economy; our tax-extracted dollars.

And then there's the little matter of the NDP's well developed position vis-a-vis Quebec's expectations and demands. Not to mention Alberta oil extraction; a dirty affair that enables Quebec to offer provincial day care at $7 a day, the lowest university tuition in the country and a host of other very nice tidbits. Defying the Supreme Court by asserting 50+1 will do for a separation vote.

Taking the NDP in a brave new direction, to appeal to a larger audience. The initial move; announcing Libby Davies as deputy leader. Good luck on that one. Some brave new move that is. But then, there's always additional appointments to various posts of his leadership rivals. All of which should prove immensely entertaining.

Still, the focus is on Quebec and the NDP and those French language laws in federally regulated workplaces. Pleasing Quebec mightily, and perhaps ensuring continued growth there for the NDP, but the rest of Canada? Hmm, not too likely, chums. See, once it was comrades, now it's chums, short for chumps.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Operational Failure"

"How come the police's best unit did not manage to arrest a man all alone? They should have flushed him out with a high-dosage tear gas. He wouldn't have lasted five minutes. Instead of which, they throw volleys of grenades. In fact, I think this operation was conducted with no precise tactical plan." Christian Prouteau, founder of GIGN, elite security unit of French Gendarmerie
France's RAID police unit, had their orders. To bring in the 23-year-old French Algerian. Alive. A trial would ensue and justice would be seen to be done. The families of the victims required that. The French justice system required that this be done. And the police themselves, the intelligence units could profit from further information that might be revealed throughout the course of a trial.

"To be frank, if it had been about neutralizing him dead or alive, by 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday it would have been over. Four of my men are wounded due to the fact that we tried right to the end to bring him out alive", contended Amaury de Hauteclocque furiously, chief of RAID police, in responding to the criticism from Mr. Prouteau, an obvious rival.

But the suggestion remains, and it should be adequately addressed: why the decision to lob grenades, and not consider the efficacy of tear gas to immobilize the murderer? Had this been done, he would have emerged from the building, he would have been speedily taken into custody and the long siege would not have occurred, nor his four men wounded in the pursuit of their duty so awkwardly undertaken.

"Operational failure", was the opinion of an analytical study in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot. Written by a former special forces officer who obviously knows of what he speaks, given his experience and expertise, now heading a counter-terrorism think-tank.
"The objective was not complicated. A residential apartment, a single fugitive, no explosives, no hostages, in an area that is not enemy territory or a battlefield, but one which allows the security forces [to] deploy as they wish."
"This is not how a professional unit to combat terror behaves" wrote a former commando officer in Israel's Maariv newspaper. These are no mere critical responses from members of the public who see fault in everything, but informed critiques relating the interpretation of those who have faced similar types of experiences which they carried out with professionalism and due regard for the purpose to be accomplished.

Bernard Squarcini, head of the DCR domestic French intelligence agency defensively detailed Mohamed Merah's life trajectory; petty criminal offences, jail, radicalization "self-radicalised ... alone, reading the Koran." Confirming the man's trips through Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, on to Afghanistan via Tajikistan and later Pakistan where he took weapons training in Waziristan.

None of these activities, singly or collectively seemed to alarm French authorities sufficiently so that Mr. Merah would be picked up and serious interrogated. None of these events alerted French authorities sufficiently so that they would opt for surveillance that should have stopped him from acquiring a considerable and very deadly arsenal of weapons.

Brother Abdelkader, five years Mohamed's senior has informed police where he is being held in detention: "I am very proud of my brother. I regret nothing for him and I approve of what he did." Which may go some way to explaining the family's fascination with terror and the fact that Abdelkader's girlfriend and mother are still being held in detention.

A number of French Muslim students proposed a one-minute silence in honour of Toulouse's al-Qaeda aspirant on a "homage' Facebook page before it was banned. Some in the French media speak of Mohamed Merah as a "child" victim of Muslim economic hardship in France.

Most French schools held a moment of silence to honour the victims of his hate, but one teacher in Rouen chose to stage a moment of silence for Merah. Some of the Rouen classroom students left in protest while others gave that moment of silence for Merah, and one student relieved himself of the opinion that the murder victims of Mohamed Merah "deserved it", because the teacher explained that he was a "victim", whose reported links to al-Qaeda were a media invention.

After protests erupted, the education authority in Rouen suspended the teacher, while pointing out the disciplinary action does not reflect upon her as "guilty" of anything.

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Speak French!

Now that truly is a bummer. A 78-year-old man, once in Canada's military, long retired and working as a commissionaire for the past 25 years, and in particular at a National Research Council building on Montreal Road, at the ground-floor reception desk, back of the building for the past 11 years. Dan Brown loves his job. He's also working because he needs the salary to support himself.

He was supporting himself and his wife until fairly recently, but she died last May. Since then his job has become even more important to him. It gets him out and among other human beings. He is a well liked person, personable and known to do his work well. But he has a shameful secret, one that he regrets and apologizes for, but nonetheless it minimizes his value as a worker.

Mr. Brown is a unilingual anglophone. He has never mastered French. He cannot respond to questions addressed to him in French other than to apologize. On the other hand, in all his eleven years of working at the back desk of the National Research Council, he has never once been addressed in French. Nor did he ever have to apologize for a lack he barely knew existed.

That all changed when some disgruntled individual complained about Mr. Brown's inability to speak to him in French. Possibly that complaint went directly to the office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. The National Research Council contacted The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, reminding it of the guidelines of its contract.

The ground floor entrance where Mr. Brown was normally posted is used primarily by NRC employees. On the first floor of the building a bilingual commissionaire is deployed, and that is where most visitors come through the building. Last Monday and Tuesday Mr. Brown was temporarily posted at a neighbouring NRC building.

While there he was asked several times by visitors if he spoke French. "I said: 'I'm terribly sorry, I don't. I wish I could, but I don't.' I didn't show any hostility to anyone", he reported. He needn't have; the very fact that he was there, a unilingual anglophone without the ability to communicate fluently in French damned him and caused hostility toward him.

The following day his immediate supervisor peremptorily removed him from his long-time post. "That's it. You're out of here." He was informed there would be an immediate replacement with a bilingual commissionaire. He would be moved somewhere else. He was understandably upset, and wept as he gathered up his belongings, an activity he was given all of five minutes to accomplish.

NRC employees started a petition to demand that Mr. Brown be reinstated in his position. One hundred workers have thus far signed the petition, out of some 300. Some of whom may be concerned about their own longevity at the NRC, given the spectre of impending cut-backs.

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Violent, Tawdry Crimes

In an earlier murder of a teen-aged Iranian-Canadian during a drug deal gone sour, Zakaria Dourhnou was charged because he was found to be cleaning blood from the car used in the killing of Yazdan Ghiasvand Ghiasi, 16, in 2010. The young man had been shot in the heart, then shoved out onto the street, while the car sped away.

Zakaria Dourhnou was just helping out a friend by cleaning the car of evidence.

Eighteen at the time of the murder that took place on Booth near Somerset in Chinatown, he and friend Khaled Wehbe were each charged with accessory after the fact. Their friend, Abdulhamid Wehbe, 20, was charged with second-degree murder.

And now, Zakaria Dourhnou has another serious charge against him, this time a first-degree murder charge along with two charges of assault with a weapon.

This time around, he took a more visibly active role as a getaway driver in a triple shoot-out. One man is dead, two others wounded. The charge of first-degree murder is for the death of Khalid Dorah, 20, for a shooting that took place on Borthwick Avenue.

The weapons assault charge relates to the injuries sustained by the two men who were wounded.

The killer himself has not yet been located. As usual when these things happen, everyone is shocked and grieved that a dear friend or friendly acquaintance has unaccountably left the living. The dead become heroes, their memories to be cherished. Yet again this is another incident involving Muslim youth involved in street drugs.

They seem to find it far more entertaining and exciting, let alone remunerative, to involve themselves in illegally selling drugs, rather than become engaged in anything as pedestrian as earning a decent living for themselves. Living the high life, attending bars and roughing one another up in the after-hours charges their batteries, not a life of boring law-abiding routine.

Young Muslim men appear to be vastly over-represented in these violent, tawdry crimes, from theft to drug-dealing, beatings to outright murder. Their parents should be concerned and asking themselves what might conceivably have gone wrong to fatally attract their sons to lives of crime and violence...

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