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11/30/2003

Toronto Garbage 

Nov. 30 - Interested-Participant posts on the controversy over Toronto shipping our garbage to Michigan. According to the article he links from the Toronto Star, the EPA will be in Toronto to for three days touring solid waste transfer, composting and recycling facilities in Toronto, as well as in York, Durham and Peel regions. I could have saved them the trip: they'll find mountains of recyleables with no place to go because no companies are equipped to handle that much metal, glass and paper.

The program for recollecting the items was begun before a plan was made to re-direct the items. The blue box program is around 10 years old, and they still don't have a workable plan. That's how things work in Toronto.

Sadly, it is more likely that the US Congress will act long before the City Council here finishes "reviewing" the issue. The feckless Council doesn't want to take the kind of decisive action needed to find a Toronto solution to a Toronto problem, and their past actions have been to hope the problem would just go away.

The garbage issue was a point of debate in the recent mayoral race, of course. Failed canadidate John Tory had proposed building a garbage incinerator, which newly elected Mayor David Miller had rejected as too expensive and environmentally dangerous, but had no counter proposals. The paranoid faction won, even though other municipalities have incinerators with built-in safeguards that make the practice safer and cleaner than any other method of disposal.

Mississauga, our neighbour immediately to the west of here, incincerates their garbage. But they also have a strong mayor and council. Considering how fast that city has grown, you have to figure that there are more sensible people leaving Toronto than staying.

In an earlier post which featured an astonishing discovery of mixing hospital waste with garbage, Interested Participant wondered if Canadian environmentalists are of the NIMBY variety. I can affirm that they are, at least the ones in this neck of the country.

BUT anyone who reads the London Free Press will have noted columnists and letters to the editor which complain about the truckloads that merely pass that city on their way to Michigan, so in this case, at least, the NIMBY element isn't just directed at the US but within Canada as well.

Oliver North 

Nov. 30 - Oliver North has been travelling in Iraq with the Army's 4th ID. He has a bit more insight than Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks or Sean Penn, and talks about celebrities that are entertaining the troops over there.

I've never been a Wayne Newton fan, but the fact that his music isn't my kind of music is irrelevant because he's my kind of American:
Two years ago, "Mr. Las Vegas" was named the chairman of the USO Celebrity Circle. I asked him how he recruits other performers to join him. "Like everything else, Colonel," said Newton, "there are those that run for the woods when times get a little tough and those that pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, you're going, count me in.' Those are the kind of people we have."
We can count Gary Sinise as the kind who rises to the call during tough times, because he's one
who this year has been to Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Italy, Germany and Fort Stewart, Ga. Now he's back in Iraq, spending his Thanksgiving vacation shaking hands and talking with the 5,000 soldiers and Marines at one of the USO-sponsored events.
I never really got behind the calls to "Boycott Hollywood" (mostly because I've watched Celebrity Jeopardy) but this goes to show that the ones who make headlines are not quite as representative as the press makes them appear.

Besides, the recent California recall put numbers to those who care what celebrities think and those who think for themselves, and we know which side is the majority even in my goofy but still beloved home state.

Bounty on head of British police chief in Iraq 

Nov. 30 - This information brings to mind concerns recently expressed by Roger L. Simon about where the money is coming from to finance the terrorism in Iraq:
A price has been put on the head of the senior British policeman seconded to supervise the restoration of law and order in Iraq by loyalists of Saddam Hussein.

Douglas Brand, a South Yorkshire assistant chief constable who is in charge of retraining the Iraqi police, has discovered that former members of the deposed dictator's Ba'athist regime have issued a contract to "do him harm".

Mr Brand, 52, said that the news was broken to him by the mayor of an Iraqi city in the so-called "Sunni Triangle" north-west of Baghdad during a recent visit to his offices at the coalition HQ in the Iraqi capital.

"The first thing the mayor said was, 'I know who you are. There are people who want to harm you'. I asked him what he meant and he said, 'People will be paid money to do so'. I wasn't quite sure if he was warning me or threatening me."

During an interview last week, Mr Brand said that such threats were becoming a daily hazard for senior coalition staff and the Iraqis who work with them. Estimates of the going rate for a successful "hit" are thought to be between $5,000 and $10,000 (£2,900-£5,800). Mr Brand, who is based in Sheffield but moved to Baghdad in July, said that 15 senior Iraqi policemen had been assassinated since he began work.

Mr Brand will remain in Baghdad to oversee what the coalition hopes will be the transformation of a demoralised, corrupt and widely hated police force into a modern security apparatus capable of tackling a front-line war on terrorism. As part of the world's biggest police training programme, up to 40,000 police officers have been recruited. The aim is for a further 35,000 to be trained up by the time the coalition cedes authority to a sovereign Iraqi government next summer.

In the meantime, car-bomb attacks and gun battles continue to claim the lives of his men almost daily: 30 have been killed and 75 injured in Baghdad alone since he arrived. Mr Brand, who has a masters degree in applied criminology from Cambridge, remains optimistic. "I always look to be positive, but actually I do think there are a lot of competent policemen out there. The absence of skill is because of a lack of opportunity.

"Last Monday, I went to a police station that was car-bombed a few weeks ago. You don't expect them to be doing cartwheels, but the commander just said, 'This is our job'. The police generally have a focus on what needs to be done and are courageous enough to go out and do it."
Some build, some destroy. It's that simple. Moral relativists who don't get that might try explaining it to Iraqis.

Abdel Qadir Mamour 

Nov. 30 - There's some background on a Senegalese cleric, Abdel Qadir Mamour, who was deported from Itay in mid-November Deported cleric 'met bin Laden' including his relationship with Osama bin Laden:
A SEBEGALESE (sic)Muslim cleric deported from Italy as a danger to state security was quoted today as telling a pan-Arab newspaper that he had met three times with Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The cleric, Abdel Qadir Mamour, told the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview by telephone from Dakar, Senegal, that he had the meetings with bin Laden in Sudan from 1993 to 1996.

Mamour said bin Laden had provided money to finance his trading in diamonds between Africa and Belgium, but did not say how much money was involved or if bin Laden was involved in the business. (Emphasis added)

[...]

Mamour angered Italian authorities by saying in an earlier interview that Italian soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq would be attacked, as well as Italian diplomats, because Italy was aiding the US-led military presence. His statement followed the November 12 car bomb at the Italian barracks in Nasiriyah, Iraq, that killed 19 Italians.

his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Mamour said Italian authorities deported him because they found at his home some CD-ROMs contained the wills of four suicide attackers in a bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May.

Mamour was quoted as saying he got the tapes from a fundamentalist Muslim in London so they could be distributed in Europe, but did not name the man who sent the tapes.
Mamour claims his Italian wife and five children saved him from being sent to Guantanamo, and he was interrogated for four days by Senegalese authorities.

There has been speculation about a bin Laden connection with the diamond trade, and Belguim is right at the center of it.

No blood for diamonds will undoubtably be the next slogan pushed by the anti-war groups.

Austrailan forces head back to Iraq 

Nov. 30 - With yesterday's deadly attacks on coalition members, it is important to remember that reconstruction in Iraq remains the focus. Australia is considering a plan to deploy troops, including members of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), to Iraq to help rebuild the Iraq armed forces (NEWS.com.au | Sailors head back to Iraq (December 1, 2003).)
AUSTRALIAN sailors will be deployed to Iraq to help rebuild a local navy that Coalition forces destroyed at the outset of the Iraqi war.

A plan being considered by the Federal Government will see a team of RAN personnel establish a naval school for Iraqi seamen.

The RAN team will be in addition to a proposal to have a joint US-Australian Defence Force contingent of soldiers to train a local army.

Defence Force chief General Peter Cosgrove said the troop numbers remained unknown since the plan was still being considered.

"If it does transpire, then we will send troops specially selected to do those sorts of jobs," he said yesterday.

"I don't think it will be a particularly large contingent . . . it will essentially be soldiers. If we get involved with training the new Iraqi navy, naturally some Royal Australian naval personnel would be involved as well.

"Iraq has a coastline and it will have a smallish navy, equally that's part of Iraq's future to be able to look after its sovereignty; it will look after its own maritime approaches."
Reconstruction, for us, means turning Iraq over to the Iraqis as soon as possible with the means to defend themselves.

11/29/2003

Coalition Members Attacked in Iraq 

Nov. 29 - Seven Spanish Intelligence Officers Killed, One Injured, in Iraq in coordinated attacks on their two vehicles. They were hit with RPGs and rifle fire outside of Al Mamudiya, 18 miles south of Baghdad after a mission.
Spokesmen for Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (search) said the government won't be intimidated nor deterred from its mission of attempting to help Iraq achieve peace and democracy following the long dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and the U.S.-led invasion last March that toppled it.

"We are grateful to all the people who serve Spain and Spain's democracy beyond our borders fighting terrorism and guaranteeing freedom and democracy," Justice Minister Jose Maria Michavila said.
There are 1,300 Spanish troops in Iraq. A Spanish diplomat was assasinated in Baghdad in October, and a Spanish navy captain died of injuries sustained in the UN bombing last August.

President Bush called President Aznar to express our sympathies.

In another attack, two Japanese diplomats were ambushed and killed outside of Tikrit as they returned after attending a reconstruction aid conference.

CNN has a special page dedicated to coalition casualties. There have been 509 confirmed coalition deaths, 437 Americans, 53 British, 17 Italians, one Dane and one Polish, in the war as of November 28, 2003 (and thus don't include today's Spanish and Japanese deaths.)

When this campaign first began, Pres. Bush said that coalition members would contribute in many ways, and some would not even be contributing openly. But words are inadequte to express the gratitude of the American people for the sacrifices some of these countries have made in trying to stablilize Iraq and our sympathies to the families of these brave men and women.

Police in Germany and Italy have arrested 3 men on suspicion of terrorism related activities, but the situation may be connected to Iraq:
CNN's Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci said the arrests in Italy and Germany were "significant" because it had been thought that Italy had been used only for logistical purposes, such as a base for providing false documents or shelter.

But the authorities are now investigating the possibility that Italy is being used to recruit and train terrorists for Iraq and elsewhere.
In a related story, FOX reports that Iraqi police may have coordinated some of the attacks:
U.S. military officials are concerned that a few of the numerous Iraqi civilians hired by the U.S. military may have planned attacks by gleaning intelligence on troop movements and travels of high-ranking officers, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told reporters at the Baghdad Convention Center.
UPDATE: Two US soldiers were killed and one wounded yesterday in an ambush near the border town of Husaybah, 180 miles northwest of Baghdad. They were from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

The New Weblog Showcase 

Nov. 29 - Time to cast votes in The Truth Laid Bear: The New Weblog Showcase. It tends to take me awhile, because if I like the entry, I also read other posts on the blog.

Let's start with Politics Trumps Morals from Joe's Thoughts A lot more people not only in the US but around the world need to consider his point, especially as Iraqis are being targeted too. After all, a sizeable segment of the anti-war folks (and most especially those human shields who lit out after it looked like it might really be dangerous) claimed they were concerned about the lives of the innocent Iraqis.

Next is An open letter to Michael Parenti written on the occasion of a speech delivered in Edmonton, and which has an interesting response to non-interventionist policies. Even though he considers the US the "most dangerous rogue state," falls back to the corporate elite mantra, and fails to address the inadequacy (which translates to unwillingness) of the rest of the world to stop genocides except to believe the USA should provide the fighting force and spill the blood that Enlightened Ones won't, Nathan at Counteractually Speaking is thinking beyond a typical knee jerk responses and that's always a good thing. There's also a link to Michael Parenti's response.

BaySense suggests we re-think the approach to the environment agenda. I agree with his goal: I support many of the goals of environmentalists, but do not support their methodology and political extremism. Like too many other good intentions, this is one that has been hi-jacked for political reasons and thus the goals have been to get politicans elected (or not elected) rather than achieve anything to do with the environment. It will be interesting to see how his blog proceeds.

God of Jesus, god of Mohammed 

Nov. 29 - Another thoughtful post from One Hand Clapping, this one on the differences between the God of the Covenant and the God of Mohammed. It does seem that there are two different conceptions of God involved.

I know I'm behind on this post (and a lot of other ones.)

Guess who has to run off to work? I hope to check in later and read my favourite blogs with appropriate linkage.

Take care, and enjoy whatever weather you have. For us in Toronto, at least it stopped raining!

Britain in secret EU army deal 

Nov. 29 - It is tempting to think the British government is trying to play both sides of the streets, yet equally tempting to think that the British believe they can alter the course for Europe from that set by the French, Belguim and German governments. But the secrecy is worrisome, probably more to the British people than to the US as people there ponder the leaked information that Britain in secret EU army deal.
Britain has taken a dramatic step towards a fully-fledged European army, signing up to Franco-German proposals for a planning headquarters outside Nato, it emerged yesterday.

The deal reached by British, German and French officials in secret talks in Berlin this week establishes an "operational" command in Brussels, allowing the EU to run day-to-day battlefield missions for the first time.
The news apparently leaked before the British government advised Pres. Bush of the move, but officials hint that the deal would be rewritten if the US was adamantly opposed.

I think that fears that this new army will replace NATO should also take into account that Turkey is a member of NATO but has not yet been granted membership in the EU, and the recent terrorist attacks in Turkey highlight the worries of that discrepancy.

And if the British people are adamantly opposed?

Drat, the Sun website is down. Maybe Mark Steyn will address this one soon.

UPDATE: The Sun is calling it a sell-out:
TONY Blair has been accused of betraying Britain’s defence by backing a new euro army military planning HQ.

The Tories slammed the move as “catastrophic” for the Nato alliance. The PM struck a deal with Germany and France to boost the European force.

Tame German press rounds on politicians 

Nov. 29 - From the Daily Telegraph (UK), it seems the German press is growing a pair:
Germany's normally tame national newspapers mounted a co-ordinated attack yesterday on the growing practice of politicians and industry chiefs to alter or veto interviews they have given.

They denounced the habit as "control mania" verging on censorship.

Nine newspapers, including Frankfurter Allgemeine, Sueddeutsche, and Financial Times Deutschland, printed critical articles on the "authorisation" system. They said that while it had long been accepted and even welcomed by the media, it was being abused.
Sheesh, the White House website publication of President Bush's speeches include his verbal goofs rather than clean up any bloopers which is why it's credible.
A small Left-wing paper, tageszeitung, filled its front page with the text of an interview with Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrat Party's general secretary, with his answers blacked out.

It explained that Mr Scholz had refused to authorise it after his representatives demanded changes to what he had said and even to the questions asked.
Another fine example of how Europeans are more enlightened than us rubes.

Feds to give health council the green light 

Nov. 29 - Aargh! Feds to give health council the green light. Because when something is underfunded and doesn't work, the best way to fix it is to form yet another layer of bureaucracy and red tape which will eat up more money so it can still not work but at least the budget will show they're putting more money into health care.
Martin said the health council will be key in dealing with the problems of waiting lists for medical services and providing accountability of how health care dollars are spent. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein said that he will not endorse the council unless its mandate is limited to programs, like pharmacare, home care and catastrophic drugs.
So is Alberta building a firewall or not?

Canadians in Afghanistan 

Nov. 29 - Trusty Peter Worthington. I know that if I get a certain huh feeling, Peter will often address that particular issue. Today's column addresses the way Canadian soldiers are honoured: Only the victims need apply for medals of bravery and valor.

He starts with the soldiers deployed in Afghanistan:
It's hard to escape the conclusion that soldiers the Canadian government chooses to honour are those who are killed or who are officers. It's not always been this way, but since Afghanistan that seems the case.

Prior to the four members of the Princess Pats being killed by an American "friendly-fire" bomb in Afghanistan, soldiers killed on various UN "peace" missions drew minimum reaction from Ottawa and small mention in the media.

It's different now, but for how long?

Indications are, for those who want to see it, that nasty times are ahead for Canadians on what started out as constabulary duties in Afghanistan.
Sad, true, and unaddressed. There's a freaking bounty on their heads, and plans to expand outside of Kabul will involve greater risks.
Ottawa's decision to allow the four soldiers killed by the American bomb to be awarded the U.S. Bronze Star -- the U.S.' fourth-highest valour award, which is given for meritorious service-- is a bit odd. And very political.

It's America's way of atoning for the tragedy.

It also degrades the Bronze Star, because these soldiers were merely victims.

Brave, simply by being soldiers, but hardly "heroes."
I agree with the charge that the awarding of the Bronze Star by the US government is politically motivated, and is an attempt to remove some of the sting Canadians still feel about the "friendly fire" incident (not death quotes there, but I feel the phrasing should never be part of the common venacular. Yes, it happens. No, it's never acceptable, as Gen. Pace pointed out some time ago in a DoD briefing.)

Snark time: the way the Canadian government treats the military, it is tempting to say that any Canadian who volunteers to serve is already performing above and beyond the call of duty. After all, doesn't it seem that the government actively discourages enlistment by their failure to appropriate the funds and equipment and thus respect for those who chose to serve? And if you're not bi-lingual, you won't be an officer.
Sgt. Robert Short, killed by a mine that blew up his Iltis jeep in Kabul, is to be posthumously awarded the Vance Award.

It's fair to say that all civilians and most soldiers haven't a clue what the Vance Award is.
Ouch.
(It's named after former army commander Lt. Gen. Jon Vance and goes to the sergeant who exhibits the greatest leadership qualities.)
Double-ouch. I've never heard of Lt. Gen. Jon Vance either. A quick poll reveals that neither Mark nor my college educated kids ever heard of him either. I've got a feeble excuse as I wasn't educated here, but the 4 men in this household were.

Peter then analyzes the recipients of the 26 Bronze Star, which leans heavily to non-combat soldiers, and notes that:
The five lowest honourees are the snipers who actually did feats that deserve medals.

One of the snipers --a guy from Newfoundland -- set a world sniping record when he knocked off an enemy attacking Americans at a range of some 2,400 metres -- roughly 1 1/2 miles -- with his .50- calibre rifle.

The snipers were attached to the U.S. Rakkasan brigade, in combat with the enemy.

When the American commander wanted to give these extraordinary snipers Bronze Stars in a battlefield ceremony, Ottawa balked -- too bellicose.
So someone who kills a sniper trying to kill fellow soldiers is too bellicose. Got it.
Canada gives awards for service and bravery, but few for combat, except a Mention in Dispatches.

When Ottawa put the medal to the snipers on hold, David Bercuson, director of the Centre of Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, wryly remarked: "Canadians don't kill ... the military is not sure that the government is prepared to accept -- let alone celebrate -- the fact that Canadian soldiers do sometimes end up killing people."
And that too is politically motivated.

Read the whole thing. I already excerpted more than I intended, but the attitude of the Canadian government towards awarding medals is puzzling and Peter goes into greater history and detail than I quoted.


Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the Canadian troops are heavily involved in tightening security measures for the upcoming constitutional meeting. Thousands of people will be registering in the stadium for the loya jirga which will discuss the proposed constitution beginning Dec. 10.

Commanding officer of the Canadian contingent, Lt.-Col. Don Denne, said "It's been awfully quiet, almost too quiet."
"There have been threats of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and remote-controlled improvised explosive devices," Denne said.

"Every now and then we get a threat from a reliable source that we take very seriously."
Remember and honour those who serve.


Cecilia Zhang 

Nov. 29 - Cecilia Zhang is still missing, and despite a city-wide circulation of her picture there seems to be no information that would lead to her return. But people aren't giving up: Hire Performance Inc. has started a fund for Cecilia vowing to raise $60,000 by Dec. 23 to help bring her home. Farid Ahmad, president of the company, said he was prompted to begin this effort through discussions with clients who wanted to do something but didn't know what or how.
If the money is not claimed as a reward within a year, he said, it will be donated to Ontario Child Find and the Hospital for Sick Children.

Hire Performance, which does pre-employment checks for more than 200 clients, will donate 5% of all sales towards the fund, as well as encouraging its corporate customers to donate.

"The day we decided to do this, my son came into our bedroom and gave me $27.38 from his piggy bank," Ahmad said. "That really spurred me on even more."

Anyone wishing to donate to the fund should e-mail cecilia@hire performance.ca or call 905-946-9696.
Who in this city doesn't ache over her disappearance? (Or maybe I should say in North America, because I've received emails from concerned people across this continent with Cecilia's picture and the hot line number.)

Props for Mr. Ahmad for becoming personally involved and for the good people who want do more.

The Toronto police page dedicated to Cecilia, the hotline phone numbers and her photo are here.

Suspected Turkey Terror Attacks Planner Detained 

Nov. 29 - Officials in Ankara, Turkey, say they have arrested a man they believe planned the bombing of the Beth Israel, one of the two simultaneous terrorist attacks on synagogues in Istanbul on Nov. 15. They received information that he was planning to cross the Turkey-Iran border with a forged passport, and he is believed to come from Agri in a Kurdish area of Turkey.

The 4 recent bombings in Turkey killed 61 people, (including the 4 Islamakazis) and injured 712.

Two men have been arrested for the synagogue bombings, Mesut Cabuk and Gokhan Elaltuntas.

The Fox report notes that Turkish authorities have imposed a news blackout on the investigations, but newspapers have largely defied the ban, printing a steady stream of reports about the ongoing investigation.

The CNN reports that the man was identified as the owner of the vehicle used for the bombing, and that six additional people were arrested.

11/28/2003

Serious words, only one course 

Nov. 28 - An essay from Chaos Central which must be read because all outcomes must be contemplated: Our Struggle.

Anyone else feeling a Tokienesque response to this? (The books including Silmarillion, not the movies!)

Although I'm not certain about his grounds for doubting victory, I firmly believe we will suffer more attacks on the homefronts and our resolve will continually be tested. Furthermore, fears that we (I include myself) still do not fully understand the nature of the enemy may remain our biggest weakness.

I am also certain of the path he advocates. We have no other.

UPDATE: I had forgotten a third option, but I consider Fortress America less an option and more like pulling the covers over our heads and hoping the bad guys go away. Besides, we tried that already when we attempted to stay out of WWII, and discovery of the death camps forced many Americans to consider the US delay in that war in an even worse light. I try not to do what ifs, but there's no doubt that had we gone in earlier, millions might have been saved.

On my reference to Prof. Tolkien'sworks, I hesitate to elaborate because I don't want to publish spoilers for the upcoming Return of the King and there are actually a large number of people who love the movies yet haven't read the books much less are aware of the tremendous amount of history which precedes the events of Middle Earth prior to the dawning of the Age of Man.

(Link via Ghost of a Flea.)

Canadians in Afghanistan 

Nov. 28 - Kabul -- In accordance with NATO urging, Canada is looking at establishing provincial reconstruction teams which will involve Canada remaining involved in Afghanistan after the mandate is scheduled to end next August.
Canada has almost 2,000 soldiers committed to peace and security efforts in Kabul. And while no one believes Canadian Forces will leave Afghanistan in August when their one-year mandate expires, Leslie said the numbers will have to be cut.

That's where provincial reconstruction teams come in.

Defence Minister John McCallum visited a U.S. reconstruction team last week in Gardez, near Kabul.

"We have not decided yet, but based on what I saw ... at Gardez, I think they have done a very good job in terms of reconstruction, notably schools and wells and other activities," McCallum said.
These plans put the committment of NATO (and Canada) far above that of the UN, which is pulling out aid workers in the parts of the country that need them most. Does the UN understand that packing up and leaving as a response to terrorism is outright capitulation? Of course they do. They just don't care.

Mao-Tse Tung, gansta rap artist 

Nov. 28 - Cultural evolution turns Mao into a party rapper.
In a desperate appeal to China's fashionable youth, the Chinese Communist Party has approved the repackaging of Mao Tse-tung as a rap artist.

Mao's favourite exhortation - the Two Musts - is to be set to music and released alongside pop versions of all the Great Helmsman's old slogans, such as The East is Red and Serve the People.

The rap album to honour the 110th anniversary of Mao's birth next month follows another record, A Red Sun, released to mark his centenary.
Hey, what about the Gang of Four? Don't they get any recognition?

Arafat's over 'billion-dollar stash' 

Nov. 28 - Some excerpts from an article in the Australian news Arafat's over 'billion-dollar stash':
Arafat is thought to have salted away between $US300 million and $US1.3 billion in bank accounts worldwide by allegedly plundering aid money sent to prop up the battered West Bank and Gaza economy.

Hoping to deflect mounting concern over PA corruption, Arafat appointed Salam Fayyad, a chain-smoking US-educated economist, to the post of finance minister last year.

Fayyad is winning rave reviews for his swift assault on the culture of corruption, revealing that Arafat had diverted about $US900 million from the crippled PA budget between 1995 and 2000 to a secret Arafat-controlled account managed by his loyal financial adviser, Mohammed Rachid.

An International Monetary Fund report in September, detailing PA financial mismanagement, was followed by more allegations in a US 60 Minutes TV report earlier this month. In an interview on that show, Fayyad said: "There is corruption out there, there is abuse, there's impropriety. That's what had to be fixed."

However, Fayyad can only dig where he's allowed to, according to Matthew Levitt, a former FBI analyst who tracks terrorism financing.

"Fayyad is really trying very hard in some cases to shame people into action," Levitt told The Weekend Australian. "However, (his) best efforts can only be successful as they pertain to the PA's funds. He has no jurisdiction over PLO funds, Fatah (Arafat's political party) funds or any funds that have been diverted to Yasser Arafat's (or his associates') personal accounts."

Arafat still pays the salaries of more security officers than he needs, including Palestinian naval police based in landlocked Hebron.

"The fact is Salam Fayyad does not have access to the vast majority of those funds," Levitt said. The renewed interest in Arafat's finances comes at a sensitive time for the Palestinians, who will present their 2004 budget at an international donors conference in Rome on December 12.

The West Bank war horse's image is not helped when publications such as Forbes magazine feature the 74-year-old prominently on its list of most wealthy "King, Queens and Despots".

Forbes calculates that Arafat, who comes in sixth behind Queen Elizabeth II, has a net worth of $US300billion. Some Israelis believe Arafat's personal wealth may be as much as $US11 billion, although in testimony to the Knesset last year Israel's chief of military intelligence Aharon Zeevi listed his personal assets at more than $US1.3 billion.

Washington's contribution to the PA this year is a relatively modest $US125 million, including $US20 million that, for the first time, was given directly to the PA instead of via contractors and non-government organisations. "I think we have made sure that US money is accounted for properly," Boucher said. According to Fayyad, Arafat was paying his security forces about $US20 million a month in cash.
Read the whole thing.

Use gas tax for transit: Grit MP 

Nov. 28 - Liberal MP and former Toronto mayor Art Eggleton seems to make sense: Use gas tax for transit:
There's an "urban transit crisis" and a fuel tax should be used to fund improvements, former mayor and current Liberal MP Art Eggleton said yesterday. Eggleton, chairman of the federal Grits' GTA caucus, was speaking at the release of a union-funded report on subway expansion.

"There is an urban transit crisis and, in part, that's because there is a road crisis," Eggleton said. "I think the fuel tax should be used (to fund public transit)."
So is he talking about the fuel tax, or only part of the fuel tax? Or, worse, increasing the existing fuel tax?
[...]

Last week, the Toronto Transit Commission voted to approve a budget with no service cuts or fare hike in 2004 -- pending senior levels of government making up a $62-million shortfall.

The provincial Liberals promised 2 cents of the provincial gas tax for public transit in the fall campaign. But expanding the Sheppard subway to Scarborough Town Centre and the Spadina line to York University would require the equivalent funding of 5 cents a litre to cover the $3-billion cost over 16 years, the report said.

The subway report was prepared for the Universal Workers Union Local 183, which represents skilled workers across the GTA by Acres Management Consulting Ltd.
There is a letter to the editor in today's Toronto Sun from Paul Collett of Pickering who asks a very basic but as yet unanswered question:
THE LIBERALS plan on giving public transit a shot in arm with 2c from every litre of gas sold. Will this 2c come from the taxes already collected on every litre of gas, or will they increase the taxes by 2c to pay for this project?

Ill-conceived Gun Registries 

Nov. 28 - A report in today's Toronto Sun features a new study by The Fraser Institute on the effectiveness of restrictive firearm legislation in 3 Commonwealth countries: Australia, Canada and Great Britain, with results that are more devastating than even a could-be gun-totin' person like me would have thought probable.

To be honest, I chiefly oppose firearm regulation and registration on philosophical grounds: so long as I comply with the responsibilities that accompany ownership and use of a firearm, I see no reason to be restricted much less deprived of my inherent right to possess firearms. I'm pro-choice! It's not that I want to carry a gun, I just believe I have the right to choose.

This study casts that right in a different light which concludes that depriving law-abiding citizens of their rights has been accomplanied by an increase in violent crime, which was a reasonable, logical suspicion but until this report could not be proven based on actual fact. [Isn't it telling that private citizens are able to distinguish between proven and unproven yet a government cannot?]

Short version: If I am believed to be capable of defending myself, someone with ill intent is going to steer clear of me. If I am believed to be an easy target, I have just become potential prey.

That has always been a logical premise, and it seems it has been proven in the negative sense in that citizens of those Commonwealth countries studied which have restricted firearm possession have been victimized because they are indeed perceived to be incapable of defending themselves.

The report, The Failed Experiment: Gun Control and Public Safety in Canada, Australia, England and Wales, can be read in .pdf format online. The Executive Summary on that page states that
The widely ignored key to evaluating firearm regulations is to examine trends in total violent crime, not just firearms crime. Since firearms are only a small fraction of criminal violence, the public would not be safer if the new law could reduce firearm violence but had no effect on total criminal violence.
Affirmation of the adage Never bring a knife to a gunfight.
The United States provides a valuable point of comparison for assessing crime rates because the criminal justice system there differs so drastically from those in Europe and the Commonwealth. Not only are criminal penalties typically more severe in the United States, often much more severe, but also conviction and incarceration rates are usually much higer. Perhaps the most striking difference is that qualified citizens in the United States can carry concealed handguns for self-defence. During the past few decades, more than 25 states in the United States passed laws allowing responsible citizens to carry concealed handguns. In 2003, there are 35 states where citizens can get such a permit.

The upshot is that violent crime rates, and homicide rates in particular, have been falling in the United States. The drop in the American crime rate is even more impressive when compared with the rest of the world.
So violent crimes committed with knives, for example, have also been reduced in the US because the Justice System heavily penalizes those who commit such crimes not because we're vicious, but because we regard such crimes as intolerable in a civilized society.

The US government and justice system are based on the philosophy of "Social Contract." Citizens have the right to bear arms for non-criminal purposes, and that right is counter-balanced with harsh penalties when the terms of that contract are broken.

This report has special significance for Toronto because there is a mini-controversy in which the Toronto Star claims that violent crimes are down, and takes issue with Police Chief Julian Fantino's call for a public inquiry over concerns that violent crime is up (Jack is all over this one, and News Junkie Canada brushes aside accusations of being too blunt (heh) and weighs in.)

The Fraser Institute's press release not only calls the legislations "a failure", but makes what many opponents of the registry cite as the main crititcism:
Disarming the public has not reduced criminal violence in any country examined in this study. In all these cases, disarming the public has been ineffective, expensive, and often counter productive. In all cases, the effort meant setting up expensive bureaucracies that produce no noticeable improvement to public safety or have made the situation worse. Mauser points to these trends in the countries he examined: [England and Wales, Australia, and Canada.] (Emphasis added)
Good old entrenched bureaucracy. Admitting the gun registry is useless and abandoning it would mean a reduction in civil service jobs, and for them, it is deemed better to continue making the same errors than admitting failure, right? We're talking about a special interest group that never shows it's true face. Who runs these countries anyway, the Parliaments or the civil service? In who's interests are these countries run, those in the civil service who want to protect their useless jobs, or citizens, who are entitled to to protect their lives?

If we were discussing a fad treatment which made claims not only that it cannot prove but can be demonstrated to be false, wouldn't the fraud squad be called in?

The press release on the report cites that in England and Wales,
Both Conservative and Labour governments have introduced restrictive firearms laws over the past 20 years; all handguns were banned in 1997.

Yet in the 1990s alone, the homicide rate jumped 50 percent, going from 10 per million in 1990 to 15 per million in 2000. While not yet as high as the US, in 2002 gun crime in England and Wales increased by 35 percent. This is the fourth consecutive year that gun crime has increased.

Police statistics show that violent crime in general has increased since the late 1980s and since 1996 has been more serious than in the United States.
They are very critical of the confiscation and destruction of legally owned firearms in Australia, citing it cost over $500 million and the police services bureaucracy including that which oversaw the registry increased by $200 million. Armed robberies, on the other hand, have increased 166% since restrictive legislation was introduced in 1997.

The release calls Canada's gun registry "a farce."
The contrast between the criminal violence rates in the United States and in Canada is dramatic. Over the past decade, the rate of violent crime in Canada has increased while in the United States the violent crime rate has plummeted. The homicide rate is dropping faster in the US than in Canada.

The Canadian experiment with firearm registration is becoming a farce says Mauser. The effort to register all firearms, which was originally claimed to cost only $2 million, has now been estimated by the Auditor General to top $1 billion. The final costs are unknown but, if the costs of enforcement are included, the total could easily reach $3 billion. (Emphasis added.)

“It is an illusion that gun bans protect the public. No law, no matter how restrictive, can protect us from people who decide to commit violent crimes. Maybe we should crack down on criminals rather than hunters and target shooters?” says Mauser.
Now my American dander is really up. I am not a victim. I am a human being, and I have the right and obligation to defend myself and mine.

Blame it on Sept. 11 if you wish, because the fact is that one of the legacies of that day was the extradordinary actions of the crew and passengers aboard Flight 93 and the decision of those ordinary citizens to act to defend their country, their familes and themselves.

We rambled along in the 90's thinking the government should do everything we were too lazy to do, and it was a huge mistake. The blinders are off, and we have to assert that we are willing to take responsibility for ourselves as free people, including our own self-defense.

UPDATE: This should really infuriate the weasels at the Toronto Star: Chief Fantino wants the 3 young murderers of a 12-year old tried in adult court. Their weapons of choice were knives and baseball bats, and it seems these young offenders had a hit list of between 13-15 additional targets.

11/27/2003

Bush makes secret Thanksgiving Day trip to Iraq  

Nov. 27 - I started crying when I read this: Bush makes secret Thanksgiving Day trip to Iraq.

God bless you, Mr. President. Your visit to Iraq means that we are all there with the fine men and women who protect this country.

Best. Thanksgiving. Day. Ever.

UPDATE: Yes, I was a little emotional with this one, but I'm not apologizing. This was an extraordinary act by our President, and he did us all proud. He wasn't the only one with tears when the troops roared when they first saw him! I too was on my feet cheering and crying.

Canadians are somewhat bemused by the American attitude to Thanksgiving, and I'm not sure if I can even explain it. It has grown far away from an original celebration and thankfulness for the successful harvesting of crops and grown to thankfulness of another kind of harvest: family, friends, community and sharing.

But I stand by my original conclusion: as the troops couldn't be home with their families on Thanksgiving, it was right and proper that President Bush, as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, be with them representing the bigger American family.

I fear I will never be sophisticated enough discard emotion and sentimentality.

Sharia in Canada 

Nov. 27 - I'm really not sure what to make of this post about Sharia in Canada, or, more properly, in Ontario, from Damien Penny. Read the comments, too.

Although Damien doesn't think it is much of a problem because Ontario courts would still have the power to strike down any offensive decisions, I still wonder about the effect of having two tiers of civil arbitration structures. There's also the small matter of enforcement, which can involve the government should wages be garnisheed or seizure of property be deemed necessary.

As we have a Liberal government in Ontario now, I think any MPP who asked such questions would be treated in typical Liberal fashion: booed, accused of racism, and, in short, the questions wouldn't be addressed.

UPDATE: Jack comments and provides more information. I too didn't see anything about this meeting in the local media.

Clinton Defends Chretien 

Nov. 27 - Via Neale News, a National Post article Clinton defends Chretien and the decision for Canada not to support the US in Iraq. He explains that
Republican complaints that Canada, France and Mexico were soft on terrorism by refusing to join the war was unjustified and failed to take into account Chretien's strong belief in getting authorization from the United Nations, Clinton wrote.

[...]

Clinton praised Chretien as a valued friend, "whose intelligence, experience, common touch and common sense made him an extraordinarily effective leader."
Looks as though Clinton has learned to not publicly support people until they're out of office. Even he recognizes he's a curse!

More seriously, what binds Chretien to the UN? Maybe the fact that neither of them are required to be accountable? The ethical behaviour of Chretien and his Cabinet is of scandalous proportions up here, but there is no way to punish them unless Chretien choses to do so.

As for Chretien himself, we can write conflict of interest in huge honking letters whenever the names Bombardier and TotalFinaElf come up, but to no avail. The only ethics constraining Chretien are that which he places upon himself.

Roger L. Simon has a post that warms my cockles, demanding that the UN open the books and show where the money for the Oil-For-Food program went. As he points out, the funds required to maintain that vast police state and reward those who committed torture during Saddam's regime as well as the money now funding the terrorists in Iraq came from somewhere, and let's not forget the billions of dollars in both US currency and gold that were secured by US forces as attempts were made to smuggle same out of Iraq by the truckloads. (Be sure and read the comments, and link here for Gerard Van der Leun's devastating account of the French and Bonn banks' lending practices to any country known to be antagonistic toward the US.)

There is no legal requirement for the UN to account for the money it spends, and you don't have to be a genius to figure out that that guarantees corruption.

Accountability is the necessary partner for freedom, and, as an American citizen and Canadian taxpayer, I object to tax dollars being spent on any organization that doesn't have to account for that money.

Go Roger! As he points out, we have a right to know, as do the people of Iraq who were cheated out of food and critical medical supplies by the UN and Saddam.

UPDATE: Paul has some rather pointed comments about Bubba's defense of the PM in He just won't shut up . . .

So Just How Did It Go In England? 

Nov. 27 - Alpha Patriot has some interesting links regarding the effectiveness of the President's recent visit to England on the British media (AlphaPatriot: So Just How Did It Go In England?) which still begs the question: why didn't they figure this out earlier?

Don't get me wrong, I thought the Whitehall Speech was wonderful, but it really didn't break any new ground in terms of policy or resolve. As all the presidential speeches are available online, I guess it gets back to the laziness of journalists to do a bit of fact-checking and research.

Surely it can't be that they substitute wisecracks for actual reporting, can it?

Filthy Lie Assignment 

Nov. 27 - The latest lie assignment from the Alliance is What will Evil Glenn be doing for Thanksgiving?

That one's easy. He'll be stuffing puppies. Into turkeys. Guess he wants to be known as Puppy Stuffer.

Terror refugee ordered to go 

Nov. 27 - This is odd: Terror refugee ordered to go. Hasan Dhaifullah Alkuhali was denied refugee status based on his claim that his refusal to join a terrorist group in Yemen, the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army (AAIA), caused him to flee for his life.
The AAIA is a bin Laden kidnap-for-ransom group whose members raise millions of dollars for its jihad in ransom paid to free kidnapped foreigners, police said.

[...]

"The board accepted the AAIA was a violent terrorist organization with international connections," Mr. Justice Edmond P. Blanchard said. He (Alkuhali) claimed the leader of the AAIA was Osama bin Laden."

Alkuhali said his troubles began in November 2000 after five heavily armed and masked men came to his home in Yemen to recruit him. He said the men offered him weapons, money and a car if he joined, but he refused and was given 24 hours to reconsider.

Alkuhali said he purchased a phony U.S. passport and a plane ticket, fled to Detroit and then to Windsor, where he made a refugee claim at the border.

Akuhali told the court he didn't contact Yemeni police about the threat because they were "corrupt and dangerous."

Blanchard said Alkuhali had an obligation to seek assistance in Yemen.
Interesting.

Pulitzer's prize injustice 

Nov. 27 - Peter Worthington delivers a smackdown to the Pulitizer Prize Committee for their decision to not rescind that prize for Walter Duranty's report on Stalin which lied about the engineered famine in the Ukraine which killed over 7 million people (Pulitzer's prize injustice.)

I guess that once you start, it's hard to quit being apologists for Stalin and communism.

What a Bitch! 

Nov. 27 - To paraphrase John Derringer, What A Bitch!

A woman appeared in Barrie court yesterday over a Sept. 13 incident involving road hockey: Rage rap over road hockey. She objected to kids playing street hockey, so got into our car and charged the net. The kids scattered onto nearby lawns and ran home terrified.

So the ball went into her yard several times. There was no damage to her precious grass.

The parents of the kids are standing foursquare behind them:
Parents yesterday said they were not only upset about the potential for injury but for the effect it's had on their children's ability to play Canada's beloved pastime.

"It's not only that it is a national sport," said one father, Sunil Mehra, "it's also that they were playing a game and having fun and being children. They were not out ransacking or in the shops causing trouble. These kids were terrified. They came running with tears in their eyes. It's a sad thing and none of us are feeling good about it."

Karen Seeley-Andrews made a brief appearance in Barrie court yesterday charged with dangerous driving and mischief by willfully destroying a goalie net. She is to be back in court Jan. 7.
There actually are people who can't stand the thought of kids playing (I've run into some of those sourpusses too often.) They object to the "noise" kids make.

Freaking cheerless uptight pursed-lips psychos. Sorry your childhood was so solitary. Like, maybe there's a reason the other kids didn't want to play with you?

French Join In on Anti-France Bandwagon 

Nov. 27 - They may be a little late to the party, but what the heck? French Join In on Anti-France Bandwagon. According to the article, the French are snapping up books that question current French policy.
In the last few months, there have been a slew of books published in the country slamming French policy with titles that translate to: "The Arrogant French," "The French in Disarray," and "France in Free-Fall."

"France has a great obstructive power, destructive power and this is very dangerous for France itself," said Andre Glucksmann, author of "West Versus West."

Readers are snapping up books that question whether or not the policies of French president Jacques Chirac are hurting their homeland.
Considering that it was also reported that the French snap up books such as the one that purported to show the attacks on Sept. 11 were only Hollywood special effects, I'm not rushing out to purchase anything French.

So the French pay attention when it hurts their pocketbooks? Too f---ing bad.

Mmm, Australian wines.

War on terrorism 

Nov. 27 - Sadly, this is not a surprise: Kashmir: 8 dead in a series of attacks by terrorists.

The good news: 5 of the dead are suspected terrorists:
In Thursday's violence, a civilian was killed in Srinagar's main market when insurgents launched grenades at Indian paramilitary forces, but missed their target, police said.

They hit a group of bystanders, killing one and injuring 10.

Indian security forces were searching for the suspected militants responsible for the attack, which happened at 12:30 p.m. (0700 GMT). Srinagar is the summer capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir state.

In the winter capital Jammu, three militants were killed in a gun battle with Indian security forces in Gool district.

Also in Jammu, a gun battle left two militants dead and an Indian paramilitary security officer seriously injured in Doda.

In central Kashmir, suspected militants burst into the house of an off-duty Indian police officer, and shot him dead.

Also, suspected militants in southern Kashmir gunned down a member of a plainclothes special police officer.

The 14-year insurgency in Indian-Kashmir has killed an estimated 30,000 to 60,000 people.
I shudder at those numbers, and CNN's numbers are lower than APs, which was over 68,000 dead. (That doesn't even include injuries.)

I think everyone knew the 2 day-old ceasefire would prove irresistable to those terrorists who are committed to murder, but it doesn't make the ceasefire any the less commendable. India is a long time ally of the US, and Pakistan has been impressive despite internal problems in helping in the war in Afghanistan and on al Qaeda.

True, there's a lot of history behind their current antagonism, but history can surprise us sometimes, and I keep hoping that the leadership of those two countries can resolve to put their very real differences on the back burner and focus on what is in their mutual self-interest: fighting terrorism.

Maybe some day we'll have a real Dept. of State and they'll work on such matters.

Aside: What the heck does CNN mean "suspected" militants? I think that once they've killed they've gone way, way beyond "suspicion." India has the bodies to prove it. Damn the media some more ...

11/26/2003

Idealism, Thanksgiving and the Troops 

Nov. 25 - I found Earthly Passions: A Puritan Idealism in Iraq just as blogger went down Monday night, but maybe it's just as well I wasn't able post on it then because it has provoked a lot of thinking and reflection as Thanksgiving approaches.

Every school child knows that the Pilgrims landed and made it through winter with the help of friendly Native Americans. They also know about the Mayflower Compact, but the hardships these early settlers endured aboard the Mayflower as they hammered out that statement are often underplayed.

The crucial partnership of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans of the Wampanoags enabled both to survive, and it becomes relevant again as Mark brings those early lessons into the present:
The Pilgrims heard "Welcome" from Samoset, Squanto, Massasoit, and the Wampanoag tribe. However, this welcome did not extend from all Native Americans. The Narragansett tribe and others proved to be a constant and deadly threat. The Plymouth colonists concentrated and benefited from their welcoming neighbors and were not swayed from their objective by those who proved hostile. Today we forget that many, if not most, Iraqis welcomed their liberators last March. But that's yesterday's headlines. What we read today are those fewer but more vocal and violent in Iraq who work their deadly deeds against American soldiers.

In the same way that the treaty with the Wampanoags did not encompass an agreement with all Native Americans and Englishmen, today's commitment to Iraq does not encompass all Iraqis. It does not, obviously, involve Baathists and foreign jihadists who would use terror to advance their cause. In 1621, there were also terrorists, sadly from both sides, who would use terrorist tactics to advance their cause. Other Native Americans, not of the Wampanoag tribe, would have unleashed their own terrorism to destroy either the Pilgrims or the Wampanoags. But together the Puritan settlers and Wampanoag tribe were able to defend themselves, when they might not have done so separately.

Likewise the new, fragile Iraqi democracy cannot survive without American and British assistance. But it also cannot survive only on the support of American and British troops. There must be a mutual commitment between Iraqis who will eventually take the lead in their own democracy and the leaders of the free world who lend their strength. "America only" fails on its own intrusiveness. "Iraqis only" fails on its own lack of military strength. Together they can forge a new alliance that will survive the never ending bombs from within Iraq and the barbs from without.
The next section is moral courage:
Idealism, common purpose, and a treaty forged out of necessity provided the strength for the Pilgrims to survive. But without moral courage they surely would have floundered.
I highly recommend you read the entire post.

Thanksgiving Day is when we unite with family and celebrate our gratitude for family, shelter, food, and our heritage of the Idealism of those Pilgrims who underwent enormous hardship and suffering in order to safeguard their religious views. That we remember the idealism is important, because this nation was founded on idealism, and much of who we are and what we have done stems from those ideals. One of those ideals is that all men and women yearn for freedom; the necessary other is that all men and women can behave responsibly and rationally.

The combination of the sober, industrious Puritans and the jaunty, younger sons who wanted to make their fortunes forged the early colonies and the necessity of compromise hammered us. The question of slavery was not settled when the nation was founded and required that the Civil War complete the task. It tempered us.

The Civil War also contributed a new song to Americans, "The Empty Chair," which sat empty in memory of the son, brother, husband or father who had died in that war. I doubt many Americans have even heard of it, but it will have a new poignancy for me tomorrow as I remember those young men and women we have sent to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For those of us who early on supported the action in Iraq, I think we already knew that, in some ways, the blood of those good soldiers who have fallen would be on our consciences, not because we doubted that the cause was just but because we knew we would owe a mighty debt to them and we needed to be worthy. Every day web logs renew our pledge to them that we would do what it takes on the homefront to see it through and ensure that their deaths were not wasted but would have meaning, and that new hope can and must be born for millions of people because of their sacrifices.

That is poor comfort for those away from home and those who miss them, but it's all we have. Hope and faith, honour and strength, courage and steadfastness. These are things we call upon to sustain us in times that try our souls. In past years, we have been able to get by without thinking much about those words, but no more. Now those words have been reclaimed for us and by us as our heritage. Our moral courage.

On Sept. 21, 2001, President Bush reminded us of who we are and what our nation represents as he spoke these words in his speech to the joint houses of Congress:
Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss. And in our grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment. Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom -- the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time -- now depends on us. Our nation -- this generation -- will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage.
He concluded with words that have been uttered many times since:
We will not tire. We will not falter. We will not fail.
I think these good words, purposeful words that do not diminish the task we've set for ourselves but steel our resolve and steady our hearts for the trying times today and ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. We have so much to be grateful for, and so many good men and women to be grateful to.

(Via Dustbury.)

The Sun Newspaper Online - UK's biggest selling newspaper 

Nov. 25 - I have admitted before that I love The Sun (UK). I think the word that best describes it is brash. They may not have the "respectability" of the Daily Telegraph, but they write in a rock'em sock'em style I find endearing.

For example, there's this: Operation Santa:
BRITISH troops spending Christmas in Iraq will tuck into a sleigh-load of traditional festive treats -- thanks to Santa Sun.

The forces' favourite newspaper has teamed up with Tesco to send an individual hamper of goodies to EVERY ONE of our 14,000 brave boys and girls who will be away from loved ones.

Each box is crammed with mince pies, sweets, nuts, soft drinks, crisps, cakes, Christmas pud -- and even a Father Christmas hat.

The only thing missing is booze -- banned as Iraq is a strict Muslim country.

Boxes are also being sent to 1,000 British troops on active service over the holidays in other foreign countries, including Bosnia and Afghanistan. (Emphasis added)

The Naafi, which distributes supplies to Our Boys and Girls across the world, is making sure all the boxes are delivered in time for Christmas.

Our 14,000 troops in Iraq are now involved in peacekeeping duties in extremely dangerous conditions.

They include squaddies from the Paras, Light Infantry, Royal Green Jackets and Queen's Lancashire Regiment.

Type 23 frigates Sutherland and Kent are on duty -- plus Tornados from the RAF's 2 and 13 squadrons.

Squaddies, sailors and RAF crews will spend the holidays in Basra, in Southern Iraq, where temperatures will be around 50°F (10°C) on Christmas Day.

More than 50 Tesco staff worked around the clock to pack the containers at a base in Ely, Cambridgeshire, in the operation with The Sun.

Staff from the local Tesco store joined volunteers from head office on the production line to pack the boxes.

[...]

A convoy of seven lorries ferried the 75-ton load to the Naafi ship Michigan, in Felixstowe, Suffolk.

It has set sail and is due in Kuwait on December 12.

The goodies will then be distributed to troops over the border in Iraq by trucks and helicopters.

[...]

Tesco suppliers have generously donated their products to the festive boxes and Brand Momentum in Cambridgeshire loaned its packing site and expertise to ensure the boxes were ready to go on time.

The suppliers are: Elkes Biscuits, Kinnerton Confectionery, Rocket Design, Readifoods, Jacobs Biscuits, Shannon Minerals, Gerber Foods, Princes Soft Drinks, Macaw Soft Drinks, Redmill Snacks, McVitie's, Haribo, Manor Bakeries, Hazlewood Foods, Soreen, KP, Ludwig Chocolate, Toms Confectionery, Memory Lane Cakes and Burton's Biscuits.
Not exactly the BBC, but that's of the good.

Italians in Iraq 

Nov. 26 - Australian news reports the Italian mission in Iraq was hit with mortar or rocket fire.
RAI said only a few people were in the building at the time of the blast, which targeted the building's second floor. The head of the mission, Gianludovico de Martino di Montegiordano, wasn't inside at the time, RAI [the Italian state-run television]reported.

It said the building was damaged, but that there were no injuries.
Never forget that, far from being unilateral, we have strong allies in Iraq. Remember them and pray for their safety.

Salim Mansur 

Nov. 26 - Salim Mansur poses the question we have all been frustrated and aggravated about:
Since a violent end game between the liberating American-led coalition forces and Saddam loyalists, joined by the fanatics of the Arab-Muslim world, was expected and has occurred, the interesting question is why there is so much mock surprise and gloom in the media. (Emphasis added.)
Mr. Mansur doesn't have permalinks (drat!) so I'm going to quote extensively from his column "Make no mistake: Iraq is not another Vietnam" and hope for future permalinks:
The gloom pervading this sort of analysis carries the odour of a self-fulfilling wish.

It is to be found in the language used to portray the nightly roundup of the day's events in Iraq - of endlessly piling up the costs of war, its after-effects and casualties, with scant reference to gains being made in rebuilding a country plundered by Saddam and his kinsmen. All this to drive the message home to Americans, not Iraqis, that the overthrow of a tyrannical regime was an illusion and defeat is now inevitable in an Iraqi quagmire that ignites memories of Vietnam.

It is strange, even obscene, to hear those sending out suicide bombers against soft civilian targets, assaulting American and coalition soldiers, and perpetrating terror against Iraqis, referred to even in some of our media as "resistance" fighters." And even stranger to hear their efforts to return Iraq to the tyranny of the Saddam years described as a "liberation" struggle.

Iraq is not becoming another Vietnam, despite the spike in the recent round of terrorist violence. Moreover, describing the desperate, losing campaign of murdering thugs as a "resistance" struggle is an insult to the memory of those Iraqis who perished resisting Saddam's regime in the uprising of 1991, betrayed by a former U.S. president, the elder George Bush.
It was a betrayal. We all know that, and I think it must firm our resolve to do whatever it takes however long it takes. On many levels, it's a matter of honour. I know it was an expedient betrayal, if you will, just as the failure to stop the Soviet Union from invading and occupying Eastern Europe was, and we're not going to to that any more.
[...]

It is worth repeating. Iraqis overwhelmingly - Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south together constitute about 85% of Iraq's population - recognize the difference between tyranny and freedom.

No surrender to terrorism

They are not about to surrender to terrorism after having so recently acquired their freedom. The terrorists know this. But they are in a race against the coalition forces to see if they can succeed, before being defeated, in convincing the American public to abandon Iraq. To convince Americans that the price that must be paid for securing Iraq's freedom is too steep.

Ibn Khaldun, one of the greatest Arab thinkers from the 14th century and considered by many as an intellectual giant of the Middle Ages, would have made no mistake about his methods in dealing with terrorists.

He would have recognized them as the fanatics and fundamentalists of his time, who, posing as men of religion, brought ruination to the Arab-Islamic civilization between Cordoba in Moorish Spain and Baghdad.

He would have counselled the Americans and their coalition partners to proceed unwaveringly with their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, preventing terrorists from spreading elsewhere.

For Ibn Khaldun understood through experience, unlike so many of today's media "experts", that civilization periodically must contend forcefully with those who seek its destruction.
Read the whole thing. The link should be good until next Thursday.

Canadians in Afghanistan 

Nov. 26 - Did I mention that hockey is a way of life up here? Joe Wormington's column today features a team effort by Tom Cochrane, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Guy LeFleur to send a message to the Canadian troops in Afghanistan. But first about Cochrane's hockey game:
Talk about the Big Leagues. "I have got sore ribs," laughs Canadian music legend Tom Cochrane last night. "I was hit with a pretty good body check in my Brampton men's-league hockey game."

Ouch. That bruise is probably White Hot but he wouldn't change a thing because it has been a magical couple of days. Picture this: On Saturday night the Oakville resident was in Edmonton for the great Heritage Classic.

And then on Monday he was on stage at the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada dinner, receiving a National Achievement Award for a long career in writing tremendous songs, including Life is a Highway.

But since "hockey is the tie that binds the country," we'll talk about that treat first.

"I had my nose pressed up against the glass and was watching my heroes as a kid playing on an outdoor rink," Tom said excitedly. "I felt like a 10-year-old kid."

A lot of people know exactly what he means. During the festivities, Cochrane sang his famous song Big Leagues and dedicated it to Canadian Forces troops over in Afghanistan. It was at that point he was approached by a familiar face. "It was Wayne Gretzky," Tom says. "He said 'I want to tape a special message for those troops.'"

Later, Gretzky, Mark Messier and Guy LaFleur did exactly that. Cochrane, who has done so many humanitarian missions, will be heading to the war zone near Kabul to see and entertain those troops next month.

"I will be bringing that tape," he said. "It was a class thing for those guys to do that."
We are talking legends here, and I think the troops will be totally awestruck by the support and recognition from these greats.

Don Cherry Rocks 

Nov. 26 - Pierre Le Brun of the Canadian Press must not watch Coaches Corner on Saturday Night Hockey regularly or he'd know that this was the second Don Cherry rant against commercials which are supposed to "educate" parents about being too agressive when it comes to their kids in sports. Don lit into the commercials when they were first aired earlier this year (last March, maybe? it was shortly after the Iraq war began) and hockey parents everywhere cheered for him and thanked him back then too.

The program is called "Relax, It's Just a Game" which is heresy up here. It's not just a game, it's The Game. It's fast. It's exciting. It's aggressive. It's not a game for the timid and kids love it and play it every chance they get. Attempts to make street hockey illegal are usually shot down. You don't mess with Tradition.

Hockey is so freaking politically incorrect it makes my heart sing. Ask a Canadian hockey fan what he thinks of European hockey teams and prepare for a long rant on underhanded cheating sneaky back-stabbing cowardly bastards who don't have the balls to check you right and proper to your face but use their skates to trip you and avoid detection.

Hockey is capitalism and team work in action: recognizing and seizing opportunity, taking risks, taking your shot when you see an opening or passing the puck to the open man. It's a fast, gutsy game, and we love it.

As for the nutty parents, I've been involved in minor sports on the administrative level for over 10 years and raised 3 active boys who played organized hockey, baseball, swimming and soccer. I have a bit of first-hand knowledge on the Matter of Nutty Parents, and I agree with Don Cherry. These ads paint sports parents unfairly.

Yes, there are some wackos who are also parents and who put their kids into amateur sports programs. But these parents are just plain nutty and the kids-sports connection is convenient for the politically correct but irrelevant to the nuttiness.

The overwhelming majority of hockey parents are fantastic. They go to a lot of trouble to get their kids to in-town and out-of-town games and tournaments at god-awful hours (I'm talking being at the rink at 5:30 a.m. for a 6 a.m. game in mid-freaking-winter) plus the financial expenses for skates, equipment and training camps and the travel costs for tournaments.

Parents talk to one another. The wackos are well-known because they are uncommon and they stand out.

The aforementioned wackos are also nutty in other sports programs, Scouts, schools, music competitions, ballet recitals, at the pool and pretty much wherever they go out in public with or without their kids. I saw one of them go ballistic in the library because the book he wanted was on a waiting list. He was a nut job, and the fact that he's a parent just gives him more venues to exhibit his belligerance.

The major stupidity of these commercials is that people who are nuts think they are rational, so using the airwaves to reach them is a waste of time. Sheesh, some of these nuts have complained to me about others they perceived to be out-of-control. What are you gonna do? I suspect the nuts sit there and nod their heads in agreement when they see those commercials because they don't realize it's aimed at them. It's already been established they're clueless, right?

The cruelty of the commercial is that it makes it appear to the unknowing that overly agressive hockey parents it is a widespread phenomena which is untrue. The side-cruelty is that it makes hockey parents feel targeted because they support their kids desire to play the game.

It's the same b.s. as the gun registry. It only affects lawful gun owners, and as recent events in Toronto bear out, doesn't affect those who want to commit crimes with guns.

The types who are always trying to legislate niceness have been trying to tame hockey for years, at least in Ontario. If they weren't such self-important morons, they'd realize that hockey and indeed all amateur sports are character builders as well as teaching kids self-discipline.

It's a very simple case of logical consequences. You mouth off at the umpire or ref, and you're out of the game. In many leagues, you're also suspended for the next game. Your coach and teammates are angry with you for being so selfish, and you learn to keep your mouth shut.

It teaches the lesson much faster than schools and other social institutions are capable of doing, and it's effective because the kids are there because they want to play so the consequences of violating the rules and norms hit them where it matters.

Of course, what happens on the playing fields and rinks is out of the control of everyone except those playing, which really drives a lot of control freakery types crazy, and not just parents.

These nuts know all the latest psycho-babble too. They'll argue a suspension because it might hurt their kid's self-esteem. They'll insist he's a hell-raising little brat because he lacks self-esteem. They'll cast dark looks at a better player and insist he's playing short-stop for nefarious reasons which somehow never includes the fact that he's one hell of a infielder, alert, and receptive to being coached.

When you come down to it, I think many of the problems with these parents come straight out of the Book of Undeserved Entitlement. The ones who insist the commercials are needed are the ones who created the problem to begin with because they've preached the message of equal entitlement without equal effort and some parents are trying to cash in.

11/25/2003

Three leaks 

Nov. 25 - Tom Blankley of the Washington Times delivers sarcastic homage to the Three leaks major media has ignored:
Three vastly embarrassing and newsworthy memos — two from the Senate and one from the Pentagon — came to light. But in each case, the shocking revelations were not revealed in the august pages and electrons of the newly mature media elite.

In the remaining actual news gathering and reporting institutions (the Weekly Standard, The Washington Times, the New York Post, Fox News,Wall Street Journal Editorial Page, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh radio programs, et al.) those three leaked memos were substantively reported on and extensively quoted.

For those of you who get your news from the WashingtonPostNewYorkTimesCBSetc., here is a summary of those three now half-famous memos: 1) Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee had drafted plans to use and misconstrue classified intelligence data to politically undercut the president of the United States ("pulling the trigger" closer to the election); (2) the CIA and other intelligence offices of the government have identified 10 years of contacts between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden —thus tending to dramatically justify our war against Iraq and contradicting one of the major Democratic Party criticisms of President Bush's Iraq policy; and 3) Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee were working closely with outside groups to block judicial appointments for the purpose of ethnic bigotry and unethical manipulation of court proceedings. In Sen. Durbin's case,the memo advised that Miguel Estrada be blocked as he is "especially dangerous because he is Latino." In Sen. Kennedy's case, the memo advised to stall Judge Gibbons appointment so she couldn't get on the bench in time to decide the pending Michigan affirmative action case. The memo questioned "the propriety" of such tactics, but nonetheless advised it. She was confirmed just two months after the landmark case in question.
By the time I finished reading the Weekly Standard article about the ties between Saddam and al Qaeda everyone else had it, but on reflection I haven't seen anything about it in the Toronto news (although that means little.) (The link to the Weekly Standard article is here.)

What liberal bias in the media? By the way, Roger L. Simon and his commenters have a good discussion about the leak on Saddam/al Qaeda, Newsweek's response, and the Weekly Standard's response to Newsweek.

Toronto? We have a problem 

Nov. 25 - I'm letting Toronto Sun editor and columnist Lorrie Goldstein take point on the increased gun violence in Toronto with Handcuffed as he sums up the problems facing Toronto police as they try to cope with fewer police and more paperwork:
Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino fired off a letter to Federal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon yesterday demanding a public inquiry into Canada's criminal justice system.

He couldn't have picked a better day, considering we've just endured yet another bloody weekend in Toronto - three gun murders, four stabbings, a drive by shooting in which two men narrowly escaped death and a home invasion in which the victim was pistol-whipped.

Yesterday, there was a shootout between two men outside a Scarborough alternative school.

Fantino had earlier called for such an inquiry, noting the system is broken and Toronto has the victims to prove it.
Homicide Insp. Gary Ellis was interviewed by the Sun and says is asking for simplification of the legal system so police can spend more time investigating and less time filling out forms.

Toronto mayor elect David Miller has vowed to get guns off the streets although he's a bit short on details other than working with other levels of government.

Speaking of guns, governments and not having a plan, the bill for the Federal Gun Registry will reach $1 billion sometime in 2004 or 2005. The original budget for the registry was $1 million.

Jack adds much insight from his vantage point as a cop.

Berlusconi cancels Chretien 

Nov. 25 - I'll keep the Ottawa Citizen headline intact, Italian PM: I'm 'too busy' for Canada, although I tend to put a slightly different spin on this, believing that maybe Berlusconi would rather not meet with Chretien.
LONDON -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has cancelled a regular summit meeting between Canada and the European Union scheduled for Ottawa on Dec. 17, effectively saying he is too busy to attend.

Mr. Berlusconi's snub comes despite frantic attempts by Canadian diplomats to find an alternative venue in Europe for the meeting with Prime Minister Jean Chretien. It also met with some criticism from EU parliamentarians, one of whom decried it as a "slap in the face to a good friend of Europe."
I wonder which parliamentarians from which countries? Heh.
It is the first time any of the twice-yearly summits have been cancelled since they began in 1990.

[...]

The EU's imminent expansion -- it will balloon from 15 to 25 countries next May -- means the potential European market is getting even bigger. But European issues remain dwarfed in Canada by the government's demands and obsession with its relationship with Washington. (Emphasis added)
They said it, not me.
Indeed while the federal government dismissed Mr. Berlusconi's cancellation as a headstrong act by an unpredictable politician, it may be interpreted by some as another sign of Canada's diminishing profile and significance in Europe, the sense it is a country that can be casually sloughed off.

The Italian leader's decision was made before Mr. Chretien announced he would resign Dec. 12. Mr. Berlusconi told Canadian officials Nov. 13 that he would not make the trip to Ottawa, sparking frantic attempts by Canadian diplomats to reschedule the meeting in Europe at an earlier date. Those efforts collapsed last weekend, by which time Mr. Berlusconi would have known he would be meeting new prime minister Paul Martin instead of Mr. Chretien. (Emphasis added)

Still, Mr. Berlusconi's decision to back out of the summit offered his critics another chance to chastize him. Skipping the summit, said Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP Graham Watson during a parliamentary session, was a "tactless decision." And Scottish Labour party MEP David Martin said "it does not matter whether that summit is held in Europe or whether it is held in Canada. The important thing is that it is held before Dec. 12." Otherwise, Mr. Martin said, it would be a "slap in the face to a good friend of Europe."

The December summit had no outstanding tensions on its agenda that demanded soothing or settling. Yet it was regarded as significant by Canadian officials who had planned it as symbolic corner-turning in relations with the EU. Among the documents prepared for signing by the leaders was a further trade and economic enhancement agreement, aimed at protecting and improving the investment environment.

While trade growth between Canada and the EU remains sluggish and slips into near insignificance next to trade with the U.S., the stock of Canadian direct investment in the EU reached almost $100 billion in 2002, surpassing the EU's $94-billion investment stock in Canada. For Canada, European investment represents three of every four dollars of non-American investment coming into the country.

"We want the summit to lift this relationship to a new plateau," European Commissioner Antonio Vitorino said last week, before the last options for rescheduling had been exhausted.
WEASEL Chretien is wrecked on the rocks of the Anglosphere. Oh wait, Italy is not an Anglophone country. Neither is Poland, or Estonia, or Denmark, or most of the countries in the Coalition of the Willing.

Dude, your legacy is just beginning.

(Link via Neale News.)

US Releases Abdul Rahman Khadr from Gitmo 

Nov. 25 - The US released 20 prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay facility including a former Toronto (Scarborough) resident Abdul Rahman Khadr.

According to Reynald Doiron, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Office, Khadr reportedly went to a country of his own choosing. "Privacy concerns limit our ability to provide information on his current whereabouts," Doiron said. Khadr could return to Canada someday as a matter of right.

Oh goodie.

The man's father, Ahmed Said Khadr, is a known operative of al Qaeda and although he was reportedly killed by Pakistan forces during a raid on an al-Qaeda camp in Waziristan, Pakistan. last October, although it has not been substantiated. (If blogspotted, go to Oct. archives and use the search function (Ctrl+F for IE users) and key in Khadr. The original source was the National Post and their links live for only 2 weeks, poor things.)

Abdul's brother Omar, known to some as the "Toronto Teen" and to others as the murderer of a US Army medic in Afghanistan, was injured and captured and is still presumed to be held at Guantanamo.

Kid porn suspect out 

Nov. 25 - A Delhi man arrested Nov. 19 driving half-naked (the bottom half) the wrong way down a one-way street as he downloaded child porn using a hijacked wi-fi signal has been released on $5000 no-deposit bail yesterday. The 33-year old is unable to leave the house except to go to work or when accompanied by his guarantor.

He is also forbidden to go to Toronto except for legal or medical reasons.

Precision Guided Humor 

Nov. 25 - This week's Precision Guided Humor Assignment from the Alliance of Free Bloggers is to determine what kind of punishment would be accorded anti-war protesters under American sharia law.

The all-important word "American" should mean that sharia law not violate either the First or Eighth Amendments of the US Constitution (the latter forbids that "cruel and unusual punishment be inflicted") so American sharia would be both more humane and necessarily more imaginative than current Muslim sharia law.

It is somewhat fitting that this question come up as Americans prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving. It is super fitting that I read A Puritan Idealism in Iraq at Earthly Passions last night because I was also reminded of how the Puritans dealt with minor trouble-makers. [More on this excellent post downstream.]

However, I don't think that either the pillory or stocks would be allowed under American sharia law, although the feather-tickler might get by. So I had to go further back in our history to come up with something that would not violate the Constitution.

Then I remembered the practice of shunning. It's pretty self-explanatory, and just means that the citizens of a town decide they will neither speak nor acknowledge a person or persons who consistently violates the sensibilities of that town or are unrestrained mischief-makers.

That may sound like I'm going easy on them, but given their penchant for drama and over-the-top actions, constumes, props and exhortations, depriving them of attention would be hitting them where it hurts. All that time lovingly spent on Hitler=Bush posters, applying magic marker with bold strokes to draw a mustache on the President, and the laboured the construction of the ubiquitous effigies, and nobody even looks!

Sheesh, if you're going to turn the water of fountains red as a puerile statement and nobody even looks twice, where's the thrill?

They could march and holler slogans, but people would just keep on about their business. (Since they're being shunned, however, anti-war protesters would be well-advised to cross only at marked intersections and with the light. People subject to the shunning can't expect drivers to yield the right of way to people who don't even exist.)

Actually, we've already put the shunning into practice on a small scale. What else explains the fact that the all-important and influential media (in their minds, at least) consistently issue dire prognostications yet are ignored?

Another possibility, still in keeping with the Thanksgiving theme, would be to make them eat all the leftover turkey. And dressing. Yeah, especially the dressing.

But they can't have any of the pumpkin and pecan pies. They're mine, and the whipped cream too, which doubles as a topper for Scotch Coffee (because I drink Scotch whiskey, not Irish.)

11/24/2003

Trying to catch up 

Nov. 24 - One of the hard parts about my new schedule is falling behind reading my favourite blogs, including Martin's.

He compares our street-theatre protesters with those in Georgia, and please note the name of his blog -- Magyar. Could it have some connection with Hungary? (Pardon me while I struggle to suppress my outrage at those goofs in North America who throw around words like repression with no understanding of the term.)

Oh dang. He just got even with me for being so far behind. (Caveat: Not remotely work safe.)

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