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2/29/2004

Peter Worthington and Sen. Kerry 

Feb. 29 - Peter's not the only vet irritated with Kerry's continuous references to Vietnam and he expresses it well:
Yes, he had a decent record, but he wasn't Audie Murphy. (For those too young to remember, Murphy won every American valour decoration in WWII and became a movie actor, but never aspired to be president.)

While Bush calls himself a "war president" against terrorism and seeks to bring democracy to Iraq, what has that got to do with Vietnam? Why does Kerry keep raising Vietnam when he gracefully declined to make it an issue when Bill Clinton - a guy who ducked even the National Guard - was president?

I would argue that Kerry keeps Vietnam at the forefront of his campaign because it is just about all he's got. (Emphasis added.)
One drawback faced by US Senators when they run for national office is that their voting records are public record. Maybe that's why successful candidates are often former governors, who have the luxury of explaining how they would have voted! Party discipline in the US is rarely invoked, so Kerry has no convenient excuse for his voting record on defense spending or his approval of the various strong responses to Saddam's flouting of the terms of the 1991 ceasefire during the Bush and Clinton administrations.

Usually senators who run for office proclaim they will stand on their records. Kerry, by relying on his military record rather than his voting record in the Senate, is not running a campaign, so much as indulging a trip down memory lane. And that trip, complete with his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, will re-awaken and infuriate more Vietnam vets and their families than Kerry may have counted on.

More importantly, Americans and the media should be asking "Dude, what you have you done for us lately?" If he is nominated, much less elected, on the basis of whatever he says in front of any given audience rather than his record in the Senate, then shame on us all.

I'm off to work, take care and be sure and read the NY Times article linked a few posts down and re-read Claudia Rosett's article in the Opinion Journal. Maybe some who gets numbers better than I can connect some dots?

It's about time, as reader Sammie notes, that big media outlets began to pay attention to this story. What alarms me most are the similarities in practice to the Adsam scandal.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn is blasting Kerry's voting record on military programs and expenditures - read The John Kerry Cancelled Weapons System of the Day and follow the links.

UPDATE: If you think I'm overstating Kerry's reliance on his past, read this NY Times op-ed by Kerry which talks about - you guessed it - his experiences in Vietnam. He ends the piece with what he felt in 1969. C'mon, John, the voters want more, like how you felt in 1970!

Haiti 

Feb. 29 - An very interesting post at Belmont Club about Canadian intervention in Haiti and points out the biggest problem in countries like Haiti that prevents true reform is thuggery:
Any American involvement should come with strict conditions. The foremost should be an insistence on an active pacification strategy by UN and especially Canadian forces. Experience in the Global War on Terror and in fighting narco-terrorists in Latin America suggests that civil society can never emerge unless the backbone of thuggery is broken. In the context of Haiti this means an aggressive pursuit of warlords, looters and criminal elements that have reduced that country to a shambles. The Canadians should forthwith embark on an intensive intelligence operation to discover the most dangerous elements threatening orderly society and issue their equivalent of a Most Wanted Deck of Cards. Thereafter, the Canadians must simultaneously hunt these men down while rebuilding the Haitian police and judiciary. Only by employing these methods will Haiti and Haitians have any chance of regaining normal life.
CNN says that Aristede has resigned and preparing to leave the country. I wonder if he'll take as long as former Liberian President Taylor.

Framing a constitution in Iraq 

Feb. 29 - There are worse things than not meeting a deadline when you're trying to frame a constitution. Canadians and Americans know fully that what matters is to get it right, recognize you may not be able to get everything right, and leave room for modifications and changes by future generations.

It matters that someone can lose an election and live to campaign in the next election. One look at the recent elections in Iran should be sufficient proof that democracy is not only about elections, it's about having the freedom for free and open debate and field candidates that reflect the different political forces in the country.

An infant USA was initially governed by the Articles of Confederation. We had to discard them and try again! That made us a laughing stock and seemed to prove that the experiement in self rule was doomed, but we tried again and are still tinkering with the system. It wasn't until after the Civil War that we stopped referring to our country as these United States and begin referring to ourselves as the United States.

Time. The process takes time. It demands time. It takes a willingness to become exasperated and try to renew one's patience. And, as with our founders, there are probably a number of groups who are absolutely convinced that they alone are correct.

There are a number of distinctive groups trying to reach a consensus - in itself a radically new approach to governance in the Mid East (except Israel) and, for that matter, a large number of troubled countries in the Third World.

What I find more uplifting are the huge number of newspapers in Iraq and various reports about how citizens are forming governments at the local levels which I see as an early and essential development of grass roots democracy. That's where the seeds for enduring freedom begins and how it builds strength and endurance.

Imagine: in years to come, the people of Iraq will have their own version of The Federalist Papers for people to read, ponder and debate. Such matters don't work according to a calander, they function according to how they manage to debate and compromise. I'm less concerned with how long it takes and utterly excited that it is taking place. What a glorious time for Iraq!

UPDATE: Bob checks out the columns by Siddiqui and McQuaig from today's Toronto Star and notes that their petulance is preventing them from recognizing and rejoicing that democracy has come to Iraq.

Terror Watch 

Feb. 29 - Abu Sayyaf, a group associated with al Qaeda, has taken responsibility for the ferry explosion in the Phillipines that left 180 people missing.

UPDATE: According to Phillipine President Arroyo, there is no evidence that a bomb caused the fire aboard the ferry and dismisses the Abu Sayyaf claim.

2/28/2004

Working on a post 

Feb. 28 - I'd been working on a post about the unrecognized danger of relying on Supreme Court rulings focusing on their 1883 decision which overturned the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which had forbidden segregation in public institutions and effectively reversed the gains made by African-Americans after the Civil War. It took over 70 years (during which Jim Crow laws became entrenched in those states that had them) and numerous court challenges before the Supreme Court finally reversed itself and the US was able to begin to honour its committment to freedom for all its citizens.

I trust the electorate and their ultimate control over legislators more than 9 men and women who are unelected and prey to the ultimate corruption: admiration for their own enlightened selves.

But I got derailed by the NY Times article about the Oil for Food Program (post below) which is about a clearer kind of corruption.

I have to work tomorrow but will try to get it finished and up Monday. Bill Whittle has promised a new post by the end of the weekend so don't forget to check his site.

I could come up with a lot of excuses as to why I can't finish it tonight. I am tired and not finding it easy to write, but the other reason is really geeky: I need to watch the Witchblade episode I taped last night so I can tape the midnight showing of Justice League on YTV. I'd like to think it's because I have eclectic tastes.

Oil for Food Program 

Feb. 28 - Damien Penny says it all in this post about a NY Times article by Susan Sachs (which will appear in tomorrow's edition) about the UN sponsored Oil for Food Program ponderously but accurately titled Hussein's Regime Skimmed Billions From Aid.

Some excerpts:
In the high-flying days after Iraq was allowed to sell its oil after 10 years of United Nations sanctions, the lobby of the Rashid Hotel in Baghdad was the place to be to get a piece of the action.

That was where the oil traders would gather whenever a journalist, actor or political figure would arrive in Iraq and openly praise Mr. Hussein. Experience taught them that the visitor usually returned to the hotel with a gift voucher, courtesy of the Iraqi president or one of his aides, representing the right to buy one million barrels or more of Iraqi crude.

[...]

"We used to joke that if you get one million barrels, you could make $200,000," Mr. Faraj, of SOMO, added, referring to a period when the vouchers sold for about 20 cents per barrel. "And yet the ones who got it were those people who used to come here and praise Saddam for his stand against imperialism."

[...]

When Dr. Khidr Abbas became Iraq's interim minister of health six months ago, he discovered some of the effects of Mr. Hussein's political manipulation of the oil-for-food program.

After a review of the ministry's spending, he said, he canceled $250 million worth of contracts with companies he believes were fronts for the former government or got contracts only because they were from countries friendly to Mr. Hussein.

They were paid millions of dollars, said Dr. Abbas, for drugs they did not deliver, medical equipment that did not work and maintenance agreements that were never honored. Iraq, he added, was left with defective ultrasound machines from Algeria, overpriced dental chairs from China and a warehouse filled with hundreds of wheelchairs that the old government did not bother to distribute.

[...]

Yasmine Gailani, a medical technician who worked at a lab specializing in blood disorders, said the political manipulation resulted in deliveries of drugs that varied in quality and dosage every six months.

At one point, she said, the lab was instructed to only buy its equipment from Russian companies, adding, "So we would have to find what we called a Russian `cover' in order to buy from the manufacturer we wanted."

Her husband, Kemal Gailani, is minister of finance in the interim Iraqi government. Last fall, he said, he confronted a United Nations official over the quality of goods that Iraqis received in their monthly rations during the sanctions.

"We were looking at the contracts already approved and the U.N. lady said, `Do you mind if we continue with these?' " he recalled. "She was talking as if it was a gift or a favor, with our money of course. I said, `Is it the same contracts to Egypt and China? Is it the same cooking oil we used to use in our drive shafts, the same matches that burned our houses down, the same soap that didn't clean?' She was shocked."

Dr. Abbas, a surgeon who left his practice in London to return home to Iraq, said he was preparing lawsuits against some of the drug and medical supply companies he said were allowed to cheat Iraqis. He would also like to stop dealing with any company that paid kickbacks, but he said he realized that might not be practical.

But he would like to give them a message.

"I would say to them, it was very cruel to aid a dictator and his regime when all of you knew what the money was and where it was going," he said. "Instead of letting his resources dry up, you let the dictatorship last longer."
Okay, that's more than I intended.

I'm tired and have to go to work tomorrow, so I'll let Damien's excellent post speak for me and only add and damn them some more.

UPDATE: If you haven't done so yet, read Claudia Rosett's article in the Opinion Journal A New Job for Kay.

The Times article is linked at Instapundit, Tim Blair, On the Third Hand, and lgf.

UPDATE: West Coaster Roger Simon is all over The Big Heist and again urging that the UN opens the books.

Slow Poison 

Feb. 28 - Good post by Transplanted Texan Austin about the actual statements made by President Bush when he announced his support of the Federal Marriage Amendment and how at least one of the media in Canada is presenting it as an example of how The Poison Begins to Seep.
On the news portion of the show, given at the top of every hour, Blundell's correspondent (he has a number of them) gave the headlines, as per usual, and recounted the tale of Rosie O'Donnell's 'marriage' to her partner yesterday. Recounting her reasons for marriage, Rosie said, "We were both inspired to come here after the sitting president made the vile and hateful comments he made." But that quote wasn't used in the show. (And nevermind the fact that 'anger' isn't really all that high on the list of good reasons to get married).

What was used in the show was the correspondent's summary of Bush's comments. Now, I believe what the newsreader was attempting to do was summarize Rosie O'Donnell's viewpoint on Bush's statement, but he didn't attribute it to her, and he didn't quote her verbatim. He didn't even say "Rosie said she was getting married in response to Bush's cruel comments." No, he just referred to the comments as evil things.

Let's go take a look at what the President said.
Indeed, do go take a look. It's called fact-checking. It really isn't hard.

2/27/2004

Off to work 

Feb. 27 - Yes, I have to go to work even after I've been called in on my days off.

I'm going to assume that everyone in Toronto is planning all kinds of activities that include the glorious weather we're experiencing!

Take care.

Do we really remember Vietnam? 

Feb. 27 - Sgt. Mom hits a nerve and she doesn't pull her punches.
In a remarkably short time, the whole war went down the memory hole until one morning I was sitting at breakfast in the kitchen of the Hilltop house, reading the newspaper, with page after page of pictures of frantic people. People cramming around the iron fence of the American Embassy in Saigon, reaching desperately through the bars, people standing shoulder to shoulder in tiny boats, barely afloat as they waited to be rescued, people trampling others to get into a departing aircraft, a straggling line of people going up a ladder to a rooftop, where a man handed them into a helicopter. Pictures of desperate people with bundles, carrying their children, of babies strapped two and three into the seats of aircraft evacuating them to safety, of helicopters being thrown off the deck of an aircraft carrier, to make room for three more, hovering just overhead and crammed with people who had trusted us, depended on us.
I remember those scenes too; I think it was the first time I had doubts that that my opposition to the war and demand for a total, immediate withdrawal might have been short-sighted.

And I think these images are why I too would never consider voting for John Freakin' Kerry.

The state of the Canadian military 

Feb. 27 - Paul angry. Paul mad. Don't f*** with Paul when he's expressing concerns about Canada's ability to defend herself and her borders.

And, well said, Paul.

Yes, that Carolyn Parrish 

Feb. 27 - It's only libel if it's untrue, right?
Parrish, in turn, is threatening to sue Mahoney and some of his supporters for libel over an advertisement tells local Liberals they must choose between "a rude, careless, vulgar Carolyn Parrish or a reasonable, professional and strong MP, Steve Mahoney."
There's more to the story but that paragraph made me laugh.

UPDATE: Guess who was the parliamentary secretary for Alfonso Gagliano of Adscam fame? As Paul so aptly puts it, I love Karma and we deserve answers!

Network pulls plug on Stern 

Feb. 27 - What, they've only just discovered that the content of Howard Stern's show is over the top? (Network pulls plug on Stern.)

This is beyond absurd. Just change the station or turn the radio off if you don't like it.

Adscam 

Feb. 27 - The evidence for the Adscam who knew and when they knew it continues to morph into who knew and pretended not to know it: Early audit saw flaws which flatly contradicts early suggestions that a rogue band of civil servants are the culprits and Cabinet really, really didn't know there were signs of wrongdoing in the awarding of sponsorship grants.

Note the dates:
An insider blew the whistle on blatant mismanagement of the government's sponsorship program in 1996 with a complaint so serious that the feds called in an outside auditor, a Commons committee heard yesterday. Prime Minister Paul Martin has insisted he wasn't aware of just how seriously mismanaged the $250-million program was until Auditor General Sheila Fraser found in 2002 that Groupaction Marketing billed taxpayers three times -- or $1.6 million -- for the same report.

But the Ernst & Young audit, tabled yesterday at the Commons committee tasked to dig through the sponsorship scandal, was handed to the Grits six years before then.

The audit detailed serious problems ranging from an "appearance of favouritism" during the selection of ad agencies, to meddling from the Privy Council Office.

[...]

According to newly declassified cabinet documents, former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano gave the sponsorship program a glowing endorsement in 2001, a year after a second damning internal audit.

Treasury Board Deputy Minister Jim Judd told the committee that Gagliano's assurances provided "some sense of security that the problems were being addressed."

That same year Treasury Board cancelled rules that required quarterly reports on the advertising and sponsorship activity of the government. (Emphasis added)
The ethical way to handle suspected graft is to eliminate the means to detect and track it! As the current PM sat on that Treasury Board, he has some explaining to do.

But there is another twist that has become a rallying point for the Opposition:
An unnamed minister is quoted in newly declassified minutes of a June 10, 2002, cabinet meeting as saying the $100-million commissions raked in by ad agencies were legitimate expenses. Only months prior the auditor general has accused public servants who handed out sponsorships of breaking every rule in the book.

Liberal House Leader Jacques Saada told the opposition that the minister's identity will only be revealed at a public inquiry. The opposition parties vowed yesterday to keep hammering at the Liberals for the name.
Because getting the name is just sooo important, but addressing the fact that maybe the system is the culprit and seeking to reform that evidently isn't a concern.

I wonder how much more credibility the Opposition parties would garner if they stopped aspiring for sound-bite publicity and actually tried to conduct themselves in ways that would convince the electorate that they are capable of leadership. And yes, that goes for parties on both sides of the border.

Show. Us. Respect.

There will probably be a national election up here sometime this year, but the issue is when. Andrew Coyne has some thoughts as to the timing of an election and his commenters, as always, are having a spirited and thoughtful debate. My personal concern is that if a national election up here is called too close to the presidential election down there, American issues rather than Canadian ones would dominate, but that's admittedly due to the fact that I am overly sensitive to how the unlike America mantra makes an inevitable appearance even in debates of strictly internal Canadian matters.

Finance Minister Greg Sorbara won't resign 

Feb. 27 - Yet another ethics issue in Ontario, this time with the current Liberal government and Finance Minister Greg Sorbara. Royal Group Technologies, for which Sorbara served as a director until he was appointed to the provincial Cabinet, is under criminal investigation, and despite calls for his resignation from the Oppostion, Sorbara is staying as Finance Minister.
The OSC [Ontario Securities Commission], the RCMP and Canada Customs and Revenue Agency are conducting various investigations into the finances of the Woodbridge-based building parts maker.

Despite being told of the investigation by the commission in December, Sorbara said yesterday he didn't tell Premier Dalton McGuinty about it until a company news release made the matter public late Wednesday.

McGuinty said Sorbara was legally bound not to share information about the investigation with him until it was made public this week.

Prior to Sorbara's announcement, the premier had expressed concerns about the province's own stock watchdog initiating the investigations.

[...]

Sorbara was a member of Royal Group's board and chaired the company's audit committee until he was named to McGuinty's cabinet last October. Company officials confirmed he resigned his seat on the board at that time.

[...]

While details of the investigation are scant, the company has disclosed that the OSC is looking into connections between the company's controlling shareholder, Vic De Zen, and a St. Kitts resort, casino and spa, also controlled by De Zen.

In the past five years, the resort has bought $32-million worth of goods and services from Royal Group.

"Mr. Sorbara was not on the board when the company was warned of the investigation," said Royal Group's general counsel Scott Bates.
Sorbara, as Finance Minister, was responsible for the OSC until yesterday when Premier McGuinty transferred responsibility for that post to another cabinet minister.

Enviros Commence Election-Year Attack 

Feb. 27 - I'm glad someone else sees the inherent hypocrisy irony: Enviros Commence Election-Year Attack
The Union of Concerned Scientists issued a widely covered report last week condemning the Bush administration for allegedly politicizing science on a number of controversial issues, ranging from global warming to HIV/AIDS to Iraq’s nuclear weapons efforts.

It was quite an ironic charge coming from a self-described activist group whose left-wing, eco-extremist, anti-biotechnology, anti-chemical, anti-nuclear, anti-defense and anti-business screeds embody the very antithesis of the scientific ideal of objectivity.
Rather strong language, but it is definitely Pot.Kettle.Black that environmental activists accuse the Bush administration of politicizing these issues.

Oil for Food Program 

Feb. 27 - This controversy isn't going away; Claudia Rossett works some numbers and find that those for the Oil for Food program don't add up (with many thanks to reader Sammie for the link.)

Open the books! What is so hard to understand?

Maybe those who talk about the international community and international law should consider how dangerous that is when the UN, which purports to represent that internationalization, refuses to be accountable for the money that goes through its books.

No self-respecting country or people would tolerate such arrogance from its own government.

UPDATE: No surprise that Roger L. Simon is on the case.

Haiti 

Feb. 27 - France calls for Aristide to quit. Opposition leaders in Haiti have made it clear that Artistede's removal is the only condition under which they will negotiate a settlement.
France had already called for the international community to assemble a force to restore order and urged Aristide consider stepping down.

[...]

The Security Council later adopted a statement expressing its deep concern in regard to the deterioration of the political, security and humanitarian environment in Haiti.
So if the international community is unwilling to form a force, will France? They interceded in Ivory Coast, another former French colony, when conditions there deteriorated.

Canada's PM, Paul Martin, has vowed to help Haiti, but Defence Minister David Pratt says that additional military units are unavailable for deployment anywhere. Canadian forces in Haiti have begun evacuating Canadian nationals from the island and are standing by to evacuate more if necessary.

One possibility to peacemaking in Haiti would be the Solomon Islands approach: the neighbouring countries could assemble a force to intervene.

I'm glad the president is keeping the US out of this. It has been entirely too easy for the international community to talk about the need for action but to mean that they expect us to do the hard work. If there really is an international community, let them demonstrate it by their deeds. Thus far the UN has indicated that it won't authorize a peacekeeping force until a political settlement has been reached by the contending parties.

Orson Scott Card 

Feb. 26 - From The Ornery American: an essay by Orson Scott Card on the recent decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court that highlights the usurpation by that court of rights constituionally conferred to the legislative branch of government appropriately titled Humpty Dumpty Logic:
The Massachusetts Supreme Court has not yet declared that "day" shall now be construed to include that which was formerly known as "night," but it might as well.

By declaring that homosexual couples are denied their constitutional rights by being forbidden to "marry," it is treading on the same ground.

Do you want to know whose constitutional rights are being violated? Everybody's. Because no constitution in the United States has ever granted the courts the right to make vast, sweeping changes in the law to reform society.

Regardless of their opinion of homosexual "marriage," every American who believes in democracy should be outraged that any court should take it upon itself to dictate such a social innovation without recourse to democratic process.
Card also has an excellent review of The Passion of The Christ at the site.

(Link via Ith.

2/26/2004

The Saddam Oil Vouchers Affair 

Feb. 26 - I have been engrossed in the following MEMRI document Inquiry and Analysis Series - No. 164 - The Saddam Oil Vouchers Affair (courtesy of reader Sandy) during my few breaks these past couple of days.

Although MEMRI doesn't pass judgement as to the veracity of the report published in al-Mada, they seem to be taking the accusations very seriously and include in their report the reactions of those named as taking bribes, those who have refused comment, and what the countries of those charged with accepting the bribes are planning to do.

Another significant fact is that the list was originally in the possession of the State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) and the Iraqi Ministry of Petroleum is collecting information with the intent of submitting it to Interpol who can investigate the affair further.

The MEMRI document details how Al-Mada stated that the oil voucher program worked:
In general, the vouchers were given either as gifts or as payment for goods imported into Iraq in violation of the U.N. sanctions. The voucher holder would normally tender the voucher to any one of the specialized companies operating in the United Arab Emirates for a commission which initially ranged from $0.25 to $0.30 per barrel, though it may have declined in later years to as little as $0.10 or even $0.05 per barrel because of oil surplus on the market. [7] In other words, a voucher for 1 million barrels would have translated into a quick profit of $250,000-300,000 on the high side and $50,000-100,000 on the low side – all paid in cash. According to Al-Mada, Jordan will seek to tax the illicit profits of citizens who benefited from the sale of the vouchers.

One of the common arguments by recipients of vouchers was that the vouchers paid for goods provided in the framework of the U.N.-administered Oil for Food program. However, under the Memorandum of Understanding governing the program, oil allocations were intended for "end users," meaning those with refineries. Most of the voucher recipients would be considered "non-end users." Moreover, if vouchers were used to pay for goods, it would suggest that these were not authorized by the program and should be considered illicit since all contracts approved by the U.N. were reimbursed from the trust account where the oil revenues were kept, at a French bank, at Iraq's insistence. According to the United Nations: "The oil buyer had to pay the price approved by the Security Council Sanctions Committee into a U.N. escrow account, and the U.N. had to verify that the goods purchased by Iraq were indeed those allowed under the program. But the U.N. had no way of knowing what other transactions might be going on directly between the Iraqi government and the buyers and sellers." [8]
The real eye opener, however, lies in the list of recipients in the Oil Vouchers Program and the large number of Russians implicated in the affair, 46, compared to France, which had 11.

There are 14 recipients listed from Jordan, and as was noted in the above, al-Mada says that the Jordanian government has announced its intention of taxing the illicit profits of citizens who benefited from the sale of the vouchers. They, at least, seem to believe the allegations.

The document also cites the reactions of the other governments which, predictably vary from silence to explanations to intentions to investigate.

The Arab media has not paid too much attention to the list perhaps because prominent names are on the list and freedom of the press in the Mid-East is not guaranteed, although the Lebanese, Jordanian and Iraqi press have published the list.

Shortly after the fall of Baghdad, rumours were circulating around the blogs about bribes to Arabic news agencies, particularly al Jazeera which many of us noted but, as many of these rumours were unattributed, couldn't give much weight to.

The reaction of one person, however, contains echoes of the allegations made nearly a year ago. Mazen Hammad wrote an op-ed for the Qatari daily Al-Watanunder titled "Publish the Names, May Allah Have Mercy on You!" in which he charged:
"The scandal is growing because it is no secret that hundreds of apartments, Mercedes automobiles, cash and various grants were distributed by Saddam's aides to ministers, under secretaries, journalists, writers and artists.
Obviously I recommend you read the whole thing.

I suspect that people will be inclined to believe or disbelieve the allegations according to their own bias, but if Interpol does investigate will that settle the question?

Untendered contracts at Ontario Hydro 

Feb. 26 - One of the startling side-benefits of a scandal is how much more evidence tends to come to light about other instances of wrongdoing, even in (gasp!) Ontario (Hydro deals anger Tories - but let us be perfectly clear: the Tories are angry at . . . the Tories, or in particular, Mike Harris, for awarding the untendered contracts to political operatives.)
Freedom of Information documents released this week reveal that publicly owned Hydro One paid out $5.6 million to the companies of key Tory strategists Paul Rhodes, Leslie Noble, Michael Gourley and Tom Long, all influential players in the governments of Mike Harris and Eves.

[...]

And sources told Sun Media that many Tory MPPs are seething behind the scenes, distraught that the revelations are damaging their hard-won reputation as good fiscal managers.
Maybe after all the hand-wringing and lamentations are concluded some real leaders will look at reforming the system to close the obvious loopholes and opportunities for graft and corruption?

Adscam sightings 

Feb. 25 - Use of the word Adscam is popping up in unexpected places, including this story about the Conservative Party leadership campaign in today's Toronto Sun, Belinda cash hurts party, rival beefs:
OTTAWA -- Conservative leadership frontrunner Stephen Harper says the financial muscle rival Belinda Stronach is flexing in Quebec could tarnish the party's image in a province already rocked by the Adscam sponsorship scandal. The Stronach campaign has repeatedly said it's bound by the same rules as the other leadership candidates and it's playing by them. (My emphasis)
It is even popping up out of context. Is that the next level of acceptance?

Canuck 'suicide bomber' alive 

Feb. 26 - Anyone else find the wording in this article downright weird? Canuck 'suicide bomber' alive:
A Canadian accused by the Taliban of being the suicide bomber who killed a Canadian corporal in Afghanistan last month denies he was behind the attack, CBC-TV's The National reported last night. Abdullah Khadr met with the CBC at a secret location in Pakistan to prove he was not the suicide bomber who killed Cpl. Jamie Murphy.

"If I was the suicide bomber, I wouldn't have been doing this interview with you right now," Khadr told CBC in Islamabad.
It was less of an accusation and more of a celebration, but I can understand where Khadr is coming from. Sort of.

The CBC story and interview are here.

Apologies 

Feb. 26 - I got derailed from posting Tuesday after an emergency at my workplace. The details are so freaking routine because inept co-workers are everywhere but, like anyone else, I simply wish they were elsewhere.

In short, I don't care what McAfee says, you don't open attachments without scanning them no matter how much you "trust or know" the sender. Worms get into your address book so naturally you're going to get one from someone you know. Trojans and true viruses are devastating, and giggling after you've brought the whole system down may not be grounds for a firing squad but I'm willing to re-examine the issue.

Furthermore, the fact is that I routinely back up my work, but that doesn't mean that no one else has to bother to do so. Certainly I am gratified that my back-ups gave us a reference point, and I try to be the kind of team player who will cheerfully pitch in to reconstruct weeks of work, but doing a back-up is not difficult or time-consuming.

We can back-up our work while we are fixing our hair, freshening our lipstick, making plans with our friends and in truth doing little more than getting ready to bolt as soon as the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 5. It's amazing how little supervision the computers require during back-ups these days.

I swear, some day I'm going to haul out my old computer and let them struggle with DOS. I'm going to grin like a maniac when my co-workers encounter Abort, Retry or Fail? and the only confirmation that the computer has performed the task they requested is a return to the C prompt.

Well, maybe that's too harsh. Dialogue boxes give us the security of telling us what we could logically assume if we actually used, you know, logic, and it would be cruel to remove that basic need for validation and positive reinforcement. People are so needy these days.

If I was a techie-type I would love to rig up a computer with sparks and smoke like they had on Star Trek: TOS just to watch the ensuing hysterics. But maybe I should make sure I already have a signed letter of reference before I did something like that. Bosses are notorious for frowning on innocent jokes that send everyone to the Resource Centre for counselling.

This post is dedicated to The Essay about whom I have thought with gratitude these past two days for already posting about back-ups and weird co-worker issues and gave me reason smile at the most inappropriate times.

2/25/2004

It's not about Quebec 

Feb. 25 - A column by Chantal Hebert of the Toronto Star, I got $50K from Liberal 'slush fund', reveals something that I think we all suspected: the federal Liberal party in Quebec were not the only ones who fed from the slush fund we call Adscam - the federal sponsorship program.

FMA 

Feb. 25 - The discussions about the proposed FMA are hindered by the fact that we haven't yet seen the text of the proposed Constitutional Amendment. Any and all discussions about this are taking place in a literal vacuum.

However, having said that, I too am thinking about this issue and especially about the attendant political and social issues that are unavoidable parts of this controversy.

What I suspect is that although the debate will be about same-sex marriages, the underlying debate will be about judicial activism. In every way, it is regrettable that a long overdue debate about the role of the judiciary in the US is shadowed by an issue that is not properly a federal one and will be too open to homophobic hysteria rather than what I consider to be the real political issue.

Again, I refer to this proposal which would be my choice.

Barring that, it is possible that many other valuable debates will spring out of those around the FMA.

The nuclear family has been the subject of theory and speculation over the past 40 years. Although I'm not convinced that same-sex unions should be called marriages, I most definitely do not believe that same-sex unions threaten the family. Heterosexual marriages have done most of the damage to themselves, and what we are beginning to realize is that both the parents and children suffer when marriages break down.

The family has been experimented on, and, unfortunately, it looks as though our grandparents may have been right.

Grandparents are the ones who used to say things like marry in haste, repent at leisure and you have to do hard things for the sake of your children. (It should go without saying that neither I nor our grandparents were talking about cases involving actual abuse, but I think they would frown when the grounds for divorce were trivial matters as things as squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle.)

I think it has been nearly impossible to have honest, analytical discussions about single-parent families. The last thing in the world any decent person wants to do is criticize those who face the difficult job of raising children without a partner. It is not merely an economic hardship, although that element is certainly present, but it is also a hardship wherein one person is doing a job that really requires two people. It isn't about competence, it's about having someone who's watching your back, so to speak, and on your side. The kids may threaten to outflank one person, but they find it harder to take on two adults who are united and on the offensive.

Anyway, I do find it encouraging that the debate is also encompassing the role of the family in today's society, and I think it properly belongs in the social realm more than in political and social activist realms.

President Bush had alerted the union that he was concerned about judicial activism in his January, 2004, State of the Union Address

Decisions children now make can affect their health and character for the rest of their lives. All of us -- parents and schools and government -- must work together to counter the negative influence of the culture, and to send the right messages to our children.

A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization. Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton. That statute protects marriage under federal law as a union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states.

Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.
(Applause.)

The outcome of this debate is important -- and so is the way we conduct it. The same moral tradition that defines marriage also teaches that each individual has dignity and value in God's sight. (Emphasis added)
Those of us who remember the debate over passage of the Equal Rights Amendment also remember the debates over what the implications of the passage of the ERA would involve. Many were convinced that passage of the ERA would eliminate legislation that protects women in the workplace and others warned that it would lead to women being drafted into the military.

It will be interesting to see what ground debate over the FMA will cover.

What appears to necessitate passage of the FMA are the provisions of the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution which states that contracts - such as marriage - entered into in one state will be honoured in other states. That is why the issue of same sex marriages has become a hot button, and why the majority decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court has implications for the other 49 states in the Union.

The debates on blogs has revealed a startling lack of knowledge about how the judiciary is supposed to operate in the US. I've seen far too many mentions of Brown. v. Board of Education Topeka (1954) and little mention of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) which first upheld the separate but equal doctrine. The fact is that the Brown decision was necessary because only the US Supreme Court could overturn Plessy v. Ferguson because it had been previously upheld by the US Supreme Court. As with the earlier Dred Scott decision, many Americans were convinced that the Plessy v Ferguson decision was Constitutionally unsound and continued to fight that battle and eventually won.

The discussions also ignore a crucial fact: separate but equal was not the doctrine of the land. In fact, one of the things that gave impuetus to the civil rights movement were the facts that after the post-WWII migration to the North, not only were northern schools and neighbourhoods integrated with little problem, the desegregation of the Armed Forces caused little difficulty.

I can personally attest to that last item because I was born in the military, and nobody ever bothered to inform me that the neighbours on the left were Negroes and the neighbours on the right weren't. Like most kids, we were more concerned about what toys our neighbouring playmates had, what snacks were available in their homes, and how much trouble we were going to get into when we broke the rules.

Sometimes the children do lead the way.

I've stated earlier that ultimately the issue will be recognized as one of equal protection under the law, but there's no absolute time-frame during which different compromises and state-by-state approval of same-sex civil unions must take place, and that's the good news and bad news about how things work in the US.

(I'm ignoring the hoopla in San Fransisco because I can recognize populism and extra-legal publicity stunts without cue cards.)

Judicial activism is a run-around to the democratic process. On any given issue, it may seem enlightened but that in itself argues a kind of elitism that Americans have long rejected. Taking decisions out of the hands of the electorate represents the worst kind of danger to democracy because although the will of the people may sometimes be wrong, establishment of unprecedented law by the imposition of 5 judges is by far the biggest danger that faces a democratic people.

In order to really believe in the democratic process, one has to believe that given time and reason, people will do the right thing. Without that implicit faith, we are a hollow pretense socially and politically.

Zarqawi Bomb-Maker Killed in Iraq 

Feb. 26 - Reports that Abu Mohammed Hamza, Zarqawi Bomb-Maker, was Killed in Iraq Feb. 19 were confirmed Tuesday in a DoD briefing.

Soldiers going door to door on a civil affairs mission (Fox reports they were handing out election pamphlets) were met with gunfire when they knocked on the door. Hamza was killed in the gunfight and 3 others captured. Soldiers found a quantity of explosives and bomb making materials inside.

The Fox report states that a soldier was killed, but the DoD briefing indicates he was wounded.

Liberals break ranks during missile defence vote 

Feb. 25 - Liberals break ranks during missile defence vote

According to the above, 30 out of 71 votes in support of a Bloc Quebecois motion against participating with the USA in talks about a missile defense program were from the Liberal Party caucus (155 MPs voted against the motion.)

Allowing more free votes in Parliament should prove extremely interesting for constituencies as well as giving Canadians as a whole a closer look at the different political viewpoints within the Liberal caucus.

Two different OBL tapes? 

Feb. 25 - Things certainly have changed these past two years. Now a new tape purportedly from al Qaeda barely makes a ripple (Probable al Qaeda tapes warn of more attacks.)

But this is rather odd:
The messages -- also heavily criticizing U.S. President George W. Bush -- were aired on the Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera Arabic-language TV networks Tuesday. According to Al-Arabiya's chief editor, both tapes were different.

2/24/2004

Elections in Iran 

Feb. 24 - Michael Ledeen on the The Great Iranian Election Fiasco:
The regime clearly intends to clamp down even harder in the immediate future. Hints of this were seen in the run-up to the election, when Internet sites and foreign broadcasts were jammed, the few remaining opposition newspapers shut down, and thousands of security forces poured into the major cities. One wonders whether any Western government is prepared to speak the truth about Iran, or whether they are so determined to arrive at make-believe deals - for terrorists that are never delivered, for promises to stop the nuclear program, that are broken within minutes of their announcement, or for help fighting terrorism while the regime does everything in its power to support the terrorists - that they will play along and pretend, as Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has put it, that "Iran is a democracy."

For those interested in exposing hypocrisy, it is hard to find a better example than all those noble souls who denounced Operation Iraqi Freedom as a callous operation to gain control over Iraqi oil, but who remain silent as country after country, from Europe to Japan, appeases the Iranian tyrants precisely in order to win oil concessions.

Meanwhile, the only Western leader who consistently speaks the truth about Iran is President George W. Bush, and the phony intellectuals of the West continue to call him a fool and a fascist. Meanwhile, his most likely Democrat opponent, Senator John Kerry, sends an e-mail to Tehran Times, Iran's official English-language newspaper, promising that relations between the United States and Iran would improve enormously if Kerry were to be elected next November.
That last bit, the overtures by Sen. Kerry to the mullahs, is hardly in the spirit of the real JFK, John F. Kennedy.

Many people, both domestically and internationally, put themselves out on a limb when they denounced action in Iraq and called for policies of negotiation and containment for Iran and North Korea. The Democrat primary season is already full of those who would rather talk with those who openly call for our destruction than take a strong, firm stance (backed up by the proven willingness to use force) and those candidates ignore the biggest problem with their position: that the suggested containment is for countries that have developed sophisticated work-arounds for trade sanctions, and the suggested negotiations are with countries that have consistently violated treaties.

A fascinating aspect of the nuclear arms trade uncovered since Libya chose to disarm voluntarily is the far-flung international network set up to disseminate nuclear weapons technology and the success with which these programs operated under the noses of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

I would like to see the remaining Democrat hopefuls address these issues and explain how trusting our defense and lives to their appeasement policies is safeguarding the future.

Islam in Conflict in Cleveland 

Feb. 24 - An interesting article over at Tech Central about a conflict within a Cleveland mosque (Islam in Conflict in Cleveland) which seems to lend weight to speculation that Muslims in the US are involved in a quiet struggle to expose and remove radicals who support and agitate for jihad against the USA.

2/23/2004

So Nader is in the race . . . 

Feb. 23 - The fabricated firestorm over Ralph Nader's announcement that he will run in the upcoming presidential elections is a good example of the media creating a story where there is none. They are focusing on the effect of the Nader campaign in 2000 without providing the context of Sept. 11.

Did anyone in the USA wish fervently that Nader had won after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon?

There is also a gross deception: the pundits are ignoring the facts from the 2000 campaign by failing to recognize the splinter votes that went to the Libertarian and Reform Parties.

Third Party Unlikely to Field a Spoiler offers a bit of balance.

There have been important third parties in America's history. Ross Perot's Reform Party was the most successful in recent years, but the campaigns of Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Party and the Socialist Party under Eugene V. Debs also had an impact in national elections. Furthermore, have members of the media totally forgotten the roots of both the Democrats and Republicans?

Actually, the Whigs aren't entirely gone or forgotten, although I'm not sure if Alexander Hamilton would consider the latest incarnation his true heirs.

Naming names 

Feb. 23 - Auditor General Sheila Fraser is naming some names: Who got what.

Not surprisingly, Groupaction is involved:
Groupaction got $6.7 million in two uncompetitive ad contracts.

One, for $5.4 million with Justice Canada, was given despite protests from Justice officials, who twice informed Public Works "they were not satisfied with Groupaction's work." The other, a $1.3-million deal with Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, was given months after Public Works canceled a competitive process to pick an agency.

Groupaction was paid $795,000 for two contracts for which there is no evidence services were actually provided - one to promote the federal gun registry and another to sponsor, among other events, car races and horse shows.
The CCRA was involved? Anyone else up to their eyeballs with their employer's fiscal year end as well as readying their income tax returns? It's getting hard not to take these revelations personally.

The Future of Politics in Canada 

RECAP: Jaeger wrote Nous sommes en direct de la Rue des Pussies.

Laurent wrote We're All Catholics Now in response and Jaeger wrote We're All Catholics Now?. I'm putting them up at the top here because these posts have been a fascinating analysis of political and social changes in Quebec and thus Canada over the past 50 years.

Colby Cosh pointed out when the extent of outrage over Adscam became apparent that, in a twisted way, the aims of the Communication Canada program had been achieved: the country seems quite united--against the Liberals-- and we've seen the true nature of the government.

Tom Brobeck says it's all about trust:
What some Liberal MPs don't seem to understand about the Paul Martin scandal is that it goes well beyond the $250 million squandered on a bogus sponsorship program.

It's not about Quebec versus the rest of Canada -- a charred old chestnut some people in Ottawa are still willing to roast.

And it's not really about the extent to which the prime minister knew of the bogus contracts.

What this story is really about, and what the anger toward the Liberal government is about, is trust.

Paul Martin and the Liberal government broke the public trust.

[...]

Anyone who thinks this is just about the funneling of $100 million into bogus commissions to Liberal outfits doesn't understand politics.

You've got to go through the body count to even begin to understand what all the fuss is about.

It's the Human Resources "billion-dollar boondoggle," where hundreds of millions of dollars went missing and contracts were given out to companies where rules of engagement were completely ignored.

Paul Martin was the finance minister and vice-chair of Treasury Board during those years. Did he not pay attention to where all the money was going?

It's the billion-dollar, soon to be $2-billion, gun registry -- a program with questionable benefits that's gobbling up tax money faster than they can print it. Anne McLellan was the justice minister through many of those years. Did she have no handle whatsoever on the costs? She's now the deputy prime minister.

It's the employment insurance scandal, where billions of dollars are going missing every year. Paul Martin has charged workers and employers $44 billion more in EI premiums than he's paid out. And the money has been lost in general revenues.

Those were decisions Martin made. He balanced the books with EI money. And people got ripped off.

There's the advertising scandal exposed in Auditor General Sheila Fraser's report where -- among other things -- contracts were going out when no work was done at all.

Martin was in charge at the time. Where was the due diligence?

Then there's the sponsorship scandal where Liberal-friendly communications firms were getting 40% commissions for doing virtually no work at all.
What strikes me is that, although the stated aims of Communication Canada may have seemed superficial, Canadians were willing to pay for the program because they are genuinely interested in keeping Quebec in Confederation. That the program turned out to be an opportunist method for the federal Liberals to repay past contributors betrayed that interest, and, I think, hurt Canadians to the quick. The attempt to pass it off as Quebec corruption was a totally unprincipled act: those who claim to desire unity appealed to francophobia in an attempt to save their own hides.

People who speak about the lesser of two evils might want to re-think what they call evil.

So what next?

Andrew Coyne has been hosting a Constitutional debate here and the question of if Martin will call an election in the spring or wait until the investigation into Adscam is concluded here with Jay Currie's thoughts on the probable timing of the election here.

Iran: election clashes kill eight 

Feb. 22 - From the IHT, Eight Iranians are dead in two incidents between protesters and police in the aftermath of Friday's elections.

Four people, including one police officer, died in Firouzabad in the Fars province in southern Iran. After a crowd marching to the governor's office to demand a recount was fired upon and one person wounded, the crowd grew and three civilians and a policeman were killed.

An additional four were killed in Izeh in the Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran when police and demonstrators clashed in a protest over election results.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: From reports from the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran and Iran va Jahan: there were additional protests at election fraud in Dehdasht where between two and nine people are reportedly killed, and this link says that the outgoing MP in Izeh was beaten by the bodyguards of a judicial official after pointing out the cheatings, went into a coma and died (that adds considerably more context to the clashes there than the first link.)

A conscript soldier was reportedly killed in clashes in Firoozabad, Fars (it's not certain which side he was on and if his death was the one said to be of a police officer in the IHT article) but the article doesn't mention further deaths. The people have set fire to the banks in Estefan in response to financial fraud.

The reports state that the security forces are composed of those who support the hardliners as well as Afghanis and Iraqi refugees here and here.

(Links via Kthy at On the Third Hand.)

Pedram has written a wonderful movie version of the situation in Iran "Hollywood style" to respond to those who wonder why the Iranians don't just Get up & get rid of their tyrants. It's incredibly funny and sad and truthful.

2/22/2004

Quick hits 

Feb. 22 - My family can be very strange sometimes. They spent the evening on the MLB website and discussed baseball during the breaks in last night's hockey game.

Don Cherry's hat, however, had their undivided attention.

Yes, they too often read the scroll on the (muted) Sports Highlight channel or rewatch the Sports Centre several times in case breaking news is announced.

News I want to reference but don't have time to comment overly on:

Suspect captured in land-mine incident last year's incident that killed two Canadian soldiers and possibly linked to the bombing attack that killed 4 German soldiers.
The suspect is believed to be a member of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, or HIG, which Canadian officers describe as the third-largest terrorist organization in Afghanistan, after al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Conservatives in Iran claim victory. Or a landslide. It's one thing to hold power, another thing to wield it.

Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade is claiming responsibility for a terrorist attack in Jerusalem that killed 7 and seriously injured 11 (I don't count the killer among the casualties.)

Palestinian negotiator Serb Erakat is quoted with the usual rhetoric in the article. He condemns the terrorist attack and still refers to the road map. You need new material, sir. That old line isn't flying.

UPDATE: Roger Simon links to a BBC article from last November which states that the Palestinian Authority has been giving members of Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade money for living expenses - approxmately $250 per month - in an effort to "wean the gunmen away from terrorism" totalling about $50,000 per month. The BBC also claimed that close links exist between by el Fatah and the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade.

Hearings begin tomorrow in the International Court of Justice over whether the wall violate international law. Kofi Annan says the wall is counterproductive to the road map. Hello? So are bombing attacks on Israeli citizens. If a state won't take measure to protect its citizenry it fails in its primary responsibility.

Yahoo Canada is down and I can't access my email, but I'll try again after work.

Take care, it's a beautiful, sunny day outside and the snow is melting quickly. For my neighbours who haven't cleared the drains, do you think you could get around it today? I love lakes, but this is ridiculous.

Take care, everyone.

2/21/2004

Off to work 

Feb. 21 - I'm running late, but wanted to pass a suggestion that people follow the link at Andrew Coyne's website and read his column.

Also, Iranian bloggers have continued to post as they await the results of yesterday's election.

Take care, I'll be checking in after dinner.

Iran elections 

Feb. 21 - Some reports from Iran:

A number of election day observations at iranFilter that indicate the pressure to have evidence that you voted stamped on your ID card was intense, there were a lot of police guarding the polls and some other things noticed that were out of the ordinary.

The eyeranian added updates during the day as well as a report on some jerrymandering that was caught out. Keep scrolling, he's got some interesting things to say on a lot of subjects.

IRVAJ English
One student preparing to take her university entrance exams was told that if she had a stamp, then the academic authorities would look upon her more favourably – she would be seen as having done her civic duty.

Some of those turning up for stamps, and others just making a stand, have submitted blank ballots. Even reformist candidates who had not been disqualified boycotted the election. It's a big movement.
Read the whole thing.

(Last link via Kathy)

Libya made plutonium says IAEA 

Feb. 21 - A report prepared by IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei for presentation to a board of directors meeting next month is to reveal that Libya made plutonium, according to diplomats (no names are given in the report.)

Libya's success in enriching uranium means that its weapons program was much more advanced than the IAEA had originally believed.

The man who was suspected of being the negotiator and representative for Abdul Oadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist who sold nuclear technology on the black market to countries as Libya and Iran, is Malaysian resident Buhary Syed Abu Tahir and he admitted Friday that he was the middleman in many transactions on behalf of Khan in his black market network.

According to a statemen issued by Malaysian police, in 1995
"[Khan] had asked B.S.A. Tahir to send two containers of used centrifuge units from Pakistan to Iran," the statement by Malaysian police said.

"B.S.A. Tahir organized the transshipment of the two containers from Dubai to Iran using a merchant ship owned by a company in Iran."

Quebec political environment 

Feb. 21 - Jaeger has written about the "Francization" of Canada in Nous sommes en direct de la Rue des Pussies that needs to be read more than once.
... Up until 1968 the British model of decentralized free institutions suited Canada fine, even when the Prime Minister was a French Canadian. Until then if there was a conflict between French and Anglo ideas it tended to be the Anglo majority that would triumph. That only changed when we elected a megalomaniac who decided to remodel the federal government into something more amenable to the French intellectuals on the left bank of the Seine. The French intellectuals and their fellow travelers may sneer at McDonald’s fast food, but when it comes to government they insist on SuperSizing and centralizing it. ..

[...]

And when it comes to governing philosophy, size matters. It is not entirely incorrect to generalize that Quebec politicians will lean toward the interventionist, dirigiste, l’état c’est moi philosophy as is fashionable in France, and Albertans won’t. That wasn’t true in Laurier’s time, but it is in ours. And it is certainly true that bloated, interventionist governments attract charlatans, hucksters and crooks like moths to a flame. So if that’s the type of Quebec-bashing people want to engage in, I say bring it on. ..
Terrific, fact-based post about the political environment in Quebec.

Laurent has replied to Jaeger's post and argues that Canada has undergone Catholicization in We're All Catholics Now:
... I think the key to understanding the last decades of change in Canadian politics is not French vs. Anglo but Catholic vs. Protestant. Quebec and Canada may now be quite secular, but the cultural habits of thought and action shaped by centuries of religious belief and practices simply don't go away overnight.
Another post that needs to be read more than once.

UPDATE: And Jaeger responds.

Haiti 

Feb. 21 - Bob is paying some attention to a neighbour in trouble, Haiti, and analyzing why nobody is talking about it. Good read.

2/20/2004

Adscam 

Feb. 20 - I'm off to work, so don't forget to check Andrew Coyne for the latest news on Adscam (and don't forget to use "Adscam" in your post - google is up and running with it.)

Was Kazakhstan part of the nuclear black market? 

Feb. 20 - Kazakhstan has opened in inquiry into the possibility that the nuclear black market might be linked to the Almaty office of a Dubai company:
The black market's potential connection to Kazakhstan - which served as a nuclear testing ground until it disarmed after its 1991 independence - has raised concern about the proliferation of remnants of the Soviet weapons program. Kazakh officials strongly deny any highly enriched uranium - the form used in weapons - has leaked out of the country.
Note that this is still speculation, but questions have arisen repeatedly about the security of Soviet weapons and weapons programs since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Margaret Wente 

Feb. 20 - Margaret Wente's column If Chretien was Teflon, Martin is Velcro gets an instalaunch.

Iran 

Feb. 20 - Some quick hits about today's elections: Telegraph (UK) reporter David Blair compares attitudes toward the USA in Iran including something I didn't know:
Some of those who scaled the embassy walls in 1979 are now among the reformist politicians who have been disqualified from contesting today's parliamentary election.
Memories of the Embassy takeover doubtless plague Americans as well as our leaders, but from what I've read around the blogosphere, Americans are increasingly impressed by those waging the struggle for freedom over there and that's the best cure for past grudges.

Americans never met a freedom fighter they didn't take to heart. We're weird that way, if not always accurate in our assessment. But in Iran, actions - or in this case, inaction - are speaking louder than words as they could face prosecution for failing to vote.

But Eye on Iran notes that streets are empty and that there have been reports of police finding truckloads of fake Iranian ID booklets which may indicate an attempt to artificially inflate the number of votes.

Keep checking Iran Filter today for news about the elections, and keep some good thoughts for those in Iran who are facing one of their biggest challenges in recent years.

Just another quick point: we often forget that Iranian bloggers are working underground, and that if caught, they are jailed. How much we take our freedoms for granted here . . .

UPDATE: The BBC is reporting that polling hours have been extended because, according to the Persian government, too many people want to vote (or is that too few?)

UPDATE: David Frum issues a call to Pres. Bush to formulate policy and strategy for Iran.

Gay marriage 

Feb. 20 - California's Governor Schwarzenegger has been forced to state the obvious: Gay marriage licenses illegal. Thank you CNN, we know that the governor does not have to power to overturn state law.

I'm going to be brief (you're welcome!) because we went through this in Canada some time ago. (UPDATE: I meant to be brief, but sometimes these posts take on lives of their own.)

Firstly, I high recommend people read this by Eric of Classical Values:
Forget logic, and forget facts. Americans simply do not like being told from above what to think, and what laws they may not have. While getting rid of sodomy laws was certainly the right thing to do, there is nonetheless something undignified about the Supreme Court simply issuing decrees as an end run around popular prejudices -- regardless of how indefensible those prejudices are.

This apparent fickleness, in my view, reveals an indelible feature of the American character -- a contrarian spirit which can be both damnable and laudable. A leading Israeli intellectual recently stated that most Israelis have a Mezuzah attached to their door frames, but that if the government were to order them to display a Mezuzah, about half of them would run outside and yank them off.
That's right, he wrote it short after the Lawrence vs. State of Texas decision last year, and his points about our contrarian instincts briefly overcoming our deep beliefs in equality under the law hold true today, as well. (I'm certainly not disparaging the contarian instincts either; often it's a good knee-jerk reaction to er, knee-jerk reactions.)

Eric also explains the problems with the temporary restaining order filed in San Francisco and agrees that it fails to meet the "irreparable harm" criteria.

I still don't believe that the Federal Marriage Act will be approved by the requisite number of state legislatures (don't forget a state legislature can reverse approval at a later date) but I do believe that a number of states will recognize the fairness of passing "civil union laws" or, perhaps as Donald Sensing suggests, sensibly get out of the marriage business altogether (but it's highly unlikely. governments rarely give up jurisdiction over anything, at least at this point in our history.)

One Constitutional amendment I could really get behind is one Doc Rampage brings up is "An alternative to the Federal Marriage Amendment":
So how about an entirely different amendment that would use this popular issue to do something worthwhile? Instead of a Federal Marriage Amendment, we could have a Federal Constitution Amendment that says we are a constitutional federation of states governed by elected representatives, not an oligarchic monolithic state ruled by appointed judges. With the growing outrage over judicial activism, this may be our best chance to get such an amendment passed.
It is common sense to respond to popular indignation by addressing the root causes of that indignation, so to introduce a constitututional amendment that reaffirms the Constitution and the rights of the states would stop the bigger danger of an activist judiciary and, by refocusing people on what they are really upset about, give them time to remember that denying gays civil rights goes against our deepest value, which is that all citizens are entitled to equal treatment under the law.

Food for thought.

Commonality between Alberta and Quebec 

Feb. 20 - Fascinating post at Le blog de Polyscopique which jabs the NDP over-eagerness to form a minority government with the federal Liberal Party but makes a point that is, in retrospect, perfectly obvious (which is probably why it has been overlooked):
Maybe a Conservative-Bloc coalition (which would be vaguely reminescent of the Conservative-Nationaliste alliance which formed the Borden government in 1911) could endure as long as the Bloc did not have emotive social-democrat reactions and realized that an agenda of reducing the size, budget and influence of the federal government is perfectly compatible with an agenda of greater provincial autonomy.
He also notes the difficulty of keeping such a government focused, but the possibilities are intriguing.

Guns in Toronto 

Feb. 20 - Anthony wants Mayor Miller to realize he's not in the Shire anymore. Excellent post.

2/19/2004

Iranian Elections 

Feb. 19 - Tomorrow are the Iranian national elections. The banning of thousands of candidates, including some sitting parliamentarians, has led to calls for a boycott of the elections, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi has announced she will not vote, the Council of Guardians has made threats against boycotters, and the Ayatollah Khameini has told Iranians to vote.

The office of the main reform party, the Islamic Iran Partipation Front, was closed and sealed and two newspapers which supports the reformers were also shut down today by authorities in Iran. hoder writes from Iran:
If we really needed one thing to stop the more traditional supporters of the reform from voting, that'd be it, the closure of two major papers.
He also expresses fear that shutting down the one paper, Yaas-e No, which was the only publication permitted to be published by the main reformist party, is a prelude to shutting down the party.

The outcome of the vote is pre-determined, but the question is how many will defy the Ayatollah and boycott the elections?

Michael Ledeen at the National Review has an interesting piece up, and some of the rumours parallel those we heard last summer during the student demonstrations - that the police wouldn't break up the demonstations - with stories that soldiers from the regular army joined demonstrators in Marivan in west Iran 5 days ago.

Not all legislators have been as weak-willed as President Khatami:
The other great lesson is that many Iranians, when pushed to the wall by the tyrants, do indeed have the courage to fight back. In an unprecedented step, more than 100 reformers issued a letter to Supreme Leader Khamenei, in which they used language more traditionally reserved for greater and lesser satans in Washington and Jerusalem. They surely know that punishment will be severe, but they did it anyway. One fine day such shows of courage will inspire the Iranian people to defend them en masse, fill the public spaces of the major cities with demonstrators, and demand an end to the regime.
Some of the letter's contents are here, and Bob expresses his admiration for those who signed the letter and hopes they will be remembered for generations to come.

After a rundown of some of the candidates, Ledeen includes a chilling piece of information:
The chief of staff of the armed forces has cancelled all leaves for all military personnel starting Tuesday for one week. All soldiers have been commanded to cast their ballots in the elections on Friday, as have all members of the revolutionary guards and all air force personnel.
The fact that they have been ordered to vote is one thing, but the real threat is that all leaves are cancelled so the military is effectively in a state of alert.

There is an inherent problem with sending in the army to quell civil demonstration: the soldiers have families and communities, and they are unwilling to fire on a crowd of civilians who may include people they know. Furthermore, many soldiers are sympathetic to the aims of the demonstrators and know that many reforms passed by Parliament were rejected by the Council of Guardians.

The earthquake in Bam angered a great many Iranians who understood fully that the death toll was so high because the government was not using the wealth of the nation to upgrade the homes much less the lives of its citizens, and there is deep suspicion that the explosion that killed so many yesterday was due to the aging brake system on trains that were poorly maintained.

The elections will be covered by bloggers according to Hosseim Derakhshan (you can read his call to blog here) and they will have a site in English here for what he is calling the 9/11 for the Persian blogosphere.

I find it wryly amusing that CNN has discovered that there are Iranian bloggers and their numbers include women. Too bad CNN doesn't read Instapundit or they'd know that was hardly news.

Star Wars useless against new weapon 

Feb. 19 - According to Russian Col.-Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, the Russian military has successful tested a hypersonic missile that would be able to move too quickly and evasively to be stopped by a missile defense shield.

After assuring the world that they did not intend to use the missile against the US, the Russians said that the missile expired after the test, probably meaning that it burnt up in the atmosphere.

Iran Nuclear Program 

Feb. 19 - According to US officials, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have found Uranium enrichment centrifuge parts found in Iran that were much more sophisticated that those declared.

Also, the Roots of Pakistan Atomic Scandel Traced to Europe according to the NY Times.
The records show that industry scientists and Western intelligence agencies have known for decades that nuclear technology was pouring out of Europe despite national export control efforts to contain it.

Many of the names that have turned up among lists of suppliers and middlemen who fed equipment, materials and knowledge to nuclear programs in Pakistan and other aspiring nuclear nations are well-known players in Europe's uranium enrichment industry, a critical part of many nuclear weapons programs. Some have been convicted of illegal exports before.

The proliferation has its roots in Europe's own postwar eagerness for nuclear independence from the United States and its lax security over potentially lethal technology. It was abetted, critics say, by competition within Europe for lucrative contracts to bolster state-supported nuclear industries. Even as their own intelligence services warned that Pakistan could not be trusted, some European governments continued to help Pakistan's nuclear program.

[...]

The problem began with the 1970 Treaty of Almelo, under which Britain, Germany and the Netherlands agreed to develop centrifuges to enrich uranium jointly, ensuring their nuclear power industry a fuel source independent of the United States. Urenco, or the Uranium Enrichment Company, was established the next year with its primary enrichment plant at Almelo, the Netherlands.

Security at Urenco was by most accounts slipshod. The consortium relied on a network of research centers and subcontractors to build its centrifuges, and top-secret blueprints were passed out to companies bidding on tenders, giving engineers across Europe an opportunity to appropriate designs.

Dr. Khan, who worked for a Urenco Dutch subcontractor, Physics Dynamic Research Laboratory, was given access to the most advanced designs, even though he came from Pakistan, which was already known to harbor nuclear ambitions. A 1980 report by the Dutch government on his activities said he visited the Almelo factory in May 1972 and by late 1974 had an office there.

The Dutch government report found that in 1976, two Dutch firms exported to Pakistan 6,200 unfinished rotor tubes made of superstrong maraging steel. The tubes are the heart of Urenco's advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges.

In 1983, a Dutch court convicted Dr. Khan in absentia on charges of stealing the designs, though the conviction was later overturned on a technicality. Nonetheless, in the late 1980's, Belgian ministers led delegations of scientists and businessmen to Pakistan, despite warnings from their own experts that they were meeting with people involved in the military application of nuclear technology

"Every well-informed person knows the inherent danger of an intense collaboration with a country such as Pakistan," wrote René Constant, director of Belgium's National Institute of Radioactive Elements in February 1987, chastising Philippe Maystadt, then the country's minister of economic affairs, after one such visit.

That same year, despite American warnings to Germany that such a sale was imminent, a German firm exported to Pakistan a plant for the recovery of tritium, a volatile gas used to increase the power of nuclear bombs. The company simply called the plant something else to obtain an export license.

"The export control office didn't even inspect the goods," said Reinhard Huebner, the German prosecutor who handled the subsequent trial of the company's chief, Rudolf Ortmayers, and Peter Finke, a German physicist who went to Pakistan to train engineers there to operate the equipment. Both men were sentenced to jail for violating export control laws.

But there were clues that the technology had spread even further: a German intelligence investigation determined that Iraq and possibly Iran and North Korea had obtained uranium-melting expertise stolen from Urenco in 1984, Mr. Hibbs reported in Nucleonics Week several years later.

In 1989, two engineers, Bruno Stemmler and Karl Heinz Schaab, who had worked for Germany's MAN New Technology, another Urenco subcontractor, sold plans for advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges to Iraq. They went to Baghdad to help solve problems in making the equipment work.

In 1991, after the first Iraq war, international inspectors were stunned to discover the extent of Saddam Hussein's hidden program. Mr. Schaab was later convicted of treason but only served a little more than a year in jail. Mr. Stemmler died before he could be tried.

David Albright, a former weapons inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he helped retrieve a full set of the blueprints from Iraq after the major combat operations ended last year. United States inspectors have not found evidence that Mr. Hussein had restarted his nuclear program, but Mr. Albright said there were still drawings unaccounted for.
As always, read the whole thing.

Since I'm looking at nuclear proliferation, I'm also including a Washington Post article Libyan Arms Designs Traced Back to China:
The bomb designs and other papers turned over by Libya have yielded dramatic evidence of China's long-suspected role in transferring nuclear know-how to Pakistan in the early 1980s, they said. The Chinese designs were later resold to Libya by a Pakistani-led trading network that is now the focus of an expanding international probe, added the officials and experts, who are based in the United States and Europe.

The packet of documents, some of which included text in Chinese, contained detailed, step-by-step instructions for assembling an implosion-type nuclear bomb that could fit atop a large ballistic missile. They also included technical instructions for manufacturing components for the device, the officials and experts said.
China's assistance to Pakistan is believed to have ended in the early 1980's.

The atomic weapon exploded by Pakistan in 1998, however, is of a different design than that in the blueprints found in Libya.

Finally, the middleman who delivered the material to Libya is still unknown and is said to have covered his tracks quite well.

Iran Train Derailment 

Feb. 19 - The death toll has risen to 320 and injuries to 460 from the explosion that killed 182 firefighters and flattened homes in five villages after an unattended freight train rolled out of a station before dawn and, after traveling 31 miles and reaching speeds of more than 90 mph, all but 3 of 51 cars derailed when it came to a turn near Khayyam and jumped the track.

The train had caught on fire after derailing and burned for nearly 5 hours. It was nearly extinguished when fertilizer, gasoline and industrial chemicals which were aboard exploded. The explosion measured 3.6 on the Richter scale and left a 50-foot deep crater. The firefighters, rescue workers, Governor Mojtaba Farahmand-Nekou, and officials from the city of Neyshabur including the fire chief and mayor who were on the scene were killed instantly.

The AP article makes for difficult reading, and it's even harder when we remember the devastating Bam earthquake last December that killed more than 41,000 people.

More than 20,000 mourners lined the streets as the flag-draped body of their governor, Mojtaba Farahmand-Nekou, was driven through the nearby city of Neyshabur.

The cause of the derailment has not been established, but investigators are looking at negligence or brake failure.

The Toronto Sun has coverage here.

Friedman on the Mid-East 

Feb. 19 - Thomas L. Friedman makes some interesting observations about Look Who's Talking and what they're talking about.
... What the critics miss, though, is that the U.S. ouster of Saddam Hussein has also triggered the first real "conversation" about political reform in the Arab world in a long, long time. It's still mostly in private, but more is now erupting in public. For this conversation to be translated into broad political change requires a decent political outcome in Iraq. But even without that, something is stirring.
It's too easy for me to go all happy at cautiously good news, so I'm trying to restrain myself here but I am pleased that one of my war aims seems to be proving out.

I saw changing regimes in Iraq as the best, possibly last hope for upsetting stability in the Mid-East. I know that offends a lot of people, but considering that the status quo consists of keeping millions of people living in tyranny, arguing to preserve that status quo and thus that stability overlooks the fact that the only stable place in this life is in the grave.

The regime change in Iraq and the revelations about Saddam's rule have been sobering for many people and not only in the Middle-East. As the humiliation factor began to be discussed, others recognized the opportunity factor because, if Iraq represents anything, why not the prospect for changing our own country factor?

To put it another way, why despair when you can have hope?

I believe, as I said yesterday (blogspotted so forget a link!) that the most important inspiration comes from the students in Iran, and that is as it should be. There is a similarity of experience, repression, lack of seeing a better future unless things change, and, above all, there is the all-important leadership by example that causes people to think If they can do it, why can't we?

So Iraq will be the proof that a Mid-East country can have a successful government run by consensus, and Iran will be the proof that struggle is possible.

As every tyrant knows, nothing is more dangerous than ideas. People who have ideas tend to discuss them with other people, and suddenly a lot of people are discussing and sharing those ideas and then they gain confidence that as rational, thinking beings, they don't need to be ruled by anyone except themselves.

Maybe the closest analogy I can come to is the collapse of the Soviet Union, and how events separated by time but closely related by ideas sent not a shock wave but long, continuous tremors throughout Eastern Europe. Hungary and Czechslovakia rebelled in different ways, and each country dealt with the invading Soviet army differently. People had never given up, they were thinking, learning and planning new strategies. So the Poles tried a different approach, and the Soviet Union, already over-extended and weary after the stiff resistance they faced in Afghanistan, couldn't stop them.

The victory of Solidarity is when I date the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union, and yet three important events preceeded it and several more followed. But that's how I view history, as a series of changes in methods of production and distribution which combined with ideas and producing remarkable and often unexpected events.

But things never happen in a straight line. Right now, the elections in Iran are being derailed by the Council of Guardians yet a woman is running for Parliament! Things many never considered possible are happening every day, and it thrills me.

Liberating Iraq set the ground for change, but it is up to the people there and in other Mid-East countries to determine how those changes will be formed and implemented. I doubt one size will fit all, but the possibilities are fascinating.

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