Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New York, New York and Other News

One thing I really noticed about New York was how polite people were. I don't know when that happened but it has. It was really cool.

Not sure I could handle living in a city that big, though. I don't really want to be around too many people all of the time.

Arrived home to read a hilarious story about a Quebec town that has passed a bylaw about the behaviour people who live there must be willing to tolerate including the consumption of alcohol, Christmas trees, equality for women and a ban on facial coverings except on Hallowe'en along with a ban on stoning or otherwise punishing wives. In Canada, this has been treated with all the gravity of the slavery debate as the PC crowd rushes to condemn the move and Quebec politicians distance themselves from it.

Since the law is unenforceable, it can only be viewed in one-way: as sarcasm. Nasty? A little bit. But, there's a ring of truth there. Canadians, regardless of their backgrounds and beliefs, should be willing to accept societal norms.

Not so funny was the assmonkey palestinian homicide bomber in Eilat. During the past months, the Israelis have been doing a pretty good job of keeping the terrorist assholes confined to their own areas and killing only one another which is always a benefit for the rest of mankind.

Sadly, one got through - the first in nine months - and killed three innocent Israeli citizens. He came through Gaza via Egypt.

It's yet another reminder that everytime Israel makes concessions to the palestinians, it is met with more violence and attempts at murdering the innocent. And, of course, it starkly serves to enforce the belief that the only state the palestinians want is the one called Israel. There hasn't been a Jew living in Gaza in more than year.

Abbas condemned the killing, as usual. Since his rhetoric has all the power of tissue paper, I hope the Israelis continue to build the fence and strengthen their defences.

The one other item that really caught my eye in the last few days was Hugo Chavez's grabbing of absolute power through his government's endorsement. He can now do pretty much whatever he wants as he drains Venezuela's oil-rich economy. There is a certain point at which a person becomes a dictator. Ruling a country by decree while treating its public purse as your personal bank account and silencing opposition is that point.

If he's still in power in five years, the country will be broke, he and his cronies will be exceedingly wealthy and his opponents will be dead or imprisoned. Not to mention, Cindy Sheehan and Harry Belafonte, among others, will still be kissing his ass.

Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani positively dominated the headlines in New York. Personally, I don't think Giuliani will actually run for President or, if he does, see it through. I think he likes the adulation but doesn't really want the job. Hillary wants the job worse than her husband wants the newest intern but she's not going to get it. I've no idea who is, I just think Hillary's unelectable when crunch time comes.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

May We Never Forget

On Saturday, I found myself in downtown New York City for half a day. It was the first time I'd been there in almost 20 years.

I walked from Penn Station to Ground Zero, a distance of about three miles, I'd estimate.

Ground Zero was a sobering experience. I had intended to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art but on my way there decided seeing the place that had changed our world was a more worthwhile use of my time. I'd say 9/11 was one of the three most significant events that have taken place during my lifetime with the other two being the moon landing and the fall of the Berlin Wall - all because of what they represented.

They are now excavating the site for its future tower. Fencing surrounds it and they've also put in place meshing that makes it really hard to take photographs. I thought that was silly...everyone was trying to poke their lenses through small openings to take pictures. We should want people to remember what happened there and visual reminders are among the most important to people.

There is also small, dignified museum across the street from the site. It has a few personal belongings and other items that were found afterwards but largely depends on pictures of the victims and video screens to convey its message. It flashes the names of all of those innocents killed that day in alphabetical order. Apparently, it takes four hours to go through all 3,000.

The pictures were very interesting. I was struck by how many of those people shared my first name - Michael - and were about my age (makes sense, the name was among the most popular in North America during Generation X years). They were probably a lot like me; guys who went to work and enjoyed, among other things, sports and beer and their families.

There were lots of boxes of tissues lying around and a lot of the visitors used them. People were actually encouraged to take pictures.

Downstairs was an area where people could write out their thoughts on 9/11 and many of the little cards were thumbtacked to the wall, presumably by staff. I read about 100 of the cards.

Many of them talked about the need to seek peace and arrive at forgiveness. Personally, I like peace but not at the cost of freedom and I think forgiveness is an outrageous suggestion.

When we forgive, we begin to forget. I'd suggest people should visit Ground Zero to remember exactly why we should not forgive.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Schools Need To Change With The Times

My eight-year-old came home the other day with his first practice sheets for cursive writing. I'm sure we all remember these a a a a a a a , b b b b b b, c c c c c c, etc. only I can't display it in cursive writing because keyboards don't work that way unless you specifically choose a font to do that.

It was the same day I had a lunch with a co-worker who was lamenting that her husband, who owns a company in the trades industry, couldn't find good, or even simply warm-bodied, workers. The best he, and many other people in the same boat, can do these days is patch things up and tell customers the real repairs will be done at a future date. My wife's brother owns a company in exactly the same industry but he's located in Toronto. He has the same problem.

It got me thinking about what we should be teaching our kids in school. Sure, I guess my children should know cursive writing but I'd elect to spend just as much time teaching them keyboarding. You tell me which is going to be more important to their future communication skills and employment prospects: beautiful penmanship or the ability to sit down at a computer and accurately prepare a typewritten document?

High school's the same. The two most useful things I learned in high school were typing (there it is again) and cooking. Marketing management was another because it touched on budgeting. Algebra? No. Physics? No. History? Loved it but didn't want to be a historian. English? Yeah, I became a journalist and still work in communications. But I'm not sure that if it hadn't been my chosen field that I would have taken much from all the poems and Shakespeare plays we read and dissected and the essays we wrote around them.

I'm not implying kids shouldn't learn those things. They most certainly should, if that's where their interests lie. But what about the trades? Construction, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, drill press operators and many, many more high paying, respectable professions? We don't teach those in the schools and most districts, here anyway, don't even have apprenticeship programs. Not every kid wants or can go on to post-secondary education but we've set it as the benchmark of a successful child.

Too bad. My brother-in-law (who actually has an engineering degree) is 7 years younger than me, owns his own huge home pretty much outright near Toronto, drives several extremely expensive cars, holidays all over the world and could retire tomorrow if he didn't have so much energy that he'd go crazy. He's had his company for about a decade. If one of my kids wanted to enter his profession, I'd be all for it.

On a semi-related note, I read today that a Finnish author has published the world's first novel in nothing but text message language. It's appropriate the author was Finnnish because Nokia is based there. It's probably the world's most reputable provider and developer of cellphones and associated technologies.

I'm thinking cursive script is not going to capture any teenager's or pre-teenager's imagination in quite the same way. I'm also thinking it's not going to be offered as a course elective any time soon.

On an totally unrelated note, I have to travel for a few days and may not have time to blog. But, I'll be back. Tonight I get to spend three hours in the Salt Lake City, Utah airport. I can hardly wait for that three per cent beer...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Real Pig Sty

Every true crime groupie has descended upon this little corner of the world or is at least paying keen interest these days as the trial of Robert Pickton began this week in New Westminster.

Pickton is the Port Coquitlam pig farmer who now faces trial for the murder of 26 women, most of them drug addicts/prostitutes from downtown Vancouver's east side. For those who don't know the geography of this region, Port Coquitlam is roughly an hour's drive east and slightly north of Vancouver. New Westminster is halfway in between the two. I live about 30 minutes from PoCo (as we call it).

Right now, Pickton's on trial for the first six murders. A second trial involving the other 20 identified women is slated to follow. It's believed he may have committed as many as 49 murders altogether. That's what's thought because he basically said it himself, telling a jailhouse informant that he wanted to reach 50 before he stopped.

This first trial is expected to last as long as a year and is already being tabbed as the most expensive in Canadian history. Along with the gruesome details of the crimes, the trial will expose the uncaring attitude of our society towards the people least able to defend themselves or find justice.

Beyond the murders themselves, which were so disgusting they're more the stuff of downtown Baghdad than downtown Vancouver, Pickton's main lawyer seems intent on distinguishing himself for everything we've come to expect from show trials, namely preposterous suppositions, grandstanding and subterfuge.

On the opening day, he was allowed to give a statement. Highly unusual, but he's not expected to get another chance to make his case for months as the prosecution parades an endless stream of witness before the jury. He agreed the body parts strewn around Pickton's farm - including those found in Pickton's trailer - belonged to the women (DNA tests already proved that, so his agreement on that fact is hardly a revelation). He further agreed that personal items found on the farm belonged to the missing women.

But, he told the court, that Pickton did not know the women and did not kill them and then suggested that the police officers who conducted interviews and investigations on the case did not have the expertise to do it.

This is no OJ trial. There is a mountain of evidence to suggest Pickton did exactly what Pickton himself basically said he did when he said in a videotaped interview, "I don't deserve to eat. I should be on death row...You make me more of a mass murderer than I am."

I believe fully in the premise that a person is innocent until proven guilty but for a lawyer to stand up and suggest that body parts spread around a farm, belongings of dead people found in a person's possession and statements of an accused person that seem to affirm the police suggestion of who killed these women are all the result of incompetent investigation is galling. It took the police long enough to bother arresting anyone but even Boss Hogg could have got this one right.

It also means the families of these women now have to listen to the gruesome details of those deaths and the subsequent butchering of the bodies. No one's real comfortable with the further suggestion some of those bodies were fed to pigs and the pigs may later have found their way into our food stream.

There was incompetence here, that's for sure. Police had been tipped off to Pickton as a possible suspect well before they acted, according to previous reports. It's beyond incompetence, really, because it smacks of complete uncaring for the fate of these women - poor, drug-dependent, many were Aboriginal. It was a horrific sequence all around.

Only a lawyer could make it worse and my suspicion is that over the next year, the lawyers in this case - particularly Pickton's - will do exactly that as they slowly drain hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public purse.

It seems to me that only the pigs themselves are innocent in this case and that the real pigs are the two-legged kind, and I'm not just referring to the popular colloquialism for cops. Yes, if Pickton wants to plead not guilty and have a trial, that is his right in Canada. But, please, the lawyers should not be allowed to play the rest of us for fools.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Just STFU and sing

Here is why Western liberal fuzzy-minded thinking pisses me off so much:

This morning I'm reading my National Post (thankfully, the delivery system seems back on track). Each week, the Post invites someone in the arts world to basically diary for them for a few days.

This week, it's Henry Rollins. I don't know who he is but according to the tag above the column, he's a "singer, actor and spoken word artist". Great. I'm into words and songs and he was writing from Tel Aviv, so I thought it might be worth reading.

Turns out, he's writing from Tel Aviv because he stopped there on a USO tour because he supports the troops. Okay, far, we're doing pretty well. Here's a North American artist, taking time out of his schedule to entertain soldiers trying to create a safer world. That seems pretty laudable, right?

Well, hang on a sec.

During his 300 word or so article, Mr. Rollins first refers to George Bush's foreign policy as "demo-fascist" and then goes on to complain that the US is "rattling the sabres" when it comes to Iran and he the implies that Bush is looking for a war with the Iranians.

Now, perhaps Mr. Rollins can't read. Or, maybe he only gets his news from al-Jazzeera and Air America (he does mention Al Franken in his screed, too, so maybe the two are buddies in lib-left moronic thinking).

First off, democracy and fascism are diametrically opposed political philosophies. Fascism involves state-control over industry; democracy does not. Fascism includes the brutal oppression of opposition; democracy does not. We can use the term "islamofascism" to, for instance, because those two terms can go together; in this case it would indicate a fascist regime under an islamic religious banner.

Now, dumbass terminology designed to invoke a reaction is the norm for politics across North America today, so I can forgive Rollins his downright ridiculous invoking of a nonsensical term.

But, his comments on the relationship between the US and Iran are just plain lies.

It's Iran that's saber rattling. It's Iran that refuses to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities, that has ignored countless UN entreaties to negotiate, that says it will not be stopped by sanctions and whose president has repeatedly called for the genocide of six million Jews living in Israel and the destruction of their country in a nuclear armageddon. (Oddly, Rollins calls Israel "one of the most beautiful countries" he's ever seen; sadly, he seems content to allow it to disappear in a mushroom cloud.)

In response, the US administration's most controversial statement on Iran is that it will continue to be open to negotiations but that other options exist. The US has not threatened Iran with either conventional or non-conventional attacks. It has not called for Iran to be wiped off the map. It hasn't even gone as far as to call for regime change in Iran.

Mr. Rollins and his ilk, quite frankly, make me want to toss my cookies. I'm just glad I read the paper before I eat breakfast or I might have spewed my bran flakes this morning.

This is why it's almost always never a good idea to give "entertainers" a platform to shout from. They're generally well-heeled twits who seize the public attention because of the movies they've done or the albums they've released or the assorted affairs they've had or busts they've been part of. They are not, however, usually capable of intelligent political commentary.

As Mr. Rollins has proved.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Time to take 'em out

Well, how about that? The US offers Iraq's government the option of shitting or getting off the pot and, according to reports today, all of a sudden protection of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army is over.

On top of that, for the first time in two months, al-Sadr sent his parliamentary representatives back to work, signalling his own worry that the US is finally serious about the threat his death squads pose. He also ordered his "militia" members not to display their weapons in public.

And, he should be worried. I hope.

This road has been travelled before and it has not ended well. The coalition has repeatedly backed away from serious confrontation with terrorist elements, the Iraqi government has thrown up more resistance than assistance and, like untold arab terror leaders before him, al-Sadr has used Western benevolence and concepts of "justice" to his advantage on several occasions.

The small steps the last couple of days have been blunted by the deaths of 26 more American soldiers along with at least 46 Iraqis found dead on Sunday, most of whom had been tortured first.

That, everyone should remind themselves, is what these "militia" represent: the rule of the barbarian over civilization.

There will be, I hope, no negotations with al-Sadr or others of his ilk this time around that does not end with them either dead or imprisoned. Letting up would be suicidal.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

No Fool Like an Old Fool

One thing I've tried to stay away from in a month of blogging is repetitious cut-and-paste. But I found this too irresistible not to comment on:

By CHARLES ODUM, Associated Press Writer

ATHENS, Ga. - Former President Jimmy Carter said Saturday that the storm of criticism he has faced for his recent book has not weakened his resolve for fair treatment of Israelis and Palestinians.

"I have been called a liar," Carter said at a town hall meeting on the second day of a three-day symposium on his presidency at the University of Georgia.

Well, that's because he has been lying.

"I have been called an anti-Semite," he said. "I have been called a bigot. I have been called a plagiarist. I have been called a coward. Those kind of accusations, they concern me, but they don't detract from the fact the book is accurate and is needed."

I don't know about the plagiarism but the rest rings fairly accurate. Except the part about the book itself being accurate because many people have proven it is not.

Following the publication of the book: "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," 14 members of an advisory board to his Carter Center resigned in protest. Those former board members and other critics contend the book is unfairly critical of Israel.

"Not one of the critics of my book has contradicted any of the basic premises ... that is the horrible persecution and oppression of the Palestinian people and secondly that the formula for finding peace in the Middle East already exists," the 82-year-old Carter said.

Funny how even beyond the storm of criticism and the vast corrections of his factual errors (see, Jimmy, another lie) 14 members of his own advisory board resigned in protest. That's 14 people who were close allies of the former President and even they couldn't handle his BS.

The absolute fact here is that Jimmy just doesn't get it. He's the epitome of the muddle-minded liberal thinking that is killing our civilization. There is a RIGHT and a WRONG here, not a right and a left. The RIGHT is a country that is a democracy, that offers freedoms for all its citizens, that does not oppress its women, that does not send its young to blow up and that does not live on venomous hate and a desire to kill and die.

Jimmy the Dhimmi has chosen WRONG. He has opted to close his eyes to the long-time genocidal desires of the palestinian leadership and to claim that because Israel refuses to give in to those desires, that Israel is the oppressor. By Jimmy's standards, the Germans were correct to put the nazis in power and follow Hitler's genocidal path because the WWI treaty did not work in Germany's favour.

No. What happened in 1947/48 could have been settled in 1947/48 but the arabs chose not to. It could have been corrected on many occasions since then and on each and every occasion (excepting the treaties with Jordan and Egypt) the arabs have chosen not to.

There is a clear and moral distinction between the actions of the Israelis in 99.9 per cent of the cases and the murderous barbarians who lead the Palestinians. Jimmy has sold his soul and all the mea culpas in the world will never buy it back for him.

Mailer still searches for the Big Book

At almost 84 years of age, Norman Mailer may be the US's most senior man of letters. His books, published over the past half century, have ranged from amazing to drivel. He's one author I've never been quite able to figure out.

The Naked and The Dead and The Executioner's Song would find their way onto my top-10 list, no doubt about it. Oswald's Tale, his book about Lee Harvey Oswald's life, was excellent.

Several others I've read - An American Dream, The Deer Park, Miami and The Siege of Chicago - were decent but nothing you would expect from a person of Mailer's capabilities.

And, then, he's also written Harlot's Ghost, the Gospel According to the Son and Ancient Evenings, all of which stunk. No, they worse than stunk. They were unreadable.

Mailer, who used to talk about the Big Book - apparently his terminology for the Next Great American Novel - with interviewers, now says he may never write it. I'd say he already did, when he set down The Executioner's Song, an 1,100 page (roughly) tome about Gary Gilmore, the first person executed after the US reinstated the death penalty in the 1970s.

Somehow, Mailer managed to take an unsympathetic character surrounded by his trailer trash relatives and acquaintances, drugs, alcoholism, rage, violence, and everything else dark and wrong and turned him into a character study unlike anything I've ever read before or since. Critics agreed; the book was deservedly a huge bestseller.

In his latest book, The Castle in the Forest, Mailer is tackling the early life of Adolf Hitler under the premise that Hitler was the devil's response to Jesus Christ. This is where Mailer, in my opinion, tends to get into trouble: when he begins to call in mystic forces to explain people. It's exactly why Ancient Evenings and The Gospel According to the Son were so damned awful.

Nevertheless, I must admit, I'm intrigued by the idea of a Jew offering a fictional account of Hitler's life presumably as some kind of explanation of the later actions. I'll probably pick it up and I probably won't like it.
Too bad because I'd love to read another Mailer book that captured the tone of Gilmore or the all too human stories and soldiers in The Naked and the Dead.

Writing this, I pulled out the Executioner's Song and note that on the back cover of the tattered copy I have (I've lent it and reclaimed it on several occasions) that the book reviewer for the Philadelphia Inquirer at that time wrote, "Not since the Grapes of Wrath has there been an American book that so discovered the voices in our culture."

Mailer compared to, that's some heady company. Both, as the Inquirer noted, repeatedly tapped into the American landscape and psyche for inspiration and both turned out their greatest works when doing so. I'll probably get to Steinbeck another time because he's my favourite author of all time.

Anyone who's bored should definitely add the several Mailer books I mentioned, along with Steinbeck novels including Cannery Row, East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath and Tortilla Flat to their reading lists. I promise you, you will not find them wanting.

Friday, January 19, 2007

First 100 hours, good. After that, not so much.

Having accomplished her 100 hour program, Nancy Pelosi is now gunning straight for President Bush, ratcheting up the rhetoric Thursday.

In response to the plan to deploy about 20,000 more troops to Iraq, Pelosi told ABC's Good Morning America: "the president knows that because the troops are in harm's way, that we won't cut off the resources. That's why he's moving so quickly to put them in harm's way."

My question is: does America really need this?

The suggestion that Bush is simply callous about the deaths of American soldiers seems pretty disgusting to me. Leaving aside all the arguments for and against being in Iraq in the first place and the deep split over what to do now, an attempt to divide the country even further is rather counterproductive.

Hillary Clinton was at it, too, saying that the US put the Iraqi government in power. That's funny, because I thought I saw hundreds of pictures of Iraqis lining up to vote for their government representatives. And, I also seem to remember months of Iraqi wrangling afterwards over exactly how the government should look. Oddly, I didn't see any Americans voting for Iraqi leaders or standing over them forcing them to make parliamentary decisions. If they had, I don't think making al-Sadr a major component of the government would have been the first choice.

The Democrats were actually getting off to a pretty good start with their legislative program. As discussed before, I'm totally in favour of funding stem cell research and I thought raising the minimum wage and the decision to increase security checks on incoming cargo were sensible.

But, as it always seems to lately, it comes down to nastiness expressed through the media. And, that isn't sensible at all.

The Democrats have a chance for two years to show the US public exactly how they're different than the Republicans in a positive way. They need to put forth ideas, not rhetoric.

100 hours of good sense followed by two years of schoolyard behaviour isn't going to cut it.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thumbs Up for Gaming

According to a Reuters story, playing video games can be healthy for you. Which is good news for me.

I've been playing them since Pong appeared. I sunk every spare quarter into machines when I was in my early teens: Asteroids, Space Invaders, Galaga, Galaxians, Wizard of Wor, Battlezone, Dig Dug, Joust, Jump Bug, Centipede and dozens more I can still picture in my head but don't really remember the names for. I don't play as much as I used to but I do still enjoy them.

My kids love video games, too; particularly my older son who saved for 18 months to get himself an Xbox 360. Well, okay, he paid for it and I got it by standing outside of Best Buy at 5:15 a.m. on Boxing Day to get a good deal.

Even my dad, now in his 70s loves video games. A Holocaust survivor, he is particularly fond of any game that allows him to kill nazis as part of the story. All three of us enjoy a good game of Castle Wolfenstein, one of the best first-person RPG games ever and one that is based on mowing down battalions of nazis.

According to Reuters, video games "can satisfy deep psychological needs and, at least in the short term, improve people's well-being, new research shows."

This is not the first time that research, despite the naysayers who claim video games create violent tendencies, divorce people from reality and create isolation, has shown that they are quite possibly beneficial. I'm a pretty normal guy for the most part, my dad is highly respected by his peers and and very successful in his field and my son is anything but anti-social when it comes to outside activities.

There are, as with TV, boundaries. It pisses my son off that I won't let him watch wrestling but I can't tolerate what I consider to often be incredibly negative treatment of women. He can shoot cartoon nazis but I don't want him to believe that insulting and degrading real life women is acceptable behaviour.

Heck, for that matter, he can shoot real-life nazis when he gets older if his country calls on him to do that and he answers. I don't think it's gonna happen; the nazis are gone. And, I certainly hope other threats are extinguished before he grows older but I'm not holding my breath.

In the meantime, maybe the games will act as simulators and teach him a little something...just in case.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

London Falling

Can someone please explain the English to me? Until recently, they just seemed like North Americans with lousy teeth, lousy food, good beer and a good soccer team.

Hell, they had the final word on Canadian laws until the 1980s. Their Queen is our Queen (not that I have any use for royalty but that's another subject that I'll probably bitch about at another time). After 9/11, George Bush thanked the English as the US's best friend (by pissing off a lot of Canadians - which he then sought to make up for by describing Canada as family).

Anyway, I digress. Since 9/11, though no doubt the corrosion was beginning even before then, England has devolved faster than any other European nation, excluding perhaps France, in kow-towing to the will of the Islamists and spawning such inglorious characters as London Mayor Ken Livingstone and radical left-wing idiot politician George Galloway.

Today I read a column from the Spectator, written by two men, at least one of whom said he was Muslim, about a new mosque in London that will be able to hold up to 70,000 people. According to the writers, the mosque will house members of a sect of Islam known as Tabligh-i-Jamat. Among that sect's adherents are such luminaries as shoe bomber Richard Reid and American Taliban member John Walker Lindh. Several men involved in the London bombings in 2005 had connections to Tabligh, again, according to the article and new converts to the sect are frequently sent to Pakistan for further indoctrination, a situation, which if true, should certainly raise red flags.

Well, not only are the British, despite the objections from many in the Muslim community, prepared to acquiesce and allow this mosque to be built for a sect seemingly quite hostile to western interests, but the public is going to help pay for completion of the $700 million facility.

Livingstone, as the authors describe him: "is very much at the heart of the problem...he has shown little sensitivity to the differing trends within the Islamic community, and especially to the battle between moderates and radicals."

This is, for lack of a better phrase, complete fucking insanity. Livingstone has already demonstrated his insanity on numerous occasions with loony tune statements and actions but for the English public to roll over and accept this? A meeting place in the heart of your biggest city so 70,000 of your closest enemies can meet and be exhorted to violence by crazed imams? Okay, maybe not all 70,000 but there were only about a dozen people involved in the London subway bombings. Even if only 10 per cent of the 70,000 hate the west, well, you can see where it can lead...

I'm already of the opinion that most of Europe has doomed itself to Islam or at least a very significant cultural war to avoid doom. The English seem intent on plunging themselves through the gate at full speed.

Radical Islam needs to be stomped out, not housed and encouraged in publicly-funded buildings.

At the rate they English are going, I may never get to that bitch about the Royal Family after all because it may disappear along with all other English traditions.

Monday, January 15, 2007

X's and Executions

Well, it sure has been a busy day in the Middle East, hasn't it?

Let's see...

The Iraqis hanged the two men convicted along with Saddam Hussein. One of them was his brother-in-law, Barzan Ibrahim. His hanging decapitated him which isn't sitting well with Iraq's Sunni Muslims. No shit...
I don't even know what we can say about a country that can't even execute a person properly but the Iraqis are managing to make people sympathize with murderous butchers. Nice job.

Over in Iran, the mad mullahs announced they will continue with their plan to build 3,000 centrifuges which would allow them to produce enough uranium to build a nuclear bomb in about a year. Almonddingdong has brushed off the UN sanctions like they are dandruff on his shoulders.
This is the biggest test the UN might ever face because the Israelis are never going to sit back and watch Iran build the bomb.

Speaking of Israelis, Condolleezza Rice dropped in to see Ehud Olmert a day after visiting Mahmoud Abbas. And, wonder of wonders, she's in favour of peace! Wow! The Israelis and Palestinians should work together! Terrific! The two countries should re-embark down the Yellow Brick Road Map to harmony! Woo-hoo!
Only one problem: Hamas - you know, the fuckers actually in charge in the palestinian territories - announced shortly afterwards that they would "never recognize Israel."
And, here, I'd always thought Condi was a details-oriented person...

But, today's biggest ME prize for dumbass move of the day goes to Saudi Arabia, where, apparently in response to a recent fatwa, they are now looking to ban the letter X. Yup, you know why: it resembles the Christian cross. I think they already banned Sesame Street, tic-tac-toe and the endearing form for kisses (XOXO), so it won't have too much impact.

But, in response, the west should ban the crescent moon. That thing in the sky? Nope, don't see it.

That'll show them!

For Wino and the Tree Huggers

Some turkey on this site: posted the following about two weeks ago. It has led to a blogging game where the idea, as I understand it, is to create a dialogue of an extremist family of any stripe with one random character sharing the same extremist bent inserted. I got tagged with this sucker this morning and have a hard time turning down a challenge.

Anyway, here is the original post:

"This is what it would be like, if the majority of people were athiests.

ATHIEST KID: Mom, I'm going to go fuck a hooker.

ATHIEST MOM: Okay, son.

ATHIEST KID: Afterwards, I'm going to go smoke pot with my friends, since it's "not addictive."

ATHIEST MOM: Okay, come home soon!

The athiest kid leaves the room. The father comes home from work several minutes later.


ATHIEST MOM: Hi, honey! I'm pregnant again. I guess I'll just get another abortion, since "fetuses don't count as human life."

ATHIEST DAD: Okay, get as many abortions as you want!

ATHIEST MOM: Oh, and don't go in the bedroom.


ATHIEST MOM: There are two gay men fucking eachother in there.

ATHIEST DAD: Why are they here?

ATHIEST MOM: I wanted to watch them do it for awhile. They just aren't finished yet.

ATHIEST DAD: Okay, that's fine with me!

Suddenly, their neighbor runs into the house.

ATHIEST NEIGHBOR: Come quick, there's a Christian outside!

ATHIEST MOM: We'll be right there!

The athiest couple quickly put on a pair of black robes and hoods. They then exit the house, and run into the street, where a Christian is nailed to a large, wooden X. He is being burned alive. A crowd of athiests stand around him, all wearing black robes and hoods.

RANDOM ATHIEST: Damn you, Christian! We hate you! We claim to be tolerant of all religions. But we really hate your's! That's because we athiests are hypocritical like that! Die, Christian!


The reaction has been predictable...numerous responses calling the original poster all kinds of names for insulting atheists. Unfortunately, while meant obviously as satire, it isn't that funny. Also, it helps if you want to criticize someone's beliefs or status to at least be able to spell it properly (the word is atheist, not athiest) I think the idea was to just be as absolutely politically incorrect as possible and get a reaction.

I could go with an easy target like islamist fundamentalists. But, seeing as I live in Vancouver and we've had an incredible run of really unusual weather and everyone in the country seems obsessed by the environment these days, I'm going with a family of cruncy granola munching, global warming-fearing, tree huggers...

Tree hugger kid: Mom, do we have any money? The trees in Stanley Park have been knocked down and I need to go make a donation.

Tree hugger mom: Gee, I'm sorry son. You know we don't use money any more because the bills are made from paper and you have to kill trees to make them and coins are made from metals which are dug from the ground and hurt The Earth Mother. But, I know...why don't you take the cans that your father's been collecting on his walk to work and back every day?

Tree hugger kid: That's great, mom. After I'm done donating the money, I'll walk down to the Sea Wall and yell at the fishermen to stop their rape of the ocean's resources, except for eating seaweed with their tofu.

Tree hugger mom: Son, we're so proud of you. You know, those cans are heavy so why don't you use a few of them to take mass transit to the park?

Tree hugger kid: I would, mom, but getting to the electric buses means taking a diesel bus first and the fumes choke the birds and the noise of the bus's brakes really effects the dogs and cats. Plus, last week I saw one hit a squirrel and I had to see the grief counsellor at school I was so upset because I couldn't save the squirrel even after I performed CPR. But, I'll take the bicycle, if that's okay.

Tree hugger kid leaves. A few minutes later, tree hugger dad enters. He kisses tree hugger mom sweetly.

Tree hugger mom: My you're in a good mood this afternoon, dear.

Tree hugger dad: I know. I just feel so revitalized. Your macrobiotic stew with unpasteurized yogurt whey and textured vegetable protein set the tone for the whole day. I had so much energy after that, I went around the office and turned off all the heaters to encourage people to join me in jumping up and down for warmth. It was wonderful.

Tree hugger mom: Well, if you're going to act like that, can you first go outside and squeeze the water out of the clothes in the rain barrel and hang them from the line so they'll be dry by next week? There might be a reward in it for you later...

Tree hugger dad: You mean?

Tree hugger mom: Yes, dear...we can read excerpts of an Inconvenient Truth by candlelight tonight.

Suddenly, their tree hugger neighbour comes running in:

Tree hugger neighbour: Quick, there's an industrialist outside smoking a big cigar while his car is running!

The tree hugging couple quickly don their Druid robes they wear on the Solstice Eve celebrations and run outside where a crowd of tree huggers has gathered around the industrialist and is tying him to a tree while one hammers two stones together to try and light a torch.

Tree hugging crowd: Damn you, industrialist! You are murdering the Earth! We will exact our revenge!

Tree hugging dad: Wait! Wait, everyone! This isn't right! You might hurt the tree!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Museum of Unnatural History

Took the kids to see A Night At the Museum this afternoon. For those who don't know of this movie, the basic plotline is that all the creatures in New York's Museum of Natural History come to life at night and proceed to do what nature intended. The predators chase their prey, the human displays fight with one another, Teddy Roosevelt rides around on his horse and no one and nothing is where it should be.

Well, imagine my surprise when I got home and saw a story on Yahoo! about a museum where nothing actually is where it's supposed to be.

The Petersburg, Kentucky museum is the brainchild of Ken Ham who is gambling $27 million that 500,000 people a year will visit his biblically correct museum. That's right: at this museum, man and dinosaurs co-exist and the world was created a mere 6,000 years ago.

Of course, one of his main target goals is children, particularly children attending Christian schools because, hey, it's tough to raise a generation to be totally ignorant of real history when there's that pesky internet, TV, books and other museums that actually insist on giving kids facts. A visit to Ken's museum will ensure that they can remain blissfully empty of real history and scientific research while still qualifying as an appropriate school field trip.

Ham is no dummy. First of all, he's a transplanted Australian who moved to the US 20 years ago and began a Christian publishing and broadcasting company in America's heartland. If pushing evangelical Christianity is your art, there's no better place to practise it.

As lacking in reality as his museum is, he also knows that there is no such thing as bad publicity and he's getting plenty of ink (or blog posts). He's hired established professionals to create Hollywood-style animation and effects. The museum is a few minutes drive from Cincinnati's airport and two-thirds of Americans apparently live within a day's drive. Added to the rather unfortunate fact that close to 50 per cent of Americans, according to polls, now believe in creationism over evolution, I think Ken might well make a Noah's Ark-sized boatload of money.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Get Tough or Get Out

I've taken several days to absorb the impact of Bush's announcement to send another 21,000 or so troops to Iraq. Not that it wasn't pretty much predictable: most Democrats oppose it and some Republicans, tired of having the US weighed down in what seems like a futile effort, are sick of it, too.

Haven't heard any other solutions, though, that seem particularly practical. But, again, that was largely predictable.

One thing that always astonishes me is that the will to win wars is so vastly under-rated. I really wish someone could explain this to me.

It isn't about military might. The US has the people, the equipment and the training to do the job. It isn't about the soldiers; they're doing their jobs. It's about the politics and the way things are presented to the public. There have been numerous instances in Iraq where the US has had an opportunity to really put the sledgehammer down on the terrorist elements trying to split the country apart and have not done so for, more or less, PR reasons. Unfortunately, good PR at home (oh, look, we were nice, we dropped leaflets and let some terrorists run away and others negotiate) is very bad PR amongst the islamists (oh, look, those Americans don't have the balls to really come after us if we hide behind some civilians or hole up in a mosque).

Some of those people, Moqtada al-Sadr in particular, have gone on to greater and greater influence and ability to create havoc.

This is going to be the US's last chance to stabilize the situation. They have to get tough with the Iraqi government, with the terrorist leaders and with warnings to Syria and Iran to stop interfering.

If they don't, all the fine soldiers in the world aren't going to be able to control the situation.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Barry Bonds...Everything Grew But His Heart

It's official: Barry Bonds is now the biggest asshole in professional sports today.

On Thursday, reports circulated that Bonds had failed a drug test and that amphetamines had turned up in his system sometime during the last season. Bonds, at the time, blamed teammate Mark Sweeney, apparently telling baseball officials and the players' union that it was due to some pills he'd taken out of Sweeney's locker.

Now, I don't know about anyone else, but I seem to remember that at about the age of five, my parents made it pretty clear that you didn't take stuff out of the medicine cabinet that wasn't meant for you because it's just flat out dangerous. But, even assuming Bonds' parents missed imparting that important life lesson on their youngster, what the hell was he supposedly looking for in other players' lockers? Breath mints? Isn't that called theft?

Can you imagine? You're 40 years old. You're already the most maligned player in the game. You're a surly bastard. Drug allegations have dogged you for the better part of the past five years because it's just a bit unusual that somehow you've managed to avoid all statistical trends which show your abilities should have declined rapidly after age 32. Instead they increased dramatically. Your body has grown like the Grinch's heart after hearing all the Whos in Whoville singing. The media and the public are just waiting for you to fuck up, hoping, in fact, you fuck up before you can pass Hank Aaron and become baseball's all-time home run leader.

So, what do you do? Well, walking past a teammate's locker, you happen to glance at a bottle of pills and say to yourself, "hey, those look good. I think I'll take some."

Ironically, Sweeney was, according to the chatter from the sports world, one of Bonds' few friends. Bonds denied implicating Sweeney saying his explanation was misinterpreted. Uh-huh. Perhaps he meant to blame a different player.

As a believer in the notion that a person is innocent until proven guilty, I have always felt that Bonds' records should be viewed as legitimate. He has never failed a steroid test. Until the amphetamines issue, he'd never failed any drug test that has been publicly revealed.

But, he has failed baseball fans, his teammates and the game. The best solution would be for the San Francisco Giants, who have tabled a not-yet-accepted $16 million, one-year contract offer to Bonds, to withdraw the deal and for no other team to offer him one. He's well over 40, he can't run, can't field and he lives only to break the record. Frankly, he doesn't deserve to hold it. Unfortunately, there's probably well over $16 million in profits to be made by San Francisco as long as they can stick Bonds in the line up and he swats home runs.

If he does break Hank Aaron's record, baseball will be faced with an interesting conundrum. Mark McGwire didn't even come close to getting in the Hall of Fame this year and he was never found to have taken anything other than androstendione, a muscle repairing supplement that was perfectly legal in baseball at the time. And, McGwire was considered a good guy.

Imagine, baseball might find itself with both its all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, banned for betting on the game while a manager, and its all time home runs leader out of the Hall of Fame. A rather sad indictment on today's sporting world.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Laura Ingalls covered her head a lot, too

In Canada this week, they aired a new show called "Little Mosque on the Prairie".

Apparently, this is supposed to be somewhat of a funny take on being Muslim in a rural community in this great country. I'm not sure because I didn't watch it.

I thought about watching it in the interest of seeing how they would cast a humourous twist on what was sure to be a bunch of situations involving white people misunderstanding the well-meaning, honest, hard-working Muslim family who, no doubt, disavowed terrorism and hugged their Christian and Jewish neighbours. Well, okay, maybe not Jewish...most of us are smart enough not to wind up living in Black Fly Bite, Manitoba or Wind Blowing Shit In My Eye, Saskatchewan.

Anyway, after I thought about watching it, I had a different thought which was: "hell, why bother? It's not like there's anything unusual about people moving to Canada and freely practising their religion."

Nope, nothing unusual at all. But, feel free to call me when they make a show called Little Catholic Church in Riyadh or Little Synagogue in Amman.

Now, that would be different.

Pro-choice and pro-blog

One thing I've quickly come to like about blogging is that if offers an opportunity for actual dialogue and debating.

Over the past few days, I've been involved in a bit of a back and forth with Suzanne who blogs here:

Suzanne didn't much like my take on stem cell research and when I visited her blog, after she left a comment on mine, I quickly found out why. Much of her's is devoted to pro-life issues and even her profile contains a picture of a seven-week old fetus. She has taken several posts to clarify her position and to correct what she no doubt sees as my rather shaky knowledge of biological terms.

I'll admit up front that I'm not a biologist and that I don't wish to engage in an endless back and forth of definitions as to what constitutes life and what does not (she, for instance, insists that an egg and sperm are not life but that when they get together to create a zygote, it is immediately a human being. At least that's what I think she's been saying).

Now, Suzanne and I will never agree on the abortion issue. I don't like abortion but I am pro-choice. She's pro-life. I view the issue as a moral and ethical stance on the way things are and not something dependent on scientific terminology and definitions.

What I respect about Suzanne is her demeanour.

On messageboards, a typical "debate" goes like this -
first poster: "I hate Jews. They smell bad and run the world."
Response: "you're a fucking pinhead. Why don't you go fuck Arafat?"
Response to response: "You're a Jewish faggot."
Etc., etc.

You can't debate with people who think they've won every time they call someone else a homosexual. Nor can you have a dialogue with people who do nothing but tell lies or who cut-and-paste from Web sites like stormfront, halturner and other neo-nazi outlets or who repeat the rantings of crazy Middle East mullahs as though they were the gospel truth.

But, blogging is different. Time is not of the essence. People can take a moment and think out a rational response meant to add something to a conversation rather than just throwing around mindless insults. I have not insulted Suzanne (I hope) and she certainly has not insulted me.

We may not agree but we can at least be respectful. And, that's a pretty good first step.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Feared? Happy is more like it

There are reasons why, among Canadian daily newspapers, that I read the National Post almost exclusively. It has a stable of terrific columnists, it calls a spade a spade - or more particularly, a terrorist a terrorist (not militant or freedom fighter or rebel or any of that other bullshit), it has a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour (if such a thing is possible for a newspaper) and its editorial slant is slightly to the right of centre which in Canada is virtually unheard of.
So, I start every day by plugging in the kettle for my coffee and opening my front door to pick up my Post. Except Sundays when, unfortunately, they don't print and I always feel like I've missed something.

Sadly, the person who delivers my paper doesn't quite understand the importance of the Post in my daily routine and occasionally decides instead to burden me with either the Vancouver Sun or the Vancouver Province. All three are owned by the same company but three more different papers would be hard to find. The Post is a broadsheet, heavy on the political analysis and world news. The Sun is a left-wing rag heavy on local news that I don't care all that much about and the Province is a tabloid piece of crap best used at the bottom of our guinea pig cage (actually, I would never soil her cage with it).

This morning, I got up. It was dark. I was tired. There was five centimetres of snow on the ground which meant battling the atrocious Vancouver drivers in weather which makes them even more atrocious. And, sitting on my front step: a copy of the Province.

I cursed. I looked again. I cursed some more. No Post.

So, I opened the Province. I got to page A20 (which took about 48 seconds based on fully reading each page). And, there, I saw this headline: "Canadians feared killed" over a story about US bombing raids in Somalia.

Of course, I immediately thought, "uh-oh, the Americans dropped a bomb on some Canadian aid workers or NGO employees" or something to that effect.

Nope. Apparently, the Canadians "feared killed" would be, in fact, terrorist shitheads blasted out of their pyjamas at some al-Qaida training camp. And, beyond that, there was absolutely ZERO evidence offered whatsoever in the story that any Canadians at all - terrorists or not - have been killed. The headline was based solely on a comment by Ethiopian PM Meles Zanawi the day before that "Canadians have been among suspected terrorists killed or taken prisoner."

Well, la-de-dah. I don't know who's running the headline generator over at the Province these days but they're not doing their job. Even if Canadians had been killed, if they were in the service of al-Qaida or another islamist terrorist group at the time, "feared" is hardly the word to use. "Terrorist fucks with Canadian passports sent to hell" would be a much better header.

Maybe I'll read it in the Post tomorrow, if I'm lucky.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

I Say I Wanna Revolution

There has been quite a lot of ink spilled over the previous few days about a report out of England that Israel has prepared, and its airforce is practising, a plan that would destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities using a combination of bunker-buster bombs and low-yield nuclear weapons.

The Israelis deny such a plan exists. Many pundits have poo-poohed the idea, saying even if the Israelis had such a plan, they would never make it public - they cite the very hush-hush raid on Iraq's Osirik nuclear facility in the early 80s as "proof".

I'm of a completely different mind on this.

I think the Israelis do have such a plan - in fact, I'd bet more than one plan - in place to deal with the growing Iranian nuclear threat and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they deliberately leaked the news of its existence.

Here is my reasoning:

The Israelis have been standing by patiently while the world practises "diplomacy" with the crazy mofos who run Iran. They have stood by while the craziest of the crazy mofos...Mahmoud Almonddingdong has pronounced the Jewish state should be wiped from the planet, that its demise was imminent, that the Holocaust never occurred, etc. etc. The Israelis have tried to put faith in the EU, the US, the UN and nations like China and Russia to deal with Iran, knowing full well that all the diplomacy in the world won't prevent a nut like Mahmoud.

Now, Mahmoud himself just took a pounding in recent Iranian elections. Iranian students, for the first time in decades, are beginning to become very political again, going as far as to mock their "leader" during a recent speech he made.

The Israelis now estimate that even with the so-called sanctions proclaimed against Iran, that the Iranians are about two years away from being able to build a functioning nuclear weapon and anyone with half a brain knows this is their goal and that as soon as that weapon is completed, it will be aimed at a large Israeli city, probably Tel Aviv.

They also know that you can't trust countries like Russia and China. For chrissakes, Russian leader Putin is busy poisoning people with plutonium in sushi bars thousands of miles away from the Kremlin. Does anyone really think he's going to let a few sanctions get in the way of helping Iran - who Russia shares a border with - if he thinks there's money and anti-American sentiment to be exploited? Hardly.

So what do the Israelis do? Well, they can't trust the EU and they can no longer count on the beleaguered Bush White House. So, instead, they say to the world, "okay, here's the timetable we figure for Iran's nuclear program. Here's what we can do to stop it. If you don't want us to do that, you better figure it the fuck out in the next 24 months. In fact, make it 18, we're not taking any chances."

The best answer to this problem is for the Iranians to stage themselves another revolution, and soon. Now, the Shah was an utter asshole who murdered his political rivals and cracked down on freedoms like any good ME despot would. But, during his reign, Iran was a westernized, fairly progressive society, at least in terms of not being a backasswards arab shithole (I know, Iranians aren't really arabs, they're Persians, but let's not quibble). Surely, there must be people still in Iran who remember what it's like to live without a religious thugocracy running the show and who would like to return to some semblance of those days. And, surely, those people must be teaching their now-university aged children about the "good old days".

The thinking from the political pundits is that Israel won't use nukes because that would make them a pariah on the world stage. Oh, yeah, that's right...the Israelis are gonna worry so much about their image that they're willing to let themselves be wiped out by a madman.

If Israel was that concerned about its image, it would already have ceased to exist. Image is nice but it doesn't really hold a candle to breathing.

Monday, January 8, 2007

The Wrath on Khan

Toronto-area MP Wajid Khan sure has been taking the heat for leaving the Liberal party and crossing the floor to join the Conservatives.

The anger is misdirected. If anyone should be blamed, it should be new Liberal leader Stephane Dion, who forced a highly respectable, principled man out of his caucus due to pigheaded stupidity.

Khan, a former member of the Pakistan Air Force who, according to at least one newspaper report, was at one time a Prisoner of War, was handed an ill-advised ultimatum from Dion for trying to help Canada, his home for 30+ years, and its soldiers.

After the Conservatives won a minority government in the last election and Khan won his seat, he approached new Prime Minister Stephen Harper and offered his expertise of the political, social, religious etc. situation in the region (Khan, for those interested, is Muslim). That region, of course, includes Afghanistan where several thousand Canadian troops are trying to keep their heads attached to their shoulders while confronting the continuing hard-line islamist resistance being offered up by the Taliban remnants.

The Taliban likes to blow up schools, particularly girl's schools, because they know an educated Afghani public is the end of the Taliban. It also likes to behead and otherwise murder innocent Afghans who even dare to accept food from or talk to Canadians and other foreigners trying to help rebuild a nation suffering from decades of war, oppression, ignorance and starvation.

So, anyway, Harper, being an intelligent man, promptly realizes that Khan can offer very valuable assistance and takes him up on the offer - I think about 10 months ago. Khan maintains he never betrayed any Liberal caucus discussions. I don't see why anyone would have cause to doubt that.

Khan, after moving to Canada, built a thriving auto dealership. He used to have these hilarious ads on the Fan590. He lived the North American dream lived by millions of immigrants before him; to build a successful life in a new country using and respecting all the freedoms offered to him.

He then decided to give something back by entering politics and by actually offering to serve his country, not just the party whose name was under his on the ballot.

I, for one, congratulate Khan wholeheartedly. The Liberals should be ashamed of themselves for forcing him from their party.

It's said that Dion is going to be a bear on the environment. He may poison the air of his caucus pretty quickly if he keeps up with those kinds of actions.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

But can you build a brain for Rush?

I'm not entirely sure what to make of the new political reality in the US, which is essentially that the Congress and Senate will be at absolute odds with the White House on most issues until, at least, Bush's departure from office.

I went looking for Nancy Pelosi's record this morning, thinking that might give me some insight. As I expected, she's a fairly liberal Democrat: the Christian coalition hates her, unions love her. She's anti-war, pro-choice and probably thinks you can solve most of the world's problems with a group hug and a rousing chorus of kumbayah.

There's already talk the Democrats will begin denying White House funding requests for the war in Iraq. Of course, we already know they're pressuring Bush for a concrete timetable for pulling out the troops.

I think that's a ridiculous idea. It may be time to give the Iraqis some ultimatums and timetables for progress and if they don't meet them, then you look at pulling out. After all, if they can't get their own shit together, there's no reason the US should play nursemaid for an untold number of years. But, as long as the Iraqis are trying to stabilize their political, social and economic situation, then coalition forces should probably stay and help them.

I am happy that the Democrats will reverse some really moronic Bush decisions, such as his veto on stem cell research. Issues such as that, abortion rights, etc., are where I have a real problem with the current Republicans. As fuzzy as the Democrats are on defence and foreign affairs, the Republicans have been acting like evangelical pinheads on social issues.

I would challenge anyone who opposes stem cell and other genetic research to sit down with one of two of my friends.

One was stricken with Parkinson's disease in his early 30s. While Parkinsons, in itself, is not fatal, he has to take ever strengthening and increasing numbers of pills to control his shaking (trust me, Michael J. Fox was not faking his tremors as that asshole Rush Limbaugh claims). Now in his mid-40s, he has been unable to participate in many of the activities that he once enjoyed and has to take it pretty easy a lot of the time.

And, he's much luckier than my other friend who's not even 40 but who has late stage cancer which has now spread throughout much of his body. While my friend with Parkinson's can still look forward to watching his children grow up, my friend with cancer, barring a miracle, will not get to see his two young children reach adulthood.

Scientists, having unravelled much of the mysteries of human genetic structuring and having hugely advanced the knowledge and research into the cause of diseases and ways of combatting them, stand on the threshhold of bringing about great changes for people struck with any number of horrific diseases including Parkinsons and various cancers. Yet, in the US, where the financial ability, scientific equipment and societal will are all available to proceed with this incredibly valuable research, a small segment of ultra-right religious cro-magnon morons are holding it up because they've got the Republicans by the short and curlies.

Thankfully, the Democrats don't owe these religious loonies anything and they can now proceed to tell Bush to shove his veto (the only veto he's ever exercised to my knowledge) and get the scientists back to work.

As an example of the kind of idiotic thinking that went into banning stem cell research, I refer to a "discussion" I had on a messageboard with someone who said that using embryos or other bits of human material for research was "murdering" a "human being". Absolute bullshit. That's like saying a sparkplug is a car. Humans are - barring disabilities that stem cell research might help overcome - walking, talking, reasoning structures comprised of billions of cells and numerous organs all of which function together. A bit of tissue in a petri dish is not a human being.

I think we need to use science to our best advantage. That includes stem cell research, research with embryos and, if possible, even the cloning of body parts. Thousands of people die each year because of a lack of organ donors; we may be in a position where we can simply create and use those organs without the need for donors.

I have zero ethical or moral problems with that. And, my guess is that no one who's ever watched a child suffer with a debilitating and/or fatal disease, who's talked to a quadriplegic or who has spent time around people like the two friends I discussed above, does either. If they do, then they're no more human than those cells in a petri dish.

As for the religious argument: if God didn't want us to use our brains to advance the state of human existence, then God should have given us smaller brains and we could all go back to swinging from trees with our simian cousins (looking at Rush Limbaugh, one imagines he's about two steps from that anyway).

I can only assume, that having given us such a capacity, God intended us to use it to our fullest advantage. Here's hoping the Democrats do.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

I'd vote for Willie Randolph in a heartbeat

My friend Bacon Eating Atheist Jew, a long-time blogger whose site can be accessed by clicking the link just to your right, has been very helpful with tips to this neophyte. He's told me how to put on a counter, create links to other sites and even gave me a plug on his own page which has attracted more than 100,000 hits since he created it.

Yesterday, he left me a link to another site whose operator is trying to link Canadian bloggers which I thought was a really good idea. A lot of people tend to confuse Canadians with Americans. I personally don't have any great concerns about that (disclosure: I was born in the US) but it definitely does bother some Canadians.

Anyway, I sent a note to that site asking the operator to link mine and got a very nice response back this morning in which she noted that she had and had, lacking any other indication of my partisan leanings, listed me as a Zionist based on the little logo carried on my page. That's okay by me, I am a Zionist, but it's probably not the first thing that would pop into my head if someone asked me about my political and social leanings.

Got me thinking about what I would say.

Politically, I'm a guy who's voted for the Conservatives. But, I've also voted for the Marijuana Party.

I support what our soldiers are doing in Afghanistan 100 per cent but I'm glad Canada stayed out of Iraq.

I think people should stand up for themselves whenever possible but I'm not whining about paying my taxes to support those who can't or just won't.

I have no problems with gay marriage.

I think all drugs should be legalized (with the resulting profits used for drug rehabilitation and awareness programs).

Women and minorities are as good as, if not better than, your average white guy but most affirmative action-oriented programs are a crock.

Canada needs more immigrants, not fewer. But, once immigrants come here, they should be required to learn Canadian customs and at least one of our two official languages before becoming citizens. If they're not yet citizens and they're caught committing criminal offences, they should be shipped back out again pretty much immediately and not after 73 years of hearings and appeals.

I absolutely oppose the death penalty but think prison sentences for the really nasty stuff - murder, rape, child sexual abuse - should be much stiffer and made to stick. At the same time, a lot of the petty crime stuff should be removed from the criminal system with a view to more rehabiliation programs that could put something positive into the community.

I support western nations and the democratic system. It ain't perfect but it's the best we've got.

I believe it's imperative for us to work more closely with countries like Mexico and India - emerging economies with democratic governments - and much less with China and other nations with regressive governments and policies. We need to do the same in South America to counteract the again-rising socialist policies of people like Chavez and Morales which will lead their economies to utter ruin.

I think Bush has surrounded himself with fools, Putin is, for lack of a better word, evil and Chirac is the slimiest little grease spot in world politics today.

I like a lot of what Stephen Harper's government is doing but am not enamoured with their social policies. At least they seem to have some moral fibre (I laughed my head off today at one Liberal columnist's simpering that Harper hasn't had any scandals...yet.)

I think Hillary Clinton would be a disaster for the US but that Dems are dumb enough to nominate her. I'm hoping the Republicans will counter with a John McCain or Rudi Giuliani - guys who are more socially liberal than Bush and less prone to committing major gaffes such as listening to the advice of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

Religion should only be taught at home or at church but the study of religion - in the context of things like history and philosophy - is okay as an optional course in high schools. I respect all religions but have absolutely zero tolerance for anyone who wants to cram their beliefs down my throat. (Helpful hint: the next time a Jehovah's Witness comes to your door, tell them you're Jewish and they'll leave you alone.)

I'm not really partisan in any sense except for the preservation of the Western way of life.

Well, that and the New York Mets. I'm unapologetically partisan when it comes to baseball.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Ban's the Man

One week into his term as UN sec-gen and Ban Ki-Moon has yet to let loose with a verbal barrage against Israel.

Congratulations, Ban! Unlike the thankfully-departed Kofi, you may actually have opened an atlas at some point in your life and realized there are countries all over the globe that need your attention.

Meanwhile, the UN wants 1.9 BILLION US DOLLARS to remake its New York headquarters. Of course, UN members, by and large won't pay that. Nope...the US, Canada, Japan and Western Europe will foot 80 per cent of the bill and you can mark my words: any monies supposed to come from other countries will never show up at all, just like most of their UN dues never arrive.

1.9 could save a lot of lives with that money. But, I suppose it's embarrassing for the UN poobahs to be housed in an aging building with fixtures that are not the equivalent of the Palace at Versailles.

I have a better idea: let's send the UN to the Palace of Versailles. France is a much more compatible country to the fuzzy, appeasement do-nothing-but-bash-Bush approach of the recent UN.

On another topic: why is it that the world hails Ethiopia for invading a neighbouring country to rid it of crazed Islamist mofos but constantly called on Israel to halt any similar efforts against hezbollah?

Additionally, why is that the Zapatero, the President of Spain declared the peace process with the Basque separatists dead on the basis of one bomb while the same goofball spent half his summer whining that Israel should be sucking up to the arabs for peace while rockets were landing all over and hundreds of thousands of Israelis had to huddle in shelters?

Ban might not be one, but there is still no shortage of hypocrites out there.

Blown away


The winds were so strong in Vancouver today that they ripped a hole in the dome at BC Place stadium causing its inflatable roof to collapse.

This may not seem like a big deal to many people but BC Place has been a part of my life for a long time. I saw the first concert ever staged there - David Bowie, backed up by Peter Gabriel and the Tubes. I've seen Simon and Garfunkel there, a number of football games including last year's Grey Cup, and for more than half my life it's been a dominant feature of the city skyline.

People forget that when the stadium was built, it was a feat of modern engineering...a domed stadium with a roof held up by nothing more than air, really. It became the centerpiece of the Expo 86 site and helped bring Vancouver to the world's attention.

Even though it's time has passed and it's long been supplanted by other, much more modern stadia such as the SkyDome in Toronto and Seattle's Safeco Field, it will always hold a place in my heart.

Hope they can fix it. They're probably looking at a lot of needles and thread.

The weather in the Lower Mainland has been almost as whacky as Vancouver politics this year. Record setting snow, record setting rain, record setting winds...half the trees in Stanley Park down, flooding all over, power outages for up to a week in some areas.

It sucks. The generally temperate climate is one of the reasons that Vancouver is a so much nicer place to live than other large Canadian cities. Torontonians must be laughing their asses off at us, the bastards.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

I can't even stand America's Funniest Home Videos

A lot has been made over the video of Saddam's last dance.

I haven't seen it and never intend to.

The print media has had a field day with this one. On the one hand, they are gleefully carrying all kinds of pictures of it. On the other, they're carrying numerous columns/editorials either denouncing the video itself or wailing about the nature of humans that causes people to want to view it.

One column, in Thursday's National Post, was titled WE LOVE TO WATCH - just like that, all caps. In it, Warren Kinsella wrote that "some, perhaps most" people would be lying if, when asked, they denied watching such video. He cited the fact that it had dominated the charts on Technocrati for several days since it made its way onto the Internet.

I wonder if perhaps Kinsella, who also admits watching the video, isn't just making excuses for what seems to be a personal dilemma.

There are no reliable numbers on how many people are or aren't watching the video. I find the presumption that most of us are gawking and walking, what he calls, "narrow moral ground" to be inane. Some, such as myself, aren't watching it. Some who are have no moral qualms so there is no "narrow" involved.

Personally, I don't need to watch an execution. I don't find the idea intriguing, amusing or gratifying.

I also think that, in civilized societies, the whole idea went out of style about 150 years ago.

War, What Is it Good For? Population Control...

So, according to the news headlines on Yahoo!, the yahoos known as Palestinians are back at it again.

Four dead yesterday, two more today, three hamassholes targeted who managed to (unfortunately) escape.

For anyone who stumbles across this blog by accident, let's make no mistake about it: I consider the "Palestinians" to be just about the biggest bunch of assbackwards losers on the face of this planet. This is a group of people who've build an entire "culture" and "society" on the idea of killing six million of their neighbours and, dammit!, they're just going to sit in the desert and not do another damn thing - except kill each other -until they accomplish that goal.

Of course, I must also confess that I'm Jewish and a proud, vocal and financial supporter of Israel's right to exist free of arab terror in all its forms.

Over the years, the Palestinians have been pawns of the other arab nations and of the UN but with the death of the Grandmama of all Terrorists, Arafat, they actually had a chance to do something constructive for themselves. So, of course, being the assbackwards bunch of losers that they are, they promptly elected a party of terrorists to lead them to more misery, death, doom and destruction.

What a farce.

I'm pleased that Israel has never acted against the arab world the way the arab world has acted against Israel (if they did, there wouldn't be a Pali left anywhere in the world). I think the best solution is for Israel to continue building the wall and to make it as high and as strong as necessary to keep the murderous barbarians on the other side of the gate.

As for the Palis themselves? I used to believe that most of them probably wanted to live in peace and raise their children to be productive members of planet Earth. Of course, that's when I was young and naive and stupidly attributed Western sentiment to the arab mind.

No longer. Now, I don't give a shit. They can slaughter each other in the streets, elect corrupt terrorist idiots to run their economy into the ground or turn around and actually give some thought to what they have wrought. Or, they can just rot in the desert until Judgment Day.

I could hardly care less.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Hegemony in the bookstore

There aren't too many places more enjoyable if you want to be alone for a couple of hours than a bookstore the week after Christmas.

I live in a suburban area of Greater Vancouver where every box store you can think of from Wal-Mart to Home Depot to Toys 'R Us, etc. is within 10 minutes walking distance (or half an hour's drive given the crappy traffic).

So, tonight after running a few chores, I ended up at our local box store bookstore.

One thing I love to do at bookstores is to take books by authors I do respect and place them in front of ones written by those I detest (namely, my big two of Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore). Chumpsky whines that America needs hegemony to survive. Well, I think he'd write anything anyone wanted him to to make a buck no matter how much of a pile of crap it is and that he's an extreme hypocrite whose only real concern is the bottom line in his bank account. His portion of the shelves keeps expanding and I'm just beating it back a bit.

Tonight, I went looking for some Bernard Lewis to put in front of Chumpsky. There were about half-a-dozen different Chumpsky titles in stock and about 20 total volumes of his amazing bullshit but not a single Lewis book on the shelves. This has been an ongoing issue in Canada: a lot of our bookstores seem to stock an incredible number of liberal books in their non-fiction sections and almost none by conservatives. It came to a head recently when it became almost impossible to find a copy of Mark Steyn's new book "America Alone" despite huge demand. I didn't see that one tonight, either (but I already bought one online for my dad and it came autographed with a personal message for the same price, so do what I did and order from his Web site).

I did a very unscientific count - what I saw by authors I recognized and knew something of - and would say the ratio was about 70 per cent liberal to 30 conservative.

I'm not sure this is totally the fault of bookstores. After working in newspaper industry for 20 years and coming to know a lot of people by their writing, the percentage of liberal to conservative current events writers is probably even higher than 70-30. So, it makes sense that those same people would be writing books on the same issues.

I did enjoy myself, though, and got lucky. Found a collection of Gogol's short stories when they'd never carried him before and a collection of Kafka stories, again something they rarely seem to have.

They also had a three-foot long collector's edition of all Chekov's works for $180.

Of course, that's nothing compared to what I'd have to pay for the autographed version.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

It's not the economy, stupid!

So, I'm at the gym tonight trying to work off some of my new Molson Muscle that has been added over the holidays.

As I'm about to get on the stationary bikes, I decide to grab a magazine and as I'm choosing between a Sports Illustrated with a story about Brett Favre and another with a story about Alex Rodriguez, I happen to notice an issue of the Economist lying there. I'm not sure where the gym got an issue of the Economist from; I can only assume it was either a freebie or it fell out of some chartered accountant's pocket. Anyway, this particular issue (from June) had a front page teaser about Islam in Europe.

Essentially, the article was looking at the way Muslims have adapted (or not adapted) in Europe and the US. It was pretty interesting. According to the writer and some of those interviewed, Europe has such a problem with Islam because it has no idea had to help Muslims adapt to a western secular society. On the flip side, Muslims in the US seem to adapt quite well because the US is all about pulling yourself up by your socks and forging a life for yourself while Europe is all about coddling people from the moment they slip from between their mama's thighs to the moment they slip from this mortal coil.

But, one thing shocked me: the Economist actually had the nerve to cite economics as a reason for the rise of terrorism. This is complete and utter bullshit and has been proven so in numerous studies of terrorists, their aims and their backgrounds.

Most of the 9/11 terrorists, as I remember, came from middle to upper-middle to rich backgrounds. bin Laden, himself, is a member of one of the wealthiest families in the ME (which is saying something, indeed). The jihadists who flood from one ME nation to another (as is going on in Iraq) or who choose to bring their bloodthirsty ways to other nations, are not the poor. As a rule, they are middle class and higher.

The reasons for this is quite logical. The poor and destitute, if they join resistance, militant or terrorist movements, usually do so in their own nations to fight the destitution and corruption there.

The jihadist movement has risen, and has been shown to have risen, from societal factors that have nothing to do with poverty - they are bored, they can't have sex or party or spend significant time on the internet or ever listen to music. They have been told since birth that a martyr goes to Paradise where all the stuff they're denied on Earth will be waiting for them.

If the West ever wants to end jihad, it should flood the ME and Pakistan with computers and provide wide open Internet access and cheap booze. Then, we should burn about a billion tonnes of really high-grade BC bud (always plugging for my home economy) and float it over the ME and then we should deny them Cheesies until they knock it the fuck off.

Simple. If only George Bush had asked me.

Now, as for the Economist: it's difficult to believe that such a highly-regarded publication would perpetuate such a ridiculous myth. Maybe they just felt they needed the word "economy" in their somewhere to justify the article.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Neither a believer nor a disser be

Over the past couple of weeks, there's been quite the exchange of letters in the National Post from atheists and believers.

I don't know if the agnostic set has weighed in yet but it's always been interesting to me that most people either wholeheartedly accept or reject the notion of God or some superior intellect/form/being.

To this day, my father still tells the story of when I was in Grade One and we were asked to cut out a turkey and then write something about Thanksgiving on it. I wrote, "Thanksgiving is the day you give thanks to God, if you believe in him." My outlook hasn't much changed in all the years since.

I'd like to say I have faith that there is a God but I don't. I know some religious people who are truly at peace with themselves and practise their faith with all the grace and goodness that God, if there is one, would surely have wanted. I think they are able to take great comfort in their faith because for them life isn't some fruitless, hedonistic pursuit that ends in an equally meaningless death.

If not faith, then it would probably be nice to reject God altogether. After all, if you have nothing to fear from an afterlife because there is no afterlife, then you might as well just go for the best ride you can find during this life.

Atheists primarily point to science and reason as their basis for rejecting God, saying that the God story is built on myths and the better humans get at scientific research and discovery, the more of those myths we dispel. They are partially right but science can't explain everything. For instance: the Big Bang Theory explains how the Universe became what it is but it can't explain where the stuff that was in the Big Bang came from (at least not to any degree that I understand).

Two things I really do despise are zealots of all religions along with those who try to pass religion off as science. I don't know that I've ever heard a "theory" as stupid as intelligent design which is just a bogus way of trying to introduce creationism into the classroom.

I've got news for the ID putzes: if there is intelligent design than Earth was one of the early failures because even its most advanced species (us) is an inefficient machine requiring one-third down time (sleep) and massive amounts of fuel (food and drink). On top of that, we can't survive outside of a very tiny band of temperatures and chemical compositions and are prone to any number of breakdowns. We're the fucking Ladas of the ID chain and in any real universe would have long been sent to the junkyard in favour of a Cadillac, a used Honda or even a Segway.

Anyway, my theory is that if there is a God, then God would probably want us to live as decent people who try not to screw anyone else around too much. I don't think there's a lot of mystery about that: almost all of us are imbued with a sense of right and wrong and the bottom line is if you're doing something that is negatively impacting others for no reason than your own personal gain, you're doing wrong.

If there is no God, we should nevertheless keep to the same standard of leading our lives. It can't hurt.