Monday, February 26, 2007

Diesel David and Rockin' With Al

As I've intimated before, I'm not a big fan of enviro-God David Suzuki.

I've a rather jaded view of the man, and I'll admit that up front. It's always struck me that Suzuki is much more a shill than a scientist.

Recent news bears me out.

Suzuki is criss-crossing Canada these days. Once very famous and then more an afterthought, the recent hew-and-cry over the environment has re-established his presence in the public eye.

Sadly, however, Suzuki is making his journey in a diesel-fume spewing 30-or-so passenger bus. Even more sadly, while there are 30 spaces, there are only eight people on the bus, according to reports which have been basically admitted to by his staff.

When asked about the anomaly between Suzuki's stance that major changes are needed to avert environmental disaster and his mode of travelling, a spokesperson agreed the bus was too big. They even fessed up that it was for comfort and/or economic reasons that they didn't use a hybrid or bio gas (hybrids too small; bio gas, not covered by warranty).

Too offset this, Suzuki's team was buying "carbon credits". Carbon credits are the environmentalists way of saying, "yeah, I throw around just as much shit in the air as you do but if I can buy my way out of it." It's kind of similar to the way the mafia approaches the legal system.

Al Gore is doing the same thing with his upcoming Live Earth concerts that will feature huge rock acts in seven cities. This necessitates the necessary consumption of power, energy, water, foodstuffs, etc. that is naturally incurred by such spectacles.

There is a pathetic hypocrisy in all of this. Both Gore and Suzuki are cashing in on their fame in many ways by selling their "science" to the masses. Both routinely criticize exactly the same sort of things they are doing. But, from them, we're supposed to take it because they'll send some money to an underdeveloped country for some dubious environmental project where the cash will probably be sent into a black hole of bribery and waste.

At a personal level, helping the environment really doesn't require a Suzuki or Gore. It requires the good sense to recycle, compost, walk or use another mode of non-polluting transportation when possible (don't drive your freakin' car 2 blocks to the 7/11 to get a slushie when it's sunny and 75 outside), a few other minor lifestyle changes, some easy shopping choices and a reasonable commitment to kind of be aware what's going on around you and how you affect it.

If it needs to be taken to a larger degree in response to a particular problem in a given community, then public pressure on local, provincial/state and federal governments often proves very successful.

I'm not ignorant on this: I covered environmental matters for newspapers for about a decade, I once worked for Greenpeace, and for several years, I owned part of a store that sold environmental products.

Rock bands and diesel buses are just gimmicks and Suzuki and Gore, for the most part, carnival hucksters.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Well, He Doesn't Hate All of Us

The other day, I happened across a blog by a character named Robert after responding to a comment he made on yet another blog.

Robert, I won't bother printing his last name because I don't want to encourage any traffic, is adamant that he's not a Jew-hater but runs an extreme left-wing moonbat blog. Among other juicy tidbits are his picture of a weasel which he calls Elie Wiesel. He described Wiesel as a "pathological liar" and a "racist creep" in and amongst his various other diatribes. (Sorry, I could only get through bits and pieces, too much bullshit gives me a headache).

Robert also claims his last girlfriend was Jewish, blah, blah, blah. No doubt he has lots of Jewish friends, too...they always do. For all I know, his last girlfriend could have been in grade eight or is the by-product of an imaginative evening spent with a Brook Burke video

Anyway, it got me thinking about what really constitutes hatred of Jews. I'll admit it's an easy label to apply to someone like Robert. It's also sometimes just fun to call someone like him a hater because it drives them so crazy. In Robert's world, if you don't hate all Jews, then you're not a Jew-hater and I've no doubt he loves Noam Chomsky, Norm Finkelstein, Naturei Karta and the rest of the .1 per cent of the Jewish world that rejects everything modern Judaism stands for.

Robert says he only hates "certain types of Jews" and would like to kill some of them. That seems to include any Jew who supports Israel and any Jew who's both proud of being Jewish and adamant his/her history not be taken away by revisionists and propaganda. Since that's almost every Jew there is, I think we can safely say that Robert, with or without a Jewish ex-girlfriend, is pretty much a hater.

Everything else aside, Robert stands as a good example of the far-left. It isn't always that they hate Jews but that they facilitate the hatred of Jews. They have dressed it up as "anti-Zionism" or "America-first" and have given it a place to flourish in North America.

It goes with a host of other tendencies with Israel/Jews usually thrown in somewhere. They come up with conspiracy theories that would make Oliver Stone blush, rehash long past and isolated historical events, ignore current day reality other than to use as a hammer against democracy and generally foster an atmosphere of appeasement and self-loathing.

Sadly, they do so at their own peril. There are only 13 million Jews on this planet. They're not committing terrorist attacks, calling for the death of Americans or controlling oil supplies. Israel has been a constant and reliable ally to the US, sometimes even at a cost to its own self-interests.

Beyond the rhetoric, what people like Robert stand for is feeding an ally to the alligator in the hopes that will satisfy it. Jews, it seems, would be a nice hors d'oeuvre.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I'm Surprised There's Any Surprise

According to the morning paper, it was a "mild surprise" to international experts that Iran had not only defied the UN but was now installing centrifuge networks in its underground Natanz enrichment plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported two are completed and another two are close to completion.

This represents an effort by Iran to reach "industrial-scale" production.

I'm not sure where the surprise comes from. Iran's made it quite clear they are going to try to produce weapons-grade materials by rejecting every offer to supply them with the means to run nuclear power plants for power but not weaponry. There is only one reason they have chosen the path they have.

If that's not enough, of course, the crazies running Iran have also made it clear they wish to possess a nuclear weapon. If someone's holding a gun to your head, it's best to treat them seriously even if you think it might not be loaded.

That's something we still haven't learned about Iran or the ME in general. We treat the attempts to possess WMDs and the genocidal statements issuing from their leaders as little more than bluster. And, true, in many cases it is bluster.

Just as in many cases, the statements of Al-Qaida leaders are bluster but every once in a while, they fly airplanes into your office towers.

Bush, bless him for this one, has already stationed two aircraft carrier groups off Iran. No doubt the Israelis are turning over one contingency plan after another at this moment.

There is still time for the UN to act but I've written before, and still believe, this could be that organization's last opportunity to establish itself as anything other than a laughingstock. The tepid sanctions installed two months ago need to be severely ramped up as should support for whatever efforts are going on inside Iran to dispose of the freak show in power.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Circumcision - One Healthy Cut

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we took a Lamaze class. It so happened that we ended up in a class with three other couples, two of whom we already knew. During a session, we talked about what to expect after the baby was born; a discussion that touched on circumcision.

All of a sudden, one of the couples that we knew began to have a nasty fight over whether their baby, if a boy, would be circumcised. The husband was adamant he would be, the wife equally as adamant he wouldn't. It got so bad, the rest of us suggested they just better have a girl to avoid a further argument. They did end up having a girl...and a few years later, a divorce. I guess circumcision was just one of a number of things they couldn't agree on.

For us, when we had a boy, the question of circumcision was a no-brainer. I may not be a religious Jew but I'm enough of one to follow that tradition, rabbi and all. It never occurred to me not to have my sons circumcised and my wife was all for it, too. When the procedure was done, to be quite honest, she shed more tears watching than either of our boys did experiencing it.

Male circumcision has received a lot of negative press over the past few years. A number of groups have claimed that it traumatizes boys for life and that it is equivalent to mutilation and female circumcision. Ridiculous arguments; at best it can be claimed that male circumcision is unnecessary.

As it turns out, even that argument may have been quashed with the news today that uncircumcised men are 50-60 per cent more likely to contract the HIV virus than circumcised men are. That announcement is being hailed as a breakthrough in the fight against AIDS, particularly in poorer nations where sexual activity is not met with the same precautions as it is in the developed world. The reason, it appears, is that the cells in the tissue that make up the foreskin are very vulnerable to the infection.

It has long been suggested that circumcised men were less likely to suffer from a number of infectious diseases and there has been established links between circumcision and a reduced chance of penile cancers. To me, tradition and religion aside, that makes circumcision more like an inoculation than mutilation.

Of course, convincing people, in places where superstition and religious dogma run rampant, that circumcision will be healthy for their children is another matter, altogether. Even efforts to wipe out diseases like smallpox and polio in those nations has been difficult thanks to hideous propaganda against Western efforts.

Hopefully, we can at least convince the naysayers in our society.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

JetBlue Makes Skies a Little Friendlier

JetBlue, having learned from a recent experience when it cancelled more than a thousand flights scheduled to leave from New York, stranding 10s of thousands of customers, has pissed off the rest of the airline industry by issuing a Customer Bill of Rights.

The new guarantees include vouchers for any delays over two hours and future round-trip vouchers if your flight is cancelled due to the airline itself. There is also a $1,000 guarantee if you're bumped because a flight is overbooked although JetBlue apparently has a policy not to overbook flights at all.

In this case, it's not the value of the compensation that is interesting but rather the admission that, all things being equal, airlines actually have an obligation to deliver customers to their destinations within a reasonable timeframe.

I'm not a business-type flyer who's hopping from one city to another on a daily or weekly basis but I do fly fairly frequently (three to four times a year) and usually on long-haul flights. Thus, I have experienced the full gamut of airline failings from overbooked flights to lost luggage to cancelled flights to long delays to the interminably stupid security measures that couldn't catch a snowflake in a blizzard much less a terrorist.

I've flown enough to shrug most of this off, find my way to the nearest airport outlet that sells booze and just relax until I can get off the ground.

But what is maddening is the completely callous disregard airlines have for their customers. It is the only industry I can think of that can have a written contract with a customer, be paid in advance for the rendering of services and then fail to do so with no consequences.

A recent flight I took with Delta is a perfect example. I arrived on a flight from New York in Salt Lake City where I had a connecting flight to Vancouver. Delta had overbooked the SLC to Van. flight and were offering people a night's accommodation and Delta vouchers to step off.

Fine. I had to work the next morning or I might have taken them up on the offer. They then announced that the weather in Vancouver was foggy and they might not be able to land there. If they couldn't, we were informed, the plane would land in Seattle (not Bellingham or Abbotsford which were both much closer to the destination and were suggested by passengers as possible landing sites). Once in Seattle, the plane would refuel and return to Salt Lake City. The passengers would be free to either return with the plane or disembark in Seattle where they would be, and I quote, "on their own"...

On their own. Think about that. My ticket said Vancouver. I paid for a flight to Vancouver. Seattle is a three-hour drive from Vancouver. Delta was not offering to provide flights to Vancouver when the weather cleared nor were they prepared to, for instance, rent a bus to transport their customers to their destination.

I get that weather can affect an airplane's ability to land and I sure as hell would rather land in Seattle than plough into the bogs surrounding Vancouver's airport. I understand that airlines are allowed to overbook though I think it's ridiculous. I can even appreciate that they wouldn't put passengers up in hotels for the night if we were forewarned and chose to go anyway.

But the sheer gall of telling a paying customer that they're "on their own" when they have a contract to deliver them to a certain place is nuts. On the way to Vancouver, where, ironically, we landed in very clear weather, several passengers were disgruntled enough to announce they wouldn't be flying Delta again. I wasn't one of them but only because I was too busy composing the letter I was going to send to Delta if they didn't get me to Vancouver.

Maybe I'll check out JetBlue next time. At least if they dump me in Seattle, they'll compensate me enough to rent a car.

Monday, February 19, 2007

It'll Be a Cold Day in Hell Before I Visit

Once the kids are grown and gone, my wife and I already have plans to ditch our middle-class, suburban lifestyle for one that features a lot more mobility. It's a big world; I'd like to see a lot more of it when I've got the time.

I can say right now, however, that without a doubt two places I will never, ever go are Fraser, Colorado and International Falls, Minnesota.

It's not that I have anything against Colorado or Minnesota or that my future plans don't include travelling through the US. But, I'll be damned if I'm going to spend my time in two towns that are vying for the title of "Icebox of the Nation."

Seriously, how boring can two towns be if the only claim to fame they can envision is being really cold? I could see fighting over being the "Sunshine Spot of the Nation" or the "Nation's Beach" or even, maybe, the driest or rainiest places.

But coldest?

Cold sucks. I spent 15 years in a place where it routinely reached zero fahrenheit or lower in the winter and often socked us with snowstorms, ice pellets and howling winds. There is nothing redeeming about it whatsoever. There is no glory or valour in living in Arctic conditions. You freeze, your skin dries out, every breath outdoors is a chore, cars slide around - providing they start at all.

One of the great moments of my life was when I finally convinced my wife to move to BC (home for me but foreign for her) and we stepped off a plane on Nov. 27. It was 55 here and 20 and snowing in Ontario and she looked at me and said, "I'm never going back."

Even in the Dark Ages people had cold figured out. After all, Greenland was an early attempt at con job real estate marketing.

International Falls currently holds the moniker but only because they paid Fraser $2,000 for the right to the name in 1956. They were supposed to renew their right in 1996 but forgot (maybe the cold froze their brains). Now Fraser wants the name back.

If I were International Falls, I'd give it to them. Change your own town slogan to, "Not the Dumbest Town in America...Anymore".

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Abbas Antics

In 1986-87, I worked in a town in the southeast corner of BC. It was kind of a weird place. There was a left over hippy community in one corner, a bizarre sect of Doukhobors who practised polygamy in another, a bunch of real redneck yahoos, and a few fairly normal types.

Over the 18 months I worked there, I got to know the mayor fairly well. Whenever the particularly bizarre happened, she would just roll her eyes and say, "it's something in the water."

"It's something in the water" is a phrase that could be used every day to describe the arab world. If they had any water. Maybe it's something in the sand.

The latest example of bizarro world arab thinking comes from none other than Mahmoud Abbas, the so-called moderate of paleolithic, ummm, sorry, palestinian politics.

(As an aside, I always love the use of "moderate" to describe Abbas. He's the head of an organization that has long been wrapped in terrorism and he, personally, wrote a university thesis on denying the Holocaust. In the world of palis, a moderate is someone who denies the Holocaust occurred at all, while a radical is someone who wishes to repeat it).

According to AP, Abbas responded to reports that the US and Israel were not going to accept a palestinian government that did not renounce violence and recognize Israel and its right to exist, by telling US envoy David Welch that he had reached the best possible deal he could reach with Hamas, and that the world would have to live with it.

Using diplospeak, I hope Welch responded somewhat like this: "No, Mahmoud, I don't know what kind of drugged up state of mind you are in, but the world does not have to accept a terrorist government running the palestinians...a government which does not meet a single one of its requirements under the Road Map for Peace. The world is not beholden to the ridiculous hate, moronic violence and insane actions of hamassholes. Perhaps you, Mahmoud, are but the rest of the world can sit back and wait while you idiots starve in the streets."

Maybe Abbas is under the impression that the world is all Jimmy Carters and Jacques Chiracs but he's wrong. Much of the world is just fed up with the antics of the palestinians. Since they elected hamas last year, their status in the world's eyes has fallen faster than Lindsay Lohan's acting career.

The plain and simple truth is that palis are not ready for a state, incapable of thinking more than about six hours ahead and don't want any peace with Israel that means there still is an Israel. The world does not have to, and absolutely should not, accept anything less than the palis living up to their commitments. The rest of the world should tell Abbas that the tail doesn't wag the dog and that his bluster has all the impact of a fart in a windstorm.

Let the palis go back to the drawing board and start again. The rest of the world has other things to do.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Death Sentence for the Death Sentence?

Today's paper had lots of interesting news bits. Or, maybe it's just that because it's Saturday, I have time to do more than scan.

There was a two-page, centre spread about the US shift away from the death penalty that I thought was pretty interesting. New Jersey has a bi-partisan bill coming before its state legislature that would ban it in that state. If it passes and the Democratic governor signs it into law, New Jersey will be the first state to repeal its death sentence law. Mind you, the state, which re-instituted the death penalty as a sentence in 1982, hasn't carried one out in the quarter century since.

A dozen other states have put a moratorium on the death penalty after reports and studies began questioning the use of lethal injection; the method favoured by most because it's supposedly humane.

And, for the first time in many years, Americans slightly favoured life imprisonment over the death penalty in a Gallup poll. Meanwhile, executions themselves have fallen almost 50 per cent since their heyday in 1999.

I have always opposed the death penalty. I think it's expensive, hypocritical, misapplied, disproportionately applied and needless. I've nothing against killing the bad guys when they're beyond the arm of the law, but once in custody, I say lock 'em up under the least nice circumstances you can constitutionally get away with and leave them to rot.

The death penalty is also irreversible once carried out. In Illinois, it was suspended after a report showed more men on death row had been exonerated than actually executed. That means, in more than 50 per cent of the cases, someone who should not have been sentenced to death was. Some analysts say the possibility of an innocent person being executed has been largely minimized through judicial appeals, overviews, etc. I say that if the courts can be wrong more than 50 per cent of the time in their judgments on accused in capital cases, than the system is almost certainly irredeemably flawed.

For those who do favour the death penalty, here are the nations that most used it in 2005, according to their own reporting (so, take it for what it's worth). China had almost 20 times the reported executions of any other nation at just under 1,800. Iran (94), Saudi Arabia (86), and the US (60) were the next three, followed by Pakistan, Yemen, Vietnam, Jordan, Mongolia and Singapore. Is that really company you want to keep?

Meanwhile, in Canada, meetings between the RCMP and CSIS (our intelligence service) and minority community representatives is the stuff of high comedy, if a transcript obtained and excerpted today is any indication.

The meetings, labelled a "circus" by some in the know, were instituted three years ago. At this particular meeting there were about 50 invited guests, from various religious and ethnic backgrounds.

It started off with a Muslim complaining that 9/11 did not involve Muslims and 7 of the hijackers are still alive.

Then, the wife of one of 18 Muslim men accused of terrorist activities in Ontario complained a military exercise was held outside her children's Islamic school (military exercise in this case, no doubt, meaning a soldier in uniform walked by on his way to get cigarettes at the corner store).

Imam Ali Hnidy, no stranger to preaching to a terrorist or two, whined it had been brought to his attention that six Muslims couldn't get security clearances for sensitive government jobs.

The Canadian Arab Federation knocked the government for deporting its "Muslim brothers" for terrorism.

Then, the meeting, according to the report, digressed into a shouting match between rival factions of, you guessed it, Muslims.

Now, to be fair, one Muslim representative did urge fellow adherents to stop venting and another applaused the way police and CSIS have been acting.

But the police and CSIS are wasting their time here. If they want to reach Muslims, they should bypass the official mouthpieces, hateful clerics and sketchy organizations and go directly to the people.

If, as Muslim leaders in Canada claim, the terrorist element and their supporters are a small minority, then meeting with people who would be open to a constructive, intelligent dialogue instead of just showing up to go on insane rants shouldn't be too hard.

Finally, for today, anyway, the Canadian Liberal Party is now starting to remind me of the suicide squad from Monty Python's Life of Brian; the guys who rush up at the end of the movie after Brian is strapped to the cross, pull out their swords - leaving him to think he'll be rescued - and then fall on them before tapping their toes to the film's closing song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Since they elected Stephane Dion as party leader about six weeks ago, the Libs have a) joined the other opposition parties in passing a motion calling for the Kyoto Accord standards to be met despite the fact the Liberals themselves knew it was impossible without eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs and never did a thing to meet it while they were in power;
b) indicated their willingness to let a key piece of anti-terror legislation expire. It was their legislation in the first place and is still supported by many current Liberal MPs;
c) tried to turn Afghanistan into a Conservative albatross, despite the fact it was the Liberals who sent the soldiers there and made a commitment to have them in active battle and to serve until 2009. And, this is also despite the fact that there is measurable progress being made in Afghanistan.

I wonder how stupid the Liberals think people really are? They seem as though they're trying to absorb the NDP voting bloc because they know they've lost the centre and right. But, the NDP - as stupid and wishy-washy as they frequently are - are at least consistent in their silly ideology.

Canada will almost certainly have an election this year. In the last three elections, the Liberals went from a majority government, to a minority government, to opposition. If they keep this up, they might very well plummet directly to afterthought.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Axe Terrorists Like the NBA On Hardaway

Well, I opened up the Yahoo! front page this evening and what didn't I see? A story about the number of people blown up in Iraq by "insurgents".

Was that because:

A) It was an "insurgent" holiday and they were all frolicking by the seashore wearing nothing but their bomb belts?

B) They ran out of cars to pack with explosives?

or, C) The US and Iraqi governments finally figured out the best defense, in this case, is a strong offence?

The long-awaited move against the terrorist elements running amok in Iraq has begun in something approximating earnest. Moqtada al-Sadr, having already, according to reports, fled to Iran, has now apparently ordered his militia to flee, as well. The borders with Iran and Syria are closed so maybe the pricks are finally hemmed in.

The Iraqis also reported wounding the leader of al-Qaida's Iraqi division. Hopefully, Abu Ayyub al-Masri was seriously wounded and left a nice trail of blood. The US has a $5 million bounty on his head so there should be lots of takers if he can be found.

The US administration has also offered its proof that Iran has been active in Iraq, while admitting it's unknown exactly whom in the Iranian government has given orders or provided the means to stock terrorist groups in Iraq with weaponry.

I'm actually willing to believe that such activities have been orchestrated by the very highest levels of the Iranian government. But, then I also believed Iran and Saudi Arabia were far more dangerous and much better targets than Iraq in the first place.

In Iraq, this may be the last good chance to quell a civil war that would turn it into another proxy battleground for the 1,400 year old or so fight between sunnis and shiites. The US can settle this situation to the point where they can withdraw their troops, leaving behind at least a momentarily stable Iraq.

Momentarily is of course the key word because Iraq will probably never be stable in its current form. PJ O'Rourke once wrote that arab nations were "quarrels with borders". We've seen more than enough to know he was right.

In completely unrelated news, it was nice to see the NBA act quickly to sever its contacts with Tim Hardaway, after the retired star said that, "I hate gay people" and assorted other homophobic comments during a radio interview. When given an opportunity to retract the statement, he instead basically confirmed it.

The question came in relation to a recent disclosure by a former NBA player that he was homosexual.

There has still never been an openly gay player in any of the four major professional North American sports (baseball, hockey, football, basketball). A handful have revealed it afterwards. Doubtless, many more have not made that public.

Chances are actually pretty good that some time during his career, Hardaway did have a gay teammate and didn't feel at all uncomfortable because he didn't know.

I wonder how such a teammate would have responded if asked about sharing a locker room with a homophobic jerk?

Later, Hardaway issued the standard apology about how he didn't mean what he said and he was sorry if it offended anyone.

I guess dude should get an anonymous blog like the rest of us...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Cotler...The Liberal In Jew's Clothing

Former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler took Iran "to task" yesterday, according to the morning news.

Cotler, who is Jewish, told the Jerusalem Post that the world needed to be on guard for the "new anti-semitism". He cited Iran and its leader Madman Almonddingdong as the most prominent example of this tide.

Sadly, while Cotler was a high-ranking member of the Liberal government, his party did nothing to benefit Israel. The Liberals were masters at pretending to be friends to the Jewish state while acting in exactly the opposite manner - almost always joining the annual arab parade of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN, frequently joining in condemnations of Israel during conflicts with the palis while never calling the arabs to account and cozying up to arab groups by the handful to gain a few votes.

Equally, he talks big now but while the Liberals were in power, they did nothing to stop the Iranian tide. When the Iranians jailed and then beat to death a Canadian photographer before holding a mock trial and acquitting the accused, the Liberal response was a few pithy comments about justice and freedom. A full-out boycott on Iranian goods or recalling our ambassador along with a censuring motion and call for UN investigation would have been the appropriate response.

Cotler's wife has more balls than he does. She, at least, resigned her membership in the Liberal Party after one of its candidates in a recent leadership race said Israel had committed war crimes in Lebanon. Irwin, ever the Liberal, didn't have the stomach to actually take a principled stand as his wife did.

And, of course, Cotler, who is now a professor of law at McGill University, is wrong. The fear of a rising tide of anti-Semitism doesn't emanate from Iran. It emanates from Europe. Most European nations remain quietly, if not overtly, anti-Semitic, regardless of the platitudes mouthed by their leaders. Their rising Muslim populations add fuel to what has been centuries of persecution throughout Europe (for my money, I don't understand why any Jews want stay in countries like France and Russia).They allow other nations, such as Iran, to practise extreme anti-Semitism by refusing to act against it.

Iran could be shut down tomorrow if the collective will of North America, some Asian nations and Europe - particularly Russia - were set to do that.

It's too bad that Cotler, who as far as I know held the highest ranking cabinet position in Canada ever by a Jew, does not and has never really seemed to understand much beyond the ivy-wrapped towers of academia and the pristine halls of Parliament.

On the other hand, we currently have a government that has been a true friend to the Israelis, a stance that I hope persists for decades.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Stick With It In Afghanistan

A Canadian Senate committee whose members recently visited Afghanistan are suggesting Canada withdraw its troops from that country if other NATO countries don't step up the table and commit more of their soldiers to actual action.

France and Germany were particularly singled out for their refusal to release troops for service in more volatile parts of Afghanistan.

I can't really blame the Senate committe on national defence for coming to their conclusion. After all, it's the lives of Canadians in Afghanistan that are of prime concern to Canadian politicians and Canadians. And, it's absolutely true that Canadians have served in some of Afghanistan's most terrorist-ridden and violence-prone areas. Several dozen have died in the effort.

What is very sad is that Canada would suggest abandoning Afghanistan because countries like France and Germany are morally bankrupt when it comes to actually showing some backbone.

It's equally sad that one of the reasons Canadians would cease their commitment to Afghanistan after 2009 is because of very diverse opinions on being there in the first place. Too many Canadians seem to equate Afghanistan and Iraq. There is no comparison.

Afghanistan is one place where western intervention actually serves a purpose. Over the past 30 years, it's been ruled by warlords, Russian invaders and islamist fundamentalist crazy fucks. There are few people in Afghanistan today who've known anything but war, poverty and strife in their lifetimes. Now, it's a country making slow progress but in one key area it's made huge strides: educating people. Once you educate people and give them the ability to acquire knowledge and think for themselves, you will not stop progress.

In fact, if people would slow down for a second, they might realize there's some progress being made in a lot of areas. Al-Sadr just fled Iraq for Iran, which not only rids Iraq of the lead figure in blowing people to bits but also makes Iran's claims they had no involvement in Iraq's "insurgency" ring completely hollow.

Iraq also closed its borders with Syria and Iran, at least temporarily, another indication the Iraqi government may be feeling the heat.

North Korea might finally be brought to heel on its nuclear program. Apparently, the midget maniac finally ran out of Courvoisier and decided the sanctions were too tough.

The palestinians might also be feeling the pinch of sanctions. No one in their right minds actually believe the palis are serious about making peace with Israel, but at least Hamas isn't running their show anymore. A few well-placed assassinations in hamas headquarters and the situation could improve...

Meanwhile, Canada should really hold steady in Afghanistan. We need France and Germany to act more like Canada not for Canada to act like euroweenies. The world has enough of those already.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Spring Springs and Other Things

One thing I love about Vancouver is that it's always a race to see which comes first...the start of baseball spring training or the first real day of spring in the Lower Mainland.

Baseball spring training starts later this week. Spring came on Saturday when temperatures climbed to around 50 fahrenheit under completely sunny, blue skies. Got the first outdoor run of the year in and it felt great.

When I lived in Ontario, I always began pretending it was spring when baseball started up again but it could be more than a month into the real baseball season before the snow was gone. Here, we'll probably have a week of temperatures near 70 by the end of March and the kids will be playing baseball.

Meanwhile, the rest of Canada enjoyed temperatures last week that once again affirmed if global warming is such a pending calamity, it sure hasn't told Mother Nature about it yet. In Winnipeg, it got below -40 (which is the point at which Celsius and fahrenheit come together at the bottom of the thermometer where it's simply marked, "too freakin' cold for any normal person to live with"). Ontario was considerably balmier, reaching the minus 20s Celsius or around zero fahrenheit.

One news item out of Vancouver that I neglected earlier has been the birth of sextuplets to a Jehovah's Witness couple. Three of the six babies subsequently died and the other three were put under government control after the parents apparently refused or signified they would refuse needed blood transfusions.

I would just like to say, "good". An adult has the right to refuse medical intervention that would save their life because an adult, presumably, has the capacity to make decisions based on their own beliefs. Not so for babies and children. The babies didn't ask to be born into a sect whose tenets border on a cult and that are a mistranslation of scripture.

I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the entertainment world but it did catch my eye that tonight is the Grammy Awards. Can there be a dumber awards show? This is an organization that has never given an award to Neil Young but did give one to Manilli Vanilli. There's really not much else you can say.

It also caught my eye that Anna Nicole Smith died but only because my sister pointed it out and it somehow then made the letters page of every newspaper as writers pontificated on whether she was a tragic figure or not.

My favourite was in the National Post where a reader complained that Anna Nicole Smith was no Mother Theresa or Princess Diana.

Mother Theresa, no. But Princess Diana? Not too far off, really. Both were women who basically became famous because of who they married, suffered from numerous and largely self-induced public problems, had a string of men and then died in rather murky circumstances. Sorry, Royal lovers but Princess Di's legacy is really over-rated.

As for Anna...well, in her early days she was a stunning woman who looked like a woman and not one of the emaciated teenage stick figures that pass for "models" these days. Ask any real man and he'll take the curves of early Anna over today's runway prancers.

Apparently, the Spanish agree. They just banned five models from a show for being too thin, according to Yahoo! They did it for health reasons which is right and proper. But, it's also time the public stopped being fooled into believing the desires of male designers for models that look like pre-teen boys should be a standard for female beauty.

Finally, I liked the way US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates bitch-slapped Russian President Vladimir Putin today while responding to Putin's remarks about US actions destabilizing the world. Since Putin's regime has continuously funded rogue nations while throwing up roadblocks to the US attempts to reign in crazies like Iran and North Korea, it was nice to see the US remind him that the world doesn't need another Cold War. The Russians didn't do so well in that last one.

I still believe that of all the dumb things Bush has done, his dumbest may have been saying that he'd looked into Putin's soul and saw a man he could trust. Yeah, let's all trust autocratic, secretive KGB veterans with a vast network of spies and secret-ops types at their disposal and an established record of cracking down on freedoms and removing dissenters.

Have you ever actually looked at Putin? Those eyes contain no soul.

Gates is flying to Russia to hold talks with the Russian president. Hopefully, he can read people better than his boss apparently can.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Unity Celebrations Were a Riot

Well, the palestinians celebrated their new "unity" government by doing what comes naturally: trying to provoke more bloodshed with the Israelis.

And, as with most causes that seem to inflame the violent tendencies of the palestinians and, in many cases, the arab world as a whole, it's over something that the rest of the world should just be shaking its head at.

The palis went a-rioting in Jerusalem today and arab religious pinheads around the ME began their traditional wailing for blood because the Israelis have the audacity to replace a damaged ramp leading to the Dome of the Rock. Despite the fact that area is just as sacred to Jews, the arab world is claiming the Israelis are trying to destroy it, blah, blah, blah, lie, lie, lie, let's go on a killing spree...

This will likely spread in the usual way, ending with dozens of dead arab bodies either in clashes with Israelis or from firing guns around all over the place during their own bloody rallies. Already, there were demonstrations, and in some cases violent exchanges in Egypt, the West Bank, Jordan and Syria. And, they're just getting started!

It's really hard not to be really cynical about what's going on in the Middle East. I, for damned sure, haven't got a clue what the answer is to the question of how you drag this kind of "culture" into the 21st century. Nothing seems to work.

Keep in mind, while Israel is doing a repair project, the palestinians - and they're not alone - have very deliberately and frequently damaged/destroyed non-muslim religious buildings and artifacts, the most prominent example being the completely barbaric treatment of the Church of the Nativity when terrorists used it as a hideout while trying to escape the IDF.

This will never end at Israel. Israel is the western world's canary in a coal mine, if it goes under serious attack and the west can't work up the nerve to retaliate, we are completely and irrevocably fucked. Because this isn't about Israel and arabs; it's about culture and destruction.

On Thursday, the palestinians announced their long-sought unity government in Mecca. Hamas agreed to "respect" previous PLO agreements with Israel (too bad the PLO never really did and we all know Hamas doesn't mean it). They did not, however, renounce violence against Israel or recognize it or its right to exist.

In other words, the palestinian government is no closer to meeting any of its commitments under the Roadmap to Peace (ha, ha!) than it was before. But, watch...the pressure will be on to treat it that way and to restore funding to the palis so they can use it to continue their corrupt and violent ways.

Sometimes I wonder if we're even dumber than they are...

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

It Was Nothing To Lose Sleep Over

A 70-year-old marriage commissioner in Regina, Saskatchewan has found himself in hot water for refusing to marry a gay couple.

A human rights complaint was filed against Orville Nichols after he told one of the men that he could not, in good conscience, perform the ceremony. This was not the first time he'd refused to marry a couple - he'd even turned down people who he felt were not taking the commitment seriously. Mr. Nichols referred the couple in question to another area commissioner who performed the ceremony.

I support gay marriage. No problem with it at all. But, Mr. Nichols became a marriage commissioner in 1983, years before the idea of such unions were even contemplated in Canadian society. He fulfilled his obligation to the couple and ensured their rights were protected by referring them to the other commissioner. There was no suggestion that he was rude or spoke in a homophobic way. He didn't even lie and just say he was busy that day, he actually told them it was because of his beliefs. I don't agree with his beliefs but I find his honesty admirable.

What's galling is the nature of the complaint. Apparently, the aggrieved party suffered from insomnia and anxiety after being told of Mr. Nichols' stance. Insomnia and anxiety...every couple who ever walked down the aisle could launch a complaint on that criteria.

Some commentary has suggested the complaint is an attack on Christianity. I don't buy that, either. Many religions have an opposition to homosexual marriage and many people who are not religious reject it on other grounds. Again, they're wrong but they're entitled to their stance. I view it more as an attack on intelligence and commonsense.

Had Mr. Nichols been appointed a marriage commissioner after homosexual marriage was formalized in Canada, I could understand the outrage against him. Ditto if he'd been rude or refused to help the couple find a commissioner who would conduct the ceremony. But, he might be punished because he was honest and forthright and acted in a decent manner.

A tribunal that just heard the case is expected to make a ruling in the spring. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission is recommending he be ordered to stop discriminating against same-sex couples and that he pay a $5,000 fine.

My guess is he'll probably end up retiring over this. He's obviously out of step with the times and there will almost certainly be a ruling that he not discriminate.

But, the complaint itself has all the trappings of just plain nuisance behaviour that the Canadian taxpayer gets to fund. The next commissioner who doesn't want to perform a gay wedding will just lie about it, instead. Not exactly a step forward.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Send Out The Clowns

The freakshow that is Iran continued today as Mohammad Ali Ramin, the head of the "World Holocaust Foundation", said European nations should hand over proof of the WWII genocide of Europe's Jews.

The World Holocaust Foundation was created by Iranian President Madman Almonddingdong after the country recently hosted their fabulous Holocaust Denial Conference that attracted all of five dozen crackpots from around the globe.

I wonder what kind of proof the Iranian wingnuts are looking for.

Obviously, the millions upon millions of pages of documents kept by the nazis and recovered after the war (13 million alone in the Washington Holocaust Memorial Museum) are insufficient.

All of the documentary evidence doesn't cut it.

The eyewitness testimony won't do.

The confessions of myriad nazi underlings isn't convincing the Iranian whackjobs, either.

Forget about the mass graves.

And the simple fact that millions of people suddenly just disappeared from the face of the Earth means nothing. In all likelihood they were kidnapped by martians and are still being anal-probed today.

Short of building a time machine and sending Madman and his circus sideshow to Dachau, Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen or Auschwitz in about 1943, there is absolutely no way to convince his idiotness to admit the Holocaust occurred. Holocaust deniers, as a rule, know it happened, they just need an excuse for their hate and the denial serves both the purpose of allowing them to worship the nazis and of blaming all subsequent events on the remaining European Jews and their descendants.

Fortunately, no other major country is led by a Holocaust denier. Unfortunately, Madman has a lot of gasoline under his feet. It's time he stopped sniffing it.

It's also time the Iranians got some collective nerve and overthrew this crazy SOB before some really fucked up shit happens and Iran learns not the lessons of the Holocaust, but of Dresden or maybe even Hiroshima.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Going Green...For A Month or Two, Anyway

The Canadian media and politicians have gone all Chicken Little on the environment of late.

To hear them tell of it, we will shortly experience a global apocalypse if Canadians don't immediately start bathing and washing their clothes in rainwater, adopt walking as the most common mode of transportation and cease any and all forms of economic growth.

We have seen this before. The environment is the yo-yo of political issues, every five years or so the fad strikes again and we are deluged by a storm of alarm that is the media equivalent of a hurricane. There was acid rain and the Great Lakes, there's the Arctic shelf, there was holes in the ozone and today there's Global Warming. As a result, David Suzuki is popular again (good grief!), Al Gore's movie might get an Academy Award and Kyoto is no longer just an anagram for Tokyo.

Now, I'm not a naysayer. We have created some very serious environmental problems, especially in the past 100-150 years. But the science of predicting our impact on the globe has been somewhat suspect over the decades. Often the reports and projections border on propaganda and, in any case, those commenting on them invariably choose the most alarmist aspects and worst-case scenarios as gospel truth.

As we've hurt the environment so, too, have we often learned from our mistakes. Numerous products have been banned or changed to minimize their environmental impact. Millions and millions have been poured into rehabilitation projects. Today, almost everyone recycles; 20 years ago, no one bothered.

There is real work that can be done to benefit the environment without slamming the brakes on growth or radically altering the North American lifestyle. Retrofitting plants, encouraging changes such as increasing the use of battery powered or hybrid vehicles, more nuclear power plants (something the environmentalists always choke on), encouraging politicians to shut up and stop spewing hot air, etc.

In fact, it doesn't help at all that the parliamentarians and the media talk so much about the environment. The record of doing anything about it is pretty woeful. Usually, it takes really angry people to force environmental changes. And, interestingly, this time around, the talk doesn't seem to be resonating with anyone I know. The conversations around the environment recently seem pretty much restricted to:

"gee, we sure have had a lousy winter, eh?"

"Yeah, global warming, my ass."

Saturday, February 3, 2007

German Overkill

I have to give the Germans credit for the way they've tried to address their nazi past. But, I also wonder if they don't sometimes go too far.

The Germans currently hold the rotating presidency at the European Union. Recently, they tried, and failed, to ban the swastika. Hindu organizations, among others, objected, noting the swastika was a symbol of peace until Hitler's regime co-opted it to represent their sinister and murderous beliefs.

Now, Germany is preparing a new piece of legislation to outlaw "racism and xenophobia", including outlawing of Holocaust denial.

There are two significant problems with this intended legislation. One is that it encroaches, and rather heavy-handedly, on free speech. The best way to deal with racism and Holocaust denial is to expose and denounce it, not to remove it from public view. It's like ignoring a cancerous growth. Leaving it to a lengthy legal process to determine a person's "guilt" or "innocence" on such an issue is ridiculous; better that we call them morons, make sure everyone knows it and move on.

The second problem is in defining racism and xenophobia and, for that matter, a Holocaust, which will automatically be interpreted to mean genocide, which will automatically raise numerous true and supposed examples. There would be much quibbling over what those terms mean and who was guilty of promoting them.

Germany is not the only European country that has tried to legislate away racism in a somewhat dubious manner. France, for instance, banned headscarves but that didn't stop a month of well-publicized rioting about 18 months ago and the continued nightly burning of cars in its neighbourhoods that we rarely hear about.

It's admirable that Germany wants to come to terms with the failings that led its citizens to follow a maniac to create a Hell on Earth 65 years ago. The public education programs, memorials, compensation, commitment to protecting the memories of the murdered make for a valuable historical record and lesson on perhaps the darkest chapter in the history of civilized mankind.

It's unlikely the legislation is going to pass. If it does, it will probably be used, if at all, ridiculously, as many other such initiatives have been. Trust me, within a week, every islamist organization would be hiring lawyers to drag European politicians into the courts.

We really don't need to legislate against free speech. We just need to use our own right to freedom of speech and not accept what we know to be false.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Truth, Justice and Your Typical Arab BS.

Here in Canada, arab and muslim groups are threatening to campaign against our Conservative government because of what they say is a pro-Israel bias.

In other words, Canada no longer automatically votes against every anti-Israeli resolution that the arabs conspire to bring before the UN. Oh, and on top of that, Canada was the first nation to cut off funding to the palestinians after Hamas was elected. And, yeah, our government supported Israel in its war with hezbollah over the summer, choosing to go with the democratic nation defending itself over the thugocratic islamic terrorists.

It's been a tough one for Canada's arabists and islamist-apologists to swallow. They had the ear of the previous Liberal government for years and they are loved by the socialist NDP, which if it ever got in power would be something akin to watching Hugo Chavez running around except with state-funded gay marriage instead of the one where the newlyweds have to pay their own fees like we have now (and, I'm totally supportive of gays getting married, so this isn't a shot at them).

Khaled Mouammar, president of the Canadian Arab Foundation, said it best when he noted, "we also are telling people to make sure in the elections that they vote for candidates who will stand for truth and justice and that's all we can do."

I love the words truth and justice. In my messageboard posting days you could always tell a person was an utter liar and a massive Jew-hater when the words "truth", "peace", "freedom" or "justice" appeared in their board name. It was an automatic, bona-fide, 100 per cent given that such a person always and without exception stood for murdering innocent Israelis and Jews in general.

Anyway, since Mr. Mouammar is reminding me to vote for people who stand for truth and justice, I will be more than happy to do so by casting my ballot for my local Conservative candidate in the next election. Any version of truth and justice espoused by Mr. Mouammar is most certainly not the sort that is in the interests of Canadians.