Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Last Gasp of the Irrelevant

So, Cindy Sheehan, renowned far-left flake for "peace", has decided to pack it in.

Hunmorously, it would seem even a Democrat party led by Nancy Pelosi and presided over by someone ever shriekier than her, namely Howard Dean, wasn't leaning far enough to the left for ol' Cindy, who's decided to head home to California to wash the sinkful of dishes she left behind about three years ago when she began her lunatic crusade against George Bush.

The ironies, of course, never end when it comes to people like Sheehan. While bashing Bush and the US administration at every turn, she had no problem cozying up to Hugo Chavez and other primo dictators but now complains that the US she "loves" is no longer the US of today. That's because the US she "loves" is seemingly known as the USSR and it went out of business about 20 years ago.

In her "resignation" letter, Sheehan said, "I'm going home for awhile to try and be normal." (Yeah, right.)

Then she went on to comment she'd taken a lot of "smears". Note to Cindy: that's what happens when you bash your own country, demean its soldiers and kiss its enemies' asses. Not to mention, she smeared as good as she got; lying about Bush refusing to meet with her (he did) and turning her son, who fell serving his country, into a symbol that he likely would have wanted nothing to do with (seeing as he volunteered both to join the army and to serve a second tour in Iraq).

At the end of the day, it seems to me that Cindy has walked away for two reasons. One, like a petulant child, she didn't get what she wanted and two, no one was paying any attention to her anymore, including the Democratic Party that once feted her.

She won't be missed.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Six Degrees of Shithole

The older I get, the more I come to believe that the vast majority of the world is a shithole for humans. Let's face it, aside from North America, some parts of Europe, some of Asia, a bit of South America, Australia, New Zealand and Israel, there has been very little progress in the plight of humanity over the past centuries.

Sure, people might have a little more to eat and live longer, but in essence, they are still largely denied basic human rights, freedom, the ability to advance themselves and equality through much of the world.

Let's take a little tour through my morning paper and see if I can explain what I'm talking about...

We'll start in Nigeria

Nigeria is an oil-rich African nation and one of the few on the continent that is not a complete and total basket case. But that might soon change.

Later this week, Nigeria will see its first president-elect following another elected president take office when ex-Marxist turned devout Muslim Alhaji Umara Yar'Adua is sworn into office.

This might sound very nice but the elections were a farce. Yar'Adua was the hand-picked successor to outgoing president Olusegun Obasanjo and even he admits the elections were not properly run. The losers are saying far more: they want the elections annulled, and this being Africa, there is sure to be plenty of violence when that doesn't happen.

Last week 48 Nobel Laureates, including one from Nigeria, issued an open letter to world leaders demanding new elections within 18 months. Of course, 48 Nobel Laureates and $1.25 will get you a cup of coffee...

Even the EU has weighed in, threatening to withhold financial aid from Nigeria. You know something's wrong when the EU issues a condemnation and the target is not Israel.

Perhaps Nigeria is learning from our the second stop on our tour.

That would be Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, President-Thug Robert Mugabe continues his reign of terror and error. Not content with having turned privately-owned farms into publicly-owned wastelands and watching his citizenry starve, Mugabe has now turned his attention to foreign-owned businesses.

Last week, his cabinet passed legislation that would require foreign-owned businesses operating in Zimbabwe to forfeit at least 51 per cent of their holdings to Zimbabwe. If you're a friendly nation, such as China - where corruption and thuggery are the rule - then you're exempt. But, if you're, for instance, a British bank, you're in deep trouble.

Not that the bankers will admit it. A spokesman for Standard Charter, with 26 offices in Zimbabwe, refused comment. A spokesman for Barclays, with 29 offices in Zimbabwe, would say only "it is early days and the proposed bill may not become law."

Yeah, right.

Mugabe is a total asshole but he does have his proteges.

Take for instance our third stop: Venezuela, ruled by strongman President-Thug Hugo Chavez.

In Venezuela, Chavez is busy consolidating his power for ages to come. First he jailed his political opponents and now he's moved on to that age-old dictatorial policy of shutting down any media outlet that opposes him.

Recently, he refused to re-issue an operations license for Radio Caracas Television, the nation's largest TV station, replacing it with a new, state-funded TV station that will, no doubt, masturbate endlessly over the glory of its leader in typical 1984 Orwellian fashion.

The station went off the air when the clock struck midnight Sunday/Monday, leading to mass protests in the streets. Being the good dictator he is, Chavez responded by having police fire rubber bullets at the protesters.

Mark my words, if this man is still in power in five years, the average Venezuelan will be as destitute as the average Zimbabwean.

Then there's Myanmar

That's the country formerly known as Burma where democracy icon and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has had her house arrest extended for yet another year.

No surprise there; in fact, if there's any surprise, it's that Suu Kyi is still breathing. Normally, in a country like Myanmar, people disappear and are surprisingly never seen again or magically turn up dead.

Nevertheless, Myanmar's government quickly squashed an attempted prayer rally at the Shwedagon Pagoda in the capital of Yangon. There's really not much one can say about a nation where even praying is illegal.

Except maybe that all of the above examples seem awfully like our next example.

That would be Russia, home of Vladimir Putin

Putin is, for lack of a better phrase, an utter fucking pig who makes the above guys look almost credible.

His newest target is Estonia. The Estonians, apparently, have had the audacity to exercise their own freedom by removing a statue of a Russian soldier that was erected in the former Soviet-bloc nation in commemmoration of the Russians pushing the Germans out of Estonia in World War II.

The problem, from the Estonian perspective, is that the nazis were replaced by
Soviet communists which was kind of like replacing heart attacks with cancer.

Free at last, they wanted to remove memories of both from their national conscience.

Russia has responded by shutting down Estonian Web sites, including its government site, banks and at least one newspaper. As Estonians are a western-style democracy, where people bank online, vote online and read online, this has caused a certain amount of grief brought about by what is, at best, industrial espionage and, at worst, economic terrorism.

Still, there's nothing worse than a democracy in Putin's eyes.

Sadly, our last nation could use a good ol' strongman.

That would be poor Lebanon.

In Lebanon, a new civil war is brewing because terrorists, posing as palestinians (I know, it sounds kind of odd that a terrorist would pose as a terrorist but these are different terrorists than the average palestinian terrorist) are using a 'refugee' camp to launch attacks on Lebanon's embattled civilians and government.

Sadly, Lebanon can't actually respond by going into the camp and destroying the terrorists because there's an agreement with other arab nations not to do such a dastardly thing. So, Syria gets to continue its proxy war in Lebanon using some Muslim fundamentalist assholes known as Fatah al-Islam while the citizenry continues into its nine-thousandth, three hundred and eighty-seventh year of internal conflict as pawns for other arab nations.

Putin, Chavez, Mugabe and even Syria's leader, Bashir Assad, wouldn't bother with the niceties for even a second. They'd squash the whole camp like a bug, eat dinner and then claim it was an accident.

So, there you have it, a news round-up that shows why I'm a right-winger. Because only a left-winger could read this shit day-in and day-out and still show up to bash the US and Israel.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Great Place To Be

Seems to me I've been kind of hard on Australia in my last couple of posts so to make up for it, here are 10 things I really love about this country:

1) The weather...duh. Okay, it's May 26 which means it's late fall. Today, it's about 75 in Sydney, not a cloud in the sky. By night time, it will be down to about 55 and Aussies will be wearing sweaters and complaining but for a Canadian, weather conditions don't get much better.

2) The beer. Australians drink a heck of a lot of it and produce some very good ones. The most common beer that people drink in Sydney is Victoria Bitter (VB) and it's quite delicious on a hot day, which is almost every day.

3) The Shout. This is tied to beer. When you're in a pub, Australians buy everyone at their table a round and take turns. Very civilized. Plus, if you're a foreigner, you'll usually get special treatment. My liver hates The Shout but the rest of me loves it.

4) The women. Australian women are beautiful and they know how to dress to show it off. Plus they're awfully tolerant of Australian men which is saying something because Australian men tend to be far less sympathetic to women than in other places, such as Canada. Australian men better hope the women never figure it out.

5) National Rugby League football. When I went to high school, we played a lot of Union rules rugby which is the boring kind where half of each team spends half the time hugging each other with their heads down in a scrum while everyone else stands around. It's the official upper crust type of rugby. NRL, on the other hand, is an incredibly fast-paced, hard-hitting game that's a good deal of fun to watch while enjoying beer and food. Plus, its players - who make far less than most North American pro athletes - are genuine people. Most of them will emerge from the stadium after a game and spend time talking with fans and signing autographs. When's the last time you saw a major league baseball, hockey, football or basketball player do that on a regular basis?

6) The food. Australians love to eat and love to barbecue. The other night, I went over to a friend's place to watch the first NRL State of Origin match (a three-game set played each year between players from Queensland and New South Wales). The menu included: fresh prawns and oysters, barbecued steak, barbecued sausages, potatoes, salad and beans not to mention little snacks. The drinks included beer, wine and port. Now, I ask you: how can life get much better than that? This was on a Wednesday night, mind you. On the weekends, they eat and drink even more.

7) The Sydney CBD (Central Business District) or, as North Americans would call it, downtown. Beautiful old buildings, well preserved, shopping galore, good prices and lots of the aforementioned pretty women walking around. Great place to sit at an outdoor table at a cafe, have a coffee and just watch the people.

8) The manners. Sydneysiders are almost always polite and don't put on airs. They actually seem to enjoy helping people. The only other large cities I know where people are genuinely that nice are Montreal and - believe it or not - New York.

9) The Sydney Harbour. Unlike most cities built on the water, Sydney has preserved its waterfront. Darling Harbour, the largest gathering place on the water, is a wonderful place full of walking paths, little waterways, lots of greenspace and neat things for the kids to do.

10) The accents and the lingo. I don't always know what Australians are saying but it always sits nicely on the ear whatever it is.

Anyway, tomorrow it's back home - which will be very nice as I've had one or two too many nights out and a lot of work to do while I was here. But once again, Sydney has been a great place to be.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hicks Up

Well, the Australian newspapers finally found something better to whinge about than a kangaroo in Canada - that being the fact their government spent $500,000 (yes, half a million bucks) transporting a convicted terrorist from Guantanomo Bay back to Adelaide.

David Hicks was, I believe, only the second accused (after American John Walker Lindh) held at Guantanomo to be convicted. It took five-and-a-half years, mostly because his lawyers did everything they could to stall the process (when it came time for his trial, he suddenly entered a guilty plea). In that time and despite the fact at one point he tried to claim British citizenship, he became a cause celebre in this country, for some God unknown reason.

It should be noted that unlike most of the scum at Guantanomo, including Canada's Omar Khadr - who the Americans can keep forever as far as I'm concerned - Hicks didn't actually do much of anything except act as a kind of gofer for al-Qaida/Taliban before being captured. He actually comes across as a total simpleton; a high school dropout who just kind of drifted, got sucked into radical Islam and then ended up in NATO hands. Which doesn't mean I have any sympathy for him; anymore than I would the simpleton who ends up acting as a supporter for murderers.

The Aussies, though, expressed plenty of sympathy for him; at least the far-left ones and his dad has become kind of an Aussie Cindy Sheehan. In fact, while his son was enjoying a ride home in a chartered Gulfstream aircraft, munching down on his choice of chicken or beef, chatting with security guards and watching movies, dad was at a "peace" conference; no doubt, one of those events where the US, Israel and other western nations are guilty of everything and the islamic world is just misunderstood and only needs a group hug to get along with us.

But, even the most sympathetic Australian seemed unimpressed with the tab run up to get him home to serve the final 7 months of his sentence. I doubt very much they were overly impressed with the fact that his lawyer then said being in an Adelaide jail was like being in the Hilton compared to Guantanomo Bay. A fine piece of rhetoric that as Hicks himself has admitted he was not mistreated by his American jailers.

Hicks has declared that he intends to finish his high school equivalency while in jail and then go to uni (as they call it here) to become an environmental scientist. From destroying the Earth to saving it, how very honourable. No doubt, the taxpayer will find themselves on the hook for part of that, too.

Now, the only question remaining is: how much are the Aussies willing to spend to repatriate their kangaroo?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Sometimes, I Wonder About Down Under

Let me preface this by noting that I love Australia. I've been here about 20 times and as I sit in my Sydney hotel room today, I'm looking out at bright blue skies, beautiful women passing by and anticipating a night of lively beer drinking with some of my Aussie "mates".

As much as I enjoy this country - so much so that I once applied to move here - I don't always understand it. Case in point: one of the daily newspapers - the tabloid Daily Telegraph - has begun an absurd campaign against Canada because some yahoo Canadian who owns what's known as a "roadside" zoo in London, Ontario has had the audacity to keep a kangaroo penned up. The headline of the story: Tyson jailer's cruel silence" subtitled, "pity it's not her caged big cat that's got her tongue".

Nevermind the Canadian government has pledged action on this "zoo" and others, which had existed in a murky legal area between being businesses and private pet ownerships. Nevermind that the "zoo" in question has now been closed, as they all should be. Nevermind that the kangaroo most probably arrived in Canada from Australia since the animal is far from native to our northern climes. Nevermind, for that matter, that Australians eat kangaroo and you can buy it at many local butcheries (for the record, I've tried it and as a meat choice, I wouldn't recommend it).

That's not enough for the Tely. When its reporters trespassed on the owner's property, she called the police. The police questioned the reporters and cleared them of any wrongdoing, even agreeing the woman who ran the "zoo" was a known pain in the ass but explaining when police are called, they are obliged to respond. That was worth yet another story from the Tely, despite the fact the cops were just doing their job.

Over the last two days, I have counted four stories in the Telegraph about this as well as an editorial. All of a sudden, Canadians are just slightly above al-Qaida as a threat to the Australian way of life.

What is particularly amusing, in a sordid, twisted way, is that the Tely now has posted, on its Web site, a "collection of Dumb Canadian video clips" that they invite their readers to "laugh at". In the same issue where I read this there are stories about:

- new cashless poker machines (pokies in Australia) that will allow ever-increasing numbers of obviously highly intelligent Australians to blow their weekly wages without needing actual cash,

- a genius Sydneysider who invented and is circulating a video game modelled on the killings at Virginia Tech,

- an Einstein of a family whose six small children were found living in a drug den,

- a Mensa-quality decision that allows a doctor charged with raping a patient to continue his practise

- some super smart guys who flimed themselves sexually assaulting two schoolgirls. (Gang rapes are an ongoing problem in Australia, usually perpetrated by people the Tely will only describe as "olive complexioned"...you can figure out the rest.)

All of which might lead some people to believe that when it comes to dumb, Canadians don't exactly stand alone in the western world. The kangaroo story, by the way, took up most of Page 7 of the particular issue. The pokie story got one column on page 5, the VT video game rated about three inches on page 9, the drug den got half of page 15 and the doctor accused of rape and the filmed sexual assault by a bunch of young males were so lacking in newsworthiness, compared to the kangaroo, that they appeared on pages 18 and 19, respectively.

Not sure why the Tely has decided to take on Canada and label us "dumb" - perhaps it ran out of George W. Bush jokes - but surely it could put its resources to better use, particularly since the Canadians have already moved to address the problem they're complaining about in the first place and the Aussies seem to have a few problems of their own to work on.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Not the News 2

In another story out of the Middle East, it appears the palestinian civil war is back on but, in reality, it never stopped in the first place.

Again, there's nothing new about fatah and hamas faction idiots mowing each other down in the streets and one almost has to wonder why anyone even bothers reporting it anymore. On the other hand, it happens as often as Paris Hilton does something stupid, and that gets reported, too.

In the latest bloodfest, 8 Fatah "policemen" were gunned down in what AP called "the
most ruthless round yet of factional fighting," which suggests even AP is stretching to find reasons to continue reporting this bullshit.

AP also pumped the story claiming the attack was "pushing the Palestinian unity government closer to collapse", which is kind of ridiculous since there is no such thing as Palestinian unity and likely never will be.

Other than that the story is pedestrian: gunmen in black ski masks took up positions and fired at one another for hours while residents of Gaza City hid in their homes and wondered how such a terrible thing could happen.

Clue: Your culture thrives on death and destruction. Israel's wall keeps the death and destruction, generally, from visiting it so the fall back position is for the terrorist factions to kill one another and whatever innocents happen to get in the way.

All in all, 15 palestinians were killed in internicine violence Tuesday - 28 in total over the last three days according to AP - but, hope is nigh, a truce was reached for the third consecutive day. No doubt, it will be prove equally as successful as its predecessors.

I may have printed this once or twice before but, hey, it's at least as much news as what AP is reporting: the palestinians are a waste of time and effort and the idea of them running their own state in any forseeable future is laughable.

Not the News 1

Just spent two days at a local resort where my wife and myself enjoyed good food, good drink and good company while I totally stayed away from computers, TVs and all other carriers of news. Tomorrow, it's off to Sydney for 10 days to deal with some family issues, so not much blogging to be done for a while.

Arrived home today to read a "story" about how Iran is not complying with demands made on it to cease enriching uranium in its continuing attempt to build a nuclear weapon. Not sure why this qualifies as "news" inasmuch as there's absolutely nothing new about it; Madman Ahmadingdong has made it quite clear he has no intention of stopping so unless he's overthrown or killed, the world can expect this effort to continue.

What is almost amusing if it weren't so absolutely insane and enraging was a comment from the head of the International Atomic Energy Association head, Mohamed ElBaradei, who has one of those names that leads one to suspect he might not be so opposed to the idea of Iran incinerating Israel.

ElBaradei, who has done for the IAEA what Kofi Annan did for the UN (that is, turn it into a laughingstock) implied in his comments that there seemed to be little use in trying to prevent Iran from enriching uranium if Iran was already enriching uranium.

"What he's saying is that we've now crossed a line," said a diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with reporters.

What he is not saying, however, is what the world should do instead if Iran has crossed that line.

Even some American experts seem content to continue to allow Iran to pursue its course.

"Iran is steadily moving toward nuclear weapons capability, and the negotiations are not working, and we may have to settle into an extended crisis where we need to sanction Iran and further isolate them," said David Albright, a former inspector who heads the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security,

"But this doesn't mean war. ... You have to resist the urge to strike out militarily, which could even be worse than Iran gaining nuclear weaponry."

Worse for who, Mr. Albright? The Iranians? Surely not worse for the Israelis who, no doubt, are not about to sit around and wait for Iran's best before date before turning parts of the Persian nation into a glowing glass parking lot.

Both ElBaradei and Albright, not to mention the still ineffectual EU and the increasingly ineffectual Americans, are kidding themselves if they think Israel's going to sit back and wait.

Sadly, when the time comes, Israel will take the blame while the rest of the world pretends it could have stopped Iran with more "negotiations" and "sanctions", much as Chamberlain believed he could do in 1938. Seventy years later, and politicians and diplomats have still learned sweet fuck all.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Not a Tide, But At Least a Small Ripple

If you frequent even one pro-Israel blog or messageboard, you will inevitably come to read all manner of Judeophobic posts. One of those will almost certainly contain the phrase "the tide is turning".

It's very popular among losers who like to believe that Israel's demise and/or another Holocaust of the Jewish people is imminent. All they need to do is post it enough times and it will happen. It is often accompanied by its sister phrase: "Americans are waking up". The really hard-working ones will add a link to some Jooooo-conspiracy Web site.

Americans, most of them anyway, seem to have woken up, so we'll just leave that particular piece of stupidity alone.

Since 9/11, North Americans have become much more cautious about the intentions of islamists (keeping in mind, I do not mean Muslims as a whole but, rather, those who preach and/or practise a violent form of it). There have been no further terrorist attacks in either Canada or the United States - the two most sought after North American targets. Law enforcement has been tightened up enough that any plots have been disrupted.

One was, however, left wondering whether Europeans would ever wake up. The London and Madrid bombings, the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the Paris riots - none of them seemed to phase a weary, aged continent, largely content to babysit its citizens for life for a few more generations before finally succumbing to societal deterioration. Recent events, however, might suggest at least a stirring.

On Saturday, the European Union's plan to profile mosques was greeted favourably by its main members. The idea is to identify imams who preach radical Islam.

According to AP: Italian Interior Minister Guiliano Amato said Europe had ample experience with the "misuse of mosques, which instead of being places of worship are used for other ends.

"This is bringing about a situation that involves all of our countries and involves the possibility of attacks and developing of networks that use one country to prepare an attack in another," Amato said, after a meeting in Venice of interior ministers and security officials from six European countries and the United States.

On the same day, an article titled "A New Cold War" appeared in my paper. It noted the growing dissatisfaction Europe was showing towards Russian near-dictator Vladimir Putin, including considering withholding support for Russia's entry to the World Trade Organization. Russia has been sliding backwards since Putin came to power and until recently no one, other than a few brave - and now often, dead - souls have had the guts to say it.

Along with Sarkozy's win last week in France, there are three clear indicators in a very short period of time that the Europeans may be starting to realize that they can't ignore internal and external factors working against freedom and still hope to remain free.

I'm not arrogant enough to suggest the tide is turning nor do I trust the EU or most of its member nations. And, none of the events I cited were directly related to the Jewish community, the current and historic anti-Semitism in most European nations or Europe's generally incredibly hypocritical approach to Israel.

I will, however, say that it's the first time in a long time - with a few specific exceptions - that I haven't been completely disgusted with Europe.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Joke of the Year

"JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told an inquiry the army command did not perform well in last summer's war in Lebanon and acknowledged he gave short shrift to warnings troops weren't ready"

The army command didn't perform well? Has Olmert lost his freakin' mind? He ignored every goddamned thing he was told, fulfilled none of his objectives and stopped the war when Israel was finally in a position to seriously crush Hezbollah because he was worried about world opinion.
Command starts at the top, Ehud...

Poll Simply Didn't Ask the Right Questions

According to my morning paper, Washington is "out of touch" with the American public.

Now, this isn't exactly a revelation in a country where the President has an approval rating hovering somewhere between "is your term over yet?" and "get the fuck out of here right now!" but what was interesting is that the story was in reference to the view that the average American has towards the Useless, errrr, United Nations.

According to a poll, Americans are enthusiastic supporters of the UN even though they are suspicious of it.

60 per cent believe it should have the right to regulate the international arms trade.

72 per cent believe there should be a UN standing peacekeeping force selected, trained and commanded by the UN.

45 per cent believe the UN should be allowed to implement taxes on things such as the international sale of arms and oil.

62 per cent believe the UN should be able to use force to prevent countries from acquiring nuclear weapons.

83 per cent believe the UN should be able to use force to prevent human rights violations and genocides.

76 per cent believe the UN should be able to use force to stop countries from supporting terrorist groups.

So, my question is: how exactly does this put Americans out of step with the American government?

I'm sure Bush would have been ecstatic if the UN had lived up to its own binding resolutions on Iraq instead of watching UN members and outside corporations reaping billions of dollars in profits while Saddam thumbed his nose at the international community and the Iraqi people starved or were murdered.

I'll bet Bush would love it if the UN used force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

I've no doubt at all Bush would have been grateful if, after 9/11, the UN had sent a force into Afghanistan to hunt down and eliminate the Taliban and al-Qaida.

I can't imagine for one second that Bush would complain if the UN had a trained force that could stop the genocide in Sudan.

I'm not as sure that the White House would agree the UN should stop or regulate the international arms trade but I am willing to bet the 60 per cent of Americans in favour of that weren't thinking of their own nation's role in that when they answered the questions. My guess is they were thinking of Russia and China arming America's enemies like the Middle East thugocracies and the crackpots in Venezuela.

As for the 45 per cent of Americans who support allowing the UN to levy taxes, well, they're wrong. Perhaps they thought that would lower the US's annual contribution to that international sinkhole of finances. Or, perhaps, they're just stupid or ignorant; after all, roughly the same number of Americans reject evolution theory in favour of young Earth creationism. Obviously, there are some pretty whacked out people living south of the border with little idea what's going on in the world either now or in the billions of years that have passed on our little rock.

To me, it seems as though Americans are probably pretty much in line with their government when it comes to the UN. The thing is, the poll only asked whether people supported the ideas proposed, not whether they believed the UN could actually accomplish those goals.

The answer to that, unfortunately, is a resounding "No!" The UN, as is, is a parasitical organization sucking up American dollars while cozying up to American's enemies. As such, it should be disbanded and replaced by an alliance of nations dedicated to living in free societies with measures in place to ensure there is compliance and not just lip service.

Hopefully, almost all Americans (and Canadians) would agree with that.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

It Will Only Have a MAXIMum Effect

I received the following e-mail from a friend the other day:


In April 1997, there was a "gas out" conducted
nationwide in protest of gas prices. Gasoline prices
dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

On May 15th 2007, all internet users are to not go to
a gas station in protest of high gas prices. Gas is
now over $3.00 a gallon in most places.

There are 73,000,000+ American members currently on
the internet network, and the average car takes about
30 to 50 dollars to fill up.

If all users did not go to the pump on the 15th, it
would take $2,292,000,000.00 out of the oil companies'
pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the
gas station on May 15th and lets try to put a dent in
the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day.

If you agree send this to all of your contact list.


The first thing that struck me is that not buying gas for a day is a nice idea but rather futile. After all, if you don't fill up on May 15, you'll probably have to on May 14 or May 16 and the "Middle Eastern" oil industry will still get your cash.

The second thing that struck me is how cheap gas still is in most of the United States as compared to Canada, despite the fact that Canada is one of the world's largest producers of gas and has, I believe, the second-largest reserves. We export gas to the US. In other words, Americans pay less for our gas than we do. In Vancouver, the price is now regularly over $5 a gallon (a little over $4 US), and that's for the cheap stuff. Vancouverites also pay about the highest rates in Canada, much more than, for instance, Toronto where people have been whining about paying $1.10 a litre while we pay more than $1.25. I'm assuming government taxes are generally to blame.

Number three was that not using gas for a day doesn't actually cost the gas companies a cent and that the contention that if all 73 million Americans on the internet didn't buy gas for a day it would cost the companies $2.3 billion dollars is patently false. The only way that would work is if everyone filled up on the same day all the time and that day was the same day of the week that May 15 falls on. In fact, at best, we could assume it would cost the companies roughly $300 million (one-seventh to reflect the fact there are seven days in a week). Where it would cost the gas companies, it's true, is in side revenues - the sales of point of purchase products such as coffee, candy bars, cigarettes etc. It is possible you could quite actually dent gas company profits if everyone agreed to buy only gas from them.

Point four is that while this is a nice symbolic gesture to show the oil companies how pissed off we are at their record profits and the fact that when gas goes up on the world market in price it's reflected immediately at the pumps while when it goes down it seemingly takes weeks for the price change, it's fairly useless.

Point five is that there are oil companies that use only North American gas. In Canada, those companies are Mohawk and Husky which, may God bless them, carry not an iota of arab oil. Why they don't promote that as hard as they possibly can is beyond me.

Lastly, if we really do want to send a message to gas companies and the MidEast oil barons, the answer lies in keeping our vehicles parked whenever possible, carpooling, buying hybrids, not buying Hummers and other gas-guzzling SUVs, etc. If you really need an SUV, both Saturn (the Vue) and Ford (the Escape) make them in a hybrid; I know, I'm looking at purchasing one or the other in the next few weeks.

While I wish everyone luck in not buying gas on the 15th, I would hesitate for anyone to think this will have an impact whatsoever except to give a few gas jockeys the opportunity to spend more of their day reading Maxim and wiping down the counters.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Playtime in Paliland

Well, I thought about writing about the pleasant surprise that turned out to be the French election today or maybe even a personal note about how I ran and completed my first half marathon this morning but then I saw this little gem on Yahoo:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Muslim extremists attacked a children's festival at a U.N.-run elementary school Sunday, killing a politician's bodyguard and wounding seven people in the latest incident of lawlessness engulfing the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian unity government formed two months ago appears powerless to end extremist groups on foreigners, music shops and Internet cafes. Clan fighting, kidnappings and other attacks have added to the chaos.

Boy, those palis sure know how to celebrate stuff don't they? And, nothing like doing it at a UN-run elementary school in order to impress all the marvellous UN-types who've been busy hyping the wonderfulness of the palis over many decades.

The fact is, has been and always will be (I imagine) that palestinians are a complete waste of time, money and effort.

Why did this happen?

The homemade bomb and gun attack on the U.N. school in the southern Gaza refugee camp of Rafah began with a protest by Muslim extremists in long robes, who said a sports festival the school was hosting was un-Islamic. One protester's sign said the U.N. "is turning schools into nightclubs."

Sports are unislamic. Dancing is unislamic. Sex is unislamic. Drinking is unislamic. Killing people - now that's islamic.

In fact, here are the stats for palis killing palis in Gaza for the past couple of years - and these are the stats palis themselves admit to, so you can bet the number is likely much higher:

New statistics showed that during the first three months of the year 147 Gazans, including 10 children, were killed by fellow Palestinians, according to the Palestinian human rights group Al-Mezan.

Factional fighting killed 57 people in 2004, followed by 101 in 2005 and 252 last year.

But, lest anyone forget: this is no doubt Israel's fault.

I wonder if running half-marathons is unislamic and can only imagine that it must be. There were women there and not one of them was wearing a burka. To be truthful, watching some of them made the time pass much more quickly as did the music from my IPod. Man, I'm so far up the beheading line I better learn to run a hell of a lot faster than the nine minute miles I was turning in this morning...

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Trouble in Turkey

While most of the Western media has been focused on one political battle on the other side of the Atlantic - that being France's - another is shaping up to be much more interesting and with far greater implications.

In Turkey, a power struggle has been gaining strength after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to install fellow islamist Abdullah Gul as the country's President. To be fair, in Turkey, government islamists are kind of islamist-light, not yet the virulent strain of murderous islam found in, for instance, the halls of power in neighbouring Iran. However, these things have a habit of gaining strength and if islamists - even less strident ones - beging occupying the major seats of government, it will only lead to further pressures to become more conservative until the country enters a death spiral of talibanization.

Turkey is an interesting country - somewhat westernized and secular, somewhat islamic and backwards. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who brought modern Turkey into being, was an ardent opponent of islamic culture and forced much of it out of the nation. He is still revered today by millions of Turks, even though the nation is without question Muslim. And, among those who revere him the most are members of the military who basically threatened to stage a coup if Erdogan got his way and Gul was installed.

To get an understanding of just how deep this rift runs, a lot of the controversy has centred on Gul's wife because she wears a headscarf and sometimes a veil. My guess is it would be a non-issue in non-Muslim democracies, including Canada, if someone running for office had a spouse who wore a head covering (be they Muslim, Jewish or of another faith where orthodox or semi-orthodox adherents wear coverings). Here, for instance, Sikhs often run for office, often win and many of them wear turbans. In Turkey, the idea was enough to bring people out in the streets demonstrating.

That is, of course, an indicator of just how wary many Turks are of islamist movements. They can look at Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and other such nations, some of which they border, and see how backwards they are compared to their own country which has enjoyed rapid progress, a growing economy and decent relationships with western nations up to and including Israel. They are smart enough to not want to go back to a barbaric way of governance.

One problem the secular Turks face is the waffling from Europe about whether it can join the EU. The Europeans have been sending mixed signals on this for years, demanding certain concessions from Turkey that have nothing to do with EU membership such as admitting the genocide of Armenians in the earlier parts of the 20th century.

True, there was such a genocide and the Turks refuse to call it that, but it seems rather counterproductive to perhaps send that nation, its 70 million inhabitants and its second-largest standing army in the western world, into the arms of islamists over the issue (though, Armenians might well see it differently, to be sure).

European nations happily slaughtered one another's citizens in one war after another for centuries and I don't know if any others were asked to admit to it before joining the EU. What Europe is really afraid of is admitting 70 million Muslims into its membership - unless, those 70 million come from a country that used to be called France, I suppose - and so it has continuously come up with obstacles to prevent membership while trying to cultivate Turkey's cooperation and friendship.

Turkey, for better or worse, is a key NATO ally and a reasonably dependable one. It is also a bridge between the western world and the islamic one that could play an important role in the future of relationships between the two. Better that we keep them on our side then send them reeling to the other. The Turkish people and military seem to realize that, let's hope our governments do, too.

Friday, May 4, 2007

No Freedom, No Surprise

It will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone with an IQ above plant life that when Freedom House released its annual report on freedom of the press this week, only one Middle Eastern country was rated as allowing a free press and that one country was Israel.

Only two of the arab countries, in fact, were found to have an even partially free press: Lebanon and Kuwait. Lebanon, it should be noted, is about the only arab nation not wholly dominated by islam.

All others restricted press freedoms. Jordan, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco were the only other four that even rated above the bottom of the world's barrel. And, of those, all but Egypt saw regression over the past 12 months from their freedoms of the year before, according to Freedom House.

Libya and Iran were the worst, no surprise there. What is surprising is that Iran went backwards last year which is rather perverted because how can you get worse than zero? If Iran keeps it up, Freedom House may well have to re-establish its rating system.

There are two things to note here. One is that Israel continues to allow a free press - and usually has the highest infestation of foreign reporters in the world - despite the fact those very same people use that freedom to routinely bash Israel with bad publicity. Many news outlets, including such worldwide services as AP and Reuters, have admitted they skew the news out of fear for their reporters in the palestinian areas.

That is truly the mark of a free and open society: when you're willing to take a bashing day in, day out, week in, week out, year in, year out, because the principle comes first.

The second is that a free press is one of the most crucial things that any open and free society can have. That no arab country allows a free press is a very good indicator of where the arab world stands.

I got in a little trouble earlier this week on another site when I left a comment that "the arab world could disappear tomorrow and it would probably be a boon for the rest of mankind." The operator of the site challenged me, saying that my remarks smacked of the same stuff Iran's crazed leader has been espousing about Israel.

"No", I replied, in clarification, "I do not mean that arab people should disappear; I have no desire to see 300 million people killed. I meant that the arab culture could disappear and the world would be better off."

I believe that to be true, to my core. The arab world is regressive, misogynistic, violent, dictatorial and crazed with religious puritanism.

I'm sure others would agree with me if only the media had the balls and the opportunity to print it.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I'm doing this one because I'm not tired enough to go to bed yet

1. What is the stupidest mistake you have ever made with money?

I invested in a store that sold environmental products about 12 years ago. Ended up costing me about $20,000 I didn't have because I got left holding the bag when it went belly-up and all my so-called partners fled like rats. Damn thing wasn't even my idea to begin with. I guess we were ahead of our time; we'd probably make a killing today.

2. Do you think taxes are unfair or do you think it’s your civic duty?

I have no problem with the idea of paying taxes. I just wish government spent the money a little better.

3. Do you take risks and possibly turn your life upside down for new opportunity?

I have done so on many occasions in the past. Now, I don't have to anymore. I mostly like my life the way it is.

4. Are you the alpha in your household? (Include pets)

I often get up at 4 a.m. to let out one of our cats who has a particularly obnoxious yowl...so I guess not. I'm a light sleeper. No one else ever hears him.

5. Do you compromise with your significant other or does someone always get their way?

We discuss every important decision. I'm not sure that means compromise because sometimes I get what I want and sometimes my wife gets what she wants. But, in the end, neither of us is angry, so I guess it's all good.

6. What curse word do you use most often?

Fuckinggoddamnedpieceofshit. It's what I usually refer to my computer as.

7. Do you easily change your mind or are you dead set on most issues?

Usually dead set on issues of importance to me; open to change on things that are important to other people.

8. What famous person would you like to trade places with for one week?

Jose Reyes. My dream was to play shortstop for the New York Mets.

9. If you could go back in time and tell one person off, who would it be and what would you say?

The girl I moved halfway across the country to be with when I was 22 only to arrive in Toronto and have her tell me she was fucking one of her university professors who was 15 years older than she was and married. She couldn't have told me before I moved? I was too young, too "in love" and too stupid to tell her off at the time. Of course, he ended up dumping her and I ended up staying in Ontario, meeting my wife and leading a happy life. The last time I talked to her, she was miserable so I guess karma got her in the end.

10. Were you a good student or did you do just enough to get by?

I hated school. I did just enough to get by and skipped the rest of my classes for four years of high school.

11. If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting out on their own, what would you tell them?

Work to live, don't live to work.

12. Are people basically good and honest or are most people opportunistic and predatory?

Most people want to be good and honest...but they also want to have more than what they've got. The two are rarely compatible.

13. Is there somebody you wish you could go back and apologize to?

I've rarely said anything to anyone that I didn't mean and on the occasions where afterwards felt I was out of line, have had no problem sucking it up and apologizing.

I had a girlfriend once (not the one mentioned above) and after we broke up we were still friendly but then we both got involved with other people and stopped communicating. I got a call one night and was told she'd suffered a brain haemorrhage at age 27 and dropped dead. I don't know that I would have anything to "apologize" for, but I would have liked to talk to her again and tell her how much I valued her friendship because she was really cool.

Hockey in the Halls of Canadian Power

In my last post, I answered a question about whether hockey was a genetic part of being Canadian with a simple "yes".

Let me expand on that.

For the last two days, the news in Canada has been dominated - and I do mean dominated - by the naming of a Canadian player as captain of a Canadian team to an international squad in a tournament that no one in Canada really watches or cares about.

The World Hockey Championship is held in the middle of the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs and the only players who attend are those on teams so lousy they didn't make the playoffs. It's held in Europe. The games take place at hours most Canadians are sleeping or working and I don't even think the preliminary matches are televised.

The captain of this year's Canadian squad is Shane Doan. Doan is a good player, not a great one, but he is a leader and he was a popular choice with the players to wear the "C" as we in Canada call it.

But, his role has become a political and media hot potato the likes of which you rarely see in this country.

About 16 months ago - that's right SIXTEEN MONTHS - in a game against the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal, Doan was accused of calling a referee a "fucking frog." He didn't. There is no video or audio evidence of him doing so and Doan is one of the few players in the league who doesn't use the word "fuck" on any occasion. He is a strict Christian with an unblemished record. Everyone who has ever played with him or against him has attested to the fact he is one of the most gentlemanly players to ever lace up the skates.

Most hockey players use "fuck" as a verb, adverb, noun, pronoun, adjective and anything else they can think of. Not Doan; he says "fudge" and his comment that night to a teammate, misheard in a crowded, noisy arena by a Francophone linesman whose command of English is not perfect, was that there were "four French referees", the implication being that perhaps his Phoenix-based team, with the game in Montreal, might not get a 100 per cent fair shake. Hardly the stuff of controversy at a professional sporting match.

A short time later, he was named to Canada's Olympic Team and the Bloc Quebecois protested.

Then, the situation died down, for more than a year. Even the referee has said the incident was long ago laid to rest.

The one outstanding issue is an unresolved defamation suit Doan has launched against against a Member of Parliament, saying that you could call him "the worst player in the league" but you could not impugn his reputation as being honest and a gentleman.

But, after he was named captain last week, the issue rose its head again. This time, the Blocheads charged that Doan was not a proper person to represent Canada, which is pretty rich coming from a party whose ONLY platform is to rip the country apart and whose leader, Gilles Duceppe, has demanded a separate Quebec team be sent to world events such as Olympic games. And, even more bizarrely, this time, the Bloc is supported by the New Dumbocraps (socialist morons) and the Liberals (slightly less socialist morons).

The issue has been dominating the House of Commons, the media, the airwaves, the office watercooler and every other avenue and outlet of conversation in the country.

Most Canadians view this as political gamesmanship at its very worst, and it will come as no surprise to anyone that I agree. The political fallout could well be tremendous; that's how much Canadians love and respect hockey and its players.

And, the ruling Conservatives? Well, they're headed by Stephen Harper who is pretty much a hockey historian. His party is more or less lending their support to Doan and, no doubt, hoping the issue remains front and centre because, in the end, they stand to reap the windfall.

As does Doan. He's gone from captain of a footnote of a hockey squad to a man Canadians are now rallying behind. Far from sullying his reputation, the three-headed political monster has turned him into a hero.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I volunteered to be a guinea pig

for a meme where you only get tagged if you do volunteer. The idea is that once you have offered up yourself as a sacrificial lamb, the person to whom you made the offer gets to ask you any five questions they want.

I did this because one thing I wanted to ensure when I started blogging was that I didn't just write about the same things all the time. There are plenty of people who are interested in the same topics that I am and who have both the patience and time to research them and write very eloquent, in-depth posts. Me, I'm more of a stream of consciousness guy; there's not a post on my blog that took me more than 15 minutes to write although I sometimes do spend that much again editing them.

Anyway, the questions are courtesy of Michael at Oleh Musings (that's two times I've mentioned his blog in a week, so he owes me one). The answers are courtesy of me. Anyone who wants to volunteer to put themselves in the firing line is free to indicate so.

1) You have kids. What do you love most about them, and what is the one thing they do that really just makes you want to sell the to the lowest bidder?

What I love most about my kids is being able to watch them grow up into real people with personalities of their own. Sometimes, though, especially with my younger son, it makes me sad because I know I won't be having anymore (snip, snip) and I try really hard to cherish the moments that we have and to remind myself that they're only young once so I'd better take the time to appreciate them now.

What makes me want to sell them to the lowest bidder - and it's not just my kids - is the sense of entitlement that children in our society seem to have these days. I've worked hard to get it through to them that very few people are as lucky as we are but then they have friends who are even luckier and whose parents are even more indulging so it's kind of difficult. It not only comes from parents but from the school system which is so absorbed with shit like self-esteem and the idea that all children are the same instead of preparing kids for the real world.

2) You live in Canada. Is hockey really genetic for Canadians?

Yes. I'm writing this while I wait for the overtime to begin between Vancouver and Anaheim. I was born in the US and actually prefer baseball but the only Canadian I know who doesn't like hockey is my wife. That, however, is not why I married her and she doesn't like baseball much, either.

3) If you could change one major world event from the last 100 years, what would it be, and why?

I'll even narrow it down to a single day - January 30, 1933 - The day Hitler was declared Chancellor of Germany by Paul von Hindenburg. It would lead not only to the Holocaust but to millions of deaths around the world and, eventually, the cold war.

4) If you could have the ear of a one world leader for 10 minutes, with a garauntee that your advice would be heeded, who would it be, what would you say, and why?

I'm willing to bet that fully two-thirds of people in the western world right now would answer that question by saying George Bush and then going on a rant about Iraq.
I'm not one of them.
I'd want the ear of Chinese President Hu Jintao and I'd tell him to bring a democratic system into China because together, the western world, China and India would comprise more than half the world's population and could do wonderful things for the future of humanity. I think China has the ability to be a great country or to hasten the doom of mankind and right now its politicians are leaning the wrong way even though its citizens would probably go the other way if they had the choice.

5) Who are the 3 most important people in your life?

Easy. My wife and my two children. Talk about a softball question. Thanks Michael, although you can lob me another one if you want.

Now back to the hockey game.