Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It Would be Nice to Have a Month Off to Protest

I have, more or less, been working since I had a paper route beginning at age 12. My parents were separated and mom wasn't exactly shelling out the bucks to satisfy the whims of a pre-teenager (soon to be teenager). So, I got a job.

I was a newspaper boy. Then, I worked at McDonalds. I did telephone soliciting and door-to-door sales. I worked as a carpet cleaner. I did shit jobs for money because I needed money to live and to buy the things I wanted. It didn't matter to me how I made the money as long as it was legal.

Which is why the current protests that started in Israel (yes, Israel - if you really want to go back to the roots) and then spread to Wall Street and across North America and Europe kind of annoy me. It's not that I mind protesting or that I don't think there is some validity in the concerns of many of the people attending - it's the endless litany of hapless whining and the chorus of how unfair life is that grates on my nerves.

I have heard numerous interviews with these people. One, an American now living in Canada, complained a bank "conned" him into accepting a $200,000 mortgage that he couldn't afford because he only made $10 an hour. Apparently, he was incapable of doing the math himself. Others, asked about what they're protesting, mumble and stumble throwing around words like equality and justice without exactly identifying the inequalities and injustices of North American life. Another I heard advocated a society without money. We don't need money, she opined, we just need to share everything. And, still others have arrived to blame that age-old world pariah: the Jews.

They call themselves the 99-percenters to differentiate themselves from the wealthy of western society but they don't acknowledge that they are far richer than anyone not from a developed first world nation. Further, leaving riches aside, they have the right to protest and enjoy freedoms many people would gladly trade whatever fortune they have to achieve.

The problems in our current economies were not merely the faults of banks and government agencies, although they certainly played their part. They are also the fault of the millions of people like $10 an hour guy who happily accepted an endless amount of credit with some kind of expectation that it would all work out in the end. And, it did, just not the way they wanted.

I don't know how someone can sit on a street for 30 days demanding this, that or the other thing. How many opportunities at working for a living slipped by in that time for those people? How many left jobs so they could squat in a park with others feeling all self-righteous while accomplishing nothing? How many have never worked at all and have no intention of working because they feel, simply by the virtue of their existence, that the rest of us owe them something?

We have created a society of entitlement and this is the fruit we are being rewarded with. The protests will fizzle out when the cold weather sets in, at least in the northern states and Canada. And, those people will be no better off because they've been playing the role of Aesop's grasshopper while us ants - the true 99 per centers - have been preparing for the less sunny times ahead.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Does "Fuck You" Qualify as an Apology?

As its regressive government completes Turkey's transition from secular democracy to islamic craphole, it took an important step this week - downgrading its relations with Israel and expelling Israeli diplomats from the country.

Any old excuse would do - the Turks are clearly bent on earning their arab street cred and that must include treating Israel as a pariah state. You can't cozy up to the Iranians and their Syrian puppets without a healthy dose of Jew-hating and paranoia infesting your every decision. In this case, however, Turkey seized on the UN report exonerating Israel for last year's unfortunate flotilla incident which left 9 terrorist-wannabes dead. And, when I say unfortunate, I mean in the sense that several Israeli commandos were seriously injured.

Anyway, as most people should know by now, the UN had no recourse but to report that the Gaza blockade is legal. Had they been able to come up with another conclusion, I've no doubt they would have. But, no, the UN admits the running of weapons into Gaza via the sea is an existing and existential threat to Israel and it questioned the motives of the flotilla's "humanitarian organizers". By extension, if the blockade is legal, running it must therefore be illegal. So, it was the flotilla that broke international law, not the Israelis. Further, it was the Turkish government that allowed this farce to occur with, I imagine, the clear intent of embarrassing Israel. They, apparently, did not realize the Israelis are serious about their security.

Luckily for the Turkish government, in the arab world, you can pass anything off as a Jewish, Israeli or Zionist conspiracy, thereby avoiding what really irks them - being humiliated. When your armies are defeated, you claim victory. When a few dozen gunmen are killed, you yell, "massacre and genocide". When your citizens revolt, you blame the Mossad, etc. Hell, last year Egypt blamed Israeli-trained sharks for a spate of biting attacks in one of its tourism areas. And, that was when the Egyptians were still being run by Mubarak, one of the least Israeli-hating of the arab thug leaders.

So, rather than make amends to Israel for essentially underwriting an attack on a country that had been mostly an ally, the Turks demanded an apology from Israel. Israel, having already publicly expressed deep regret at the loss of life (one imagines the reaction inside the halls of power was somewhat less sympathetic), refused. The Turks have decided this is cause to end a diplomatic and business relationship that has been one of the few anywhere in the Middle East built on mutual accommodation. It is Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plan to continue Turkey's move to an islamic state and it goes hand in hand with purging the army of its secular leaders and becoming ever-more chummy with Iran.

Israel, being Israel, will likely take this slight and put on its normal face of regretting the Turkish actions, calling for reconciliation and refusing to issue any other public apologies, hoping all the while the Turks eventually come to their senses. Sadly, I have my doubts. If I were Israel, I'd be very tempted to take two diplomatic steps of my own: 1) publicly recognize the Armenian genocide and 2) call for an independent Kurdish homeland. Sometimes, when you're in the sandbox, you have to toss a handful back at your tormenter.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just a Little Off the Sides

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we attended a Lamaze class. During the course of the sessions, the issue of circumcision arose. I don't remember the circumstances - whether it was part of the actual program or just a question raised by one of the other three couples attending.

I was aghast when one of the couples began having an actual argument over the issue. He, a Canadian, was insistent that any male child would be circumcised; she, from Britain - where the practice is not nearly as prevalent as in North America - was equally convinced otherwise. After about five minutes of uncomfortable squirming, I suggested perhaps it would just be best if they had a girl. Which they did. They also divorced a couple of years later.

Lately, it seems the circumcision issue is getting a lot of media play. An initiative to ban it completely in San Francisco failed. My daily newspaper recently had a two-page spread on whether it was a responsible act or not. Howard Stern, who I listen to almost daily, regularly speaks out against it, one of the few things I'm in complete disagreement with him on.

The arguments against circumcision seem to be: 1) it's unnecessary, 2) it's mutilation, 3) it causes psychological harm to the baby and 4) it lessens the man's pleasure during sex.

Of these, 1) is largely correct. There is no specific reason to circumcise a baby. But studies have shown circumcision reduces the rate of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, and it reduces the potential for other infections. It also removes the potential for requiring a circumcision later in life - an occasional and, reportedly, very painful prospect indeed for an adult male. And, yes, there are rare complications but those exist with vaccinations and other common medical procedures (generally with much more serious medical consequences). 2) depends entirely on your point of view. Young girls (and boys) often get piercings before they are of adult age and it, too, is mutilation but I don't hear anyone calling for it to be illegal. Ditto tattoos which are sported by teens on a regular basis these days. 3) is utter, complete and absolute bunk. I had both my boys circumcised. I held them while it was being done, without anaesthetic, by a mohel (a Jewish doctor specifically trained in both the medical and religious aspects of the process). In both cases, a single cry was emitted and that was pretty much it. The idea that this causes some deep scars to the baby's psyche is the type of ridiculous babble regularly touted by those who feel that we've all been scarred and are incapable of overcoming even the most minor - or in this case, completely unmemorable - events in our lives. 4) I can only say that if I am foregoing, let's say, 10 per cent of the pleasure I would otherwise get from intercourse, then it's a sacrifice I am willing to make both for myself and my wife. Feeling too little pleasure is not a problem in my world. And, as far as pleasure goes, my wife reveals that on the one occasion she was involved with a non-circumcised man, she found it, delicately speaking, off-putting.

In reality, what drives the anti-circumcision crowd is they are convinced they are right and will use whatever means at their disposal - whether supporting evidence exists or not - to advance their argument. You do not hear anyone call for all babies to be circumcised because the reasoned view from that perspective is that it's a choice parents make based on their own convictions.

The simple fact really seems to be that circumcision is a procedure that has some benefits but not necessarily enough to compel the medical community to recommend it universally. And, that's how it should be left. Parents are given the appropriate information to make their own decision. It is not an issue that requires the intervention of the nanny-staters - but, then, I suppose that comprises the vast majority of their issues in this ever-increasing atmosphere of regulation and taking decisions away from the only people who should rightfully be making them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Tale of Two Riots

Following four or so days of intense rioting in Britain a couple of weeks ago, the police, courts and politicians have acted aggressively, already combining to send a number of people to jail for periods that, in some cases, far outweigh the generally accepted severity of the crime.

This, of course, has sent the usual suspects into great spasms of righteousness as they cry to the heavens about the lack of justice and assert that on appeal these sentences will be overturned. They don't get it: British society, or at least those in charge of keeping some kind of order, seem to have decided enough is enough and that a) even if the sentences are overturned the jail time those individuals are now serving will far exceed previous such penalties and b) it could possibly act as a powerful incentive to others inclined to do the same stupid things to maybe just have another beer instead and pass out peacefully.

Having never been there, I don't know what Britain is really like but I've read enough about its societal make up and recent history to be pretty sure it's not a place I'd feel particularly comfortable living as I am opposed to endemic anti-Semitism, appeasement-oriented multiculturalism and cradle-to-grave entitlements with no effort to instill any sense of responsibility in those receiving said benefits.

However, I generally applaud the British reaction to rioters and wish I could say the same for the actions of the equivalent parties here in British Columbia. Because, apparently, we need a couple of more serious riots before we learn the lesson.

It turns out that more than two months after a very damaging riot in downtown Vancouver following the loss of the Stanley Cup final, not only has there not been a single conviction, there has yet to be even a single charge laid. This despite the fact that many of the rioters were captured on video and camera and that many of the people involved were even stupid enough to post of their exploits on social media sites. This despite the fact the police and the government promised swift and serious action after the second hockey related riot in the city's history. This despite the fact the public outcry was both loud and direct: prosecute the people responsible for damaging property and sullying our city's reputation.

It has been posited that the cry for swift action was borne of the same mob mentality that led to the riots and that the emotion would ebb as quickly. I disagree wholeheartedly. Two months later and I, for one, still want those responsible held responsible. I want the clowns who burned cars and threw stones at police and broke windows and looted stores jailed, for at least a short period of time. I want those who participated in less violent or damaging ways to suffer the embarrassment of being hauled before the courts and made to, at least, undertake public service to pay us back for their actions.

I'm extremely irked that there has been no action here and that the police are still yapping about having to compile more evidence. If they don't have enough evidence to convict some of these people, then our governments need to address the definition of evidence so that those who post pictures of themselves on Facebook breaking laws in a significant way are deemed to have provided sufficient evidence, not withstanding whatever other evidence may exist.

I want an end to the bullshit before British Columbia looks like the British Isles. Justice delayed is justice denied and, in this case, it is society that is being denied.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Time to End the Tea Party

It is supremely stupid that the US election cycle seems to be never-ending. Congressmen, restricted to their two year terms, are campaigning virtually all the time. The President's office isn't much more secure, usually by the time the four-year term is half over, people on the opposite side are lining up to take a run as are people from the ruling party, if the president is in his final term.

Sadly, Republicans seem intent on making sure that people from both sides will be lining up for the 2016 election. They do not seem to have a single candidate who is electable to the actual office of president.

We have seen this before, or at least Canadians have. After the Conservatives were handed a monumental ass-kicking in 1993, the party split in two. One half became the Reform Party - headed by evangelical Christian Preston Manning. The other continued to hold itself to the party's more centrist leaning faction. Predictably, they split the right of centre vote during several elections, handing easy victories to Jean Chretien and his Liberal Party. It was only after common sense prevailed and the right reunited under the capable stewardship of Stephen Harper in the early half of the last decade that they were able to challenge and eventually defeat the long-governing Liberals.

Manning, it must be said, wasn't a complete knuckle dragger but he did have knuckle dragging tendencies. I don't think he denied evolution but he would have denied you an abortion or a same-sex marriage. On the general scale of mixing religion with politics, he'd rate about a 7.5.

The darlings of the tea party, people like Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin, rate about a 9.5 on the knuckle-dragging scale. I'm giving them the half point benefit because, frankly, both of them are too good looking to be complete neanderthals. And, since the tea partiers now seem to hold the balance of power - or at least enthusiasm and probably money - for their chosen candidates, it would seem quite possible one of their beloved seizes the Republican nomination for 2012. If not, it's entirely feasible they will not vote for the Republican candidate and would either forward a third party or independent candidate or just stay home.

Either way, the Democrats win and Barack Obama's confused, meandering presidency gets another four years, including two where - if history is any indicator - he'll be a complete lame duck incapable of getting anything done. This is, by any reasonable standard, absolutely not what the United States needs right now.

It may already be too late. By indulging, or being overrun by, the Tea Party, the Republicans find themselves in a sticky situation. Some tea partiers, no doubt, are very sensible people who really are interested in nothing more than lower taxes/deficit, greater accountability and less intrusion in the average citizen's private life - areas where Obama, as the latest in a growing list of 20th/21st century presidents, has failed badly. But the vast majority seem to reject simple facts like evolution or what should be simple rights like a woman's control over her own body.

There is a split in the United States right now - or, at least it seems so from 15 minutes north of its border - between those who would run the country on semi-theological lines and those who would run it along semi-ideological lines. What is desperately needed is someone interested in running it along practical lines. With an ever-increasing deficit, three wars, a still-stagnant economy and an ungodly mess of a foreign policy, the Obama administration is ripe for the picking.

But, it won't be by Michelle Bachmann or those of her ilk. The Republican party needs a quick adaptation to the realities on the ground and a candidate who can forward a platform to reduce the deficit and bloated government, take a pragmatic, 21st century approach to a range of social issues and produce a cohesive foreign policy.

Sadly, I'm wagering my dashboard Jesus that this won't be happening in 2012. Rather, I think the Republicans are well on their way to turning the campaign into a year-long farce. And, as depressing a thought as that is; the alternative - they nominate and Americans elect someone like Bachmann - is just so opposed to common sense that it causes a small brain such as mine to produce a major headache when even contemplated.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Some Things Never Go Out of Fashion

When I was a child, my mother insisted that I wear oxfords and dress pants to school until I was about 10 or 11. Of course, I hated this. In the 35 years since I have worn denim on at least 90 per cent of the days. Blue jeans, t-shirts, athletic socks and running shoes are my typical daily wear with only slight variations allowed for seasonal considerations. I even managed to wrangle myself employment in a white collar profession but with employers who allow blue collar dress.

All of which goes to say that I have the fashion sense of a colour-blind four-year-old. Furthermore, I daresay I care less about how I dress than that same four-year-old.

Which is why I was so surprised to learn today that fashion designer Johnny Galliano was under so much pressure from his job that he found it necessary to take drugs and alcohol in such quantity that he all of a sudden, presto, change-o, turned into an anti-Semite, like some sort of warped national socialist version of Cinderella. You must take your job pretty seriously when dressing up runway models becomes a reason to start ranting as if you've been possessed by Joseph Goebbels.

According to AP, during his trial for "public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity" Galliano doesn't remember any such incidents - although he's standing trial for two such occurrences and at least one other was reported - due to his drug and alcohol addiction. The drugs and alcohol were necessary because of the difficulties experienced by designers in a recession-wracked world. Over-priced and ugly clothing, it seems, just doesn't sell as well when people are defaulting on their mortgages.

Personally, I'm unconvinced that such a small, petty creature should even be on trial. His reputation lies in shreds, like the leftovers from one of his cutting room sessions. His employer, Christian Dior, turfed him immediately, and rightly so. Galliano is entitled to his stupidity but no one is obligated to keep paying him if he conducts himself in an unprofessional manner. It could really have been left at that.

The kicker is, of course, that Galliano is overtly homosexual. The Nazis, their personal indiscretions aside, would not have been impressed. The only fashion he would have been wearing under a Nazi regime would have included a pink triangle.

I will never buy the inevitable mea culpas that flow from the likes of Galliano and Mel Gibson. In wine, truth and all of that. But, really, ho-hum...if we want to get serious about anti-Semitism in this world, Galliano is hardly the starting point. Anti-Semitism isn't haute couture; in fact, as far as irrational hatreds go, it's ubiquitous - like t-shirts and blue jeans. For the garden variety anti-Semite slug, the best approach is a liberal sprinkling of ridicule and a good smack in the pocketbook; they are generally incurable but easily dealt with.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Let Loose the Unicorns of Diplomacy

Yesterday, Barack Obama delivered a lengthy speech on the state of the Middle East. Most of the approximately 45 minutes was used to outline the background of the so-called "Arab Spring" and to detail how the US will support those countries that move towards democracy and enhanced individual freedoms. He called for all the very presidential things that a president should call for: women's rights, minority rights, an end to cronyism, nepotism and rule by decree, etc.

And, then he spent five minutes or so on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is, of course as is always the case where the word "Israel" is found, that portion of the speech which dominated the following commentary and headlines (at least in North America).

I believe Obama should have made such a speech. What is happening in the Middle East is incredibly important to the world - whether the end result is good or bad remains to be seen - and the effort to support those potential leaders who are actually interested in assisting arab countries to lurch into the 21st Century should be a priority. It is a positive sign that he is tying aid to actual reform, although it remains to be seen whether that can be accomplished in a region where tribal and family ties stretch back centuries, where nationhood is a much newer concept and where illiteracy, a lack of women's and minority rights and religious zealotry are major obstacles to progress.

And, Obama's call for roughly 1967 borders is nothing particularly new. It is foolishness to expect Israel to dismantle large towns/small cities in the West Bank but it is certainly feasible to swap land in exchange.

This, however, is where he steers horribly wrong and where pundits - as usual - have missed a central point: the potential borders between Israel and a palestinian state are not the problem. By essentially putting that ahead of all other considerations, Obama is saying one of either two things: a) he remains naive about the realities of palestinian politics or b) he sees no solution to other issues so he will try to patch together a palestinian state and carve himself a permanent place in the history books.

In fact, he essentially acknowledged this in his speech by noting the presence of hamas and its policies and the refusal of palestinian leaders (and, by both extension and appearance, the citizenry) to recognize Israel and its right to exist. But, he didn't stress that for what it really is: the determining factor. It is illogical to expect Israel to make peace with a government whose elements are still bent on its eventual destruction and who are state-sponsors of terrorism before they even have a state.

Until the US - regardless of who is president - puts the emphasis where it belongs, there cannot be peace. Borders are easy to create - in fact, the whole Middle East is full of artificial borders that make no sense (the root cause of much of the sectarian violence seen in countries where nationhood clashes with age-old traditions). And, Israel has shown it will make land concessions and uproot citizens in the pursuit of peace - as it did in Gaza, which resulted in the reward of having thousands of rockets lobbed indiscriminately at its populace.

What you cannot create is a peace partner where none exists. By entering into a power-sharing agreement with hamas, the "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas has torpedoed any such hopes in the short-term. It is a child's fantasy to believe the palestinians are seriously committed to a secure peace and, perhaps, in that fantasy, a hero would ride in on his sage and horned equine companion and save the day. The west has long been wide-eyed at every bedtime story the palestinians have concocted. Thus, it is no surprise Obama handed out his scholarly rhetoric empty of any suggestion of a solution to hamas' presence, etc, skimming over it but without interrupting the tale.

The US - and the world community - does have an opportunity to positively affect events in the Middle East and certainly in those countries experiencing political upheaval. That is important. The last thing the world needs is more nations falling under the sway of radical islamic leaders or just overall sectarian violence, and Egypt is already demonstrating the very real possibility of that kind of reaction.

The I/P conflict can wait. Egyptians, Syrians, Tunisians, Libyans, etc. weren't/aren't out in the streets because of the plight of the palestinians. They're fighting for their own futures. The I/P situation is a sideshow. It doesn't need the US's attention and the US's attention would be much better put to use elsewhere.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Shame of Being Richard Goldstone

After Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli response to 7,000 or so missiles and rockets launched from Gaza into Israel, the world was aghast at the actions of a sovereign state defending itself from attack.

The United Nations, as its general reaction whenever Israel is mentioned, went ballistic, eventually appointing Richard Goldstone, a retired South African judge, former International Criminal Tribunal prosecutor and a Jew himself, to investigate potential war crimes and crimes against humanity. While the mandate included actions by hamas, the de facto government of Gaza, everyone knew what its real goal was: to demonize Israel.

The Israelis, having already appointed their own investigation (with foreign investigators included) declined to take part in Goldstone's inquiry. And, rightfully so. Israel has nothing to gain from the United Nations and especially its so called Human Rights Council.

Goldstone, predictably, came back with a report slamming Israel, accusing it of deliberately targeting civilians and demanding investigations. It also demanded the same of Hamas, which is a little like demanding your cat not scratch the sofa - it might make you feel better but it has no validity as far as the cat is concerned.

In the fallout, Israel was again singled out as a world pariah. The anti-Zionist crowd out there milked the Goldstone Report right until this past weekend - when Goldstone recanted.

In a Washington Post essay, since carried elsewhere in North American (hopefully, in Europe, too, where its message is far more sorely needed), Goldstone now says he "knows a lot more today about what happened" and "if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document".

Without reprinting the entire thing, let's just say Israel followed through on its commitments to investigate individual actions, that Israel never, as a matter of policy, targeted civilians and that Hamas has done absolutely nothing to investigate the allegations against the Gazans, including those thousands of projectiles launched at nothing but civilian population centres.

None of this is at all surprising. Israel has been through this before; Jenin and the Free Gaza flotilla incident being two other recent examples. Throughout its 60 year history, arab leaders have repeatedly launched the most bizarre accusations against the "Zionist entity" and much of the rest of the world has gobbled it up like ice cream in August.

What is shameful, however, is Goldstone's condemnation of Israel knowing full well he didn't have all the facts and having even one iota of expectation that the palestinians would act to curb their deliberate targeting of civilians (and the myriad human right abuses against its own citizens, nevermind Israeli Jews). The man was a judge and a prosecutor for God's sake - does he not understand the need for evidence?

Against a backdrop of the largest number of attacks against Israel since Operation Cast Lead, including the gruesome slaying of a family of five by knife-wielding terrorist scum, a bus bombing and more missiles with greater range now landing on Israeli territory, Goldstone's change in tune does have meaning. It shows that, once again, the world's sole Jewish state is consistently at the mercy of the arab/muslim bloc and its allies at the UN. It shows that, once again, western nations have been played for fools by the palestinians. It serves as a reminder of just how treacherous dealing with that part of the world is - a lesson that a mere two years later we seem intent on having to re-learn, this time in Libya. (Not to mention Egypt where, lo and behold, the islamists are now demanding a greater role in government only weeks after claiming that was not their goal while working to unseat Hosni Mubarak.)

But, no number of apologies can undo the damage. There is no question in my mind - and has not been from the day the UN announced it intentions - that the result was predetermined. Israel was going to pay the price for protecting its citizens and will do so again just as soon as a few more Iranian-shipped missiles land on its territory from Gaza.

The next time the UN feels the need to launch an investigation into Israel measures, its members need to ask themselves a very simple question: "how would I expect my nation to react to a constant rain of deadly missiles on our civilian areas by an enemy whose only stated goal is to destroy us?"

Israel has long been held to a higher standard than other nations. It has shown remarkable restraint in dealing with an enemy that is intractable and serves as a proxy for Middle East heavyweight Iran. Richard Goldstone needs to do a lot more to make up for his mistake, maybe he can start by conveying that message where ever he goes. Call it restitution.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Larry David Election

For the fourth time since 2004, Canadians are headed to the election booths to vote on which federal party should lead our nation.

This, sadly, is an election about nothing but egos; a pointless $300-million plus expenditure of taxpayers money that is almost certain to end - barring some extreme public relations stumble by one of the four parties - with almost the exact same make up of Parliament we have today - a Conservative minority government roundly hated by the three remaining federal parties likely to win seats.

Canada has reached a point of political stalemate. This is largely due to the Bloc Quebecois, a separatist party that runs in only about 25 per cent of Canada's ridings (all of them in Quebec, obviously) and wins about 15 per cent of the seats. Canada is one of the few countries in the world - if not the only one - where the taxpayers fund the sitting members and operations of a party whose only goal is to extricate itself and its province from the federation. Failing actual separation - which Quebecers aren't really that interested in anymore, according to polls - they settle for wringing as much money out of the federal machinery as possible and whining to the heavens when they don't get everything they want. Quebecers may not want separation all that much but they do want as many dollars from the rest of the country as they can possibly get their hands on.

The Liberal Party is an utter mess, led by a colourless, professorial policy wonk who might actually have something to say if it were possible to stay awake long enough to hear it. Michael Ignatieff might be a nice guy with a big brain but he's not a politician. He couldn't make a decision if he were faced with the choice of eating a bowl of ice cream or a bowl of arsenic. And, while it should be true that his public image should not disqualify him from the position, he'd be fodder on the world stage. The Liberals have no real campaign platform, apparently choosing to fight the election on economic grounds where the ruling party has a clear edge. There second option is to fight on ethical grounds except for the fact that a "sponsorship scandal" under the previous Liberal regime cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions more than all the mini-Tory scandals combined. The Tories stretch the law - the Liberals last run in office saw them actively break it. Canadians have not forgotten this.

The Tories have bumbled and stumbled a bit. Their leader, and current PM, Stephen Harper also projects a rather drab public image. He's also somewhat autocratic, keeping a tight rein on information coming from the government and repeatedly frustrating the opposition by keeping them fighting for every scrap of paper they can get. This could be easily changed if Harper exhaled every now and again but he's wound tighter than the inside of a golf ball. He is, however, a leader who's been relatively honest. Tagged with having a "hidden agenda" based on his conservative and religious views, he has kept his word and refused to even consider any legislation that would affect societal norms such as legalized abortion and a continued ban on the death penalty. He has kept his personal views entirely separate from his political agenda.

Lastly, we have the New Democrat Party, led by the one leader on the federal scene who has some flair. Unfortunately, for Jack Layton that's all he has - the NDP's platform is one of promising everything without being specific about where the money will come from and of acting like euroweenies on every international issue. Maybe worse, actually, some of the European countries have vastly changed their tune in recent years, admitting that multiculturalism is an abject failure; the NDP has no problem putting and keeping the cult in multiculturalism. They still believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that these kind of policies make a country such as Canada strong rather than facing the truth that weakening our western democracies in the name of "fairness" and "equality" makes us all losers, including immigrants. Layton is also plagued by a recent hip operation and a bout with colon cancer so maybe he forced this vote hoping to get a few sympathy seats. It's not going to happen. The NDP is ridiculously outdated, clinging to an us (socialist/union/labour) vs. them (business) philosophy that is economically ruinous. When given the opportunity in two of Canada's three most populous provinces (BC and Ontario), the NDP was as corrupt as any other party and more destructive.

I vote Conservative because they are a much more moral party when it comes to foreign affairs, often eschewing pragmatism for an actual stance on human rights and freedoms. Our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and a couple of his cabinet ministers are among the few politicians in the world who will criticize China, raise the spectre of Iran's nuclear program in a solid way and support Israel in its fight against islamic terror. These are examples - in general the Tories have brilliantly remade Canada's image in the world.

Still, like most Canadians, I was relatively accepting of the status quo. Sure, the opposition parties forced the Tories to spend more on "stimulus" than was needed (by billions and billions) and we'll have to pay that back some day. On the other hand, they have also kept some of the government's nastier ideas from becoming law - for instance, the Tories "law and order" agenda is a complete loser; A US-style approach to the justice system predicated on throwing more and more people in jails thereby justifying the expense of building more jails which thereby justifies throwing more people in jails, etc. Very rarely is throwing someone in jail an actual answer to a problem unless the problem is keeping those within the legal system employed.

Regardless, I do hope the Tories win this election and with a majority. It will allow them to try to balance our books without the constant hindrance of being a minority government one non-confidence vote away from another election. And, the alternative is ghastly. Because the Tories will almost assuredly win the most seats, the only way another party can form the government is by entering a coalition and said coalition would almost certainly have to involve the Bloc Quebecois. In other words: a government either supported or partly run by a party whose platform is essentially treason.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thoughts On A No-Fly Zone

Normally, I blog with a sort of stream-of-consciousness approach. Let 'er rip, then go back and edit the mistakes. For some reason, I can't edit while viewing the post in editable form, I have to sift through the actual blog post and then go in and correct it.

Anyway, this is not one of those times. The no-fly zone established over Libya actually made me think about a number of things like:

1) What is the point? Unlike Egypt, there is no established movement in Libya touting democracy - or even the most minor of human rights - to take over or work with if Khadafy is removed from power. And, while I doubt such efforts will easily succeed in Egypt, I think they are well nigh impossible in Libya. If all that's going to happen is a) chaos followed by b) more violations of human rights with a combination of c) the additional influence of islamists, I'd be more inclined to stick with d) the devil we know and just finally isolate his ass as the terrorist he is instead of continuously pretending he can be redeemed. The world eventually figured it out with Arafat and, once he was shut away in his compound and unable to practice terrorism freely, the palestinians were far better behaved. After he died and the hamassholes got ahold of Gaza, the situation quickly reverted to what we see today because everyone pretended you could work with a "democratically elected" palestinian government. Well, everybody but Canada, anyway, where our Prime Minister, forever to his credit, told hamas to shove it from day one.

Is it not time we learned from recent history - say Afghanistan and Iraq - that getting into military actions in muslim or arab countries where we don't know who the players really are, where we don't understand the tribal culture or the "society" is just a recipe for expensive, drawn out disasters? Of the three, only Afghanistan really required our attention.

The way I see it, war needs to be fought - especially in muslim countries - with only one goal: to defeat the enemy as severely and quickly as possible to make them realize fighting on will only get them killed. Our wishy-washy western perspective on life is counterproductive to the way we need to wage war in these places because they do not have the respect for life, liberty and rights that we do and yet we repeatedly pretend they do. It's stupid, wasteful and ends up with needless western deaths. Do it fast and do it right or don't do it all.

2) France? Really? F-r-a-n-c-e? Are you freakin' kidding me? One think about Nicholas Sarkozy: he's got some balls. Certainly more then Barack Obama has ever had or will have. Who would have thought the French - the great capitulators of the 20th Century - would take a lead role in an effort that they know will require military action? Or, maybe it's not so unusual - the chances of any Frenchmen actually dying for the cause are pretty small (it's air and missiles only - no boots on the ground).

3) What is Barack Obama doing? I doubt even he can answer that question. Here you have the situation in Libya, the desperate situation in Japan and the leader of the free world is off in Brazil touting its democracy as a model to the arab world...as opposed to, say, the United States' democracy which for 225 years or so has led the world in, well, democracy.

The Obama administration has badly misplayed this - either they should have taken the lead role or stayed out all together. Now, they've put themselves in a position where the US is involved in some kind of military action in 3 muslim countries, it's going to come down to the US taxpayer to fund these shenanigans and the US has no real say in how the effort is conducted or how it will end. My two cents? This is one time the US could have just said to the world, "nah. We'll pass. There is nothing to be gained here and no one, really, worth defending. France? You want it, you got it."

I've taken a fair dose of crap from my more Democrat-leaning friends over the past few years for my instinctive dislike of Obama. But, I think as time goes on, I'm being proven absolutely correct - this man reached his personal Peter Principle level the day he graduated from being a "community organizer".

4) Who chooses the names for these things? Okay, Operation Iraqi Freedom I get. Desert Storm is understandable. This one's called Operation Odyssey Dawn. WTF is that? Sounds like a band one of my kids might listen to. Oddysey Dawn would be better...after all, France is involved and that is odd...

5) When Operation Odyssey Dawn is done can we have Operation Shut Chavez the Fuck Up? The Venezuelan strongman, a close ally of Khadafy's (of course), is whining about the intervention, claiming civilians are being killed. Other than Chavez, the only person claiming this is...Khadafy. Well, both of them know quite a bit about killing civilians but the evidence is thus far lacking that any are being killed by the recent actions over Libyan airspace. Mark my words, Chavez will leave office either in chains or in a coffin. He will never go as a result of a democratic election which he loses. NEVER. I think the UN should pass a motion to drop Sean Penn and Danny Glover from 30,000 feet onto Chavez's head...a three-for-one bonus blow for humanity.

6) We're listening to the Arab League? Seriously? The Arab League? Are you freakin' kidding me? Much has been made that the Arab League supported this idea. Well, that was for the first five minutes, anyway. Once a missile actually entered Libyan airspace, the arabs were back to their normal ways - decrying western butchery.

7) Lessons from China and Russia? Are you freakin' kidding me? Oh, yeah, Putin and the Oriental oligarchs are screaming to the heavens about this horrible intervention in the lives of Libyans. Well, one thing is for sure: when the western world needs some guidance on human rights and messing around in other nations' politics, the first people we will most definitely want to consult head the governments of those two countries. And, the next time I need information about good investing, I'll contact Bernie Madoff.

8) You say Libya, I say Iraq - let's call the whole thing off. With the US State Department already admitting the end goal of this little process is not necessarily to remove Khadafy from power are we not just setting Libya up to be the next Iraq? Let's see: conduct a military action against a despot, ostensibly to get him to stop a military action against innocents and then leave said despot in power for a further indeterminate period of time so he can continue crushing and killing dissenters. Anyone remember how that worked out for the Iraqis and the rest of the world? Which brings me full circle back to point #1...what is the point?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Brain Freeze

Winters are one of two things in Canada. In 99 per cent of the country, they are long, cold and very, very bitter. Where I live, they are long and damp with stretches of a month or more where we record some precipitation every day.

Anyway, by March, Canadians are suffering from cabin fever. They're a little off. Too much shoveling or too much sloshing does strange things to the brain.

Hence, the reason early March is when Canadian university students, aided by all sorts of looney tune supporting groups with fantastical names that usually invoke peace, justice, truth or freedom host Israel Apartheid Week. (It is, by the way, one of my long-held truisms that if any of those four words appear in a group's title, an individual's internet name, etc. that you can be damned sure they stand for exactly the opposite.) This five or six day testament to hate is particularly prevalent in Ontario and Quebec. Like I say, the cold does get to you after a while...

2011's IAW was particularly noteworthy for Nick Day, the elected prefect of Queen's University. Day wrote an article on a useful-idiot lefty Web site complaining of the ongoing genocide of palestinians and signing it in his official capacity as the representative of thousands of students. This particular candidate for an eventual Darwin Award (Rachel Corrie Division) may not escape unscathed, however; enough students at Queen's were outraged and he now faces a recall vote.

Equally, both Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Conservative) and Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff (Liberal) rightly stepped forward this year to condemn IAW, as did the entire Ontario Legislature. Of censure from the New Democrat Party, the Bloc Quebecois or the fringe Green Party, all left-leaning, nary a word. They wouldn't want to alienate their supporters, I suppose.

Now, it's no surprise that people hate Israel and that IAW and its proponents hide what is actually virulent anti-Semitism behind idiotic labels like "Israeli apartheid". But, what is shocking is that we are, apparently, raising generations of young people with absolutely no understanding of historical fact. Not conjecture but clear fact. Equally, they don't know the definitions of common words like "apartheid" and "genocide", throwing them around as if the rest of us will be convinced merely by seeing them in print. And, let's not forget, modern history - while Day and his moronic cohorts were busy railing all week against Israel, the Arab world remained in severe flux with people actively gunned down in the streets, prevented from assembling or arrested and jailed with little or no cause.

Keep in mind, the IAW is specific to universities. These are the places we send our children to obtain higher learning. Yet, somehow many of the people who attend these universities have bought easily dispelled propaganda which goes largely unchallenged and, even sadder, is often supported by the ivory tower set.

My teenage son was quizzing me the other day about his post-secondary options and stated he had no intention (at this point, anyway) of going to university. Seeing as what's going on on numerous campuses, there are a bunch I wouldn't want him near, anyway.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You've Come A Long Way (In Some Places), Baby

March 8 marked International Women's Day. I would have noted this yesterday but I'm a guy so I was watching sports, drinking beer and belching loudly and kind of forgot.

I find the word "International" in the day to be somewhat out of place. Living in Canada, I think women are getting a pretty decent shake. Not being one, my perception may be at odds with how most women feel they are treated generally - whether by men or other women.

To be sure, men still hold the majority of the power positions in our society - politically, in business, economically - but the real tell is in how equal opportunity is and whether the issue of a person's sex influences their progress personally and professionally. This is what International Women's Day should be about, right? That is: the promotion of women as equal members of our society to the point where being a woman is merely a fact and not a factor.

(In order to reach exact equality, of course, we would also need to eliminate programs that give preference to one's sex. I've pondered the relative merits of affirmative action programs and have never been able to wrestle my thoughts to a final conclusion. Perhaps another day...)

Anyway, we are perhaps 70, 75 per cent of the way there in western society? And, the improvement - as for many who were formerly at least partly disenfranchised - has been mostly in the past half-century. The women's movement has brought great, positive changes to our society. I, personally, wouldn't have it any other way. I'm a pretty typical male in how I spend my spare time (see hockey, beer, belching) but most of the people I work with are women and I find them far more intuitive and interested in a creative, positive work environment.

What irks me is that - and here's that pesky word - internationally, the vast majority of women across the world enjoy nowhere near the benefits that we see in the west. Too frequently, this doesn't seem to be much of a concern to the women's rights movement (or, at least, their appointed representatives) in places where women have rights.

This needs to change. When women's groups join in the typical leftist hue and cry - as so many of the prominent ones seem to do - they do women elsewhere a great disservice. In Canada, for instance, these groups opposed and continue to oppose the very just war in Afghanistan (Canada didn't send troops to Iraq) which brought an end to perhaps the most oppressive regime on Earth regarding women and they argue for people in this country to accept cultural customs that are clearly regressive. These kinds of things seem antithetical to me. You can't just gauge progress by your own rights while ignoring so many others living a life with no rights.

It occurs to me, too, that perhaps this is already changing. Traditional "women's groups" don't want to hear this but polls, for instance, regularly show that the American Tea Party movement has as many women - or near as many - identifying themselves as members as it does men. And, while people like Sarah Palin repulse me with their jingoistic, religious-based platforms, it certainly is telling that millions of people identify with her version of "hockey mom" feminism.

Anyway, enough soap boxing. Here's a positive: if you want to help women across the world, go to www.kiva.org. This is a micro-financing site where you lend $25 at a time to people across the world - usually so they can expand or begin their own small businesses. This is the way out of poverty; the modern day twist on "if you give a man a fish, you have fed him for a day, if you teach a man to fish, you have fed him forever."

I can't speak highly enough of the work kiva is doing. You go through the people looking for loans, you pick the ones you want and in a click of a button, you've given them $25 towards their goal. Kiva provides information on the project, those involved, the lending institution (with ratings for dependability) and sends you an e-mail every time a portion of your loan is paid back. Once a loan is paid off, you can either withdraw the money or lend it to someone else - although why you'd take it back is beyond me, that $25 won't even buy a ticket, drink and a bucket of popcorn at the local cineplex.

I'm using kiva now as main recipient of my charitable donations. So far, every loan I've made has been to a woman or group of women because raising women from oppression and destitution is a clear path forward for all women.

P.S. Please don't pillory me for the header - it's an example of the changes in our society that "You've Come a Long Way, Baby" was once the tag line for a cigarette aimed at women and that, today, calling a woman "baby" is likely to get you punched in the face unless you're Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Great Gall of China

Today, likely because they are feeling the heat of uprisings in the Middle East, the Chinese government announced they would never adopt multi-party democracy or reforms that would threaten the rule of the Communist Party.

Now, to be sure, Communism in China is different than your Marxist-Leninist variety found or previously found in Eastern Europe, Cuba and various other anti-democratic shitholes. The Chinese actually encourage profit-making and enterprise. Their "Communism" is more just a dictatorship over the people for the benefit of the ruling elite without driving people into increased poverty.

But, for the future prosperity of the western world, it's all one and the same. An aggressive China, whose government rules with an iron fist and operates without regard for civilized behaviour, is no better than the old Soviet Union was.

To whit:

The Chinese government props up the worst regimes on the planet - Zimbabwe, Iran, Sudan, North Korea, etc.
The Chinese have zero respect for copyright law or anything else that gets in the way of making money.
The Chinese subjugate their own people and try to spread their influence by over-running and persecuting their neighbours (see Mongolia)
The Chinese artificially deflate the value of their currency so they can keep their exports cheap at the expense of western business interests and workers.
Chinese products, sold in the west, are often shoddy if not downright dangerous.
The Chinese repeatedly block western interests at the UN, refusing to even consider such simple acts as a no-fly zone in Libya which might save thousands of lives.

The list is pretty much endless.

And, yet, we seem to endlessly want to increase our standing with China without calling on its government to do anything in return.


There are democratic nations that can offer us the same products as China. Sure, countries like India, Bangladesh, Mexico, the Philippines and Indonesia aren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination but they are democracies and they are emerging economies. They do not reflexively act in a way that is contrary to our way of life at every turn. They are not hegemonistic, are not controlled by governments that oversee every facet of life and, for the most part, are actually anxious to be in good standing with the western world.

Were I President Obama (and thank God, I am not) or any candidate considering a run for office in 2012 - Democrat or Republican - I would put making China accountable for its actions at the very top of my foreign policy platform.

If we take nothing else from what's happening in the Middle East today, we need to take this to heart: propping up dictatorships in the interest of "trade" is an untenable position. Eventually, the citizenry under the heels of those dictators get it in their heads to do something about it. And, that leaves us in the position of damaging our trade relations or watching as people are gunned down in the streets for wanting the same things we already enjoy.

Better to take the moral high ground now and refuse to prop up those governments. And, there is no better nation on Earth to start this with today than China. It's unethical and irresponsible for us to feed the Chinese government - Wal-Mart, quite frankly, can go fuck itself.

I now make it a habit when shopping to avoid Chinese manufactured products whenever I can. A shirt from somewhere else might cost me a few more bucks but as long as I can afford to pay the extra, I will.

As for the Chinese government's claim that it will never change: well, to this day no Communist government has made it to its 75th birthday. The Chinese are now in their 62nd year suffering under a Communist dictatorship. Time is running out and we should help hasten the downfall in any way we can, particularly economically, because, in the end, other solutions will prove far less palatable.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Books Worth A Look

One of the thing that regularly astounds me is the absolute dreck that passes for popular literature these days. It's almost guaranteed that if it's on the New York Times bestseller list, endorsed by Oprah or touted in your weekend paper, it will be awful. If it gets made into a movie, even worse.

I suppose some thanks should be given that people still read at all. Really, who needs books when American Idol is on 200 days a year and Survivor is around to fill up the spaces in between, right?

Now, admittedly, I haven't read a lot of popular literature since I was about 16 and Stephen King ruled the roost. But, I did read the Da Vinci Code and the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, certainly amongst the hottest books of the decade and they were awful. In fact, the Da Vinci Code was beyond awful. Dan Brown will surely burn in hell, not for degrading the Catholic Church but for writing such incredible gobbledygook. But, these, along with what seems to be an endless procession of vampire-based books that make me want to drive a stake into my own heart are what, sadly, passes for literature in the early 21st Century. Yuck, yuck and extra-double with dripping blood on top yuck.

So, that being said, should anyone stumble across this blog, here are 3 contemporary authors I highly recommend and that I guarantee are far superior to anything usually found on the bestseller lists (I might get to less contemporary favourites another time):

1) David Foster Wallace. Rather than save the best for last, I'm going to put the best at the top. It's hard to describe DFW in a way that would come close to doing him justice. Let's just say he committed suicide in 2008 at the age of 46 and every time I read one of his books I sigh a lot wishing he were still with us because he had half a lifetime ahead of him that could have been used to fill the world with even more of his beautiful, sad, whimsical, philosophical, comical, introspective essays and stories. I could use adjectives ad nauseum to describe DFW and it still wouldn't come close to describing how perfect a writer he was. I will be forever grateful to my internet friend, cat of Austin, Texas, for first recommending I read Infinite Jest.

Now, Infinite Jest isn't for everyone. It has footnotes that are almost books in themselves - DFW was known for his extensive footnotes, and I think he probably used them so that he could explore nooks, crannies and tangents that were vital to his thinking but would have subtracted from, or at least confused, the actual story. Infinite Jest weighs in at 1,400+ pages and it took me a good three months to work my way through it, often reading paragraphs multiple times to ensure I grasped the meaning but sometimes just to savour the construction a second or third time. When I got to the end, my first impulse was to flip back to page 1 and start again. This I will do eventually but in the meantime there were other books of his to get to and I haven't reached the end yet.

DFW wrote three or four novels (one is yet-to-be published and I've already pre-ordered it, to give you an idea of how much of a fan I am). The novels have several things in common: they are all set in the near future but in a slightly alternate universe so that you recognize the time, the places and the world around you but also that they are a little off-kilter. This unsettles the reader enough to make you pay close attention but not so much as to make you think you're reading science fiction.

He also wrote numerous essays which are compiled in several collections. His most famous writing is probably an essay about a week he spent on a cruise ship (it can be found in the collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again - see, even the title makes you sit up and take notice).

If 1,400+ pages sounds like it might do you in, try the above mentioned essays or another collection, Consider the Lobster, or his first novel The Broom of the System. Or anything else you can find with his name attached (including David Lipsky's Although Of Course You End Becoming Yourself - his detailed article - 150 pages or so - of spending five days on the road with DFW doing a book tour - the lucky, lucky bastard).

2) Ben Elton. Elton is a British comedy writer whose books usually center around common themes of the moment. So, he's written books about the War on Drugs (High Crimes), the environment (Stark), traffic (Gridlock), reality TV (Chart Throb and Dead Famous), social networking (Past Mortem), the recent recession (Meltdown) and a few others.

Elton's books contain often-befuddled characters caught up in situations they can't control or that they try, without success, to control. He is a pure comedy writer even when tackling serious themes. He writes great airplane books. I recommend Chart Throb, Stark and High Crimes as three of the best. What Chart Throb does to these karaoke contest singing shows that have swept the western world left me near tears in spots because I know too many people who waste too much of their time on that dreck and he captures the silliness of it all so perfectly.

3) Gerald Seymour. Seymour is another British writer but unlike Elton, his books are very serious. He writes what would generally be known as thrillers only they're not.

What sets him apart from more popular authors like John Le Carre, Robert Ludlum or Tom Clancy is the way he frames his characters. They are all flawed, every single one of them. And, flawed in ways that means even the heroes aren't really heroes, they're just people doing their jobs and often only so that they can escape their pasts.

Seymour's books are written in shades of grey even when the issues are black-and-white. His protagonists have often committed unethical acts but are still ethical people. His antagonists are the dirtiest mofos around (terrorists, mob bosses and the like) but they have depth and character. The endings are rarely pretty because, in actuality, events such as those he describes rarely end with everything tied up nice and neat. I recommend The Collaborator and The Untouchable as two of the best I've read although I've only been able to find about half his novels so far here in Canada.

Among contemporary writers I'd also recommend Michael Chabon (serious literature with a funny side - and one who did have a good book become a good movie - The Wonder Boys), Bill Bryson (travelogues with a heart and explorations of just things that interest him - try A Brief History of Nearly Everything), David Sedaris (comedic essays - Me Talk Pretty Some Day was brilliant) and James Lee Burke (crime novels set in the Louisiana bayou - I like the Dave Robicheaux series but there are too many to mention, just trust me). They all spring to mind when I sit and think about it for a few seconds.

Give some of them, any of them, a go. I guarantee you will never disgrace your home with Dan Brown again.

Friday, March 4, 2011

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

So, my morning paper devotes much of a page earlier this week to speculation that Moammar Khadafy is bats in the belfry, shithouse rat NUTS. Myriad analysts weighed in on this speculating he's lost the thread and that his speeches and rhetoric - not to mention actions -since the unrest in Libya broke out show he's divorced from reality, unable to process events around him and suffering from a variety of mental illnesses.

Quite frankly, I think they're full of crap. Moammar Khadafy is no crazier today than he was a month, a year, a decade, four decades ago. Which is to say, that if he was so acceptable to so much of the world over at least part of that time, he's done nothing to indicate he's any different a person today. He has been, for more than 40 years, a dictator, running his country as his personal fiefdom, promoting terror abroad, stealing from the nation's coffers and killing those who oppose his rule. There is nothing new in his bid to stay in power and nothing surprising about his "fight or flight" reaction to the challenge to his regime. He has nowhere to flee to and so he has done the one thing available to him - try to crush the rebellion. That's not crazy - had any of us done the same things Moammar Khadafy has done over the years, we'd be doing the same things now, fully aware that failure is almost certainly a death sentence.

He may very well succeed in hanging on to power. The longer the situation remains as is, the more likely it is the protesters will give up, run out of steam or just be killed in significant numbers so that they run away. We can look at what happened in Tiananmen Square, Zimbabwe and the Sudan as examples of how fickle the world is when it comes to holding other governments to account for their actions over the long term.

Let's look at who's really crazy here:

The UN: among other things, it put Libya on the UN Human Rights Council despite consistent evidence that the only rights a human has in Libya is the right to do exactly what Khadafy's regime tells them to.

England and Scotland: remember the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Magrahi, the Lockerbie bomber sent home on compassionate grounds to placate Khadafy and earn British Petroleum some extra oil contracts? al-Magrahi, supposedly suffering from advanced cancer and with less than three months to live continues to curse this planet with his presence two years later. Meanwhile the Scots and English have played an endless shell game of passing the blame around.

Russia and China: as all of this killing has gone on in Libya, they, as usual, have refused to act in concert with the US and the EU to rein Khadafy in or at least prevent the continued slaughter of innocent Libyans.

Venezuela: No doubt Hugo Chavez is just as "crazy" as Khadafy. He can't even bring himself to condemn the killings, saying the evidence he has doesn't support the contention that Khadafy is firing on his own citizens. My own personal hope is that the unrest in the Middle East eventually takes its toll in places like Venezuela which are also run by strongmen who crush dissent and curb any and all civil rights that could possibly threaten the regime.

Turkey: swerving his own country ever more into the dangerous territory of islamic shithole, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said moves such as no-fly zone over Libya (to prevent bombing of innocents and oil fields) were inconceivable. Dead muslim brethren aside, Erdogan doesn't mind cozying up to dictators and, Turkey, once one of the few reasonable secular muslim states, is becoming ever more radicalized and divorced from the western thinking it, at one time, was working hard to incorporate into its own society.

Most of the rest of the free world: sadly, our leaders embraced Khadafy after he "renounced" terrorism and gave up his nuclear program. This, by the ridiculous standards under which we now operate in the west, redeemed and legitimized Khadafy's rule, leading, in part to the situation there today.

The US administration: okay, maybe not crazy. But how is it that Obama threw Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak (a bastard but still "our" bastard) under the bus within days of the unrest there but waited two weeks to basically make any comment on Libya (a long-time American enemy) and when he did, did so with the most tepid of "demands" that violence stop? Another obvious case of recent American foreign policy being nothing but sound and fury signifying nothing. I'm not saying it's the US's responsibility to act in this instance (it's not) but, really, that's the best Obama and Secretary of State Clinton can come up with as people are gunned down in the streets?

The reality is that the last world leader who actually called out Khadafy for what he is was Ronald Reagan. Reagan, you remember, tried to off Khadafy, for which he received universal criticism and condemnation. While he didn't manage to kill him, he did manage to impress upon the Libyan leader that there were consequences for fucking with the US. Subsequent administrations backed off from isolating him and, thus, we have what we have.

Khadafy, rather than being crazy, has played the world for the suckers we are - pushing the limits and then drawing back when he crossed the line. And, doubtless, he would have continued down this path for an indeterminate future time period had the unrest elsewhere not spread to his own country. The one thing he couldn't account for was an uprising throughout the arab world - and no one else saw that coming either.

It would be very nice if someone stuck a bullet in Khadafy's head in the near future. But, people like him don't survive as long as he has by being crazy. Rather, he is cold and calculating with an overwhelming sense of self-preservation. To pretend otherwise is to vastly underestimate the continued danger he poses to Libyans, his neighbours and the free world.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Idiocy of Titanic Proportions

It is absolutely incredible to me that almost a decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States still doesn't have a clue about security.

This morning, my wife and I returned from a short visit to Las Vegas. We had a very nice few days, saw some shows, wandered the strip, wined and dined, enjoyed a brief sojourn free of kids and did a little shopping.

Because most airlines, including Allegiant - the one we used to and from Las Vegas - now charge outrageous fees for checking bags and because we were only going to be gone for a few days, we packed light enough that we could carry our belongings with us. On the way to Las Vegas, they confiscated my wife's mostly-empty bottle of hairspray. At one time, this particular bottle contained more than the allowable 100 ml, so out it went. Silly, of course, but the rules are stated so we didn't have anything to complain about.

It was on the way home that things got really stupid. While in Las Vegas we stayed at the Luxor. The Luxor currently has an exhibit of the Titanic going on and we happen to have a nephew who is at that age where the Titanic is of particular interest (I don't know why but boys seem to go through a phase of consuming information about disasters; I remember having a similar fascination with the ill-fated ocean liner at about the same age). Anyway, since it's my nephew's birthday in a couple of weeks, we thought, "hey, this is perfect. We'll go to the gift shop and grab him something Titanic-oriented for his birthday." After wandering the shop, we settled on a snow globe (he also collects snow globes) and a piece of coal (apparently, coal from the actual Titanic is the only thing that can be sold to the consumer). The snow globe was approximately three inches high and maybe half that around. The coal, a mere fragment encased in plastic but because it was actual Titanic coal, had a real connection to the ship.

So, what happens? Going through security this morning, there is all of a sudden a great hullabaloo. Three Transportation Security Administration officials gather around the X-ray machine and one of them quickly gestures me over. "Sir," he says (you know you're in trouble whenever they start using "sir"), "I hate to tell you this but we have to confiscate your snowglobe." When I point out that the amount of liquid contained within is obviously far less than the allowed amount, he nods in sympathy and says, "yes, but we don't know what the liquid is and the only way we can tell is by breaking it." He then informs me I have three options: check the snowglobe as luggage, return to the main body of the airport and mail the snowglobe to myself or surrender it to the ever vigilant TSA. Seething internally but knowing full well if I get too huffy, I'm going to spend many hours as a guest of the TSA, I surrender the offensive object with a sigh, a shake of my head and a sarcastic, "well, I'm sure my nephew will understand."

Ironically, earlier that morning, I had wondered aloud to my incredulous wife whether we might be in trouble for trying to transport bath bombs (they create a fizzy bath water) that we'd purchased. After all, I remarked, with the word bombs, you just never know. How sad that I was so close to the mark.

The simple fact that the TSA and all those absolute fucking morons running security in the US can't get through their addled brains is that white, middle-aged Jewish Canadians toting snowglobes and bath bombs (the bombs were, it should be noted for accuracy, not confiscated) are not a threat to security. Neither are petite French-Canadian women toting hairspray. In fact, you could let just about anybody on an airplane carrying just about any substance whatsoever and they will never, ever, ever be a threat to national security nor will they use these products, whatever they are, to bring down airlines or smash them into buildings.

The absolute, only threat to national security are the people who are set on destroying our way of life. That is: it's not the product, stupid, it's the people. Banning matches, lighters, snowglobes, scissors, nail clippers, hairspray, etc. etc. ad nauseum will never cure the problem. Only profiling for the individual will lead to better security and that's what the TSA (not to mention Canadian security and security officials around the free world) need to learn. It's most astonishing they haven't clued into this yet, particularly in light of having it beat into them repeatedly that the one nation that does this correctly - Israel - does so by profiling who might be out to cause trouble, not what might cause trouble. And, guess what: there hasn't been an attack on an Israeli airliner in many years, precisely because the people who might be prone to take such actions are weeded out.

It's not even that hard. The only people in the world who try to use airplanes as flying bombs are islamic jihadis. They are largely identifiable - by looks, by name, by their body language, etc. All the things the Israelis wisely look for and that we miss in our zest to make sure the liquid in a snowglobe never makes it off the ground.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

One Is Enough

My wife reminded me the other day that it was right about this time of year, 20 years ago that we first met. It'll be 18 years this summer since we married and, unless there's something she's hiding from me, our marriage is by all considerations, inside and out, happy and healthy.

Which isn't to say we live a life of wine and roses. We are a pretty standard Canadian family with two kids and three cats living in a fairly standard 3-bedroom home in a standard subdivision in a standard municipality. If you take the opening theme song to Weeds (Little Boxes) and downgrade the neighbourhood by about 1/3, you'd have us.

I was thinking about married life in Canada because there is ongoing controversy in British Columbia about polygamous marriages where men have more than one wife and they all live together and raise kids. In our case, this is a fringe practice and the current court focus is on the community of Bountiful, B.C. where residents are a splinter group of the Mormons (Church of Latter Day Saints). Now, seeing as even the regular Mormons are committed to following the doctrine of Joseph Smith, a known shyster who received the word of God in a language only he, conveniently, understood, it's hard to say exactly how screwed up the Bountiful crew is. I lived in that area for two years in my early 20s and got to see them close up as they traveled the streets in long dresses, kerchiefed hair and running shoes but I couldn't even venture a guess as to how their worldview operates.

I think this is more like a commune with Bibles than anything else but it's not for me to decide the faith and beliefs of others as long as they extend me the same courtesy.

In thinking about marriage, I can't really come up with a good reason why a person shouldn't have more than one spouse as long as all involved are consenting adults. I doubt this is the case in Bountiful where children are indoctrinated from birth but I could make the same argument about traditional marriage - we are brought up to believe one spouse at a time. (Historically, it would even make sense to have multiple partners - men can impregnate numerous women at a time and women would have sought virile, strong men who offered food and protection.) There isn't really a concrete reason unless you want to cite Judeo-Christian values. As much as I agree with most of these values, it doesn't necessarily make them more valid.

The arguments against polygamy seem to be:

a) it flies in the face of our societal structure. Well, people said the same thing about gay marriage (which I totally support) which is now legal in Canada. So far, our society seems to have survived it pretty well.

b) it goes against scripture. I give that about as much weight as I do to Joseph Smith.

c) people involved in these marriages are forced or coerced. This could very well be true. But the remedy to that is to prosecute individuals for marrying those below the age of consent or who have had sexual relations with an individual under the age of consent.

d) it will open the door to more islamic creep in our society. I'm sure not crazy about that idea but that's our fault for letting islamists come here in the first place. In reality, one suspects, most of the concern in Bountiful is actually aimed at islam as it is the only other slice of Canadian society that would actively seek multiple marriages. We can solve this problem by tightening up our immigration laws.

e) it will be more expensive in terms of benefits and other entitlements. This might also be true but then we don't have an upper limit for how many people can be in a traditional family. If mom and dad are strict Catholics and have 12 kids, the impact is going to be the same as a family with three wives each having three kids.

Really, the most compelling reason I can think of not to be married to more than one woman, at least concurrently, is because women are complicated creatures. I have enough trouble remembering all the little things I need to do or not do to keep up my end of the marriage contract (somehow, in our vows, I think I ended up with "obey").

I have a feeling that polygamy will eventually be legal in Canada. Other than creating some more work for lawyers, I don't think there will be any drastic fallout.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flaming Mo's legacy

So, leaders around the arab world are all of a sudden in deep shit thanks to one Tunisian, Mohammed Bouazizi,who set himself on fire Dec. 17 in a protest, reportedly, against unemployment in his home country. Ten days ago or so, the Tunisian government fell and now there are protests shaking regimes all over North Africa and Middle East.

This eruption in some of the poorest and most corrupt countries of the world is very interesting but I seriously doubt it's going to herald in some new era of growth in that part of the world. In Egypt, for instance, where long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak seems to be in some trouble, a power vacuum would likely give rise or at least increased power to the Muslim Brotherhood. How that could be good for Egyptians - well, other than the ones who are in the Muslim Brotherhood - is beyond me. Perhaps a poll of some Coptic Christians could shed some light...

As someone whose few remaining relatives survived not only the nazis but then the communists as well before escaping to North America, I was brought up to believe totalitarianism in all its forms must be rejected. The vast majority of arab nations are run by absolute bastards but it's not like there are a bunch of democracy-touting populists waiting in the wings to raise their people from poverty and oppression. More likely would be brutal crackdowns to stabilize the existing power structure or brutal crackdowns on those opposed to whomever takes over. That is the existing legacy of the Middle East, whether we choose to admit it or not.

It's not easy to care too much about what happens to the arab street. I can't find a lot of redeeming qualities out there. I'd love to see some freedom flourish in these regressive countries but I'm way too cynical by both nature and intelligence to believe it's coming anytime soon. This isn't post-Berlin Wall Germany. In the Middle East, even when uprisings succeed, what follows is generally anything but pretty - witness Iran following the shah's ouster in 1979 or Lebanon which, as of this week, is now essentially being run by hezbollah.

On the other hand, it is nice to see them protesting something other than Israel for once.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

There sure a lot of cobwebs in here for me to clean out

Okay, so it's been 3.5 years since I last made a post to this blog.

I don't even know if people still bother blogging with Twitter and Facebook having overrun the interweb. Twitter seems kind of desperate ("I have something to say and you need to know it RIGHT NOW") to me and Facebook is just annoying.

There are, of course, your very large blogging communities where people of similar views on one issue or another tend to congregate. I never really got the point of a lot of those: "Here's my opinion which is going to be pretty much the same opinion every day and I really only want people who agree with it to respond. If you don't agree with it, me or one of my moderators will likely toss you."

Then there are messageboards where people of absolutely opposing views shout shrilly at one another with endless ad hominem attacks, strawman arguments, red herrings and complete fabrications. For a long time I used one of those boards but, as with this blog, I ended up just stopping, cold turkey. It became over run with extremely angry and personal attacks based largely on whether you supported or did not support Barack Obama. I doubt very much it is unique in that regard.

So, why do any internet writing at all? Well, like a lot of people, I'm opinionated. Or, depending on your perspective, I'm an opinionated asshole. Also, a person whom I have a lot of respect for advised me recently that my blog had been enjoyable. Stopping was never a conscious "I quit" decision. It was more like one day became 1200 or so. At the time, it seemed I had presented my viewpoint on issues that were important to me.

Last night, I re-read the posts I made 3.5 - 4 years ago. It was interesting to see what had changed in the world since then and what, sadly, had remained essentially the same. Also, I could look at what I had predicted what would happen in certain places or to certain people. Anyone who wants to - though I can't really imagine why anyone would - can judge for themselves whether I can compete with all the brilliant talking heads infesting 24/7 news channels.

I'll probably get to some more stuff in the coming days and weeks now that I've fallen off the wagon. Or, maybe I'll forget my password again and we'll see what the world looks like in 2015.