Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Dubai Ports Thing - Another Angle

Up until now I wasn't sure whether the issue of Dubai Ports World running some US ports is an outrage, or just an example of *how things work* overblown because of fear and xenophobia.

But an article in today's Jerusalem Post tipped the balance, towards Outrage:

Dubai ports firm enforces Israel boycott

The parent company of a Dubai-based firm at the center of a political storm in the US over the purchase of American ports participates in the Arab boycott against Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The firm, Dubai Ports World, is seeking control over six major US ports, including those in New York, Miami, Philadelphia and Baltimore. It is entirely owned by the Government of Dubai via a holding company called the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCZC), which consists of the Dubai Port Authority, the Dubai Customs Department and the Jebel Ali Free Zone Area.


The article goes on to explain that the company PCZC employs staff to oversee enforcement of the Israel boycott.

So far so good (although distasteful) but a problem arises because, according to the article,

US law bars firms from complying with ...requests or cooperating with attempts by Arab governments to boycott Israel.

And there is an actual US government entity, the Office of Anti-boycott Compliance, that has the power to fine companies that break this law.

So how can a company owned by the government of Dubai, a country that openly boycotts Israel, run ports in a country where that policy is illegal?

And while I'm on the subject, why is Pres. Bush so keen on defending this deal when he supposedly only learned about it at the last minute? Something else is going on here. I don't know what it is but the story just doesn't add up.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Oh Fer Cryin' Out Loud...

Headline: Lead contamination found on naval sub

Repairs on one of the used submarines Canada bought from Britain have been suspended after unacceptable levels of lead contamination were detected.

Is this ever going to end? When are our armed forces going to have a bare MINIMUM of usable equipment, not to mention support from the government and Canadian citizens?
Why did the British think it was okay to sell us a fleet of freakin' LEMONS?

More of that sorry tale is here, on the CBC website.

I wonder if we can get a refund. This is ridiculous.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Canadian Province Shuts Down Schools for Curling Final!

School children in the entire Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador have an unexpected half-day off tomorrow.

They will be sent home at noon in order that they (and presumably teachers and school staff) can watch the Olympic Men’s Curling Finals live on television.
Naturally, a rink from Newfoundland (and Labrador) is competing in that match.

Being that I do not have a child attending school in that province, I think this is a marvelous idea.

Yes some parents will have to scramble for alternate arrangements, or perhaps they can use this as an excuse to take the afternoon off themselves. Some things are just more important than work – or school – and this is one of them.

To me, it’s less about the sport per se than the chance to have a shared community or family experience. These opportunities are way too rare nowadays.

In an era of hundreds of channel choices, ipods that customize your music and websites that bring you just what you’re looking for, there is little cultural commonality and what there is, usually sinks to the lowest common denominator of commercialism and sensationalism.
Attending professional sports events has become too expensive for many, and the attitude and behaviour of many multi-zillionaire players does not exactly provide the best role model.

But here we have the Olympics, showcasing (apart from the Canadian men’s hockey team) mostly struggling young athletes, excited to compete on the world’s most prestigious stage for the chance to stand on the podium and hear their country’s national anthem.
(Not to mention, score some lucrative endorsement contracts later on, but that doesn’t take away from the moment we see on TV.)

While curling isn’t known worldwide as a sexy sport, it’s much revered in parts of Canada, particularly the West and Atlantic Provinces.
(I don’t know why the frenzy largely bypasses the center of the country – I grew up near a curling club but almost never set foot in there except for ice skating lessons my mother made me take which failed miserably.)

Anyway.

These students will probably remember the afternoon when the Brad Gushue rink won the gold (or silver) medal a lot longer than they would remember the lessons taught in school that day. They will treasure the memory of watching with their parents or friends, sharing the excitement, learning life lessons from the expressions on the faces of the competitors and their stories of how they got from the obscurity of Newfoundland to the world stage. They will learn how to deal with pressure, success, and possibly loss and how to be graceful no matter what the outcome.

I applaud Education Minister Joan Burke for a very wise decision.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More than 70 CIA-linked landings in Canada: memos

Newly declassified memos show the number of Canadian landings by planes tied to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency far exceeds previously known figures.

...One note, stamped secret, says 20 planes with alleged CIA ties have made 74 flights to Canada since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


Amnesty International, it says, can't get an answer to their question of whether prisoners, on their way to be tortured, were on these flights.

One recent flight, an 11-seat Beech turboprop with tail number N157A, set out for Keflavik, Iceland, on Feb. 12 from Goose Bay, N.L., where it had arrived the previous day from Montreal.
The U.S. military maintains an air station in Keflavik that serves as a refuelling point for Europe-bound aircraft.


Montreal (my hometown) - Feb. 11 (last week) - all way too close for comfort.
Creepy.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sports Note

Jose Theodore, the goalie for the Montreal Canadiens hockey team, is out for 6 to 8 weeks because he slipped on the ice and broke his heel.

So?

The ice was not on the hockey rink. It was on the front steps of his home near Montreal.

Am I wrong to find humour in this?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Who's Sorry Now?

As I observed a few days ago, power is never having to say you're sorry. Now we see, even that isn't enough, for those you've harmed have to apologize to you!

Dick Cheney may have taken responsibility for shooting his hunting buddy, and expressed his displeasure at that event, but he hasn't actually come out and publicly apologized to his victim, Harry Whittington.

Mr Whittington, on the other hand, clearly apologized for letting his face and body get in the way of the Vice-President's birdshot, thereby causing a media uproar and inconveniencing many people including the members of the Bush administration who deal with the media, the families of all involved, the local sheriff's office, and of course the hospital staff who took care of him.

Okay that's not exactly what he said but it's pretty close.

This is more than a news story, it's a mirror image of how badly society's priorities are screwed up.

If anyone ever shoots me, and I apologize, please shoot me again. Thank you.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Same Story, Different Response

What kind of a religious leader calls for the assassination – in cold blood – of people he perceives as enemies?

This kind:

August 2005: Pat Robertson calls for the US to “take out” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He is universally denounced as a nut case and has to apologize whether he means it or not.

and this kind:

February 2006: Pakistani Muslim cleric and friends offer rich reward for the murder of cartoonists who drew the offending cartoons.
People merely roll their eyes and preach tolerance, understanding and “civic responsibility”.

Three from the *Poor Me* File:

Dick Cheney had "one of the worst days of my life".
Compared to...

this guy?

Todd Bertuzzi has it even worse: "It has been a long year for me," says the man whose sucker punch ended Steve Moore's career.

Finally (for today) consider the plight of poor Michael Brown, ex-FIMA Director in the U.S., who feels "somewhat abandoned" by the administration with regard to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
As opposed to the people hanging from their rooftops or worse, floating around in the floodwaters, who must have felt completely abandoned.

That's it for now - had to get that off of my chest.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Why I Approve of the Reprinting of the Cartoons

Two entries ago I asked the rhetorical question, what would be the worst that would happen as a result of the competition for Holocaust cartoons in Iran. My suggestions were, an op-ed piece and the filing of a complaint.

Happily, I grossly underestimated the intelligence and creativity of those moved to respond. This is pure genius:

Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoons Contest

An Israeli publisher has started his own contest for Jewish artists, saying,

We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published! ...No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!

That says so much on so many levels. For one, it reminds us that words and images are not deeds and need not lead to deeds. Those behaving a certain way are responsible for their actions. A cartoon cannot make you burn down an embassy and hate propaganda cannot force you to commit genocide.

Yet, these things happen, and one follows the other.
Perhaps “follow” is the operative word. The Germans who went along with Nazi policy, and the Rwandans who killed their neighbours, did so out of some kind of mass hysteria driven by fear. That’s what the propaganda did – it was a tool used to propagate (same word root) fear and to influence judgment and behaviour. That’s the line between free speech and inciting hatred – the latter requires some willful promotion of actual criminal behaviour such as killing or, as the Canadian Criminal Code puts it, a “breach of the peace”.

Are the Anti-Semitic cartoons that will appear as a result of this contest intended to promote violence against Jews? Of course not – they will be the product of Jewish cartoonists and are intended as a statement, indeed many statements, individual to the specific artists.

Similarly, did the publisher of the Western Standard intend to incite violence against Muslims when he decided to reprint the Danish cartoons? I doubt it – and to my knowledge no violence has resulted, unless you count the outpouring of political correctness on our collective psyche.

I don’t know specifically why Ezra Levant, the Publisher of the Western Standard, made the decision to run the cartoons, and short of inciting hate, it doesn’t really matter. He had every right to do so under Canadian law.

Of course, having the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good idea. Whether printing those cartoons was a good idea is a little more difficult to work out.

There are pros and cons – the obvious pros being assertion of free speech and some self-serving reasons such as increased magazine circulation. The obvious cons are that it may offend and raise questions of consequences to that offense – to our safety and that of Canadian troops.

It’s easy to be nice. It’s easy to be safe. But easy and safe are not always the best strategy for ultimate survival, whether in personal relationships, business, or the world at large.

It’s easy to give in to another’s whims. Why not, it doesn’t really matter to me (whatever the issue is) and it seems to matter a lot to you, so why not humour you?

The trouble is, once humouring becomes a pattern, it leads to the slippery slope of appeasement. You find yourself humouring over bigger and bigger issues and when something comes up that you really can’t countenance (and it will because bullies always try to see how far they can go) - by then you have lost the ability and the will to push back.

Every voice in my head is now arguing, what about respect for other cultures? What about Canada’s multiculturalism?

Well, respect has to go both ways. There is ample evidence out there, which I am not going to cite (but could if anyone wants me to) that Western culture is not much respected by others. That in itself is not a reason for us to disrespect in return – but it is a reason for us to be wary of attempts on the part of others to control how we live and think and speak. And the reaction to these cartoons, so out of proportion according to our values, IS an attempt to control our culture. Taking the easy road of ignoring the furor, hoping it will go away, is appeasement, pure and simple.
This time it is a cartoon that we must not reprint. Next time, what are we going to be expected to accept?

That is why I’m glad that somebody in Canada has taken a stand – now, as opposed to later.



P.S. - Progressive Bloggers, boot me out if you must. Just let me know so I can remove the sidebar link.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Power Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry?

Perfect people make me nervous.
(And I should know – I was raised by one, and married another.)

Perfect people think that apologizing for anything is a sign of weakness.
And we cannot have weakness for that would destroy our illusion of power and control.
After all, if I admit to making a mistake now, perhaps the next thing I do will also be wrong, and the next and the one after that, and before I know it, all my minions will desert me and I will be alone and impotent and helpless.

This kind of thinking is bad enough in interpersonal relationships, but it becomes downright dangerous when applied to government.

People took note in 2004 when President Bush, while campaigning for reelection, stated that he couldn’t think of anything he’d done wrong in the previous four years despite ample evidence to the contrary.

It’s happening again, after a fashion, with the Cheney shooting incident.

Up until now (Tuesday evening) Cheney has not mentioned the episode, let alone explained or apologized for it publicly. That’s over three days.
He has reportedly visited the victim in hospital and perhaps apologized privately, but that needs to be made public, if for no other reason than to set an example, as a public figure must do. Like it or not, he is a role model. If Cheney can behave like a boor without repercussions, what hope is there for our children?

Sure accidents happen. The last thing anybody wanted was this kind of news story. Whether or not Cheney was actually negligent (and that remains to be seen) he did something wrong, and needs to own up to it, express regret and take appropriate steps to remedy the situation as far as possible, and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
He may well be doing this, but he needs to do it for all to see.

Otherwise he is the perfect living metaphor for the Bush-Cheney administration.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

I REALLY Can't Stand It

I’ve been trying to blog about the cartoon fiasco for a few days, but every time I read or hear about it, I get too discouraged and depressed.
Still, it weighs – so I shall try to keep this short and to the point.

Last night on CNN, I heard Anderson Cooper interview the Danish Muslim leader who first drew attention to these cartoons, which were published months ago.

This is the exchange that made the steam come out of my ears (scroll down for the relevant part):

COOPER: Why, though, are cartoons which are, without a doubt, offensive to you and to Muslims because they depict the Prophet Mohammed, but why is that somehow infringing on your religious freedom? I mean, why should a free society be bound by the taboos of a religion?

LABAN: Because of the moral commitment of coexistence, because when we live together, when we seek any kind of harmony, when we like to have a good life side by side, we have to take care of the feelings of both parties or whatever you have in the society. And that's it. We said let's give it notice and let's give it thought.



"We like to have a good life side by side."

Y’know, that probably is true of many (most?) people. It’s when the politicians/clerics/leaders of whatever ilk start stirring things up that the masses revolt and do things they would never dream of doing to actual people whom they live near or work with. So while the words make sense, the source of those words is the worst kind of hypocrit, for fomenting so much anger – anger that has no way of resolving itself except for hate and criminal acts.

But this was my favourite part:

"...we have to take care of the feelings of both parties or whatever you have in the society."

Feelings.

Is this how Muslims take care of the feelings of their neighbours? By childish retaliation using the most hurtful means they can think of, holding a competition for Holocaust cartoons?
But no matter, what’s the worst that can result? Will a band of Jews burn down an Iranian embassy somewhere? Will they boycott Iranian oil?

The worst they will do is write an op-ed piece and file a complaint with some indifferent international body.

Draw your own conclusions.

Hoo Boy...

Okay, this one is complicated.

Fact: Former Liberal Industry Minister David Emerson crosses the metaphorical floor after his reelection (as a Liberal) to become the Conservative government's Minister of International Trade (and a few other things).

Media, including the Globe & Mail, report that he says the resolution of the softwood lumber dispute is a "top priority".

Two stories appear today, which muddy this up, considerably:

First, the Toronto Star reports that Emerson, in his former capacity as Industry Minister, discouraged a settlement last November, just before the Martin government fell.

Was the proposed settlement a good one? Depends whom you ask.

Was Emerson's objection politically-motivated? Again, we don't know. (We can speculate, but we don't actually know.)

The story in the Star explores the implications in greater detail, but there's more going on:

According to the website Politics Watch, Emerson officially recused himself from any participation in matters directly involving his former employer, Canfor, a forestry company specifically named in the softwood lumber dispute.

Muddier still, the recusal letter specifies that it only pertains to "direct dealings" with Canfor, not to "participating in discussions and carrying out my official duties and responsibilities with respect to issues of general application or relating to any industry sector in which Canfor Corporation, its subsidiaries and affiliates may operate."

This letter is registered with the office of the Ethics Commissioner. There's that pesky word again, ethics.

So even if the negotiations are not direct dealings with the company itself, with which Mr. Emerson has "an entitlement to an unregistered pension plan," (another pesky word in there!) the possibility and appearance of conflict of interest are clear.

Way clear.

Interesting timeline here, too: Mr. Emerson became Minister of Industry in July, 2004 (after the last election) but only signed that recusal letter the following November.

Implication? I don't have a clue, but according to Industry Canada's mandate, it looks like the softwood lumber issue falls squarely in there.

One thing is for sure: David Emerson is quickly achieving his goal, stated on election night, of becoming "Stephen Harper's worst nightmare".

Mr. Harper, you need this... why?

Get him outta there.

H/T to the Infozone for digging up the congruency of these issues!


Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In Place of a Real Entry

I'm still trying to sort out the signal from the noise with regard to Harper's Cabinet choices and the rest of his first day in power.
But I do know one thing: comparisons of this government (in its one day in power) to our former disaster aren't valid because nothing Harper has done is illegal.
Yet.

Let's just try to retain some perspective, huh?

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Swearing-In: Thoughts from this Morning's Ceremony

Very nice and dignified.

No Aboriginal feather thingy, which, while it was intriguing at the time, seems kind of off the wall now in light of how Paul Martin's government fared.

Or maybe the "cleansing" was too little, too late.

Big news, another defection; this should send the opposition into conniptions, as should the appointment of a new senator in order to bring him into Cabinet.

Harper claims he did the inviting re the floor-crossing. Mike Duffy says Emerson's constituents are in an uproar, which I can understand - even though they will have greater representation now, they wanted their MP to be Liberal. It's a move that makes sense on paper - until you take into account the inevitable human reaction to it. It just doesn't look good.

Governor General Michaelle Jean, on the other hand, looked great.

Rona Ambrose's neckline was iffy - but she did have a scarf and a camisole peeking through. Okay I'm just jealous.

Harper's jacket was tight. I was afraid for the button.

Harper's kids were remarkably well-behaved. I'd like to know what they bribed them with. And why wasn't his son wearing a winter coat?

The Ottawa weather was stereotypically blustery, and the little white things flying around were really snowflakes, not tiny bugs like you see in video from more southern regions. I noticed a squirrel running around on the lawn near where the dignitaries arrived. It might have been one of our famous black squirrels, but since the Canadian winter appears mostly black and white even in colour photography, I couldn't be sure.

Okay, enough for now, I need to go cook dinner... chicken, not squirrel!


Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Stuff I Don't Get, a Continuing Series

What I don't get is, why there should be more outrage over a series of cartoons (not shown by most mainstream media, but available all over the internet) than over
the filmed beheadings of hostages (not shown by most mainstream media, but available all over the internet).

That's it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Groundhog Day

Yet another Downing Street Memo surfaces, courtesy of author Philippe Sands (Lawless World) as reported in the Guardian newspaper:

A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme.

Yet more evidence of what we already knew, that the Iraq War was launched under false pretences, by a man who manipulated his own country, and as much of the world as he could manage, into action to serve his own purposes.

There's also this juicy tidbit:

Mr Bush told Mr Blair that the US was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of "flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours". Mr Bush added: "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach [of UN resolutions]".

That scheme, on the other hand, would be in breach of international law and any sort of ethical standard. The end justifying the means - but what is there that justified the end itself?

I've already admitted that Jean Chretien was right, three years ago. But how do you know? How do you know which maniacal regime to depose and which to leave alone for the time being? How do you know whether to interfere when genocides are going on? How can you not step in?

But I guess that kind of reasoning and consideration of the lessons of history is what people like Bush count on. There is now one more lesson of history to be learned.

So if you happen to live in a country where your own rights may be threatened, don't wait for the world to save you. There are more reasons now for the world not to respond, than there were before.



Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Headline: Judge Unable to Jail Teen Bully

“Unable” because in Canada, assaulting somebody in a high school corridor apparently doesn’t meet the standard of “serious act of violence” set by the Supreme Court in order for a judge to be able to use this option...
even when the offender is already on probation, as in this case, according to the report.

If that is how it is, then something is wrong and fixing it might go a long way towards fixing the increase in youth crime in our cities.
For a long time, I’ve wondered why it was illegal to publish the names of “Young Offenders”, even after they reach the age of maturity (using the expression loosely). I found the answer here, in a section of the Young Offenders Act called The Right to Privacy:

A "right to privacy," in this context, has reference to the generally acknowledged principle that criminal proceedings against young persons should not, in all circumstances, be open to the public; and that the identity of an accused or convicted youth (as well as information from which that identity can be deduced) should not be publicly revealed. This recognition of the "privacy" of young offenders derives from the view that youth are entitled to special consideration in this regard, that they should not be "labelled" or made to bear a stigma for acts they carried out at an immature age.

Okay, I can buy that up to a point. For a first offense maybe, for a not-so-serious offense, or for a very young child, measured not only by chronological age but by other psychological means.
But to have repeat offenders of an age where they are considered fit to drive cars, protected in this manner is counterproductive to society in my opinion.

Personal responsibility has to start somewhere, and if the parents won’t provide it, as many can’t or won’t for various reasons, then somebody has to, and ultimately that task falls to law enforcement.
These kids know that their slate is wiped clean at 18. They consider it a free pass, and meanwhile my kids and your kids have to live among these people in school and in the community.

I’m reminded of a murder in my area about a year and a half ago, when a young man about my son’s age was killed after leaving a house party, by a then-17 year old. This case was in the news recently because they are still haggling over whether to try the accused as an adult - but his name cannot be released. Perhaps this is fair enough at this point, but if a conviction results why should the name not be publicized? Seventeen is old enough to drive, stay home alone, work for a living, and take personal responsibility.

This law needs to be revisited.


Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog