This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Key UN Body - Conference on Disarmament

Leave it to the United Nations. The world body, invested in saving the world from itself, keeps creating various offshoot agencies and committees to further its work and to bring acclaim to the international organization trusted the world over to be fair, and just and protective of the world population.

Yet truth is, the United Nations famously prefers not to 'name and shame', much less overtly blame those regimes whose records defy human rights. Through the General Assembly of its associated members, a rotating roster of Security Council members augment the permanent Security Council.

Much as with other key committees, there are elections held on a regular basis to bring various countries into positions of prominence for stated periods of time. Serving on the rotating Security Council are Lebanon, Nigeria, Colombia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, among other countries.

The countries named are not bastions of human rights protection. Lebanon has become a failed state where atrocities occurred regularly between religious sects and where Christians have been marginalized. The terrorist group Hezbollah has fairly well taken over government, and its own militia is better armed, trained and more numerous than the national armed forces.

Nigeria, Colombia, Bosnia & Herzegovina all suffer from similar and exceedingly violent human rights lapses. Iran and Syria, both repressive regimes, one militantly theocratic, the other a military dictatorship, and both sponsors of terrorism, are each, despite their grievous oppression of their own communities, members in good standing of the United Nations and regularly appointed to commissions.

Libya has the distinction of being a notorious sponsor of terrorism around the world, and is now deeply engaged in terrorizing its own population part of which has turned against the regime, yet it continues to have the respect and support of many UN members, including South Africa, also on the rotating Security Council.

Iran has in the past been appointed to the Commission on Disarmament, and to one on women's rights.

If that doesn't represent a perversion of reality, where the world's worst human rights offenders are rewarded and recognized as outstandingly well organized and admired while presenting as utterly devoted to human rights violations, nothing else could be. Yet Iran, though facing censure for its nuclear ambitions and its clear intention to develop nuclear weapons, is invited to address the General Assembly.

Now North Korea, nuclear-armed and constantly threatening countries in its near geography, defying United Nations censures, and presenting as an economic basket case with an endemically starving population requiring the UN's World Food Program to feed its people while it uses available treasury to design and perfect technologically advanced rockets, has been appointed to lead the United Nations disarmament body.

The United Nations, through its Secretary General, gave a stamp of approval to Iran's recent international "anti-terrorism" conference. And a week on, appoints North Korea's ambassador to take on the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament. Although this too is a rotating position among member states, recognized in alphabetical order, there is no attention given to whom this benefits.

North Korea's So Se Pyong has announced at a United Nations address that he was "very engaged in moving the conference forward" and is prepared to use the temporary presidency of the conference for a "constructive proposal" that would have the effect of supporting the "work and the credibility" of the conference.

How could such a conference, headed by such a regime, conceivably boast of having any credibility? It does, because it can. It is a mockingly insane world where truth and fiction are interwoven, and fact loses out to the expediency of outwardly smoothing out relations between countries lest demands be made that will not be recognized.

This is a sad, sick farce of an abysmally dysfunctional state setting world standards. And it's right on par for anything that comes out of the United Nations.
"It's common sense that a disarmament body should not be headed by the world's arch-villain on illegal weapons and nuclear proliferation, notorious for exporting missiles and nuclear know-how to fellow rogue regimes around the globe."
Hillel Neuer, UN Watch
But that's just the thing of it; rogue regimes from around the Globe have, through the sheer force of numbers, managed to install themselves in such positions, supporting one another and demonstrating clearly the sinister absurdity that the United Nations has become.

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The Risks of Re-Offending

Another gruesome back-story about yet another one of Canada's miserable violent social deviants whose actions to avail himself of sexual gratification at the expense of women and girls and girl-children qualify him as an absolute monster. Yet, despite his record of dread and repeated atrocities against his victims there are those in society prepared to forgive him, and to assist him to reach social redemption.

Some people quail in horror at the very thought of a man raping a child, much less murdering that child. Other people can distance themselves from the act itself and focus on the man, imagining him to be needful of compassion and a hand up, because he is, after all, only human. Most people, needless to say, would prefer to shrivel up and die themselves before they would harm a child.

Harold Smeltzer had no such qualms, when he saw a neighbour's child, living next door to the home he shared with his parents as a young man, the thought that entered his mind was "I could get her and have sex with her". That's what he later told police; the one thought that had occurred to him as he watched Kimberley Thompson, a five-year-old Kindergarten student, amble along to school.

He physically took possession of the child off the street, assured her he would see she arrived at school in time, led her into his parents' house, drowned her in a bathtub and when he was finished with her, dumped her body into a trash can, where it was discovered, frozen, the following day. The man was convicted of murder. He is described as a pedophile with an anti-social personality disorder.

He offered to police the information that by his count he had raped and terrorized 40 women and children over a five-year period up until he committed that murder of five-year-old Kimberley Thompson. Police were led to him as a suspect when an 11-year-old girl saw him on the street and recognized him as the man who had raped her at knifepoint.

He was arrested, convicted of first-degree murder, two rapes and two attempted rapes. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. And he served that time. At which point, at age 55, he was permitted to live in a halfway house where he has been since December 2008 when the Parole Board of Canada released him to the community.

He has now been given another six months of residence at the halfway house. He is under no physical constraints. He must stay away from where children could be found: parks and swimming pools and schools, and must return to the residence every night. He performs custodial work at a community centre, earning an allowance.

And this man, who served what is termed in Canada a life sentence is now more or less free to get on with his life. What value his life is to him cannot be questioned other than to note that he functions at a fairly low level. Community outreach workers urge him to call on the cellphone they have provided him with should he feel the need to reach out for their support.
"I don't know exactly the pattern of recidivism that [Smeltzer] showed before his time in prison, but if he was a repeat offender already and, if indeed his modus operandi was always about the same - sex and violence and eventually murder - then even after 20 years the risks of re-offending would remain relatively significant."
Dr. Hubert Van Gijseghem, Pedophilia expert

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What's In A Scent?

Here's another news item about another federal civil servant who is fed up and isn't prepared to take it any more. His job, which pays rather well, guarantees a cushy retirement, is extremely secure in today's job market, and which gains him ample benefits, including time off for holidays and sick time - uh, there's the rub, sick time - is driving him to the dogs of distraction.

For this man, Terence Juba, has the misfortune to be extremely uber-sensitive to fragrances. Fragrance may make a lot of people sniff twice, but it makes Mr. Juba ill, very ill. This is what he says it does. And when he spoke to his co-workers about his physical and psychological aversion to scents, asking them to have some compassion for his condition, they were decidedly unimpressed.

They would, they asserted, use scented deodorants and soaps and if they felt so inclined, perfume. For it is their right as free people to conceal their natural odours that emanate from the depths of their whatever (cavities), by sweet-smelling, pungent, tart or musky, delicate or robust toilet waters should they wish to.

They seemed not to care at all that his scent sensitivity which he has suffered throughout his life, leads to symptoms including headaches, runny nose, nosebleeds, lack of concentration and irritability. Doctors, he claimed, informed him there was no cure for his condition. Yet he failed to present medical evidence to establish the depth of his sensitivity.

Which caused the Workers' Compensation Board and a labour adjudicator both to dismiss his claims. For the man, who processes immigration applications for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration in Alberta, has felt it necessary to use his sick days under the bargaining agreement reached by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and he feels this to be unfair.

Odd, that: he claims to be ill as a result of exposure to ambient odours, yet he has no wish to use his sick days for time off when he feels ill. We speak here of the 187.5 hours over a three-year period of paid sick leave. And his claim has been lodged for the return of those hours, insisting that his employer had failed to adequately accommodate him.

His employer thinks otherwise, having gone to lengths that seem to counteract Mr. Juba's contention. In an effort to be accommodating to Mr. Juba's dire need to be protected from exposure to scents, he was moved to various locations in the building, provided with an air purifier, testing performed on the office air quality, and an external consultant engaged to speak with staff to remind them of scent concerns.

Moreover, Mr. Juba was given the opportunity to compensate for the negative balance in his sick leave record, through overtime work to be exchanged for added sick leave credits. It was his decision to work the overtime offered, but instead of credits, he preferred hard cash.


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Mount Everest, Pacific Ocean, Outer Space

If there's something human beings excel at it's messing up their environment. From offal to discards. Shards of pottery, arrowheads, skeletal remains and fossilized feces give tremendous instruction of the habits and lifestyles of early human habitants of this Planet. And, until civil authorities in ancient Rome hit upon the marvellous idea of constructing public aqueducts and
sanitation and sewage systems, humans truly fouled their nests.

Of course modern hygienic sanitation systems don't entirely solve the problems endemic to many societies of people littering their properties with discarded junk that some still see value in, to convert to other usable forms. We have so much that requires disposal, from daily kitchen waste to garbage of a far more durable and time-defying nature, not to mention all manner of electronic equipment.

There are no areas left on this globe without piles of garbage, reeking and rotting, creating toxic gases and decaying. The Himalays are littered with discarded oxygen tanks, with human waste. Even the most remote areas of the ocean have floating junkpiles of discarded plastics which will take their sweet time decaying.

And of course there is also Outer Space, where over the past half-Century, humankind has littered there as well.

It is estimated that garbage left from 4,600 space launches of one kind or another through space exploration have left millions of pieces of metal, plastic and glass pieces, whirling about purposelessly, caught in the maelstrom of attraction and repulsion, endlessly being split into smaller and smaller pieces. And these bits of space junk can return to Earth, can cause problems.

But they're more likely to cause problems for satellites or spacecraft or the International Space Station. In low Earth orbit debris that may circulate impacts at roughly ten kilometres per second (36,000 kilometres per hour), so try to imagine the clash of two moving objects at that quite unimaginable speed.

Which is what the current temporary occupants of the International Space Station, three Russian cosmonauts, two American astronauts and a Japanese astronaut were compelled to deal with when they were alerted to the trajectory of a high-speed object hurtling toward their orbiting lab. They evacuated to shelter themselves inside two Soyuz spacecraft, a mere 18 minutes before the object might have impacted.

As it happened, it passed and missed the ISS by 250 metres, and after having spent a half-hour of suspenseful waiting, the six individuals whose busy day was briefly interrupted resumed their places in the space station. This was an unusual, though not entirely rare happening. There have been previous collisions between space junk and discarded space parts.

And the warning is that it will only get worse. Roughly 16,000 objects larger than 10 centimetres across are regularly tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, NASA informs.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Parliamentary Participaction

What price too high for lazy men and women to activate themselves bipedally? Those of us normal citizens in society whom the medical community urge to get out there, climb stairs, take a walk, swing a golf club, go swimming, do anything to exercise muscles and partake in some healthful body movement for the sake of our health take the advice seriously. Or at least we should. We walk to the corner to pick up a newspaper, stroll down to the park, make an effort to move.

And then there are Canada's elected Parliamentarians, and the appointed Senators who sit in the House of Commons and Senate to ponder matters related to the running of the country's profound affairs. Who sit in the offices. Sit in the Senate Chambers, sit in the cafeteria and the dining rooms of Parliament, sit for Question Period, and probably climb a few stairs to arrive at their offices in the Centre Block, in the West and East Block and elsewhere they are appointed to sit.

But they cannot extend themselves too strenuously to walk the block from one building to another. They are simply too preciously endowed and considered to exercise their legs and their bodies to take a five, ten, even twenty-minute walk that would clear their heads, oxygenate their lungs, and give their hearts a little reason to pump a little faster.

We've no idea what it costs for the shuttle buses that regularly run MPs from one venue to another on Parliament Hill. But we are apprised of the fact that because of renovations to the Parliament Buildings, offices have been re-assigned elsewhere within a short distance and as a result the network of shuttle buses has added additional routes with 7 new bus drivers, extending the equivalent of roughly four city blocks in area.

At a cost of just over a half-million dollars, according to minutes from the Board of Internal Economy. That fleet of neat little green buses, on special assignment on Parliament Hill to ferry our lawmakers hither and yon on that exalted plain over the Ottawa River ensures that they need not exercise themselves unduly.

We've no idea of the entire cost of operating the shuttle service, but if it was a necessity there would be no argument respecting the cost. Is it necessary to coddle the sit-tolerant bodies of adult men and women who should of their own accord prefer to walk rather than be ferried about constantly within a very limited area - an extremely pleasant one at that?

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Just Asking...

Talk about conflicted. The majority of Canadians support the abolishing of Capital Punishment. We abhor taking a human life. And we have no wish for our government, on our behalf, to mete out the kind of justice that would destroy a life, as a symbol of society's unwillingness to allow the perpetrator of viciously violent crimes against other humans to see the rigidly unforgiving disciplinary hand of justice.

Yet, within most of us there is a little voice that says, "but", and "except".

For there are those within society, the psychopathic scum whose inability to feel any kind of human compassion for others, or self-restraint, or responsibility toward society, or love for themselves or anyone else, leads them to unforgivably destructive acts of depravity. They are a breed apart.

Apart from those within society whose emotions and passions carry them to a place no one in their right mind would want to be. Atrocious as it is for someone to murder another person as an act of uncontrolled passion, that person may not have actually planned to kill, and does not deserve to die. No one 'deserves' death.

And then there are those who inflict pain and suffering on others quite deliberately, taking pleasure in the act of tormenting those whom they mean to destroy. Such atrocities, particularly when they are repeated time and again, in the work of psychotic serial killers leave one with the indelible impression that to save the life of that particular predator has no real meaning.

Do those people really deserve to live? They would, if circumstances permitted, merely go on to continue their predatory forays within society, selecting victims to service their hunger to kill. Ruthless, heartless murderers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their horrible egos by giving themselves the dreadful power and the dreaded authority to sacrifice lives to give themselves satisfaction.

We have enough such monsters in our prisons. Meet another one. Mario Cyr, on parole after, in the process of robbing a a 87-year-old woman, beating her so badly she never recovered, and died despite acute medical care in hospital. He was never charged with her death. While on parole he killed two men.

The man is a murderer, a drug dealer, a robber. He has no personal nor social conscience.

He began his career as a thief in 1975. In 1976, driving a car with police in pursuit he lost control of the vehicle and his accomplice died in the crash. Two years later he had beaten the 87-year-old based on information she had money in her home. She was found semi-conscious, badly beaten, suffering severe head injuries.

In 1984 on parole, he shot a drug dealer whom he had threatened with death if he didn't divulge where his money was kept; the dealer obliged, was killed regardless. Two months after that he waited for a man he was feuding with, crashed his car into the man's, and as the victim ran for his life, he was shot twice, mortally.

Mr. Cyr denies all charges brought against him, of second- and first-degree murder. Even in prison he has been busy trafficking drugs. Monsters like him litter the prison system. What value is his life to himself, let alone to society? What measure of tolerance is enough? How is it that someone as degraded as Clifford Olson feels entitled to old-age payments?

Just asking.

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"Rise Up!"

That appears to have become the phrase du jour. Didn't President Barack Obama encourage voters to do just that? Hasn't Venezuela's verbosely irritating Chavez urged Latin America to do that against the United States? Didn't Michael Ignatieff invoke the image of a Canadian population prepared to shake off the yoke of Conservative oppression by chanting during the election campaign, "rise up! rise up!"

There's a lot of uprising around. Most of them currently in the Middle East and North Africa, and making a lot of news in the process, but not an awful lot of real progress, unless you pull in the body counts of repressive regimes reluctant to allow their people to rise up. And here in Canada we've another source impressing upon a specific audience their need to rise up.

Senator Don Oliver, he of the sober 'second thought' gilded and red-velvet Chamber, expressing his violated and verbose opinion that Canada remains a land of misery for its people described as visible minorities. Particularly that most visible of minorities, Blacks.

As though people of hue, particularly those gorgeous shades that whites are so anxious to emulate during the summer, have not achieved positions of great public and private prominence and acclaim.

Senator Oliver speaks of his childhood as being one where he was exposed to outright racism. A prejudice that is firmly positioned in society and refuses to depart. To the extent that it has followed him throughout his life, and he is now 72. Perhaps Senator Oliver is not cognizant of the fact that people are prejudiced toward those unlike themselves.

There are many Jews, for example, and Chinese and people from the Indian sub-continent who might regale him with similar stories of overt and covert racism that they too have suffered. This is inexcusable, but it is also a fact of life, a human tragedy, imprinted as it were, on the consciousness of humankind.

Generally speaking, most people make an effort to be socially aware and accepting. For some this comes readily and easily, for they've been raised in a familial environment that does not suffer bigotry and racism. For others it's a lot harder because their social and family environment allowed for suspicion of the other.

And for some, hateful racism is a natural expression.

It would seem that the Senator is being naive in his assertions and his demands. There is as much that separates blacks from one another as there is Caucasians. There is ignorance, cultural savagery and stupidity, lack of social grace, disinterest in education, proclivity toward a life of welfare, attraction toward crime, drugs, alcohol, gangs, guns and violence on all sides of the colour spectrum.

The 'family' Senator Oliver speaks of sparks of racism in and of itself. The 'family' might more aptly describe, irrespective of colour, what we have socially, culturally, politically in common; our similar and recognizable cultural, educational and social roots.

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Disability: Tragic Trend...?

Soaring disability claims in the federal public service. Now that's something. Public servants, with secure jobs, union backing, good pay scales, benefits that private sector employees can only dream of, are suffering inordinately from loss of confidence, the misery of holding down a position that most feel does not equate entirely with their level of competence, and anguish over their aspirations to become more upwardly mobile.

Those who become entitled to a certain level of perquisites become accustomed to them very easily. Generous annual sick days, equally generous holiday time, gold-plated pensions, medical, dental, drug insurance, and a pay scale that's superior to the insecure jobs available in the private sector. A dream come true, you'd think, and you'd think wrong.

The evidence is in, the Public Service Alliance of Canada has posted a report on 2010 disability trends and it tells quite the story. That the disability claims incidence per thousand union members (all federal public servants are ipso facto union members; membership is obligatory) zoomed to over 15 from its previous 13.78 for 2009.

Since the year 2000 the incidence rate of disability claims has risen by a whopping 35%, so that currently over eleven thousand public servants now collect disability benefits. Obviously many are genuine, and many more leave the question to the imagination of the doubting. Particularly when it's noted that depression and anxiety represent over 47% of all approved disability claims for 2010.

Cancer and spinal/musculoskeletal disorders are next in line. This is people getting on with their lives, living with mental and physical conditions that are somehow construed to be related to their jobs, leaving them incapable of working for a living, but with that work/health-failure condition entitling them to a disability wage.

A PSAC disability insurance and pensions officer warns that "The stress levels in the federal public service are escalating, and they're probably going to continue to do so." Why should that be so? Possible reasons range from workplace harassment and bullying, burnout and management turnover leading to insecurity with regard to priorities and restructuring.

Which leads one to wonder how it is that mature people in a responsible workplace serving the public interest as well as their own are not flexible enough to adjust to changing work environments. And one must assume that the prevalence of workplace harassment and bullying, noting the attention these situations are now given, have been much reduced.

Perhaps some of the psychological effects leading off from expectations for advancement not being matched by opportunities or personal investment in time, expertise and effort lead to disgruntlement and loss of self-confidence, leading to a grudge against the workplace environment and an unwillingness to deliver the goods. Demoralized by lack of mobility; understandable.

Surprisingly, given that the federal government has focused on the advancement of women in the workforce, female public servants file a disproportionate number of claims. In the last year for which statistics were gathered women filed fully 70.5% of the 3,088 approved claims, though they represent less than 55% of public service employees.

The federal public service is known as a soft touch. For generous benefits, buy-outs, and general coddling of its workforce under pressure from its powerful unions. While there are ample public servants who diligently put in a full-day's work for a full-day's salary, many more, reflecting society at large to a degree, have little pride in the obligations of professionalism.

It's all very well to blame a stifling atmosphere in the workplace, but application and initiative always reward those who practise those virtues. When people are brought into the public service it is assumed that they are emotionally stable as mature adults, resilient and capable of meeting the demands of the positions they agree to fulfill for the compensation they agree they appreciate.

Life happens. Both at the workplace and at home. People learn to cope with stress. And they know that if they are being pushed beyond endurance there are mechanisms whereby they are able to register complaints that will be considered. No one holds anyone hostage to a job. If the situation is truly untenable, transfers can take place, cross-stream assignments, whatever works.

Government does its best to ensure that its workforce is well invested with benefits commensurate with the effort expended and the professionalism realized. It is a huge, unwieldy enterprise, and there are lapses and there are successes. The growing numbers of workers claiming disability due to mental stress may owe more to how some view this may advantage them than actual need.

Perhaps a closer, more intimate look at parameters for acceptance and obliging doctors' reports on individual conditions might be in line. Those who have themselves worked in the realm of the public service can attest to their own experience among their peers, their observations and frustrations at witnessing the sloth and ill regard for their responsibilities evidenced all too often by too many in the workforce.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Human Conquest

One never quite thinks of humanity in terms of military personnel. They are trained and taught to battle. To recognize their enemy and to make every effort to destroy that enemy's intention to win the conflict they are both engaged in. That may once have represented reality, but it no longer quite does at all times in all instances. For one thing, military combatants from enlightened, First World countries are generally people who have received a substantial education before enlisting.

As enlisted men and women their education is further advanced by exposure to a degree deemed appropriate to history, culture and what led up to the conflict they are dispatched to far from their own geographies. These are no longer wars of yore, when two adjoining countries met in battle to determine which of them would attain possession of contested land. Or where one ideological, political or tribal group would defeat the other, leaving one in thrall to the other.

These are interventions by democratic nations of the world, mostly under the auspices if not the direction, of the United Nations. The purpose being to offer protection to civilians, while attending the main objective, to ensure that combative oppressors be constrained in their violent bids for a military campaign of supremacy. In the process of which, civilian life is fraught with real danger. All the more so when the situation realizes the opposition of different cultures, ethnicities, religions.

So when, in Afghanistan, a Canadian officer was informed by their men that young rural Afghan boys were busy nearby their own stations, digging up unexploded ordnance, rusting mortars, bullets and bombs left over from the Red Army assault and occupation of Afghanistan, to offer them for sale to the Taliban insurgents, he merely shrugged and commented that "They have to make a living somehow".

Canada's presence in Afghanistan began as an invasion, a conflict, a mission to destroy the governance of the Taliban over the Afghan population. This was, of course, secondary to the primary purpose of removing the Taliban because of their solidarity with al-Qaeda, their refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden and his militias to the Americans whose intention was to bring him to justice for the atrocities of 9/11.

Having initially ousted the Taliban, the operation became one of temporary occupation, to install a civilian government of Afghan patriots (which didn't work out quite as anticipated since the government of Hamid Karzai brought war lords into the new Parliament, with blood on their hands, and riches from growing and selling opiates, and general corruption reigned supreme) and begin to help the country organize a governing infrastructure destroyed by decades of war.

Years of battling a spring-resurgent insurgency, IED deaths, building of schools and medical clinics gave way to a final withdrawal of foreign troops now in the near offing. As Canadian troops are finally withdrawn, a small number remain for the purpose of training the Afghan national police and the military. And those who work with Afghans to transfer technical knowledge and techniques see their counterparts in purely human terms.

Those who are adept because they have had the experience of receiving an education, are numerate and literate and readily adaptable. And those of an earlier generation incapable of reading or writing, and who are yet of a practical mindset, slower to learn, but willing enough. And those who formerly were teachers and even under the Taliban urged those whom they taught to think for themselves. Their despair at the large numbers of untaught Afghans whose experiences have dulled their brains and their initiative.

The quiet appreciation and slow but sincere companionship to be realized as communication takes place between human beings, not necessarily Canadians and Afghans, but people who speak of and compare the differences between their backgrounds, their culture, their social circumstances and their personal lives. A stone-age society under religious constraints as compared to a modern, 21st-Century, technically-advanced democracy.

The process which brought one foreign country's troops to another country's geography results on occasion with the bridging of gaps in our common humanity.

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All is Sweetness and Light

The United Nations has deplored the Islamic Republic of Iran's intransigence on its illegal work in obviously working toward success in developing nuclear armaments. Iran has repeatedly denied its intention is geared toward that end, but it is more than evident to nuclear inspectors that this is the direction they're headed toward purposefully.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stood before the General Assembly of the United Nations and issued a threat against another member-state, and no censure has emanated from the United Nations as a result. Iran remains a member in good standing of the United Nations, despite its refusal to permit the IAEA inspection of its nuclear sites, themselves illegal.

Iran is well recognized as being a sponsor of terrorist groups. It is itself involved in state terrorism levelled against its own population, shutting down peaceful dissent by violent repression. Arresting, torturing and murdering those whom it accuses of fomenting unrest against the regime. The country's relentless harassment of religious minorities like the Baha'i, its arrest and torture of homosexuals, of political protesters, all mark it as a violently repressive regime.

But it is the country's training, arming and funding of extra-territorial Islamist groups dedicated to violence that has gained it international recognition as a threat to world peace. Yet Iran's clerics, its political executive elite, its ayatollahs and its Republican Guard enjoy presenting themselves as defenders of peace and tolerance in the world. Their faithful followers in Cuba, Venezuela, Pakistan, Indonesia, Sudan and elsewhere, practising a like agenda, agree.

Iran last year launched a conference on Nuclear Disarmament. The year before it was a conference on examining the truth of the occurrence of the Holocaust. This year the conference was titled the "International Conference on the Global Fight Against Terrorism". The objects of their derision and accusations were predictable; the United States and Israel; the Big and Little Satans. And by extension, Western democracies.

As a state sponsor of terrorism, Iran has no equal, although Libya once held pride of position. Iran had no problem assembling representatives of 60 countries of the world to attend their latest conference, taking place in Tehran. Those in attendance obviously had problems regarding the title and thrust of the conference as risibly hypocritical, the proverbial instance of evil posing as goodwill, the major threat to world stability presenting itself as concerned with peace.

And to this gathering, where the United States, Israel and Britain were identified as the major supporters of terrorism and threats to world peace, Western allies such as Pakistan and Afghanistan sent their heads of state to smilingly appear and shake hands with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Why would they not smile, given the reality that Western and specifically American treasury has benefited them hugely over the years, lining their pockets with riches, paying for their militaries and servicing their responsibilities to their populations?

Present also, most notably, was the United Nation's General Secretary, Ban ki-Moon's envoy, Mohammad Rafi al Din Shah who praised Iran and the conference as being "appreciated", since "holding conferences like the Tehran Conference can be considerably helpful in implementing" UN resolutions designed to combat terrorism. Whereupon it makes eminently good sense that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for attacks on the United States, Britain, Israel.

The world of Islam heard from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, at the conference to combat terrorism not only that the United States, Israel and the West were responsible for terrorism, but that it is "a duty for all Muslims to confront and fight this inauspicious offspring" - of the devil one assumes. Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Mauritania, Cuba and the high-level delegates from 60 states as well as the "distinguished scholars and researchers and peace activists from around the world" who attended the conference cannot have been disappointed.

The official statement closing the conference mentioned how delighted the participants were, stressing the 'high importance' of such valuable get-togethers in 'further mobilizing political will and strengthening international capacities in countering terrorism at national and international levels. Enabling all those attending this love-in - which emphasized the false nature of the Holocaust and 9/11 to have been wicked conspiracies to cast Islam in a dim light to enable those who detest it to gain strength and conspire to enrich themselves through the possession of Muslim endowments - to reach a position of unequivocal condemnation.

All 'acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including State terrorism, economic terrorism, wherever, against whoever and by whoever they may be committed' also roundly and vehemently condemned. In an excess of self-righteous zeal and piquant humour where none was intended, the statement expressed its concern over the problems 'State terrorism has posed, for long, a real threat to the peace and stability of many nations across the globe through unlawful use of threat of force, aggression and occupation.'

In gaggingly obvious language and absurdly audacious hubris, the closing statement emphasized peoples' 'inalienable right of self-determination which should not be labelled as terrorism'. And that 'counter-terrorism measures shall be adopted and carried out in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law'. To which the United Nations, its envoy and his master, must have swooned with joy.

It reminded the participants of their responsibility to ensure co-operation and that terrorists must be brought to justice. And stressed the 'high importance' those divine religions that regard human life and dignity and peaceful coexistence among nations, place on peace. Rejecting 'any vicious attempt to associate or attribute terrorism to a particular culture, religion of nationality'. With the exception, needless to say, of Christians and Jews, Hindus and Sikhs and Buddhists and Baha'i.

Islam in particular must be protected from 'any offensive or provocative acts against its divine values and religious sanctities.' To which sublimely unassailable values all in attendance agreed wholeheartedly. Thanking their hosts for the enlightening entertainment, and pledging to commemorate the victims of terrorism.

In conclusion the Republic of Iraq, yet another friend of the West, and recipient of its treasury, offered to host the next such conference.

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A Tool of the Western World

Libya's new political governors-in-waiting are exultant that the International Criminal Court has issued a warrant against Col. Moammar Ghadafi, two of his top aides, his son Saif al-Islam and his regime's intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Sanussi. The arrest warrant is completely irrelevant, however, as the tribunal, the Libyan regime states, has no authority.

Claiming that the King of Kings is guilty of crimes against humanity merely points out to them that they are incompetent to judge a leader who is protecting his country against violent criminals, drug addicts and Islamists.

Rebel leaders in Benghazi in particular, however are wild with joy. People gathered in the streets to celebrate, and to fire their arms into the air in wild applause at the wisdom of the ICC. Although the rebels have been incapable of making headway in their purported push on to Tripoli and the eventual defeat of the regime, this recognition of Libya's torment on the part of their leader by the ICC, along with the regime targeting of NATO have given them new levels of optimism.

Moammar Gadhafi has succeeded in brutalizing his country, in attacking with mortars, helicopter gunships and tanks his unruly subjects. Thousands may have died in the process of defying his authority and attempting to dislodge him from his desert throne. He has so far succeeded in denying NATO the easy victory they initially assumed, thinking that a week would be all it would take to hand victory over to the rebels.

But in Syria Bashar al-Assad is conducting himself and his regime in a mirror-image assault in his people as well. In Syria too tens of thousands of desperate Syrians have had to flee their villages, their homes and their farms, eager to save themselves from the ravages of Assad's Republican Guard and his brother's avenging hatred for them. Villages have been razed, crops burned, farm animals destroyed, people murdered by sharp-shooting troops.

Syria's al-Assad has succeeded in infuriating a loyal ally up to the present time, with Turkey caring for over ten thousand of border refugees, many of them mutilated by Syrian troops. Turkey, a NATO member, has no wish for NATO to become involved in Syria. NATO has no wish for itself to become mired down in yet another ill-considered move to ameliorate an Islamic-led insurrection that requires an Islamic, not a Western solution.

As for the International Criminal Court, will they next target Bashar al-Assad, as they surely must if they've seen merit in charging Moammar Gadhafi. While considering ruefully the charges brought against Sudan's President, Omar al-Bashir with three counts of genocide in Darfur, and the fact that he is welcome in any Arab or Muslim country of the world, all of whom shrug off the relevance of the charges against him.

So the tool of the Western World intent on prosecuting leaders in the Third World, limps along in its belief that by naming and shaming and urging arrest of the world's blatant mass murderers, it brings restorative justice to the world.

Not if the Arab Bloc and the African Bloc can help it.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Back To Prison

It must have cost that overweeningly prideful man much indeed to appeal for clemency before Judge Amy St.Eve. "My family has suffered deeply ... I do have great concerns in that area." Couching his appeal in those terms; concerns for those whom he loves and who love him, absent his own concern for himself and further incarceration only slightly dimmed the prospect of laying himself wide open and vulnerable, hoping for mercy.

Judge St.Eve may have been recalling some of the caustic messages that issued in earlier days from Conrad Black's lips, characterizing the American justice system, its justices and law fraternity as inferior, and castigating them all for their intolerable miscarriage of justice that took him to prison as a man innocent of all charges brought against him. Most people have no love for those who criticize them; even less do those who have been charged with meting out justice.

At 66 years of age, it might have been thought that Lord Black would be spared further prison time. Given also the findings of the Supreme Court and their ruling on the law that ultimately brought him down as being too vague and loop-holed. And the fact that Lord Black comported himself with dignity and humility both, during and throughout his incarceration. And then, of course, the issue of his health problems.

He did not melt into a lump of self-absorbed pity, although he did burnish a lump of coal, sparking it occasionally to write his own unalterable account of his honour and integrity having been slandered without cause. What he did engage in was to communicate with the outside world through a series of sometimes random articles expounding on the state of the world's politics and economics from his knowledgeable and practical point of view.

And he shared with other prison inmates his formidable writing skills, encouraging others to express themselves as fulsomely and as professionally as he is capable of doing. He made friends among the other prison inmates, rather than stand in judgement upon them as incarcerants since he was one himself due to circumstances quite, at that point, outside his control.

He maintained an active email conversation and correspondence with people whom his agile mind and capability of expression intrigued. In short, he paid a penalty for what the law of the United States deemed to be a white-collar act of criminality, and in the process he acquitted himself outstandingly well, while being of use to many people inside the system.

To now impose upon him what will certainly be the onerous burden of another nine months' imprisonment seems a cruelty unwarranted by the circumstances.

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Crowd Control

The image of the bland, unflappable Canadian whom nothing much excites out of his habitual attitude of lethargic disinterest has of late been upended, with two high-profile instances of group malfeasance when complainants or celebrants massed in Toronto and in Vancouver to exercise their right of assembly and freedom of speech in relation to the G-20 summit (2010) and the Stanley Cup (2011), respectively received ample news coverage.

Much has been written about police brutality at the G-20 summit. Where groups of protesters felt they had been unnecessarily man-handled and submitted to humiliating, gratuitous attention and apprehension by the police. There were hordes of protesters, there to express their anger and dismissive dismay at the privileged actions of the world's mover and shakers and economic giants.

Many such groups were treated by the police with consideration in recognition of their legitimate right to gather, and with the respect due them as a result of their civil behaviour. These peoples' voices have been drowned in the clamour of many others who insist they were brutalized, and that police over-reacted when peaceful protests led somehow to viciously violent criminal acts.

Much of the black-clad violators of the public peace were actually bussed in from the Province of Quebec, where dissent can and does turn quite violent. There were anarchists present, of a violent persuasion, who were determined to make good their promise to be present and actively troublesome. But it was the atrocious behaviour of the Black Blob types mingling with the crowd that set the stage as they broke shop windows, pillaged, beat people and torched police cars.
Anti-summit protesters clash with police in downtown Toronto. - A G20 summit protester throws a chair at a coffee shop window in downtown Toronto. | Kevin Van <span class=Paassen/The Globe and Mail" title="A G20 summit protester throws a chair at a coffee shop window in downtown Toronto. | Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail"

The police, from multiple jurisdictions, including the RCMP, the OPP and Peel Regional as well as representatives from 22 other police forces, were clearly unprepared for the violence that descended on downtown Toronto. Despite their collective presence for a common protective and security purpose there were intra-force squabbles for recognition of who was ultimately responsibly authoritative.

Moreover, not all police present of the thousands that were tasked to provide security, were trained and dressed for their own protection with riot gear. Some on bicycles were able to manoeuvre about well, but they were vulnerable to being trapped among rioters who didn't mind being physical and threatening with isolated police.

The Toronto police force ended up frantically responding to calls for assistance from their own for rescue from the mobs.

So yes, some innocent enough protesters who were provocative without being threatening, managed to provoke police into a response that the protesters later criticized as over the top. And police, obviously fed up by the myriad of different types of physical and law-and-order challenges that came their way, responded less than politely in brusquely rounding up anyone they thought was out of line.

Many of the innocent-enough bystanders were busy taking photographs of looters, breakage and entering, and the firing of police cars. There were no public-onlooker interventions in an attempt to restore order and rescue the peaceful protest from the wild mayhem that ensued. That the police have been held to account for their actions is well and good. But questions must still be posed with respect to the protesters' presence and actions and purpose.

In the end, those who expose themselves to situations where there is a fair chance that violence will ensue do so knowingly for the simple reason that these types of protests often enough descend into violent displays of criminal behaviour. With the excitement of being included in the event comes the potential of being the recipient of police responses that speak to the violence perpetrated by some and attributed to many.

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Peace and War

Crazy, isn't it? Offering a peace prize to a man who campaigned on a promise of escalating a war that his country was already well mired in. And the man proudly accepting that peace prize. As though that recognition was his due. As though he had somehow brought peace to the world. Instead, after the presidential campaign and his investiture as the 41st President of the United States of America, he made good on his promise.

His country was involved in a war that his predecessor had prosecuted when the United States and those of its allies that were 'willing' invaded Iraq, removed its murderous despot and unleashed in the process a heritage of repressed hatred between sects of Islam. The slaughterer of Iraq who had gassed, repressed and murdered his own, then went on to oversee further slaughter in a war against Iran where a million people perished, had kept his own Sunni and Shia from reciprocal murder.

The iron hand of his rule impressively removed by foreign invading troops left his former citizens free to indulge themselves in horrendous secular violence. Which eventually subsided to a degree, leaving an uneasy calm to take the place of nightly onslaughts from one community toward the other. And ten years on the United States prepares itself to release itself from overseeing the peace in Iraq, to its own responsibility.

And the removal of a troop surge that finally pacified the opponents in Islam, made it possible to surge those troops into Afghanistan to pacify resurgent insurgent Taliban in that country which the United States had left precipitately to enable it, after initially overthrowing the Taliban, to pounce on Iraq. And just latterly, the Nobel laureate president sent his warplanes over Libya. But not Syria. So the United States is engaged in war in three Islamic countries.

It is a war to liberate Muslims from their ruling oppressors. The secondary purpose, to bring them freedom and to usher them into the 21st Century, while teaching them on the fly the beauties of democracy and liberty and capitalism and social, political and economic opportunities. But tribal customs and religious dictates, culture and heritage are not so readily given to having modernity superimposed over them.

And the liberators who have enabled spontaneously-entrenched regime opposition to begin to triumph over the old dictatorial regimes are succumbing to the realization that the protesters and the opposition are not, in fact, even while mouthing words like 'freedom' and 'democracy' and 'equality', all that different than those whom they seek to replace.

In fact, the lingering, fearsome impression is that those waiting on the sidelines may represent even more tyrannical and brutal and freedom-sapping, human-rights-abusive regimes-in-waiting.
Odd thing that, how despite the best of intentions, those who seek to interfere and to assist where none is really required, somehow manage to encourage those elements that will one day come back to haunt them, personally.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Irking Unions

This new majority federal government in Ottawa feels confident in its numbers and it does not appear to have too much patience with public-sector strikes disabling the country and striking a blow at its still-tenuous economic recovery. Air Canada's strike was in its infancy when the Minister of Labour tabled a bill to end the strike.

And lo and behold, management and union struck a deal, after all. The 3,800 Air Canada workers, awaiting ratification of the deal which their own bargaining committee has endorsed, and which the CAW union president proclaims himself to be satisfied with, won't even have a recall of that intermission in their services to the flying public.

The postal strike now, that's another matter entirely.

Another bill was put on the table to be voted on in Parliament, this one to force the 50,000 locked-out Canada Post employees back to work. And the NDP, the spanking-new official opposition in Parliament proclaimed itself furious that this government is engaged in strike-breaking and union-busting.

As though it isn't in the interest of the government to ensure that public service continues unabated.

The NDP got astride their high horse and refused to dismount, although Members of Parliament were chomping at the bit to leave their Aegean stables for their long-awaited summer break. One, two, three nights of debate, with each of the NDP members popping up like burnt toast to speak their 20 minutes' of denunciation.

Does the right to collective bargaining upend the need for employer and employee to bargain in good faith, and to each compromise on the issues important to each? Neither management nor union appeared prepared to budge one iota. Management is responsible to the taxpayer, union to their paid-up membership. What benefits the union does not necessarily equally benefit the taxpayer.

Many of whom are unemployed at this juncture, and have little sympathy for publicly-engaged employees with their assured wage packets and benefits. Add that to the increasing redundancy of mail service and the growing reliance on other methods of communication.

And bearing in mind that the NDP campaigned on a promise to represent and support small business, and this is the demographic most in pain from the strike.

Bill C-6 got well debated. In the sense that time was spent wasting time for the purpose of gaining time, ostensibly for the purpose of giving the 'adversaries' in management and union time to find some common ground for agreement. Which simply did not occur.

So CUPW effusively thanked the NDP and signalled it was time to get on with things. And there's the constituency, solely, that the NDP has serviced.

On to the Senate now, and summer vacation for Parliament, leaving the NDP well and truly pleased with itself and its newfound muscle; flaccid but audaciously insistent nonetheless.

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Provincial Subsidies

The welfare syndrome whereby people become so accustomed to having their living handed to them through 'social justice' re-distribution, sparing them the awkward necessity of actually taking responsibility for themselves as mature and independent salary-seekers works for groups just as it does for municipalities and for provinces.

It's tempting to rest easy and depend on the kindness of others. It may not, in the end, truly be a kindness. Sometimes generosity of spirit and forgiving attitudes result in a condition that halts initiative. Arrested adolescence ensues, and independence begins to look less attractive, more like a right royal pain in the job-seeking arse.

We've seen that Canadian political parties don't make the effort to raise their own working capital when taxpayer subsidies are generously provided. We've seen how generations of families become welfare recipients, seemingly unaware that they are themselves capable of providing for themselves, turning welfare from a temporary assist to a permanent need.

And then there's that brilliant idea of fair re-distribution of wealth from the 'have' provinces of the Canadian Confederation to the less well-endowed provinces. The concept of sharing, of ensuring that wherever one lived in Canada, services would be similar to all Canadians because the wealthy would be happy to subsidize all others.

It made us feel good, at first. That we were so generously inclined and more than prepared to give a hand up to our provincial peers. And those who took and never gave back began to view the arrangement as an expected entitlement, earned by default, simply because that was the way it worked. In the process, the vast amounts received relieved the 'have-not' provinces of making an effort to become self-reliant.

So what, really has been gained? Provinces that were deemed to be wealthy because of their natural resources, their established infrastructure and manufacturing base, the quality of their populations' entrepreneurial spirit, had much of what they earned drained off and transferred to those provinces who hadn't a clue about furthering their own enterprises.

Which also had the effect of not enabling the well-off provinces to invest in their own futures by updating and expanding and re-establishing their priorities. In a word, a well meaning federal-provincial initiative has become a drag and a drone, enabling the lazy and the unproductive to live beyond their means, and the enterprising and functioning to groan under an undeserved load.

Time to re-visit the purpose, structure and result of a social experiment that appears to have far outlived its perceived usefulness.

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Violating Canada

How times have changed. On the way to becoming a political party beloved of Quebec, the NDP appears to have forgotten it has a national constituency. This does not appear to have been the result of some extraordinary lapse of memory, rather it would seem to be one of irresistible opportunity. Typical of politics, in fact; promise the electorate what you know they are eager to hear, and you'll get the vote.

This party appears to have succeeded marvellously in streamlining promises to fit the audience. Where else but in Quebec would the NDP promise that for an event as staggeringly vital to the future of this country, it would, were it to become the governing party, recognize a vote for separation by a majority of 50%-plus-1? In which other province of Confederation did Jack Layton wrap himself in Quebec's flag?

That's the Jack Layton of his own youthful memories when he experienced great sympathy for the McGill francais insistence of 1969 when his own entry into the rebelliously heady tempo of the times steered him firmly away from his father's political conservatism. His Montreal childhood and his understanding of where francophone separatism comes from and his comfortably practical ease with it does not auger well for Canada.

Canadians were a little concerned at the popularity of the separatist Parti Quebecois and its wedge in federal Parliament, the Bloc. And while the majority of Quebecers appear to have tired of the endless charade of threats and demands by separatists against the rest of Canada, ransom that the ROC took seriously and paid up front to offset separation, here's Jack Layton and the NDP taking up that worn old cudgel.

And the Nazi-language policies of the province, still claiming the fragility of the French language in Quebec resonates well with Mr. Layton, who has pledged to support a push to enact provincial legislation that would further entrench French as not only the first, but the only language of commerce and communication - bye-bye English. Fluent bilingualism for Supreme Court Justices.

Yes, it's true, the NDP has gone a long, long way from its origins. Lost its way, more likely. But happy enough in official opposition and at Stornaway, both seen as apprenticeships to the real thing. All due to Jack's noisy and colourful persistence. This is the man who has sworn, moreover, to bring courtesy to Question Period, expecting it of others, unneeded by His truly.

Bloody likely, that.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pride in What, Precisely?

Toronto's gay pride parade is set to launch its raucous stage on the city streets yet again. The city's gay, transgendered and etc. community prepared once again to present their colourful, raunchy and for many - among them gays themselves - totally inappropriate celebration of themselves as differently gendered. Who cares that men and women have gender orientations outside the mainstream?

Most people are indifferent to gayness as a fact of life. It is, after all, a fact of life, and as such accepted as an indelible presence and reality in peoples' lives. In all other respects gays and transgendered are just like any other human being. They have like needs, emotional and practical, and the general community is more than prepared to recognize that. We have more in common than what sets us apart, obviously.

We have come that far. Making life more bearable for gays, and for those who are not, lifting the burden of suspicion. But the burden of being accounted among the 'homophobic' within society remains. Levelled recklessly and spitefully against those in the straight community who view lavish gay pride parades with distaste at their uncivil tawdriness.

Perhaps tawdry and uncivil might be acceptable in a spirit of light-heartedness, but gay pride parades transcend even those parameters with their sexual exhibitionism and in-your-face lewd gestures and acting-out. Not everyone responds positively to that kind of scenario, and people prefer to absent themselves from the vulgar display.

Toronto's new Mayor, Rob Ford, evidently is one of those. Out of courtesy and diplomacy he asserted a need to respect his own family's tradition, by showing up for Canada Day at the family cottage. He has been rewarded by slanderous nomenclature and threats to his political future. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community's celebration of themselves is not all good-natured fun and games.

They have slid into politics of a nasty and utterly unforgiving kind, slurring the State of Israel, which although it recognizes gay rights and gay marriage and hosts gay pride parades of its own, nonetheless incurs the wrath of the LGBT community who appear to prefer to support regimes and social/cultural/religious countries that penalize gays with violent persecution and death sentences.

Having successfully managed, with the help and goodwill of the straight community to set the record straight about homosexuality, and having achieved equality and security recognition under the law, it seems the LGBT community is determined to entirely blanket public society with its silly little campaigns geared to wear away societal discrimination expressed as good taste and respect for others.


Gaypride3 Thousands of people took part in the 2011 Edmonton Gay Pride Parade on Saturday, June 11, 2011. The parade is meant to raise awareness and acceptance for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and transsexuals. Photograph by Mathew White.

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The Humanity of Islam

British computer programmer Peter Moore, held as a hostage for two years and seven months was eventually released by his captors. The three bodyguards assigned to his safety and taken hostage with him were far less fortunate, they did not survive their dreadful ordeal. And while Mr. Moore lived to tell the tale, he too suffered horribly, describing what he and the three men taken with him had to endure, as "absolutely terrifying".

Mr. Moore, was in Iraq to install accounting software. As in forensic accounting. For the purpose of tracking the billions of dollars' worth of foreign aid. And his purpose there was to teach the Iraqi bureaucrats who would be using it, precisely how to use it. His three bodyguards, all former soldiers, were working for a Montreal-based security firm, GardaWorld, when they were all taken hostage.

The four men, Jason Creswell, 38, Jason Swindlehurst, 39, Alec MacLachlan, 30, along with 36-year-old Peter Moore, were in a walled compound within the "red zone", near Sadr City. The three security guards had taken up watchful positions while the subject of their concern was engaged in his lecture. A convey of 20 vehicles ostensibly carrying uniformed Iraqi soldiers and police arrived.

Identity documents were presented and the armed troops made their entrance past guards at the gate, heading for the inner office of the building where Mr. Moore was engaged. His three bodyguards were disarmed and powerless, were taken away with Mr. Moore. They were missing, and no one knew for two years where they were, by whom they were taken, and the purpose of their disappearance.

Mr. Moore was accused by his captors of "deliberately lying to spoil the reputation of the Islamic resistance". This would be the Shia faithful of Iraq, League of the Righteous, an off-shoot of the main group, under the spiritual and political leadership of Moqtada al-Sadr, and his virulently anti-Western Mahdi army, another useful tool of Iran's power play.

When he was released in December of 2009 as a "good will gesture", Mr. Moore graphically described the famed Muslim courtesy he was exposed to: feet burned with a cigarette lighter, strangled until loss of consciousness, hung by arms from a door, doused with water, pistol-whipped, forced to endure repeated mock executions.

They were all, he said subjected to mock executions. This saw them "placed on their knees, blindfolded, a gun pointed to their heads and a different gun firing off elsewhere in the room. This caused immense trauma. It was absolutely terrifying." As well, the captives had been "chained by their feet to a rail or bar and blindfolded for long periods", beaten often and pistol-whipped.

When American security arrested the leader of the League of the Righteous, demands for his release by his followers commenced, and with those demands, offers for exchange. Eventually Laith al-Khazali was handed over to Iraqi police, representing a "good-will gesture". The terror group responded with their own good-will gesture, releasing the bodies of two of the bodyguards.

One had two gunshot wounds to his head and chest, the other had been shot three times at close range in the chest and abdomen, kneeling with hands on head. A recent inquest revealed he had twice been stabbed before being killed, had a broken rib, and had been shot around his legs while being "intimidated".

Radio-carbon dating of the bodies revealed the three were killed in 2008. Puts one in mind of the Israeli Defence Forces soldier Gilad Schalit who was abducted in 2006 by Hamas, when they also killed two other soldiers. Israel has been attempting for years to broker a deal with Hamas to release the Israeli soldier, prepared to reciprocate with the release of thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Little is currently known of the status of Gilad Schalit, whether he is alive. The International Committee of the Red Cross has demanded that Hamas provide proof of life, after having repeatedly had their request for humanitarian access to the soldier denied them. When this request also was denied the ICRC characterized Hamas' conduct as "totally unacceptable".

Of course the world at large has small regard for the conduct of jihadist terror groups, given the examples of Islamist manoeuvres in the past. It's difficult to accept that the anti-human activities pursued by militantly violent Islamists are not condemned outright by the entire Muslim community who claim themselves to be moderates and who insist that Islam be recognized as a religion of peace.

The religion of peace, through the teachings of the Koran and the blighted interpretation of its mullahs, imams and other clerics condemns the international community for practising "Islamophobia". This is a religion whose fundamentalist faithful have been readily led to the belief that violence for the sake of advancing Islam is not only permissible but a sacred duty with its own rewards for shaheeds.

This is a religion where the Taliban, spreading good tidings of Islamic virtues and values, has mounted yet another attack on civilian Afghans. This time striking a hospital in the country's east, destroying the facility, burying people beneath the rubble, with so far 27 counted dead and 53 hurt, representing women, children and elderly among the casualties ... and counting.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

The Wisdom of the Executive Branch

The military bows to the wisdom of the executive branch. This is a republic, a democratic-liberal government whose military is at the service of the government and the people. And the military does not always receive the unswerving support it claims is required in the best interests of their country's future. For their perspective is that of a military, not a civil-governing body.

A conversion can and does take place when a former military leader becomes a country's leader.

Not as it did in Pakistan, when a military coup brought Prime Minister Musharraf to power, but when Dwight Eisenhower left the Supreme Command of the United States military and was elected to the Presidency. And President Eisenhower was then proven to be capable of altering his perspective, seeing matters from the angle of a civil governor.

Of course, he wasn't a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and President Obama is. For whatever that's worth in bestowing wisdom on a living president.

But this living president presides over a country in steep economic decline and deeply in trouble with itself, its politics and its societal values. It is a country newly-conflicted about its super-power status, modestly standing back from its internationally valued even while decried, status as conscience of the world, a standing that it often failed spectacularly, but more often succeeded at wonderfully well.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before the House of Representatives armed services committee - audaciously, under the circumstances, revealing a breach of opinion of substantial proportions between the president and his senior officers. The latter being loathe to leave the theatre of war in Afghanistan on the time-table expressed by the former.

Despite the appeal by General Petraeus to allow the influx of troops to remain for a more prolonged period, and to be re-deployed to the east of Afghanistan from the south which it had succeeded in partially pacifying, and to agree to a departure of all troops at a much further date into the future, President Obama looks to his own future, comprising his re-election opportunities with an electorate fed up with the huge costs in lives and treasury, in Afghanistan.

After all, as he pointed out, the first purpose of the invasion and friendly-assistance occupation was to rout Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda from their comfortable perch as hosted by the Afghanistan Taliban. Done. Revealing incontrovertibly the miserable discomfiture of having to ally themselves with such an obvious twisted-tongue ally as Pakistan in an effort to destabilize and defeat the resurgent Taliban has turned into a bit of a farce.

For Pakistan has turned into its own problem for the United States and indeed for the world at large. It is terror central. Its intention to eventually, with the withdrawal of ISAF and U.S. troops is to claim control of Afghanistan in its bitter battle with India, competing for the 'hearts and minds' of Afghanistan. And, as a retired CIA officer involved in President Obama's review of regional strategy recently remarked:
"What the Abbottabad raid demonstrated more vividly than ever is that we need a base to strike targets in Pakistan, and the geography is simple. You need to do that from Afghanistan."
Tables turned quite neatly.

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The Wisdom of the Executive Branch

The military bows to the wisdom of the executive branch. This is a republic, a democratic-liberal government whose military is at the service of the government and the people. And the military does not always receive the unswerving support it claims is required in the best interests of their country's future. For their perspective is that of a military, not a civil-governing body.

A conversion can and does take place when a former military leader becomes a country's leader.

Not as it did in Pakistan, when a military coup brought Prime Minister Musharraf to power, but when Dwight Eisenhower left the Supreme Command of the United States military and was elected to the Presidency. And President Eisenhower was then proven to be capable of altering his perspective, seeing matters from the angle of a civil governor.

Of course, he wasn't a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and President Obama is. For whatever that's worth in bestowing wisdom on a living president.

But this living president presides over a country in steep economic decline and deeply in trouble with itself, its politics and its societal values. It is a country newly-conflicted about its super-power status, modestly standing back from its internationally valued even while decried, status as conscience of the world, a standing that it often failed spectacularly, but more often succeeded at wonderfully well.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before the House of Representatives armed services committee - audaciously, under the circumstances, revealing a breach of opinion of substantial proportions between the president and his senior officers. The latter being loathe to leave the theatre of war in Afghanistan on the time-table expressed by the former.

Despite the appeal by General Petraeus to allow the influx of troops to remain for a more prolonged period, and to be re-deployed to the east of Afghanistan from the south which it had succeeded in partially pacifying, and to agree to a departure of all troops at a much further date into the future, President Obama looks to his own future, comprising his re-election opportunities with an electorate fed up with the huge costs in lives and treasury, in Afghanistan.

After all, as he pointed out, the first purpose of the invasion and friendly-assistance occupation was to rout Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda from their comfortable perch as hosted by the Afghanistan Taliban. Done. Revealing incontrovertibly the miserable discomfiture of having to ally themselves with such an obvious twisted-tongue ally as Pakistan in an effort to destabilize and defeat the resurgent Taliban has turned into a bit of a farce.

For Pakistan has turned into its own problem for the United States and indeed for the world at large. It is terror central. Its intention to eventually, with the withdrawal of ISAF and U.S. troops is to claim control of Afghanistan in its bitter battle with India, competing for the 'hearts and minds' of Afghanistan. And, as a retired CIA officer involved in President Obama's review of regional strategy recently remarked:
"What the Abbottabad raid demonstrated more vividly than ever is that we need a base to strike targets in Pakistan, and the geography is simple. You need to do that from Afghanistan."
Tables turned quite neatly.

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Wilders Acquitted

The only logical and respectably legal outcome in the prosecution of Dutch politician Geert Wilders, acquitting him of the charges of inciting hatred of Muslims has been reached, exonerating him from all charges brought against him in an effort to silence the man. He would not, of course, be silenced. The simple reason being that his mission is far too important to him. As it should be to anyone with eyes to see, ears to hear.

Mr. Wilders is not an enemy of Muslims, only those Muslims who are utterly entranced by Islamofascism and who have dedicated themselves to destroying Western culture, Western civilization, Western democratic ideals, and of course, Western society. For the greater glory of Islam. Whose political-ideological-religious concern is to raise Islam to the status of world governing body, not merely as a religion with its own legal system, but as a political power structure.

Mr. Wilders points out, correctly, that Muslims who consider themselves to be mainstream and modest in their expectations and 'moderate', are held by Islamofascists to be traitors to Islam, apostates, actually. Whose fate under Islamist rule would be the ultimate sacrifice to restore their honour as faithful Muslims: death. The ferocious Islam that disciplines and holds captive its followers like automatons that must respond automatically to all its dictates has no truck with pluralism and gender equality, but it does boast a cure for homosexuality: death.

Now that the verdict has been handed down, consolidating and validating the long tradition of speech tolerance in the Netherlands, we can only hope that Mr. Wilders' growing influence in his home country will speed opposition to immigrants from Muslim-majority countries who intransigently refuse to assimilate with prevailing cultural mores and social attitudes when they migrate to the West. And who then insist on imposing their traditions and cultural values on the welcoming society.

His Freedom Party, aligned with the minority government, should shortly be seen to have more influence. His contention that acceptance of Muslim immigrants should be paused until the current influx has demonstrated its willingness and ability to adapt to Dutch culture and social values has satisfied their obligation to do so as citizens, makes good sense. There is too much divisiveness, resentment and political-religious violence prevailing now in various European countries like Britain and France, for example.

"This means that his political views are condoned by law, his political rhetoric has been legalized", according to political scientist, Andre Krouwel, at Amsterdam's Free University. "This has made him stronger politically. He is needed for a political majority, he is basically vice prime minister without even being in the government." A positive, long-overdue step forward.

Understandably, minority groups are angered and outraged. "The acquittal means that the right of minorities to remain free of hate speech has been breached. We are going to claim our rights at the UN", stated Mohamed Rabbae of the National Council for Moroccans. Prepared, it would seem, to take their case to the UN Human Rights Council.

Where they will doubtless be acclaimed for their courage in bringing the Netherlands to account before a human rights group whose membership represents some of the worst human-rights abusers on the globe, and whose record on condemning Israel, while pardoning the most vicious abuses by Muslim countries is truly atrocious.

It is a warped world that the United Nations' various committees represent.

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Detainee Abuse

We're back to the Afghan prisoner file again. As though we had missed its presence in the news. The opposition requires freshly-nuanced and obviously obligatory opportunities to denounce the Conservative government for its blatant disregard for the safety and security of presumed Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan. Although, of course, it was under a Liberal-led government that the whole thing started, to begin with.

Canadian military were tasked with confronting, capturing and handing over to the Afghan prison system, those who were suspected of being Taliban fighters. Eventually it was brought to their attention that in Afghanistan prisons are not pleasant places where one takes a leisurely absence from active society. That in Afghanistan, as is true in most undeveloped countries of the world not entirely engaged in the niceties of civilization, torture is not a rare occurrence.

But when the Canadian military and Canadian diplomats were alerted that there were some misgivings about the fate of some of the Afghan detainees handed to the Afghan prison system, Canada began to pay attention and began to monitor those of their prisoners whom they had handed to their host-country to care for, since these were also, of course, the host country's citizens, even if they represented a violent threat to both concerned.

Even the Red Cross spokespeople in the geography testified on Canada's defence, that it had comported itself as it should in respect of the Geneva Convention.
Canada’s Code of Conduct After Capture Manual (2004) states:
In accordance with [the 1949 Geneva Convention III], delegates or representatives of Protecting Powers and of the ICRC shall be permitted to visit all places where PWs [prisoners of war] may be, including places of detention and labour, and may interview PWs and PWs’ representatives without witnesses, either personally or through interpreters.

Canada was not complicit with war crimes; it would not countenance such behaviour as the ill treatment of prisoners held in incarceration simply because Canadians are not barbarians. That Afghans are is another matter entirely. To convince Afghans that there are other, more approved ways of dealing with incarcerants, Canada dispatched prison experts in the field, to teach their Afghan counterparts acceptable incarceration techniques.

Canada also expended some significant sums of money in altering and modernizing Kandahar's main prison. Senior Foreign Affairs diplomat David Mulroney, responsible for the Afghan file most recently, testified that the government had acted responsibly once abuse and torture allegations were tabled. He explained the key issue revolves around whether Canadians knowingly transferred detainees to be tortured. "We did not", he said.

Canada went so far as to suspend the transfer of detainees in 2007 when the issue was raised. And during a visit to Afghanistan Prime Minister Harper spoke directly with his Afghan counterpart, and Mr. Karzai denied any such allegations. Admittedly, anything that Hamid Karzai claims of a certainty can be viewed with skepticism. Which definitely does not reflect poorly on Canada, while it does on Afghanistan.

It's history. It represents a footnote in the long, difficult, costly and anguishing Canadian connection in the war in Afghanistan.

Let's give it the burial it deserves.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Truly Shameful

Well, here's one decision by the Conservative-led Government of Canada that represents an issue we should all be ashamed of.

Who ever might have thought that Canada would have so much in common with Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine, taking issue with the informed decisions of the socially and politically and scientifically advanced nations of the world. The latter insisting on the evidence available that chrysotile asbestos is a carcinogenic substance, the former that it represents a fine building material.

It did, at one time, represent just that. And asbestos fibre was used extensively in the production of all manner of household and industrial implements, car parts, building insulation, roof shingles, asbestos cement, fire-retardant products and countless other useful products. Until it became obvious that exposure to asbestos fibres while mining the product was extremely hazardous to workers' health.

Moreover, environmental exposure to asbestos products, and working with asbestos products for installation purposes exposes vulnerable workers to dire health risks. An agonizingly slow death due to asbestosis. Use of asbestos is already banned in many countries of the world, including Canada. A UN Environment Program's expert scientific committee recommended it be placed on a hazardous product listing.

Two Canadian Members of Parliament, Chuck Strahl, now retired, and Pat Martin were exposed to asbestos during their working lives outside Parliament. Mr. Strahl, as a result of his exposure, suffers from lung cancer, a byproduct of the use of the material. And both have pleaded with the government to ban the mining and exportation of chrysotile asbestos. The Canadian Medical Association along with many other health groups acknowledge the dangers inherent in the use of asbestos.

And so does the federal government, since it is illegal now in Canada to use asbestos, and the government goes to great cost to remove it from public buildings as a health-and-safety measure. But it remains legal to continue mining it in the Province of Quebec, for export. And now a United Nations summit in Geneva that was considering the labelling of chrysotile asbestos as a substance requiring notice to importing countries of its carcinogenic effect has been halted in its tracks.

Because consensus among countries is required before asbestos could be placed on Annex III, it is likely now that the conference will conclude without that stated purpose being achieved. Canada was silent on the issue, while Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine lobbied against listing asbestos. But when India, which is a major importer of Quebec asbestos decided to support the listing, and so did Ukraine, Canada broke its silence and spoke against the listing.
"Canada was hiding behind the smokescreen of dissenting voices of smaller exporting countries and a 'non-consensus' excuse, but when it sensed that there might be a consensus and chrysotile will be listed, it broke its sinister silence and said no." Madhu Dutta, Anti-asbestos campaigner from India.
Truly shameful.

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Probe of Islamist Infiltration: Pakistan

Pakistan, the great good friend and ally of the United States, was anguished and consumed with rage that U.S. Navy SEALs had manged to enter their air space without permission. Its leaders and its military and its secret service were even more enraged that a precision, split-second operation dispatched Osama bin Laden whose presence in Abbottabad was completely unknown to the political and military hierarchy.

And that, before Pakistan could scramble a response to the eventual alert that something was amiss in their sovereign airspace, the SEALs had successfully concluded their operation and fled the scene with incriminating documentation, hard drives and all manner of data that would greatly assist their friend and ally in arresting the commission of future attacks against the United States.

Truth to tell, the population of Pakistan was not terribly enthused either that a country whom they loathe had the determined audacity to take their own by surprise. And the embarrassment of the executive branch of government at having to acknowledge that al-Qaeda's infamous leader and aspiring mass butcher of the West had been living a well-sheltered life a stone's throw from an elite military garrison.

And no one knew. Not the ISI, not the Pakistan military brass, and certainly not the country's President or Prime Minister. Perhaps the milkman did, for he was, among other lowly inhabitants of the town, arrested. As were five Pakistani "informants", whom the military claims gave assistance to the CIA enabling it to amass vital data useful in planning the deadly raid.

One of the "informants" a Pakistani Army major who thoughtfully took down license plate numbers of vehicles that regularly drove to Osama bin Laden's sheltered compound. And who surreptitiously - in the obviously erroneous impression that he was honourably committing to the oft-heard government assurances to the U.S. of co-operation - was sharing that information with the CIA.

However, the Pakistani military, while denying vehemently that it had any knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts, much less assistance and cover given him, denied any army officers had been detained. The ISI had no comment.

But they are busy-busy, yes indeed. Having strenuously denied all charges emanating from their friends and colleagues conjoined in battling terrorism that the ISI and the military have been infiltrated at every level by the very jihadists they were supposed to be battling, the army has now detailed four majors and a brigadier whom they are investigating.

Brigadier Ali Khan represents the highest-ranking military official currently known to have been detained for involvement in insurgent activities. His arrest signifies that Hizb ut-Tahrir has been highly successful in negotiating ingress into the official military ranks of the country.

What an immense, totally unexpected revelation.

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