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, May 31, 2012

On Compassionate Grounds

"He was in the thick of things.  The accused has an essentially violent view of jihad.  Moreover, the accused displayed enthusiasm in the conspiracy to carry out a terrorist bombing.  He even helped find explosives...  He was determined to act." 
In 2009 Said Namouh who immigrated to Canada in 2003 from Morocco, sponsored by his then-wife, was convicted in a Quebec court on four counts under the Anti-Terrorism Act, including participation in a terrorist group, extortion of a foreign government and plotting a bomb attack with a co-conspirator located in Europe.  All of which was most unfair.

Because he denies all of this.  He did nothing, nothing wrong, nothing at all.  Yes, he used the Internet, who doesn't?  He was curious about Iran and Iraq, that was all.  Wasn't everyone entitled to assuage their curiosity by learning about places and things in the news?  Someone has it in for him, and he knows who it would be.

Its a personal character assassination, a conspiracy between the RCMP and the Conservative government.  This was a deliberate character smear, an intolerable miscarriage of justice.  And all in the name of protecting Israel.  Canadian security authorities concocted a story meant to make him look guilty of crimes he did not commit.

There is, mind, an intercept of some Internet chats in which Mr. Namouh features:  "Terrorism is in our blood, and with it we will drown the unjust", he declared in one instance.  In another he revealed his dream: to die a martyr and have his son become a mujahedeen, a soldier of God in the glorious battle of violent jihad in honour of Islam.

He was involved in the global Islamic Media Front, allied with al-Qaeda, with a mission to incite and facilitate terrorism.  He involved himself in producing and distributing recruitment and training videos that had fascinating names like Jihad academy video, Anti-personnel mine video, and Explosive belt video.

There is a deportation order issued against him.  He is not a Canadian citizen.  The Immigration and Refugee Board considered a request for asylum that he lodged, to remain in Canada once his prison sentence is completed.  "He alleged that he had never talked to anyone about killing people", the IRB wrote in its March decision. 

IRB member Marie-Claude Paquette considered Namouh a "violent person"; "the risk of reoffending is still high today", and "there is currently no indication that rehabilitation is possible", she wrote.  She dismissed his bid to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and wrote that he should be returned to Morocco.

He becomes eligible for parole in 2017.  And he has appealed the decision of the IRB to the Federal Court of Appeal.  Stay tuned.  Or just tune out.

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Let's Hear It For Smug Defiance

"It is clear for us, there was a probable agreement with what we put on the table.  We will see after supper."  Martine Desjardins, Federation etudiante universitaire du Quebec

Negotiations are still ongoing.  And so is the 16-week-long tuition "strike" embarked upon by a minority of Quebec university and college students.  The student unions collectively offered a counter-proposal to the government of Quebec.  But the simple fact is, the government, duly and democratically elected, has the power and the right to enact laws that in its wisdom it chooses to do.

And since the Province of Quebec is under tight financial duress, it really cannot continue its social welfare programs that are the envy of other provinces who themselves cannot afford them, but who generously give up their own provincial taxes to enable Quebec to please its citizens in such a manner. 

"Right now we're facing a wall.  We are trying to look into the proposition of the government, making sure that we observe and we do the numbers.  So we expect that the government will do the same thing in exchange."  This is the students and their unions offering the government 'options' to make the rise in tuition fees more palatable to them.

The student unions are kindly and solicitously offering the government ways in which it can curry greater favour with the student unions.  Education Minister Michelle Courchesne, understandably, is more concerned with offering the student unions a way in which they might accept the inevitable, and save face.  But an offer to reduce the increase by $35 annually hasn't impressed the grieving students.

"We are still in the same mood, wanting to find solutions", offered Ms. Courchesne.  Wishing perhaps, that her premier, Jean Charest, could find it in himself to be a little more ... firm ... in his attitude toward the recalcitrant, demanding students who are still enamoured of the thought of themselves in full control, not the government.

The blackmail that they so thoughtfully extended to make their point, by forcefully halting classes, intimidating students wishing to save their school year and attend classes, and by wreaking havoc and destruction here and there, behaving like a menace to the public order and inconveniencing ordinary citizens, all meant to convince the government they mean business.

That the government should have succumbed to the witless hope that offering a $35 deduction in the yearly $254 fee increase, appears rather absurd.  Why would the students accept that if they cannot accept that they should be held responsible for any tuition fees whatever?

"It was judged insufficient", said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, haughtily.  "We submitted a counter-offer.  New elements were added in the evening.  That is where we were when talks broke off yesterday.  We are looking at several places to get money, to reduce as much as possible the tuition hike", he said.

Well, here's a good idea.  Why not recommend a reduction in the rather munificent and certainly undeserved salaries of university professors and college instructors?  That would certainly relieve some of the fiscal burden.  And while they're at it, recommend cutting down on classroom expenses, on refitting school infrastructure, that kind of unnecessary expense.

The professors and their unions, so anxious to support the denial of the student unions of the feasibility of Bill 78 and the intolerable tuition hikes should most certainly be eager to accommodate....

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What? The Morally Bankrupt UN?

According to a coalition of Canadian organizations, the conservative government should be prepared to inform the world whether Canada intends to pull the welcome mat out from under United Nations human rights experts.  Who would disagree?  It is time, and long past time that the current, Conservative-led government take a good, hard look at actually informing the UN that its various human rights commissions are not particularly welcome to drop by and have a chat.

Just as the Government of Canada announced it will no longer support the work of the United Nations World Tourism Office, reacting to its recent appointment of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe as co-
Ambassador for next year, it should also politely remove itself from the list of countries that has extended a rote standing open invitation to UN human rights groups to visit.  The pretense that they are engaged in serious and good work only encourages them.

And they require no encouragement from Canada, since they receive more than ample encouragement from the human-rights-abusing countries that, as standard procedure, are appointed through faux 'elections' to sit on their boards, representing their pious attitudes on human rights as they perceive them, being practised in countries other than theirs. 

The indelible fact that their own lapses in human rights protections and their oppression of their citizens is a reality, is of little evident moment.

So much for trust and credibility of the United Nations, its minions and its countless offshoots, all making pretense to representing the world community in its zeal to reform those countries where human rights are upheld, as opposed to those where oppression, violence and persecution are common, everyday occurrences weighting the lives of their populations with untold misery.

But for people like Alex Neve, Flora MacDonald, Ed Broadbent, Warren Allmand and others, that Ministers of the Crown deigned not to meet with the UN right-to-food rapporteur, Olivier De Schutter, was a disgrace.  The 'open invitation' that most countries extend by default to UN Special Rapporteurs to visit, is interpreted by them as a need for diplomatic courtesy, requiring the government to applaud any assaults on its governing integrity.

Amnesty International Canada and Food Secure Canada, signatories to the letter co-signed by over 100 organizations and addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an open letter, assailed him, and called on him to apologize for his government's "unprecedented attacks" on envoy Schutter during his late unlamented 11-day mission to investigate Canada's 'dismal record' on food security.

The Prime Minister would never use such plain parochial language as "take a hike", either to UN envoys, or to internal critics, but the rest of us, who take exception to their attitudes, certainly can.

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Getting A Life

"I cannot see myself taking an oath to a symbol that is racist ...  It's against fundamental freedoms.  I will just continue struggling - so long as I live, I have to struggle for what is right ... and get my satisfaction in the fact that I have not relented."  Toronto lawyer Charles Roach
It is abundantly clear that the Toronto lawyer, who emigrated from his country of birth as a British subject in Trinidad to Canada in 1955, was offered the opportunity to advance his self-interests and that of his family, living in Canada, a former British colony, like his home country.  He found a life in Canada that was to his liking, offering him quite splendid opportunities to make the most of himself.

Mr. Roach long ago embarked on his own very personal crusade to convince Canada and Canadians to sever historical ties with Britain.  Canada is one of many countries, part of the Commonwealth of Nations, once colonies of Britain, during her heyday as a great colonial power.  Mr. Roach is now 78 years of age, and engaged in his battle against Canadians pledging allegiance to the monarchy since 1988. 

It is, he claims, unconstitutional that those wishing to become Canadian citizens must pledge allegiance to the Crown.  He remains a permanent resident in Canada, living here since 1955, and while he most certainly qualifies for citizenship he cannot qualify because he steadfastly refuses to pledge allegiance to the Queen. He doesn't stand in judgement of others who do, but it defies his personal ethics to himself succumb to it.

His wife, on the other hand, also from Trinidad, took the oath when she became a Canadian citizen.  The elderly man had a brain tumour removed two months ago, and suffered a minor stroke two days before he stepped into Ontario Superior court yesterday in his ongoing determination to appeal for a change in the law.  He objects to the British monarchy's past connection to slavery, claiming its system of hereditary privilege is racist.

That Britain was the very first country among nations practising slavery, to disown it on moral and ethical grounds, and to free British slaves seems to cut no ice with the man at all.  He will not forgive nor will he forget - and no one is asking him to, and nor should anyone else forget - the past.  "The monarchy is not an equal-opportunity kind of institution", he states.  No, it is not, it is a tradition that people prefer to maintain rather than dissolve.

And the monarchy is an integral part of British heritage and history.  Just as it remains so for the Commonwealth countries.  Who, after independence, inherited British jurisprudence, democratic values, human compassion and orderliness, all of which traits have added value to the societies to which British colonialism brought them.

The oath that new Canadians must swear, to be "faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors ...", bespeaks Canada's heritage as well. 

It is Mr. Roach's individual right to disdain the oath.  There may come a time when a majority of Canadians may agitate to separate themselves from their colonial past.  That time is not yet arrived.

And Mr. Roach will continue to attend Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital for treatment of his cancer.

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Desecration of Humanity

"When I regained consciousness, I looked around, and I found my daughters dead.  One of them - her hand was cut off.  My cousin and her four sons were killed.  My sister and her six-week old daughter were killed.
"I want someone to save us.  Where can I go, where in the world is there anyone to protect us?  What is the guilt of a six-week-old child?" 
This, the plaintive cry of a mother of four daughters, herself initially shot through the hand, who fainted and when she was revived discovered there was no one left alive.  As dreadful as the murders were that took place in her home, the mind that conceived of allowing this woman to remain alive so she would relive the horror day in, day out, of the day her family was destroyed, reveals the depth of hatred involved.

This is a hatred so dense and intense, so deep and so affecting that it consumes both protagonists; which just happen to be tribal people who passionately worship the very same god, but the misfortune lies in the fact that they worship Islam from a different perspective; one Sunni, the other Shia, and its offshoots.  Fed from infancy from the deep dish of contempt and hatred for the other, they view each another as sub-human, as foetid, intolerable insults to Allah.

The woman who survived believes that the armed gangs who arrived in Houla from nearby villages after the withdrawal of Syrian regime troops were Alawites loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.  First the bombardment of tank and artillery fire, which killed only a handful of people.  And then the arrival of those dispatched to come in close and personal and complete the carnage by hand, with knives and with guns. 

She fled to the roof of her house to look out on the scene of chaos below. "I looked out from the rooftop, and I found them burning the houses around.  They killed the Othman family, who lived next door."  And even as rescuers came on the scene, they found paramilitaries running through the streets in numbers they were unable to confront.  They heard the screams of children calling for their mothers, and even then the shells were falling all about, smoke rising from bombed-out homes.

They hid, the would-be rescuers, witness, they claim, to what transpired further, for the action continued for hours upon weary hours.  "For hours I heard the screams of women and three times of children, and always gunshots.  Then the voices stopped.  The silence was the most terrible thing.  We moved into the first house.  There were bodies everywhere."

"I can never forget what I saw in Houla.  It keeps coming back to me, every horrible detail.  What happened is unimaginable.  It is not human."  But, in fact, it is very human.  We would prefer it not be, but the reality is that this is what humans do to one another.  Most humans are restrained by the civilizing effects of living in places of the world where such intolerable actions do not occur.  But this, of course, is a part of the world where they do occur.

The world at large now knows what Syria is capable of producing.  The shabiha militias that follow in the wake of the government forces act in concert to protect their minority interests in a country that is long accustomed to seeing the majority Sunni population in thrall to the minority Alawite leaders.  And this is a formula that is reflected in many other Middle East Muslim countries. 

And this is human nature, unchecked by civility and decency and compassion.

And, uncuriously enough, here is a statement from one man from Houla, speaking to Alex Thomson, chief correspondent of channel 4 News in Britain:  "When this is over and this is settled and we are victorious, we will kill them.  We will slaughter them and we will slaughter their children.  We hate them."

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Satellite Images Confirm Iranian Cover Up

by Gabe Kahn Satellite Images Confirm Iranian Cover Up

Iran has razed two buildings near a suspected nuclear-trigger test site inside of its sprawling Parchin military complex.

Satellite images taken on May 25 confirm the destruction of two buildings IAEA inspectors have sought access to were published on Wednesday by the Institute for Science and International Security.

“These activities raise further concerns of Iranian efforts to destroy evidence of alleged past nuclear weaponization,” the Washington-based ISIS said in a six-page written analysis.

Diplomats had alluded to the satellite images in closed-door meetings on Iran's nuclear program earlier this week.

IAEA inspectors have been wrangling with Tehran over access to the Parchin facility since January, where it is believed Iran had constructed a high-explosives test chamber for nuclear detonation research.

“The razing of the two buildings may also indicate that Iran has no intention to allow inspectors access soon,” David Albright and Robert Avagyan wrote for ISIS.

“Iran should immediately allow the IAEA access to Parchin and explain the significance of these apparent clean-up activities," they added.

Last week, IAEA officials announced they had reached an agreement with Iranian authorities for greater access to Tehran's nuclear sites, including Parchin.

Iran is under multiple international sanctions stemming from concerns Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons, a charge the Islamic republic denies.

Two IAEA reports published since late 2011charge Iran has engaged in nuclear research of a military nature, and is enriching far more uranium to 20% than its claims of nuclear medicine research can justify.

Iran has systemically obstructed IAEA inspectors seeking access to its nuclear sites in contravention of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In March, as tensions over access to the Parchin site reached a crescendo, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said "Iran is not telling us everything."

The building's destruction – now publicly confirmed – has been broadly interpreted as a part of an Iranian attempt to cover up illicit military nuclear weapons research.

Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon on Wednesday remarked "Iran is deceiving the West all the way to a bomb."

For "the last three months, while it talks with world powers, Tehran has significantly accelerated the pace of Iranian nuclear enrichment, Yaalon said at an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv

In that time "they have produced 36 pounds, one-third of the amount that the Iranians need [for a bomb], has been enriched to 20% in the face of Western demands," he explained.

Yaalon's comments come ahead of a third round of talks between the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – and Iran in Moscow on June 18 and 19.

Ahead of the second round of failed talks in Baghdad, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said "I see no evidence Iran is ready to end its nuclear program.”

He was joined by Defense Minister Ehud Barak who told reporters he was "skeptical" that Iran was serious, and charged Tehran was using the talks to buy time for nuclear weapons research.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 31 May 2012

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Netanyahu to Abbas: 'Give Peace a Chance'

by Gabe Kahn Netanyahu to Abbas: 'Give Peace a Chance'

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said he believes his 94-seat super-coalition is a historic opportunity – and mandate – for peace.

"On the peace process," Netanyahu told attendees at an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv. "We are 94 Members of Knesset. This is an opportunity to advance the peace process, an opportunity which may not repeat itself, in my opinion, in the next ten years."

"Waiting and inaction lead to the mere illusion of quiet. We're on borrowed time," Netanyahu warned. "We will get stuck in a corner, or we'll arrive at a wall, and we'll pay the price… some people today prefer to settle in a coma…"

Netanyahu explained his clear departure from the Likud's traditional dedication to greater Israel in favor of the so-called two-state solution as a means of avoiding the creation of a binational state.

"A peace agreement with the Palestinians is necessary first and foremost to prevent a bi-national state," he said. "It is preferable to live in peace. Peace is better than any other situation, but we need to prevent a bi-national state, as well as strengthen the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country."

Netanyahu also invoked his Bar Ilan speech, in which he indicated a willingness to cede most of Judea and Samaria while retaining the major Jewish settlement blocs, and control of the Jordan Valley. It is unclear, however, if Netanyahu would annex the Jordan Valley, or simply maintain a military presence there.

"We do not want to rule over the Palestinians, nor do we want the Palestinians to be citizens of the State of Israel," he said. "That is why three times – in my speech at Bar Ilan, in my speech in the Knesset and later in my speech at the American Congress – I declared that I support and welcome peace between two nation-states – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, and Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people."

"I believe there is very broad support among the people for such a peace agreement," he repeated, adding "One based on mutual respect and security for Israel. By security, I mean substantive security arrangements on the ground that provide a response to the ongoing threats and any new threats that are introduced.

Netanyahu also sought to shift the onus for negotiations to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who has used a laundry list of preconditions as a fait accompli to forestall talks and pursue a unilateral track.

"I believe that the unity government under my leadership is an expression of this broad support, and I call again on Mahmoud Abbas not to miss this unique opportunity and give peace a chance," Netanyahu said.

"Let me clarify – I have not set any conditions to enter into negotiations," he said, repeating his willingness to begin negotiations immediately. "Certainly I will have conditions to conclude negotiations, and so will Mahmoud Abbas.  This is natural and it is the reason we conduct negotiations.  But this is why I say to Abbas – don't miss out on this opportunity to extend your hand in peace."

"If I had to say it another way," Netanyahu said, quoting  the 1969 John Lennon single, "I would say, 'President Abbas, all we are saying is 'give peace a chance.'"

"This is a real opportunity.  It will not necessarily be repeated in general or political history, but it exists now and peace negotiations need two sides. One side is ready and willing. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is in the clear interest of both peoples."

Critics of Netanyahu's push to pursue peace say he has failed to adjust to the clear unilateral paradigm adopted by senior PLO officials - and that his government has not shifted its strategic posture to secure Israel's interests as a result.

Abbas continues to demand Israel accept the indefensible pre-1967 lines as final borders, release all Arab terrorists from its jails, and halt construction for a second time before talks begin.

The previous 10-month construction freeze in the 'disputed territories' by Israel was not only rebuffed, but met with Abbas failed unilateral statehood bid at the United Nations last September.

They did not define "popular resistance," regional observers note Article 9 of the PLO charter continues to assert, "Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase.”

It also maintains “Palestine” is defined by the British Mandate and is “indivisible” – thus leaving no room for Israel to exist at all. PLO officials have refused to amend their charter numerous times since the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at the same conference, "If it is impossible to reach an agreement with the Palestinian [Authority Arabs], we should consider an interim arrangement, or even a unilateral disengagement."

As published online at ArutzSheva, 31 May 2012

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Sampling World News: May 2012

United States:  Controversy over the "birther" movement hung over a meeting Tuesday between Mitt Romney and Donald Trump.  Mr. Trump has again raised doubts about whether Mr. Obama was born in the United States.  Mr. Romney has said he believes Mr. Obama was born in the United States, but he has drawn fire from Democrats for not distancing himself from Mr. Trump.  National Post news services

London:  The parents of six children killed in an arson attack on their home were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of murder.  Mick Philpott, 55, and his wife Mairead, 31, were detained over the house fire in Derby, central England.  The victims, whose ages ranged from 13 to 5, died after the fire, which police said was started with gasoline.  Agence France-Presse

Cairo:  Egypt's Islamist presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi sought Tuesday to reassure Coptic Christians and women, who fear a conservative Islamist in power could threaten their freedoms.  "Our christian brothers, let's be clear, are national partners and have full rights like Muslims", he said.  Mr. Mursi is to face Ahmed Shafik on June 16-17.  Agence France-Presse

United States:  A Texas teenager has been jailed for 24 hours and fined $100 because she missed school to work at two jobs to support her family.  Diane Tran, 17, a straight-A student, breached the state's truancy law.  "She goes from job to job from school", said Devin Hill, a classmate.  An online campaign to support the teen has raised $28,000.  The Daily Telegraph

Italy:  The death toll stood at 17 with several people still missing, in the wake of the second deadly earthquake in nine days to strike a section of Italy that had not considered itself particularly quake-prone.  One of the victims was a priest in the small town of San Felice Sul Panoro, who reportedly ran back to his church to retrieve a Madonna statue.  Reuters

United States:  The nude assailant who almost killed another man over the weekend by biting his face off was identified by Miami police.  The aggressor, Rudy Eugene, 31, was shot dead by police who said he had devoured almost the entire face of his victim.  The unidentified homeless man, who also was naked during the attack, remains hospitalized and fighting for his life.  Police ordered Eugene to stop the assault, then fatally shot him when he continued to gnaw at the face of his victim.  Reports suggested Eugene was likely under the influence of the synthetic stimulant "bath salts", which produces an often aggressive, chaotic experience for users, coupled with intense hallucinations.  Agence France-Presse

Italy:  When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took his new wife to lunch during their Rome honeymoon he spent just $40 - and did not leave a tip.  The owners of the kosher restaurant Nonna
Betta in the city's Jewish Ghetto were surprised when Mr. Zuckerberg, and Priscilla Chan walked away without leaving a gratuity.  The Daily Telegraph

Britain:  British MPs have suggested that calling someone "fatty" or "obese" should be considered a hate crime on a par with racism or homophobia.  A report by an all-party parliamentary group on body image has recommended that the government investigate putting "appearance-based discrimination" on the same legal basis as race and sexual discrimination.  The Daily Telegraph

Syria:  Houla massacre: "When I regained consciousness I looked around and I found my daughters dead.  One of them - her hand was cut off.  My cousin and her four sons were killed.  My sister and her six-week-old daughter were killed.  I want someone to save us.  Where can I go, where in the world is there anyone to protect us?  What is the guilt of a six-week old child?"  The Daily Telegraph

United Nations:  Zimbabwe's tyrannical leader on whom there is a travel ban as part of sanctions relating to his oppressive rule that has ruined his country's economy, left its agricultural sector in tatters, his people on the cusp of starvation, fuelled crime, brought the country to a 95% unemployment rate with massive inflation and epidemic medical emergencies, has been named by the United Nations as its co-ambassador of its tourism branch. 

Palestinian Territories, West Bank:  Israel will hand over the remains of scores of Palestinians killed during anti-Israeli attacks.  "There will be an official ceremony and funeral prayers", said Palestinian prisoner affairs minister Issa Qaraqaa.  Among them are eight members of a seaborne squad which took over a Tel Aviv hotel in 1975 before being killed by Israeli commandos in a raid in which seven hostages were also killed.  The return of the bodies was announced May 14 by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office as "a gesture to President Abbas." Agence France-Presse

Thailand:  A Thai court handed an 8-month suspended sentence to a website editor for failing to quickly remove posts deemed offensive to the monarch in a case that adds to growing debate over Thailand's royal censorship laws.  The Bangkok Criminal Court ruled posts on the Prachatal news website were offensive to the royal family and its editor, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, failed to remove them promptly, as requested by the court.  Thailand has some of the world's toughest laws to penalize insults against the king, queen and crown prince, but critics say the legislation is used to discredit activists and politicians opposed to the royalist establishment.  Agence France-Presse

Russia:  A Russian court jailed an activist Wednesday for 15 days after finding him guilty of spitting on a portrait of President Vladimir Putin.  Magistrates in Cheboksary, about 680 kilometres south of Moscow, found Dmitry Karuyev guilty of minor hooliganism, after he "deliberately spat at a portrait of Vladimir Putin", according to the local advocacy group Shield and Sword.  It posted the magistrate's court statement condemning the 20-year-old for "breaching public order, expressing clear disrespect for society", while taking part in a protest on the eve of Mr. Putin's inauguration as president on May7.  Agence France-Presse

Poland:  "When someone says 'Polish death camps', it is as if there were no Nazis, no German responsibility, as if there were no Hitler", Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk, said in strenuously objecting to President Barack Obama's speaking of "Polish death camps" in the Second World War, during a White House ceremony honouring a Polish resistance hero among the first to warn the Allies of the systematic slaughter of Jews in the Nazi concentration camps.  "We cannot accept such words even if they are spoken by the leader of a friendly power ... since we expect diligence, care and respect from our friends on issues of such importance."  The Daily Telegraph

Washington:  The massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Fukushima, Japan, last year wreaked havoc in the skies above as well, disturbing electrons in the upper atmosphere, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration reported.  The waves of energy from the quake and tsunami that were so destructive on the ground reached into the ionosphere, a part of the upper atmosphere that stretches from about 80 to 805 kilometres above Earth's surface.  Images released by NASA showed how the earthly disturbances from the March 11, 2011, quake and tsunami were echoed in the movement of electrons far aloft.  Reuters


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Decamping and Protesting

"For hours I heard the screams of women and three times of children, and always gunshots.  Then the voices stopped.  The silence was the most terrible thing.  We moved into the first house.  There were bodies everywhere. The mother behind the door was motionless but alive.  She had been kicked in the chest, her eyes were open and she had watched her children be slaughtered.
"We counted 14 dead.  The father's skull was crushed.  They had killed him by beating him with the butt of a gun.  He had been the first to die.  The children had all been shot."
Francois Hollande, the new French president, felt armed force might be considered, following the atrocities at Houla.  He thought it might be considered, but not without the authority of the United Nations.  That would present a trifling problem in execution.  Given the insistence of China that non-intervention was the most desirable course.  And of Russia that the regime and the opposition were equally responsible for any carnage that takes place, and Syria, after all, is only responding to the provocation of terrorists.

Still, the French government in denouncing President al-Assad's "murderous folly", ordered the Syrian ambassador to leave Paris.  And Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Spain, Switzerland and Australia, along with the United States and Canada, ordered the Syrian diplomatic envoys in their countries to kindly leave and turn out all the embassy lights.  For their part, Belgium, Holland and Greece made do with formal protests.

"As I reminded the president, the international community will soon be reviewing the situation.  I appealed to him for bold steps now - not tomorrow, now - to create momentum for the implementation of the plan."  The "plan", of course, is as dead as an over-wintered turnip.  The regime has no intention of withdrawing its forces from major cities, nor might it release prisoners, much less consider a "Syrian-led political process" to resolve the conflict.

Kofi Annan may be crestfallen at the failure of his peace plan, but his sunny optimism obviously has no place in the Middle East.  The conflict is not entirely within Syria alone.  The proxies in a much wider conflict are all present and accounted for, and include the Arab League versus Iran, Hezbollah and the Quds forces aiding and assisting Syrian forces.  Clearly enough, a sectarian 'disagreement', between Sunni and Shia.

When push comes to shove, Iraq will align itself usefully with Iran and Syria.  Like with like.  Like it or not, that is the natural progression of the natural order of the incendiary and malign forces at play within Islam and throughout the Middle East.  And, as the farce continues to play out, President al-Assad insists he has no choice but to respond to the violence of the terrorists.
"I started trying to carry the bodies away.  We carried children who had holes in their eye sockets, who had had a gun put to their right ear and the bullet had gone straight through.  Some had cut necks, others severed limbs.  One woman had run outside to defend her husband.  They shot him in front of her.  In the panic she fled, forgetting her children.  They killed her children.  Now she is crying, crippled with guilt."
Surprise, surprise.  This is the Middle East.

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 Belated, But Just Desserts

The penalty, courtesy of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to an Israel obdurately resistant to meekly apologizing for the defensive actions of IDF naval commandos who killed nine Turks linked to a terrorist group in Turkey who had attempted to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, is a judgement of life in prison for the former heads of Israel's military sections.

In the drama that played out on a Turkish vessel in May of 2010, Israeli soldiers opened fire after rappelling onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara when they were met with violence, threatening their lives.  The result was the death of the nine 'pro-Palestinian activists', whom Turkey characterizes as innocent humanitarians, and whom a video taken at the scene of the chaotic exchange clearly demonstrates them to have been armed and dangerously violent.

Fully intent on killing the Israeli commandos who decided they would far prefer to continue living, and to enable that to occur, had to resort to defence, leading to the deaths of the nine.  A UN investigation led to a report that found Israel's naval blockade to be completely legal and appropriate under the circumstances of its having to curtail the terror group Hamas's importation of weapons to Gaza, to attack Israel with.

It found also, as any United Nations' sponsored report would do through force of habit and obvious manipulation by the many critics of Israel at the world body, that "excessive and unreasonable" force was used by the IDF naval commandos against those on board the Mavi Marmara.  Even while the video, as stark evidence, exonerates the IDF from that interpretation, it has become the received wisdom.

Istanbul's 7th Criminal Court chose to accept a 144-page indictment prepared by the Istanbul prosecutor, Mehmet Akif Ekinci, to punish Israel by seeking life terms for General Gabi Ashkenazi, former chief of staff of the Israeli military; Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, former naval forces commander; Major-General Amos Yadlin, former military intelligence chief; and Brigadier-General Avishai Levi, former head of air forces intelligence.

Prison terms totalling up to 18,000 years for other crimes said to have been committed during the raid were to add to the life sentences.  Obviously, Turkey was engaging in a return scenario of their witch hunt that took place within the country's own military, when it arrested, charged and imprisoned senior Turkish military officers on charges of attempting to stage a coup to unseat Prime Minister Erdogan's Islamist Justice & Development Party.

Aptly enough named, since it seems that it is intent on developing Turkey back into a Sharia-led Islamist state, turning it away from Kamal Ataturk's secularist and modernist vision of the country, and in the process do justice to the Kurds, agitating for their very own slice of land so they too may have a country to call their own.

Justice might call for Turkey to recognize the right of Kurds representing the largest ethnic minority in the world without a land of their own, existing on sufferance in Iraq, Syria and Turkey.  Justice might also call upon Turkey to finally acknowledge the horrible slaughter they inflicted, during the Ottoman Empire, upon Turkish Armenians, displacing both Kurds and Armenians in huge numbers in an effort to defuse their defiance of Turkish oppression.

And in the process murdering millions of innocent men, women and children in a deliberate effort to obliterate them as a nation and a distinct ethnic group whose presence was so troubling to the ruling Turkish authority.  And which, ever since, all succeeding Turkish governments have denied responsibility for. 

Perhaps the International Criminal Court could try Turkey for genocide, the punishment for which could be a sincere and long overdue apology, rather than 18,000 years of imprisonment?

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Magic Formulae of the United Nations

There's the United Nations again, exercising its clever wit and featuring its brilliance in white-washing the reputations of the world's most egregious human-rights abusers.  They've discovered the magic formula for character-and-reputation redemption.  Simple enough: merely elevate state murderers to the position of United Nations representative, the choices of which are manifold to achieve elevation and esteem within the world community.

In this particular instance, as in so many others, acknowledging discreetly the world's fatigue with human excesses, desperately searching out good-news stories to represent the heritage of humankind, eager to expunge from memory the atrocious ill deeds done by exemplars of unredeemed, primitive bestiality, through presenting those who besmirch the history of humanity as submitting to forgivable anomalies in an otherwise worthy individual.

And so worthy is someone of the ilk of the elderly monomaniacal President Robert Mugabe of dismally unfortunate Zimbabwe that he has been nominated within the United Nations to the honour of being appointed International Tourism Ambassador, alongside, and sharing the honour with Zambian president Michael Sata.  Zimbabwe and Zambia jointly hold the United Nations World Tourism Office (UNWTO) General Assembly for the year to come.

Zimbabwe's tourism and hospitality minister, Walter Mzembi, explained how it was that the two presidents had so vastly impressed the arbiters of choice selection at the United Nations.  The two presidents had impressed by their sagacity in stating that tourism is critical to African development through their choice of nomenclature, naming tourism one of the "four pillars" of economic development.

A brilliant stroke of marketing genius that was destined to bring the two to higher notice, and it most certainly has.  Forgotten the fact that Robert Mugabe's tactics of divide-and-conquer was responsible for the deaths of white Zimbabwean farmers, and whose farms he requisitioned without compensation to be given as gifts to his former fighting partners, who knowing nothing of agriculture, have left the farms fallow.  The country once seen as a regional breadbasket now suffers from lack of food.

Unemployment in the country stands at a whopping 95%, poverty is endemic, health standards almost non-existent, (a cholera epidemic still raging), and crime is understandably rampant.  Tribal violence is exacerbated by political stand-offs, and the country teeters in bankruptcy with sky-high inflation and a worthless currency.  Yet Zimbabwe's Mugabe basks in the confidence that tourists will be anxious to help it increase its economic development.

The United Nations has a long and distinguished history of welcoming some of the world's most vile human-rights abusers to its hallowed halls, and proffering due courtesy, even admiration to them.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, was invited to address the General Assembly and politely advised the world body that Israel must be eliminated and Iran is prepared to dispatch that honourable duty.

The former chief of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Fatah, Yasser Arafat, a vicious murderer, terrorist, supporter of terror and unabashed scourge on world order and security through the tactics he and his henchmen devised to wreak horror all over the globe, through airplane and ship hijackings, the massacre of Olympic athletes, the encouragement in Uganda of terrorism, was greeted with applause as he addressed the General Assembly.

A frisson of excitement swept through the great chamber as hypocritically and with sinister intent, dove in one hand, pistol securely ensconced where it could be viewed, the man who enjoined the world to respect the PLO for its vision of accomplishing the end of the State of Israel within the Middle East, rejoiced over his expansive and admiring reception.

Both of these behemoths of world disorder and dishonour were sponsored by the United Nations as worthy of respectful attention.  Both exemplified the very worst splurges into violent death-dealing, oppression and misery that the modern world has experienced, each denying, as he bloodied the surface of the Earth, the occurrence of the Holocaust while working assiduously to produce another.

Robert Mugabe is not quite of their order of prominence in world affairs but Zimbabweans are quite capable of testifying as to the inelegant nature of their profound and enduring suffering as a result of
the man's maniacal insistence on retaining power and further destroying his country. And while he continues to do just that, with the glaring ineptitude of his neighbours to convince him otherwise, he is honoured by the world body.

But, no surprise.  This is, after all, an expression of what the United Nations is all about; soothing the hurt feelings and defiance of those innumerable states whose business it is to oppress their populations and destroy any opportunities that may exist for their humane advancement.
"Travellers are advised to be extremely vigilant and avoid large crowds and public gatherings.  The situation could deteriorate on short notice.  Canadians in Zimbabwe should evaluate carefully the implications for their security and safety.
"As roadblocks can be erected anywhere without notice, Canadians should drive carefully and be very cooperative at all times.  Residents and visitors could be subject of arbitrary detention or arrest and should have their travel documents (passport, visas and vehicle police clearance certificate) with them at all times.  Canadians should take special care when travelling after dark.
"Canadians should avoid 'low income districts' in urban areas and be aware that 'street crime such as muggings, house robberies, passport theft, car-jackings, pickpocketing, and purse snatching are common." *
* Canada has officially withdrawn its membership from the United Nations World Tourism Office.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beware The CyberFlame

Malicious, it is and powerful, capable of hiding itself, and altering itself on command.  And of gathering data meant to be shielded from all but those given especial access through virtue of their top secret and expert technological status in government, in the belief that their own malicious intentions can remain hidden from the world at large.

Iran's National Computer Emergency Response Team has become aware that a sleeper virus of powerful proportions and complexity has been nestled comfortably for years within their computer systems controlling their nuclear program.  Evidently some state actor with the precisely talented minds of technology specialists at their command has been able to infiltrate their innermost state secrets.

The newly-detected but long-installed Cyber weapon bears resemblance to later, powerfully effective worms that were deployed and detected far quicker, for the same purpose; to destabilize and to destroy.  Flame, which is the name of the newly-detected malware, is cousin to Stuxnet, itself a close relative of Duqu.

The Russian computer researchers on cyber security invited to investigate the incidence of the discovery of Flame have detected its conspiratorial presence in countries other than Iran; they have traced its presence in the Palestinian territories, as well as Sudan and Syria.  And, oh yes, in Israel.  In Israel.  Well, no one knows which state controls the cyber weapon.

Experts at Kaspersky Lab in Russia and Hungary's laboratory of Cryptography and System Security, after having spent considerable time and effort studying Flame, cannot quite understand its instructions and function other than, presumably, data theft.

Meanwhile, back in Israel there have been some rather interesting partial revelations.  Perhaps best left unsaid, but pride and the very human need to take ownership of the exceptional, along with issuing warnings to those who broadcast threats may be responsible for the revelations.  Which have been divulged not from a discreet, unknown source.

None other than the Vice-Prime Minister, Moshe Ya'alon is reported to have hinted that the malware in question may be a devoted creature of Israeli practical design.  "Whoever sees the Iranian threat as a meaningful threat - it is reasonable he would take various measures, including this one."

"Israel has been blessed with being a state rich in top level high-tech.  These tools that we take pride in open up various possibilities for us."  Not clearly transparent, not opaque, neither oblique.

And, as further clarification, a representative for Kaspersky in Israel added that the malware is capable of information collection in heretofore unseen methods.  "The program can transfer files, send screenshots, give keyboard typing patterns and even record audio files."  Controlled through a remote computer, it operates on instruction.  
 "That is why it is hard to detect, because it is not active all of the time.  This virus is so sophisticated that it can change [its own] characteristics and develop in accordance with instructions.  It is a masterpiece of programming, not something that a bored student or some guy, talented as he may be, could do."
Strange and mysterious occurrences.

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"Appalling Crime"

These are the breathless words of dismay and desperation to solve a dreadful dilemma usually exhaled by a head of the United Nations.  This time they were expressed by Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, and former head of the United Nations.  Who doubtless last spoke those very same words as the carnage and bloodshed in Rwanda shocked the world.

And now, it is Syria.  Which defiantly continues its campaign to destroy all those who oppose the Alawite regime of President Bashar al-Assad, industriously proving that he is his father's son, and what was good enough for his father in his relations with the very same Sunni majority who clamoured for his ignominious downfall, is most certainly good enough for him.

The technique may be different, the style is reminiscent of what went before.  And whereas his father butchered some ten thousand people, the son still has 8,500 left to go.  After the slaughter that took place in Houla, the regime withdrew its tanks and engaged in clashes elsewhere, from Idlib to Daraa, to Damascus and back again to Hama.

The Free Syrian Army is bruiting about possible retaliation-in-kind with discussions of attacks against minority Alawite villages, augmenting attacks against regime forces.  The regime speaks of foreign thugs and terrorists attacking Syrians, and the rebels speak of the regime's 'gangs'.  The main opposition group has placed its fighters on notice to "be prepared to liberate Syria from the hands of Assad's gangs."

Hezbollah fighters are known to be present in Syria, assisting the Syrian military.  And with them are Iranian troops of the Revolutionary Guard.  Ismail Gha'ani, the deputy head of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds force claimed: "If the Islamic Republic was not present in Syria, the massacre of people would have happened on a much larger scale."

Russia, which just unloaded weapons from a Russian ship at a Syrian port certainly has knowledge of all that.  And Bahrain and Saudi Arabia both of which have funnelled arms through to the rebels most certainly know all about those complexities as well.  The civil war that has engulfed Syria has no intention of giving way to reason or pleas to desist until one or the other is defeated.

And during the determination of which will succeed, it is entirely feasible that a larger confrontation could take place with the principals seeking the advantage of destroying the appetite for conquest of the other.  Saudi Arabia intent on maintaining its sphere of influence as the Arab League elder statesman, and Iran determined to take its place as the paramount nation of the Middle East.

The 49 children and 34 women among the 108 people who were slaughtered in the town of Houla on the week-end is the beginning of the end, perhaps.  Outrage having been expressed by world leaders, a concerted dismissal of diplomats from countries presage the end of patience and expectations other than ruinously black ones.

Though China and Russia both signed on to the UN Security Council's latest and greatest condemnation of the Houla massacre, Russia continues to defend Syria claiming that both sides bear responsibility.  That is true, of course, both do, but one is a state apparatus while the other represents civil opposition militias; a modicum of decency and decorum is expected of the former, far less of the latter.

Misplaced expectations, at best.

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Equal Opportunity/Services Equality

The rationale behind the transfer payment from the federal government disbursing taxes obtained from the provinces to those areas of the country seen as less advantaged than those that do very well for themselves initially seemed justified and more than that, just and fair.  Canadians, wherever they live in the country should ideally have expectations that they would be entitled to the same level of benefits that accrue to all the citizens of the country.

It's a feel-good proposition; we're looking after our own, as it were.  "Our own" being the extended family.  Wherever you live in the country, east to west, north to south, from the Atlantic to the Pacific (right; the Arctic too) you were entitled as Canadians, to similar levels of opportunity and services.  And how absurd in practise that turned out to be. 

People living in geographically isolated communities could never hope to share the same living standards as people living in central Canada.

People make their choices, and they live them out.  It is possible to level the expectation field to a certain degree, but not quite possible to logically leaven it completely.  It is too nuanced, too complex, too demanding, and too damn expensive.  Making a choice means being responsible for yourself, taking the initiative to do what you can to be capable and responsive to your singular needs. 

It doesn't have to be a matter of geographic distance and isolation.  Various regions have varying priorities and even values.  Some are enterprising and self-reliant by nature of the population that the society represents.  (Or should that be the society that the population presents itself as valuing?)  There are regions of the country content to be dependents, feeling that their local government should be responsible for the well-being of the population.

Those are as much political as they are social decisions shared by a majority of the people living in disparate areas.  The more populous and popular areas of the country by their very nature and because living there is in demand, are more expensive areas of the country to live in.  Because of their heavy populations it is more costly to buy a home, and for government to provide services there because wages are higher.

Areas of fewer population numbers, less expensive living costs and different standards of  'norms' make it easier to provide basic services on a national standard of scale, priority and usefulness.  Those generalizations don't always hold, because Quebec, for example, is a populous province but it is one where the cost of living is far less, for example, than in Ontario.

Ontarians seem more self-reliant than Quebecers, less demanding of their government.  Quebec prides itself on its socialist agenda, and as such it provides more generous and wide-ranging social services to its population, from cheap day care to the funding of (IVF) assisted pregnancies, to inexpensive university tuition.  They are able to do this because those provinces who don't offer their residents those services help them to achieve that goal.

Quebec remains the largest equalization recipient in confederation, receiving almost half of the $14.8-billion federal transfer allocated to six provinces.  This is not what equalization payments were meant to achieve.  The province's overwhelming social welfare system is far more costly than what it could afford on its own, without relying on the $7.4-billion it receives from other areas of Canada, including Ontario.

It's far less expensive to live in Halifax, Charlottetown, Saint John, Quebec City, Montreal and Winnipeg than it is to buy a home in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver.  But Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta cannot seem to afford low-to-non-existent post-secondary tuition, and dollars-a-day day care for their residents.  Equalization payments clearly do not provide for equality in living standards.

What they do is effectively remove incentive for self-improvement.  They encourage those that receive the 'equalization' payments to feel entitled to it, with little need to exert themselves to become more needfully responsible and independent.  They represent a form of welfare payment that is ill-deserved and serves the recipients ill.

And it's time they were re-thought and the issue redressed.

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Poll: NDP Gains Ground

Shudder.  Now there's a scare in the 'please say it ain't so' realm of incredulity.  Canadians have a stable government in a stable social and economic environment.  While all around us there are symptoms and quite discernible symbols of how we are affected by events transpiring all over the world, with some regimes in far-off countries presenting the world with the crisis of potential disaster, others closer to home are experiencing a crumbling financial situation threatening to embroil the much larger world community.

From Iran and North Korea to Greece and Italy, and with Russia and Venezuela in between there is more than enough unrest in the world, with countries in the Middle East and Africa putting the icing on the cake with their incessant regional brutalities, tribal and religious atrocities committed against one another, impacting the world and its stability in ways not yet quite known.  And here we are, in Canada, an island of calm and security.

Or so it would seem.  Certainly there are difficulties here, but they are present on a scale not to be compared with the dread events playing out in Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan, and the threats maliciously posed on the world community by Iran and North Korea.  Russia and China, with their concerns about their growing power status and strengthening economies feel a 'no-interference' policy suits them best (even while Russia arms the Syrian regime).

Canada's current Conservative-led government has been doing all the right things in its approach to international situations that impact, in one way or another, on this country.  We become involved when it behooves us to as a matter of national responsibility, and stand back when it seems wiser to do so.  On the home front there are troubling decisions made such as the push for austerity to ensure the national deficit and debt don't become more of a problem than they already are.

Our unemployment figures, while high, don't represent an emergency yet.  And we can hope that as our trading partners become eventually more fiscally stable, our own situation will improve even more.  The issue of providing assured energy sources to China and permitting that octopus-like stretch to acquire holdings in Canadian resources to take place is an issue of concern.  Similarly the government's move to 'save' in its expenditures by cutting back on scientific research represents another area of grave concern.

But the wacky, intemperate and often juvenile antics of the New Democratic Party, now by a truly bizarre quirk of circumstances that brought the party, thanks to a temporary blip in Quebec politics, to become the Official Opposition, are just too absurd to take seriously.  Those who seem to gravitate to the NDP seem to lack full awareness of what they demand, they fail to observe situations from a full and responsible perspective.

They opt for quick and easy and feel-good fixes.  The electorate was always wary and soon weary of their constant accusations against the more responsible parties which have always had the opportunity to govern, turn-about, until each was eventually tossed out.  Cheap shots became their forte, never having had to actually be in a position to put their brilliant ideas of wealth distribution into actions that would diminish the capability of the country to produce jobs and access to employment.

Now, a  'wide-ranging' Forum Poll for the National Post has resulted in polling figures that some may think are amazing.   An election call of the moment would see a minority NDP party replace the current majority Conservative-led government.  Over one-third of respondents to the poll preferred the NDP while fewer than one-third favoured the Conservative Party (one-fifth for the Liberals).

Under this scenario, the NDP would occupy 138 seats in the 308-seat Parliament of Canada, increased from the 103 they currently hold, while the Conservatives whose 166 seats won in the last election, would see their holdings reduced to 123 seats.  "A lot of what we see and hear about these days is the '1% versus the 99%'", was the opinion of Forum Research Inc.'s president Lorne Bozinoff.

Resentment of those who 'get by', the majority of any population - against those who get by in a princely, most handsome fashion, becoming richer by the moment.  Perfectly normal, as a prevailing attitude.  And should the majority of Canadians think that the NDP, installed as the governing party, would have the effect of over-turning that situation, to even out the incomes across the board for all Canadians, they're dreaming of an Emerald City in the Sky.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Extreme Endurance/Ghoulishly Extreme

They're driven to succeed.  Having committed themselves to the venture, they must summit the mountain.  The window of opportunity is rare and it is slim.  They must take advantage of any and all opportunities to ascend the last, most dangerous portion of their clamber to success.  There is money, ambition, reputation and a dash of narcissistic appeal in the heady brew.

Climbers reach the Hillary Step portion of the climb to the summit of Mt Everest. Picture: AFP Source: AFP
And the adventurous mountaineers, with the considerable assistance of their more capable, agile, experienced and physically enduring Sherpas, plod on through vicious weather conditions and extreme geological environments to succeed at their goal.   Countless people have determined that they will conquer that mountain.  Many have.

And  then there are those who remain on the mountain, in perpetuity.  Perhaps not for an eternity, but until they may no longer remain there. They have become exhausted, incapable of thinking rationally, of defending themselves from the elements, of brain instructing body to act.  And there they sit, or remain prostate, unmoving, silent reminders to those who pass, averting their eyes.

Except for the very new deaths that have occurred in places where they cannot be ignored.  Say, for example, still clipped to those ropes that climbers must use to haul themselves into position, one after the other.  Climbers who have to clip and then unclip themselves to pass over a body hanging there on the mountain.  Carrying on, forcing their minds to concentrate on their survival, not someone else's death.

"There was another man who was almost dead.  He was sitting attached to an anchor and he was rocking and I just thought it was a dead body rocking in the wind, but as we passed he raised his arm and looked at us.  He didn't know anyone was there.  He was almost dead.  He was dead when we came back down".  These are those people so dedicated to their goal that they will pass by another human in mortal distress.

To stop and attempt to help, to form a brigade to assist, to bring that dying man down to a lower level where oxygen could be restored, where medical aid could be applied, would mean surrendering one's own goal to succeed to the summit.  Unthinkable.  Although it has been done, in the past, by those whose standards and values encompassed compassion leading to offering help in the knowledge that time will offer other opportunities to summit...

"There was a single rope attached to the mountain and you have to pass people on ridges that are only wide enough for one set of feet, and you are literally climbing over other people to get back down again", reported one adventurous young woman, a medical student at Southampton University, who found the experience more terrifying than rewarding.

This is a mountain-climbing expedition that does not benefit from countless people attempting to realize their dreams of success, creating a back-up of others behind them awaiting their ascent so that they may begin their own, over treacherous terrain, where a very narrow trail exists, and occasionally the only means of moving forward and upward is with the aid of a dangling rope that can only be accessed carefully, one-by-one.

Moreover, those crowded conditions mean that the long waits before the trails could be clear to proceed, would bring the climbers to a late-afternoon, and dangerous time lag.  When the optimum time to reach the summit is ten in the morning, so the descent can begin and conclude at an equally early time of day.  The later one waits to achieve the peak, the more dangerous the descent becomes.  And it is in the descent at the eight-thousand-metre death-zone level where death waits.

Four victims of their own ambitions died above the South Col camp, the last camp before the summit.  In the area famously recognized as the death zone.  Where extreme cold can freeze a person to death who lingers too long; where oxygen deprivation can cause the kind of irreparable mental and physical distress that will make a person linger too long, because he becomes unaware...

Shriya Shah-Klorfine, a Nepali-Canadian woman whose life's ambition was to ascend Mount Everest was so passionate about her ambition that she refused to listen to the three Sherpas whom she had hired to guide her to the mountain peak.  Too late in the day to proceed, and she was far too exhausted.  But she insisted that they struggle on, and she was rewarded by standing on the peak of Mount Everest.

Those three Sherpas, who were forced to leave the dying woman on the descent in abysmal weather conditions to save their own lives, have made an effort to return, to retrieve her body and return it to her family.  They partially succeeded, then had to surrender to inclement, dangerous conditions, determined to try again.  Her last words evidently were "Save me".

And the Sherpas will attempt to save her body from remaining forever on the slopes of the mountain in the death zone.  If they can, before the season abruptly shuts down, as it is destined to.

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Slaughtered Like Sheep

"The operation started about midday, with the use of about 50 or 60 mortar shells.  Then they started to use tanks and heavy artillery for two hours.
"After that they deployed about thirteen or fourteen cars with mounted guns, and raided houses at random.  They took people out and started shooting indiscriminately."  Mousab Azzawi, Syrian Network of Human Rights

"At about 7:00 p.m. on Friday, a lot of Shabiha came from three nearby Alawite villages.  They killed some kids by knife, some by gun and some by suffocation.  I saw with my eyes dozens of bodies of women and children."  Mohammed, Houla villager

Well over a hundred people were killed in Houla after Friday prayers.  There seems to be something especially alluring about prayers on Friday, committing those who attended the prayer sessions to renewed energy in defying their tyrannical masters, and endowing the regime with additional determination to destroy that opposition commitment by any means feasible.

Major-General Robert Mood, the UN mission chief in Syria, made it clear that his staff had counted at least thirty-two children butchered, "under the age of 10".  To the international community that represents a disgusting act, a horrible and depraved atrocity beyond the understand of civilized people.  Of course, there is nothing whatever civilized about the manner in which opposing sects and tribes view one another.

Their dedication to destroying one the other bespeaks acts of consummate self-righteousness.  For if the enemy is not destroyed, he will destroy you.  There is no room for compromise in the Arab/Muslim tradition.  There is a festering resentment that must be realized at some future date through successfully restoring one's honour, impugned and blackened by an adversary. 

Either that adversary will face his punishment at the moment, or at some time hence.

Bitterness and hatred related to tribal and religious divides must be assuaged.  Honour is too integral to the tribe's view of self to be set aside in a Western-inspired imperative to seek solutions in compromise.  One controls one's enemies by force and maintains a situation where they are neutered and live in a psychical bondage, or if they rise up in protest, they must then be destroyed.

"We are calling urgently on the Friends of Syria (U.S., France, Britain, Germany and Saudi Arabia) to create a military alliance, outside of the UN Security Council, to carry out targeted strikes against Assad's gangs and the symbols of his regime", pleaded General Mustafa Ahmed al-Sheikh, head of Turkey-based Free Syrian Army military council.

"Those who may contemplate supporting any side with weapons, military training or other military assistance, must reconsider such options to enable a sustained cessation of violence", Ban Ki-moon informed the Security Council by letter.  Ever the optimist.  Presumably, that is the prime emotional ingredient for any candidate for the office of chief of the United Nations.

"We're being slaughtered like sheep here. Where are the UN observers?", the villagers bleated helplessly once the Shabiha, regime-supporting civilian militiamen, had completed their work for the day.  They had moved in with alacrity with the departure of the military tanks and heavy artillery after their two-hour pounding.

The Shabiha, armed with knives and guns, slaughtered whole families, from grandparents to infants, working zealously well into the wee hours of the morning to complete their task.

"The people begged the observers to come with them to evacuate the bodies.  They refused to help us and they said that we should negotiate with the regime, and then they left."

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Tradition ... Heritage

People read the news and wonder how it could possibly be that other people, living elsewhere on the Globe, can find it possible to pick up deadly weapons and use them to deliberate effect, be they machine guns or machetes, to bloodily end the lives of other people; the elderly, women, children in particular.  It happens with grim regularity in the Middle East, in Africa.

These were, and remain, rigidly tribal societies.  Societies that imbibe loathing for other clans and tribes in their infancy through their society's cultural acceptance of suspicion and hatred for those not of their own.  Not of their own tribes, nor of their particular type of religion; or facets of worship and of symbols of a religion that has its basis in common, but not elements of its traditions.

Anything that serves to distinguish other clans and tribes from one's own and familiar rituals and values is enough to make an enemy of the despised other, always viewed as inferior, as a mortal enemy.  Each trying endlessly to gain the upper hand, by threats, intimidation, military action, and slaughter.  Children can be targeted and ruthlessly tortured and slaughtered because they are not seen as children but rather early stages of the adult that will become an enemy.

We see this happening in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Somalia, in Libya, in Ethiopia, in Sudan, in Rwanda, in Dubai, in Democratic Republic of Congo and in many other places where restive and oppressed populations rise against their tyrants to express their anger and frustration over being seen as inferior because the religion they practise is not quite right, the tribe they come from lacks authenticity.

What occurred in Norway when Hans Gustav Breivik decided to emulate the viciously violent actions of Islamist jihadists to make his wildly anxious point, was an anomaly.  Generally speaking, these are not actions that have become common fare in the countries of the West.  It is in Arab and Muslim countries where these brutal antipathies flourish, in reflection of traditions that bespeak a Bedouin society.

In the Arab and Muslim world the two main branches of Islamic devotion, the Sunni and the Shia, are stridently opposed to one another.  And they both abhor other branches of Islam, like the Ahmadiyya, the Ismaili and the B'hai, all considered by Islamists to represent unforgivable lapses in devotion to Islam, as apostate religions, insulting to Allah.

The violence in Islam, sourced from fanatical Muslims dedicated to violent jihad is endemic within that circle, determined to do honour to their faith by conquering other, lesser faiths beneath the notice of Islam, and to bring the worship of Islam to the complete international audience in a final conquest of the world order. 

In due homage to their singularly awesome and peace-loving god.

Its rabidly ferocious face can be seen in the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Iran and Iraq, in Saudi Arabia and now Egypt, and in fact anywhere the "Arab Spring" materialized as a movement initiated by those in the Arab/Muslim world seeing themselves as reformers opting for freedom and democracy, giving Islamist groups like the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood the opening they have long awaited.

They will accomplish more, in the final analysis, than al-Qaeda and its many affiliates might ever have hoped to aspire to.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pertinent Personal Finances

At first glance, the normal reaction is why does the public have to be informed of the fact that a politician appears to be experiencing financial problems?  Is that not a private and personal matter?  And, in fact, whose business is it to begin with? Well, perhaps a second thought is in order there. 

One that reminds itself that this is not simply any ordinary politician, but one who aspires to lead the country. And then that little nosy incursion into someone's else's finances takes on a new meaning.  Someone who is a highly visible public figure, all the more so when he makes himself visible through his visible and risible denunciations of others, may be seen as fair game.

Wishing to accomplish what Cesar did, achieving the highest office of the land, he should, like Cesar's wife, be beyond reproach.  It is no one's business and no one has the right to reproach anyone for an imputed inability to manage their own finances.  But when the individual in question aspires to manage the finances of the country at large, then things begin to open up, and greater scrutiny becomes essential.

The simple fact is New Democratic Party leader, and now leader of the Official Opposition, Thomas Mulcair, fumes and fulminates about the state of the Canadian economy, publicly denouncing one element of the economy as being gravely injurious to other elements of the economy.  Those elements are associated, as it happens, with disparate regions of the country.

Which hasn't made Mr. Mulcair very popular with the western provinces whose fossil fuel wealth he lays at the feet of central Canada's loss of manufacturing jobs, resulting from a high dollar value impacting on our international trade.  There are many economists who deny this assertion, and who also point out that what the west produces the east also uses, both in manufacturing and transportation.

In any event, the manner in which Mr. Mulcair as a responsible politician at the federal level, one of whose most important functions is to unite the country in a national coalition of purpose that benefits confederation, has proven very contentious to say the least.  A slight majority of Canadians reject his thesis.  That 42% seem to support it hints at regional jealousies something he should be loathe to spur.

Therefore, it is more than a little pertinent and perhaps instructive to see indications that his financial sense seems to be somewhat lacking when one inspects his personal economic arrangements.  Mr. Mulcair is well compensated for his political professionalism; was when he was a cabinet minister in the provincial Liberal government of Quebec, and certainly is now, as the Official Opposition leader.

Similarly, his wife, as a medical professional with a practise of her own, must surely earn a substantial income.  That they have a home which still has a mortgage on it, is somewhat of a surprise, since as high earners they are not young people just starting out to acquire capital investment.  They have chosen to re-mortgage their home's rising property value no fewer than eleven times.

Which practise does not seem to reflect the actions of a prudent, thrifty, well-planned economic decision-making couple.  Perhaps that is one indication of many that the current home they occupy should be the last that taxpayer funding pays for.

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The Passion of Religious Lunacy

The frenetic dedication to Islamist jihad creating chaos and slaughter throughout those areas of the world where Islam managed to overcome the initial 7th Century resistance of populations throughout the Middle East and North Africa continues to play itself out as the vicious religious zealotry engaged in delivering the peaceful message of Islam continues to wrack the world.

From groups like Boko Haram and al-Shebaab, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Haqqani network, the slaughter and the fear that terrorizes Muslims and the West alike, continues apace.  The West is becoming, frankly, tired of reacting to all the bloody outrages that religiously-demented groups playing at violent jihad are imposing on populations in Mali, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere.

NATO and ISAF forces are played out with exhaustion over trying to protect Afghanistan from its darker side.  Darker, that is, than the kind of normal, everyday Islam practised everywhere that oppresses women and considers all other religions inferior enough to have their sacred symbols held in contempt and destroyed, overlaid with Islamic symbols and mosques.

The West is dismayed that a Muslim-state ally in the mutual war against terror that has slaughtered so many Muslims who wish only to worship Islam in their own way, and to be left alone to do so, would hold one of its own for treason as reward for actually aiding in the war on terror.  But then, in Muslim societies it is held as reason for capital punishment to be applied to any who become apostates, denying Islam.

Irrationally vehement hatreds abound in the Middle East and Muslim countries where tribalism and virulently destructive violence plays out constantly between clans and sects of Islam.  African and Arab countries practising their avowed 'religion of peace' cannot seem to accept diversity and wince with distaste at the very thought of infection by Western values. 

Yet it is the West that champions the right of Muslims to live in peace.

When France's new President, Francois Hollande, made it official that France plans to withdraw shortly from any further military role in Afghanistan, he stated: "We, along with other (European) friends, came to Afghanistan to topple the Taliban.  Today we are happy to see Afghanistan standing on its feet and getting more responsibility."

Certainly responsibility is being handed over to Afghanistan, but it not becoming more responsible for itself.  The world of Islam is conflicted with itself and with its relationship with the non-Muslim world.  On the one hand it appeals to the non-Muslim world to help it solve its Muslim-dominated problems, on the other hand, it abhors intervention by Western powers in Muslim geographies and incidents.

Foreigners are viewed with dread and disgust, even while Western-based and -sourced humanitarian aid groups do their utmost to alleviate the dreadful burden of war and drought and oppression for ordinary people suffering inhumane living conditions.  The very indigenous military that NATO forces have been consigned to aid and assist and train have an increasing number of conscripts who turn deadly weapons on foreigners dedicated to their aid.

It is generally conceded by diplomats and by the western military hierarchy that not one single Afghan province has been certified as having completed its transition to full Afghan control.  Nor have the actions of any Afghan military or police given confidence to those who have been tasked with aiding them in that mission.

Countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq and Libya, Egypt and Syria were delighted to welcome and accept financial aid to ensure their administrations' survival.  They called upon the West to deliver them from situations they could no longer control, all the while disdaining the very powers that they implore assistance from.

It is a sterile occupation, that of attempting to place band-aids on the self-inflicted wounds of countries and of people who haplessly flounder, incapable of mustering their own inner resources to aid themselves and develop themselves into socially responsible and economically advanced countries of the world.

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Back To (Tahrir) Square One?

The West has good reason to look on with fascination at the spectacle of the manner in which 'democracy' plays itself out in the Middle East.  The United States in particular, and the rest of the advanced democratic states with their liberal advocacy and general content with their system of governance, insisting its spread globally will cure all the ills of the world, has reason to double-think their urgent adoption in the Middle East.

Libya deposed its stunningly tyrannical ruler and now has a dysfunctional state, completely decentralized, with tribal animosities ensuring that disparate tribal-affiliated armed militias are free to roam, where sectarian violence rears its destructive head with impunity.  Not all that very surprising, in fact, given the experience with Iraq where an American-led invasion violently removed the Iraqi tyrant from power, replacing it with a U.S.-approved 'democratic' one.

A power-sharing parliament, where the majority Shia now rules over the previously-ruling minority Sunni; an uneasy alliance between Shia, Sunni and Kurd, which, since the departure of American military power and the complete hand-over to Iraq, to rule itself fairly and justly, has resorted to the same kind of autocratic exclusion as the previous administration.  Resulting in violent flare-ups of 'suicide' bombings in reflection of the sectarian divide and the incursion of 'terrorists'.

Christians beware, everywhere in the world of Islam, where brutal dictatorships that managed to balance the antipathy of tribalism and religious divides to their own methodology creating order and a certain level of security, have succumbed to 'liberty' and ' democracy'.  The new 'democratic' order, where the populations in North African and Arab countries have displaced tyranny with 'freedoms' now are ruled by Islamists who have little use for freedom and adapt universal Sharia law.

Egypt has surprised only the revolutionaries who marched in Tahrir Square demanding the ouster of President Mubarak, calling for an end to dictatorship, and the embrace of democracy.  That democracy has gained Egypt an Islamist parliament, soon to be joined by an Islamist executive administration and with the help of Salafists, full Sharia.  Unsurprisingly, seen as a threat by Coptic Christians.

How this can surprise even the most casual onlooker is a surprise unto itself.  The first 'democratic' election took place in the Palestinian Territories, and the wisdom of the electors was to install Hamas, an self-declared Islamist terror group to share governance with a secularist former terror group, latterly refined to the guise of a responsible, uncorrupted administration for the Palestinian people.

Voting in Egypt on the week-end for a president, who along with a new constitution and a representative parliament, would make a new Egypt that would be seen as a beacon of hope, social advancement, and trust in the Arab world has resulted in a stale-mate.  The Muslim Brotherhood candidate, with 60% of the votes cast now accounted for, had a slight edge on his former-regime presidential candidate.

The future holds the prospect of either a balance between the Muslim Brotherhood with its Islamist agenda, or the Egyptian military, with its power-retaining agenda, or a unified Muslim Brotherhood/Salafist government.  In which case no one bloc in the country will be satisfied.  The revolutionary youth with their leftist ideals of fairness, freedom, employment and subsidized food shudder at the prospect of Sharia-led Egypt.

But they experience feelings akin to helpless paroxysms of rage when they envision an extension of the previous military rule, vowing that were that to occur, they would agitate anew, holding ongoing protests at Tahrir Square and throughout the country to continue delivering their message denouncing and refusing the ongoing rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Military rule graffiti Egypt
An Egyptian man walks past graffiti depicting members of the military council and reading 'Down with the military rule, no to military trials for civilians' near the defense ministry in the Abbassiya district of Cairo on April 29, 2012. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

"Either a killer or a fundamentalist?  Thank you very much, I don't want this country anymore", said one women's advocate and Tahrir Square alumnus.  And all the while Egypt stews in its broth of anger and uncertainty, its economy has suffered, security has become fraught with problems, as the once-hated police no longer operate with the impunity they once exhibited, and crime soars...

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