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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Will Someone Rid Us Of This....

"I'm not stepping aside. I'm running in the next election. Everything is going fine.
"This city is in better shape than it was two years ago."
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
"A premier that is unelected, criticizing a mayor who was elected by the greatest number of people in history. It is easy for the previous premier [Dalton McGuinty] to just get up and leave. We haven't quit. Get your own house in order before you say anything about the mayor."
Councillor Doug Ford

City Hall security has addressed the distressing conditions under which the good mayor must now seek to perform his duties. He is hounded daily, by the hour, the minute, each time he appears in public, by reporters eager to hear the clarifying statements that fall from his lips as he discloses the truth and nothing but the truth to the damnable lies circulating about his purported drug habit. Velvet ropes have been set up to clear a pathway from the elevator to the door of the mayor's office.
No word yet whether a red carpet has also been laid down to guide and pamper his injured sensitivities, but right royal treatment has been put on to sooth the beast, regardless. As for the video that never was, someone in the Mayor's office has stated that the story about its whereabouts, known to the Mayor's office, emanated from Mr. Towhey, his fired former chief of staff who had the temerity to recommend to Mayor Ford that addiction amelioration services would do him a world of good.

"He's got an axe to grind with the mayor here and with other people in the office. Certainly with Councillor Ford. He's trying to blame everyone else for where he is", said the source. Where he is, of course, is without employment. Just reward for doing his job, being concerned over the welfare of the man he once served. His error being in that he observed and drew conclusions and then stated his opinion; bad form.

But he has company. The Mayor's policy adviser and his assistant and now the Mayor's executive assistant are all in the position of seeking satisfying, meaningful, and well remunerated employment. Their curriculum vitae no doubt look good; they've experienced much in their professional lives, culminating in the challenge of representing a man elected to further advance the social welfare of a great city now in a jumble of confusion about what/why/who they elected to the office of mayor.

For his part, the mayor generously invites all those in his employ to "pursue new opportunities when they arise."

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Invasion of Syria

"Regarding my confidence about victory, had we not had this confidence, we wouldn't have been able to fight in this battle for two years, facing an international attack.
"All what we have agreed on with Russia will be implemented and some of it has been implemented recently."
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
"The talk about the international conference and a political solution to the situation in Syria has no meaning in light of the massacres that are taking place."
Khalid Saleh, Opposition coalition spokesman

President Assad is feeling increasingly certain of himself again; that he will regain control and the rebel militias will be vanquished, the opposition to his continued rule put to rest. The unconditional involvement of Hezbollah has had that effect on him. All the demoralizing defections, the success of the rebels in planting bombs in 'secure' areas, assassinating key regime figures and weakening the strength of the regime through continued confrontations the military has not always been successful in repelling, have now been reversed.

The regime is retaking ground it had been forced to surrender to the Free Syrian Army. That will show the Arab League just how wrong they've been in backing the wrong horse, in welcoming the Opposition Coalition as the formal representation of Syria to the Arab League, seating them where he should be, an offensively intolerable move to shun him and  his regime, one that will return to bite them, as is now being demonstrated.

Of course it is not only Hezbollah's involvement by any means that has bolstered President Assad's confidence. That's simply one element, an important one, but then there's the role that Russia is playing in this proxy war between east and west, Russia and the United States, with Russia-Iran-Syria (Shia Hezbollah) on the one hand and the U.S.-NATO-Arab League (Sunni Islamists) on the other.

The sanctimonious accusations by the UN's human rights representatives and the opposition of Turkey will all be set in their proper perspective.

Assad will prevail, for there is the backing of Iran, and of Russia, two powerful allies. And China's position on the Security Council is non-interference with the affairs of other countries lest, heaven forfend, any might venture to interfere in China's harmonious affairs.

It's a fairly amusing situation to have the U.S. and Israel plead with Russia to cancel the S-300 missile contract. To see their consternation, to watch them grovel with pleading demanding, coercive diplomatic overtures only to have Putin spurn them sternly; reminding them high-mindedly; a deal is a deal; honour intact.

Gary Clement/National Post
Israel has much to be concerned with relating to the S-300s, as does the United States. A no-fly zone is still a consideration. Difficult to maintain if Syria is in possession of such powerful missiles with the capacity to shoot down warplanes and incoming missiles alike -- and return fire as well with greater accuracy and strength. If push comes to shove Israel won't be restrained from conducting new missions to destroy such weapons, even with the presence of Russian expert advisers.

Russia, of course, is counting on the presence of Russian experts to be a deterrent to any Israeli action, but then it isn't Russia that faces an existential threat with such weapons in the hands of the Syrians. Any future plans the IDF may have for flyovers to attack Iran's bunkered nuclear infrastructures will become vastly more complicated and fraught with the danger of exposure. 
As for the peace talks being promoted for Geneva in June by the Americans and the Russians, Syria feels confident enough with Russia backing al-Assad's continuance as president to attend, but the Syrian National Coalition refuses to attend while Qusair continues to be battered.

"The talk about the international conference and a political solution to the situation in Syria has no meaning in light of the massacres that are taking place", said coalition spokesman Khalid Saleh. Nor would his group support international peace efforts as long as Syria is being invaded by Iran and Hezbollah, he emphasized.

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Hezbollah's Call

Lebanon has accommodated itself to accepting the fact that it has a dual government and military, in a manner of speaking. Well, in all honesty it transcends a simple manner of speaking; it is a visible and dangerous fact. Lebanon has changed enormously from what it once represented in the Middle East, a stable, pluralist, self-respecting society, a beautiful country whose citizens were proud to host international visitors admiring of the country, its geology and botany, its traditions and its welcoming people.

Much has happened to change Lebanon, starting with the influx of Palestinian refugees after 1948 and the eventual entry of the Israeli Forces to attempt to stem violent provocations; their exit and the formation of the terrorist group Hezbollah. Hezbollah simply rid itself of those elite Lebanese officials opposed to its savage rule in a once-prosperous and liberal-secular country. Since raided and occupied by Syria, of which state in tandem with Iran, Hezbollah became a proxy militia.

Hezbollah's fierce rise to prominence and its popularity within the Shia Lebanese segment and the Palestinians, hard won through conflict and targeted assassinations, saw it in a power-sharing arrangement with the country's politicians. Even though it is now integrated in the Lebanese government, however, it has chosen not to surrender its weapons and join its militia to that of the official Lebanese military.

Lebanon's current president is tolerant of Hezbollah to the point where Michel Suleiman is a political ally. But even he views with grave alarm the attacks that have begun to target Lebanon by outside sources, the rebels that have brought civil war to Syria, now overlapping into Lebanon. A country of four million people, Lebanon now has the burden of sustaining a half-million Syrians who have fled the conflict between the Alawite regime and the Opposition.

Mr. Suleiman, claiming that his good relations with Hezbollah remain intact, adds that Hezbollah's chief, Hassan Nasrallah, might have thought more deeply before he committed to "involve the resistance". The Resistance is how Hezbollah is popularly referred to: admired for heroically provoking and 'resisting' the enemy: Israel. Only this time the resistance has turned its forces and its weapons against the Syrian Free Army.

Israel may represent the ultimate enemy, but Sunni Muslims represent the penultimate enemy, one that must be confronted and fought to the death, lest they do the confrontation and the death-delivery to the Shia Muslims of whom Hezbollah is the prime protector under the prodding guidance of Iran. Mr. Suleiman feels it is his duty as Lebanon's president "to correct paths", and Hezbollah is obviously on the wrong path.

"I am against anything preemptive, like the wars of ex-U.S. President George Bush", explained Mr. Suleiman. Denying the utility of Hezbollah's excuse that it confronts the rebels to ensure they don't bring their war over into Lebanon. U.S. foreign policy is not viewed with much affection. Nor is George Bush held up as a hero. And Hezbollah's plans to aid the government of Syria open a front in the Golan Heights is alarming to him.

"Who guarantees that Israel does not attack Lebanon?" Astonishing to think that this game-plan has evaded Mr. Suleiman's consciousness up to now.

Hezbollah fighters are battling the Free Syrian Army militias in the strategic town of Qusair, helping the Syrian regime to claim it from the rebels. Its usefulness as a weapons conduit for both sides is being challenged by each side. It's estimated that almost a thousand people have been wounded, without prospects for medical attention, stranded helplessly in the besieged town.

The rebel Tawheed Brigade in Aleppo has warned the Lebanese government that it must restrain Hezbollah "or else we will be forced to move the battle to Lebanese territory", thus reinforcing Mr. Suleiman's concerns. As it is, the conflict and the deteriorating security prevailing in Lebanon has prompted it to suspend scheduled elections.

"Arab countries are experiencing bloodshed so that they may have elections, and we go and do the opposite? This is not the message that we want to send to the world", Mr. Suleiman said ruefully. "We live in a very dangerous moment in our history. We have little civil wars going on in parts of the country. Logistically, it's not feasible to have elections take place right now", Kamel Wazne, director of the Center for American Strategic Studies in Beirut said.

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The Prime Minister's Detractors

Pretty pathetic, nothing less than that, when leaders of the opposition in the House of Commons mock common sense and common business and employment practice to desperately attempt to score another point. Their rabid assaults on Prime Minister Stephen Harper may make them feel good, and they may think they have raised their own credibility levels in the doing, but in fact they're simply pointing out how desperate they are to arouse voter rage over a non-issue.
Photographs...Toronto Sun -- left, Justin Trudeau, centre, Stephen Harper, right, Thomas Mulcair
The Prime Minister's former chief of staff Nigel Wright resigned in the realization that this is what he had to do. Had he not resigned, it would have been up to Stephen Harper, reluctantly yes, in view of past service, but necessarily, in view of a serious lapse in judgement, to remove him from that important post. Nigel Wright is held by all who know him to be an intelligent, honourable man whose business acumen is unparalleled.

He was, nonetheless responsible, in his lapse of judgement, for bringing a storm of controversy into the Prime Minister's Office, and in so doing unleashing a hurricane of febrile assaults against the veracity of the Prime Minister himself. Mr. Wright likely thought that as an executive assistant it was incumbent upon him to remove what irritants he could from the purview of the man whose best interests he sought to serve as best he could.

His best in this particular instance, offering to hand over to the disgraced Senator Mike Duffy, who was facing an official call to return to the Senate finances funding for housing he was not entitled to, a gift of $90,000 to rescue the man from further ignominy. His spur-of-the-moment charity backfired badly. He obviously hadn't taken the time to think through the implications of what he had committed himself to, and by extension the man he served.

And those implications were not lost on those looking for reasons to try to embroil Stephen Harper within a conspiracy to favour and rescue a Conservative Senator who had proved as adept as Mr. Duffy was in fund-raising for the party. In offering that monetary assistance to Mr. Duffy, however, Mr. Duffy's own presumed neutrality in the Chamber of Sober Second Thought was effectively diminished.

Mr. Duffy's despicable, grubby behaviour is no longer the issue here. His feelings of entitlement as someone believing themselves to be irreplaceable and without peer as a fundraiser for the Conservatives led him to pursue his own path to perdition. But Mr. Wright by all accounts and as evidenced by the esteem in which he is held by his colleagues and by Mr. Harper, is another matter altogether.

He has left the employ of Mr. Harper. He obviously had signed a contract setting out his duties, his remuneration and any additional benefits normally accruing to someone in such an executive position. That would include vacation pay and it would include normal severance pay.  The belittling picayune demonstrations of sophomoric parliamentary debate being indulged in by the NDP and the Liberals is patently absurd in this matter.

As a matter of public curiosity some have been debating what severance and outstanding vacation pay would amount to for Mr. Wright, and the figure appears to be in the neighbourhood of $20,000; a modest enough sum considering the office and the office-holder and the contract he most certainly would have signed. Yet the opposition is hammering the Prime Minister on the matter.

"Mr.Wright will receive only what is required under law -- no more, no less", affirmed Andrew MacDougall, Mr. Harper's director of communications. This logical statement of intent does not sit well with the opposition however; they oppose this paltry settlement for a man who spent two and a half years performing a difficult job in a trying environment, and who lapsed into poor judgement with unfortunate results.

"Nigel Wright took sole responsibility because he acted alone, and what he did was not in the interest of Canadian taxpayers and it was not a responsible decision", Heritage Minister James Moore repeated, in the hope that the logic of the situation and its faultless inadvertence on the part of the PMO and the former chief of staff would finally penetrate the consciousness of the Prime Minister's detractors.

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Moscow‘s smoke screen obscures Assad’s next Syrian war moves

DEBKAfile Special Report May 31, 2013, 8:00 PM (IDT)
Russian MiG-29M2 fighter-bomber
Russian MiG-29M2 fighter-bomber
One minute, Russian spokesmen declare that Moscow is only filling standing contracts with Syria for the sale of weapons, i.e. – S-300 anti-air missiles; the next, that delivery will take place only in the second quarter of 2014 (ahead of Syria’s presidential election). Then, after those spokesmen previously declared that Russia would only fill outstanding arms contracts, Serge Korotkov, head of the MiG company came out with the news Friday, May 31, that a Syrian delegation was in Moscow to discuss “a new contract” for the sale of “more than 10” MiG-29 M/M2 fighters.

According to debkafile’s military sources, this Russian fighter-bomber is designed to operate in complex electronic jamming environments. It is therefore just what the Syrian army lacks for overcoming the Israeli Air Force’s ability to disable Syria’s Russian-made electronic warfare systems.
Moscow is therefore offering to provide Bashar Assad and his air force with a key resource for delivering on the statement he made in a TV interview Thursday, May 30: “We have informed all foreign parties that we will retaliate against any future Israeli attack.”

Our military and Russian sources say that the conflicting Russian statements on weapons sales to Damascus have two motives:

1.  To lay down a smoke screen for concealing the true nature and volume of the military equipment Moscow is shipping to Assad and his army by airlift. Its transports land and unload their freight at various Syrian airfields, including Aleppo and Latakia. Without the Russian and Iranian air corridors, the Syrian army would soon run out of the ammunition, spare parts and fuel, needed day to day for keeping up its war on the rebels.

2. To spread a fog fraught with Russian menace for scaring Israel, the United States, Britain, France and Turkey off any thought of military intervention in the Syrian conflict.
This too is the frame of mind Moscow is seeking to generate for June 5 when representatives of Russia, the US and the United Nations meet to prepare the ground for the Geneva conference which had been called to hammer out a political settlement of the Syrian war.  Moscow is determined to browbeat Washington into accepting Iran’s participation.

Only the UN has so far named its representatives to the preliminary meeting. They are special envoy for Syria, the Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, and the Deputy Secretary General, US Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman.

Some weeks ago, Brahimi was on the point of resigning his mission. He changed his mind when he saw Assad was gaining the upper hand in the way and the Obama administration unwilling to stop him except by cooperating with Moscow in calling an international conference for setting limits on Assad’s triumph.

The Algerian diplomat became convinced that without Moscow and Iran’s attendance, the conference is condemned to fail.

Most probably, therefore, the preparatory meeting will be preoccupied with settling the argument over Iran’s participation. Already, behind closed doors, Moscow, Washington and Tehran have closed the gap between them and bargaining over the format of Tehran’s attendance, whether as a separate delegation or part of the Syrian team? And will Hizballah be asked or not?

The Russians are confident they come to the event with the strongest hand. Their delegates will lead a front composed of Iran, Syria and Hizballah, which is not only united but way ahead on the war front.
In contrast, their American co-sponsors, have not been able to persuade the fractious Syrian opposition or its Gulf patrons, led by Saudi Arabia, to put in an appearance at the conference.

Unless this obstacle can be overcome, the US delegation comes to the conference without Syrian or Arab parties on its side of the table.
Israel can only watch from the sidelines.

President Vladimir Putin and his advisers feel they can safely turn up the heat in the belief that President Barack Obama will have no choice in the final reckoning but to accept the Russian-Iranian proposals for ending the Syrian war, starting with leaving Assad in power. Otherwise, Moscow is indicating that the war will escalate, fueled by the swelling input of Russian arms, and the United States will sink further in Middle East estimation.

Implicit in the Russian stance is that the Syrian war which has already spread to Lebanon thanks to Hizballah’s participation in the fighting will next spill over into Israel. Moscow is playing the S-300 missiles and MiG-29 M/M2 warplanes as pieces in its game against Israel too on the Syrian chessboard.

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US and Germany urge Russia not to arm Syria military

BBC News online - 31 May 2013
Syrian government troops in Arjun in Qusair, 30 May 2013 Fierce fighting has been raging around the key Syrian town of Qusair

The US and Germany have called on Russia not to supply Syria's military with an advanced missile system they say could prolong the conflict there.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the delivery of Russian weaponry would have a "profoundly negative impact" and put Israel's security at risk.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged Moscow not to hinder the chances of mooted peace talks.

In Syria, fierce fighting continued on Friday around the key town of Qusair.
Dozens of opposition fighters reached the town on Friday to bolster it against an offensive involving government forces and militants from Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese group that supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

One opposition activist told the BBC the humanitarian situation in the town near the Lebanese border was worsening, with 800 wounded people needing treatment.

Mr Kerry and Mr Westerwelle held talks in Washington a day after Mr Assad said a Russian contract to supply the S-300 surface-to-air missile defence system was being implemented, without confirming any deliveries.

The S-300PMU-2 - the variant experts believe will be sent - is a highly capable system that, as well as targeting aircraft, also has the capacity to engage ballistic missiles.

Two Russian newspapers on Friday quoted defence sources as saying that it was unclear if any of the missile system would be delivered this year.

Mr Kerry called on Russia not to upset the balance in the region by providing weaponry to the Assad regime, "whether it's and old contract or not".


After 40 years of tight dictatorship in Syria, it is not surprising that the opposition is finding it hard to produce a coherent, representative leadership to face off against a tough regime team in the proposed Geneva conference.
What was meant to be a three-day meeting of the opposition coalition in Istanbul turned into eight days of in-fighting that has failed to achieve its stated goals of electing a new leadership, approving an interim government and taking a clear position on the Geneva proposal.
After initially saying it would go to Geneva with conditions, the opposition now says it will not go as long as Hezbollah is fighting at Qusair. That buys it time for the great deal of work, and doubtless wrangling, that will be needed to construct a plausible delegation for the talks, and more meetings will be held early next month.
By contrast, the regime side is unified and coherent, and has decades of negotiating experience to draw on. The opposition risks a severe defeat in the talks, unless it gets its act together very seriously.
"It has a profoundly negative impact on the balance of interests and the stability of the region and it does put Israel at risk," he said. 

"We hope that they will refrain from that in the interests of making this peace process work," he said.
He added that he was convinced the Syrian opposition would take part in US and Russian-backed talks expected to be held in Geneva next month. Russian and American officials are set to meet next week to prepare the ground for the peace conference.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says a lot more needs to be done for the opposition to be in any kind of shape to attend any conference in a coherent manner.
He says that, by contrast, the Syrian government appears unified and confident.

Mr Assad said on Thursday that Syria would "in principle" attend the peace conference in Geneva if there were not unacceptable preconditions.

In an interview with Lebanon's al-Manar TV, which is owned by Hezbollah, he warned that Syria would respond in kind to any future Israeli air strikes.

Meanwhile, Syrian state television said troops and Hezbollah fighters had captured the Arjun district of Qusair on Thursday.

Syria's Russian-made military

  • Nearly 5,000 tanks; 2,500 infantry fighting vehicles; 2,500 self-propelled or towed artillery units
  • 325 Tactical aircraft; 143 helicopters
  • Nearly 2,000 air defence pieces
  • 295,000 active personnel; 314,000 reserve personnel
Statistics: IISS
An attempt to get wounded people out of the town on Friday had failed, an opposition activist told the BBC, as the convoy had come under attack, with nine people killed.

The source said 30,000 people were still in Qusair, 80% of which was under rebel control, although these figures cannot be independently verified.

"There is no water at all, because the Assad regime controls the water supply, and there has been no electricity for four months," he said.

More than 80,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million have fled Syria since the uprising against Mr Assad began in 2011, according to UN estimates.

line break
How the Russian S-300PMU-2 missile defence system works
  1. The long-range surveillance radar tracks objects over a range of 300km (185 miles) and relays information to the command vehicle, which assesses potential targets
  2. A target is identified and the command vehicle orders the engagement radar to launch missiles
  3. Launch data is sent to the best placed of the battalion's six launch vehicles and it releases two surface-to-air missiles
  4. The engagement radar helps guide the missiles towards the target. It can guide up to 12 missiles simultaneously, engaging up to six targets at once
The vehicle used as a launcher is currently manufactured at the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MZKT) in Belarus, although Russia is now shifting the production to its western city of Bryansk.

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This is my Pack - many of whom would have been gassed-to-death had they been in a gas chamber using shelter...they are lucky, so many wonderful dogs are not so lucky - so please SPEAK OUT for those who cannot!

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Thursday, May 30, 2013


"Syrian women do not breast feed. They are having problems shifting to this procedure. Some don't have the food they need to produce high quality milk. Others are too frightened by the war. As a result, without clean formula, the babies will soon die."
Dr. Badr Salibi, Syrian internist

In subscribing to the school of those who spurn breast feeding over the perceived advantages of bottle-feeding, Syrian woman, believing they have joined the vanguard of female entitlements to more modern, advanced techniques in baby-raising, have managed to demonstrate just how backward a society theirs is.

Just as in Africa where African mothers turn aside from breast feeding and clamour for baby formula in emulation of what they believe to be the more advantaged of their gender living in first-world countries, the women of Syria succumbed to the same delusionary conceit. Likely in normal times, however, they did not, as did African women, water down the formula leaving little nutrition for the feeding babies, as a cost-saving device.

And now there is scant opportunity in besieged towns and cities to procure that suddenly-valuable baby formula and the concerns have mounted that their babies will suffer. The state, in fact, does supply baby formula, but it does so in areas where Shia Muslims live, who support the regime. Loyalty equals the advantages of opportunity, entitlement and longevity.

Why would the regime, bother supplying the fount of life for babies to areas disloyal to it, after all? Sunni babies haven't the entitlements of Shia babies.

And that, presumably, is where humanitarian agencies come to the rescue. Except that in so many of those desperately unserviced areas it is too dangerous for western humanitarian agencies to venture, to do their work on behalf of the needy. On the other hand, it is not just baby formula that is in short supply, but cooking oil and basic foods.

In some instances it is not shortages, but prices beyond which most people who have been unemployed as a result of the general upheaval, can possibly afford. People who somehow managed to keep themselves going, through the conflicts, and through the shortages of fuel, food, medicines, find themselves without purchase power now.

And some who have borrowed, can no longer do so. So, one might ask, who are those who are charging inflated prices to people suddenly become indigent through no fault of their own other than their religious sect inheritance? Obviously, people of the same persuasion, but in an advantaged position, for human cupidity knows no bounds.

In Aleppo, as elsewhere, ordinary civic services have long, long since been unavailable. Mountains of stinking, mouldering garbage sit uncollected, a source for infection and disease. Running water, electricity, no longer available in rebel-held territories. Where there are ample basic foods available in the markets, there is poverty to match and food outpriced for the consumption of the poor.

"We have reduced our food purchases and live on sandwiches", says one man.

And then there are the homeless; internally displaced persons now representing over 40% of the population, according to figures provided by the United Nations. More than half the buildings in Aleppo are in ruin. Buildings reduced to rubble.

One wonders how many people who originally protested their unjust conditions were for the majority as unentitled Sunnis under the yoke of the minority-population, but entitled Shia, now ruefully think of how relatively pleasant, despite the irritations, life once was for them.

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Guilty as charged.

"The path of nuclear non-compliance will only bring further isolation for Ayatollah Khameini's clerical, military dictatorship. We will continue to look for ways to reduce the negative impacts on the people of Iran, including humanitarian exemptions."
Minister of Foreign Affairs Canada, John Baird

The Government of Canada has proceeded with the imposition of sanctions on over one hundred people and companies linked to Iranian nuclear activities. That would include airlines, banks and investment houses. The total number of individuals and "entities" now on the sanctions list against Iran composed by Canadian authorities stands at close to 600.

Canada earlier rid itself of the diplomatic presence of the Iranian Embassy. It stands emptied of its personnel, all returned to their country of origin. And Canadian diplomats in their turn have returned to Canada, leaving the Canadian Embassy in Tehran void of any Canadian mission and contacts.

While the Iranian Embassy was still operative in Ottawa it was a source of mischief, and interference in the lives of Iranian-Canadians. It also acted full-time as a viral propaganda tool of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and made interventions in Canadian affairs that rankled Canadians. We are well rid of its malign presence.

The government's latest move in tightening sanctions related to an effort "to halt Iran's reckless pursuit of their nuclear-weapons capabilities", in the wake of one failed intervention by the International Atomic Energy Agency after another. Including the failed efforts at mounting conferences with the regime where the UN Security Council plus Germany could come to an agreement with Iran.

All have failed, and it was more than obvious that Iran had no intention whatever of honouring any pledges they made, or seriously entertaining the concerns of the international community respecting Iran's nuclear plans. Iran simply played for time, and did this time and again, complacent with the knowledge that its perceived adversaries would time and again agree to allow it more time.

Canadian exports to Iran have been reduced to a paltry $1-million annually. The trade ban is exclusive of food, medicine, medical equipment, humanitarian goods or technologies to encourage democratic forces aiding Iranians to bypass the regime's restrictions on Internet access. Doubtless Parnoosh dates will still be found in Canadian supermarkets.

Iran has responded in its own inimitable and quite predictable manner, portraying the role of Canada as a lapdog of Israel. As for the Conservative-led government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it is horribly flawed by its "Iranophobic" delusions. Canada, declares Iran, in a bit of quid pro quo, has an "extremist" administration.

Canada is simply yet another country of the West which has declared sanctions against Iran, one of the world's most reprehensible human-rights-abusive regimes, with the added cachet of supporting terrorism throughout the world, particularly with its military proxy, Hezbollah. Countries in the EU are similarly involved in sanctions against the regime, as is the United States.

And it is most interesting to read that French oil giant Total SA has had criminal charges lodged against it resulting in a fine of $242.5-M, that the company paid bribes to win lucrative contracts in Iran. Papers filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria show that Total paid $60-million in bribes between 1995 and 2004, allowing it to re-enter the Iranian oil and gas market.

Those bribes aided in the landing of contracts with state-owned National Iranian Oil Co. to develop oil and gas fields in the Persian Gulf, and another for the world's largest gas field in South Pars. Since the case was led by both the U.S. and France, the Paris prosecutor's office plans to pursue corruption charges against its oil giant and the chief executive thereof.

But the financial gains realized by Iran, albeit diminished, have aided it in pursuing its support of the Alawite regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the country dissolves in infrastructure disarray, and millions of Syrians flee the destruction and deadly carnage, as Sunni and Shia indulge in deadly conflict.

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Baying Hounds

Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds to a question from the opposition leader during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 29, 2013.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds to a question from the opposition leader during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
That favourite old expression of the first President Bush: "watch my lips", might stand Prime Minister Stephen Harper in good stead if he were to quietly repeat it ad infinitum. Which would measure the number of times that the opposition insists on addressing the Prime Minister with the very same questions over and over again. They ask their question and refuse the response, behaving as though it had never been given.

They may wish to behave like automatons, unthinking mechanical minds, returning like a broken record back to the same questions in an indefensible attack on the integrity of a man whose moral foundation needs no lessons from them, but those attacks must be taking their toll on the mind and the patience of a man who has far more weighty concerns to relate to. The tedious Question Period performance of the official opposition is without credibility.

Little wonder the Prime Minister seems subdued. He must be feeling a good measure of charitable despair at the lack of integrity in the minds of those who share the upper echelons of political life in Parliament with him. Giving the average voter a fine lesson in character, and demonstrating just how little the country would gain by replacing Stephen Harper with the likes of Thomas Mulcair or Justin Trudeau.

"When we knew this information, it was all rendered public," assured the Prime Minister. His patience never growing dim, not yet, though it's questionable how much more often he can repeat the obvious truth. He had no knowledge of the decision made by his former chief of staff to intervene in an ill-judged move, to use his private funds to bail out Senator Mike Duffy's dilemma of having to repay to Senate funds unentitled housing allowance and other expenses he had claimed.

The Prime Minister is guilty of not being in possession of hindsight. His trust in the judgement calls of his former chief of staff was given a jolt of reality; we are all, at one time or another, capable of making hasty and poorly-thought-out moves that will come back to haunt us because we haven't given adequate thought to their ethical footing, and possible consequences.

The buck must stop somewhere, and since the awkward and suspicious-appearing event impinged on the PMO and directly on the Prime Minister, through an act undertaken by his trusted chief of staff, he now bears the burden of regret, apologizing that this further complication of an already-tawdry affair that has shaken the confidence of the public in the soberness of the Senate, has slopped over into the PMO.

In pursuing the Prime Minister so relentlessly, grimly determined to make their point, and make it stick in the consciousness of the voting public for clearly partisan, ideological gains, the official opposition is more than willing to smear the officeholder and the office of the highest executive order of the land. That is his choice and that of his colleague.

But that choice redounds poorly on their own judgement.

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Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Rest In Peace

Dead at 90 years of age. Years well lived in a determined battle to confront an ill he saw before him, and unrelentingly unwilling to allow himself to falter, though he paid a considerable price. When Dr. Morgentaler challenged Canada's anti-abortion laws he was derided, slandered, arrested, and incarcerated. But his pursuit of justice for half of the country's residents led him to persevere.

No one else with the authority of an outspoken, resolute medical practitioner bothered to champion the right of women to choose when and under what conditions they would bear a child.
"I decided to break the law to provide a necessary medical service because women were dying at the hands of butchers and incompetent quacks, and there was no one there to help them. The law was barbarous, cruel and unjust. I had been in a concentration camp and I knew what suffering was. If I can ease suffering, I feel perfectly justified in doing so."
"If I should die tomorrow, I could say I have accomplished something with my life. The fact that some people are opposed to abortion on religious grounds doesn't bother me as long as they are not allowed to influence other people by force or by other means. The situation in Canada is much better than in most other countries in the sense that abortion is practised by good physicians under good conditions. I believe as a medical doctor my duty was to help humans, and I did it."
His critics, vociferous with rage against this man, made comparisons to what he was doing, freeing women from the burden and pain of carrying a foetus when they had no wish to bear a child, to the abhorrently ghastly medical experimentation done by Nazi Germany's Josef Mengele. Hysterical condemnation of abortion likened it to a 'holocaust' of the innocent unborn.

These are easy enough charges to toss about; people having no idea what the Holocaust accomplished in beggaring the world of millions of Jews whose numbers have never since recovered. These were living, breathing human beings of all ages. They were not 'unborn children', on the cusp of being.

They existed as full-fledged, thinking, feeling human beings and then those lives vanished in a voluminous cloud of ash darkening the sky in a paroxysm of triumphalist genocide.

If anyone wanted to know what deprivation and horror, fear and carnage really resembled, they could ask Dr. Morgentaler, for he was very familiar with desolation, loss and anguish. And he had no wish to inflict it upon others. His wish was to remove the potential for all of that from the lives of women.

And he succeeded. At least in Canada, he did. For the most part, since there are still pockets of resistance to women's most basic entitlements -- withholding that right of abortion.

When Dr. Morgentaler opened the country's first free-standing abortion clinic at 2990 Honore-Beaugrand Street in east-end Montreal, abortion was illegal; punishable by the law in a most dramatic fashion. Anyone convicted of performing an abortion for any reason other than that the pregnancy endangered the life of the mother -- to which a panel of doctors at an accredited hospital would have to agree -- could be jailed for life.

It was also the time that selling or advertising any kind of contraception was illegal, even within pharmacies, and doing so could lead to a jail term.

"I have a vision, a dream that all people should be treated in a humane, compassionate way", Dr. Morgentaler declared, paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King's 1963 declaration of human rights entitlements, as he opened that Montreal clinic in 1970. That same year he was arrested, charged with two counts of performing illegal abortions.

He would be arrested and acquitted by juries on a number of occasions. In 1974 his jury acquittal was overturned by the Quebec Court of Appeal, and he was imprisoned for a ten-month period, until another government came to power and released him bowing to the will of the majority in an unspoken social covenant.

TOBIN GRIMSHAW, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN    Dr. Henry Morgentaler greets the crowd before being awarded with a lifetime achievement award from PPO and the Pro-Choice Canada Coalition, part of the National Day of Action for Choice on Elgin st. Sunday April 25, 2004. 

In 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada's abortion law as unconstitutional. Later, the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney attempted to introduce Bill C-43, permitting abortions in the case of a woman's proven mental, physical or psychological health being affected by carrying a foetus to term. Both patient and doctor could face prison if such conditions were not met under the law.

In an instance where the Chamber of Sober Second Thought performed its duty to the country and its citizens, the Senate of Canada defeated the bill that had been passed in the House of Commons.

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Israeli intelligence denies first Russian S-300s arrive in Syria - contrary to Assad’s claim

DEBKAfile Special Report May 30, 2013, 5:52 PM (IDT)
Russian S-300 anti-air missiles system
Russian S-300 anti-air missiles system
Senior Israeli intelligence sources emphasized to debkafile Thursday May 30 that Syria had still not received the first consignment of Russian S-300 anti-missile batteries – contrary to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s claim. 
Directly taunting Israel, Syrian president Bashar Assad said in an interview prerecorded for broadcast Thursday night, May 30, that the first batch of Russian S-300 anti-air missiles has arrived in Syria and a second consignment was on the way. The broadcast was scheduled to air simultaneously over Hizballah’s Al Manar and Syrian state television channels.

The Syrian ruler was responding to the quote from Israel’s National Security Adviser Yakov Amidror that the S-300 batteries have not been delivered yet and when they are, Israel will destroy them before they are operational.

Wednesday, May 29, debkafile reported the landing at Latakia airport of a large Russian transport carrying 60 tons of unidentified freight. Labeled by Moscow “humanitarian aid,” it may in fact have contained the first S-300 delivery to which Assad referred.

Continuing in the same vein, Assad said that not only would the Syrian army react to any further Israeli attacks, he “would not stand in the way of Syrian groups that want to fight for the liberation of the Golan.”

debkafile reported earlier Thursday.
Fresh Hizballah forces entered Syria early Thursday, May 30, hours after the United States called the presence of the Hizballah fighters from Lebanon in Syria “unacceptable” and “dangerous” and demanded their immediate withdrawal. Already fighting on three fronts – Damascus, Homs and al Qusayr - debkafile’s military sources report that the new increment is assigned a fourth. Iran’s Lebanese proxies will be heading south to take on the rebel stronghold of Deraa, capital of the Huran, where they will be fighting within 30 kilometers of Israel’s Golan border.

Lookout posts report the incoming Hizballah units organizing their equipment and getting set to move.

The threats traded by Russia, Syria, Hizballah with Israel have reached a new pitch of stridency.
Israel’s National Secuirty Adviser Yakov Amidror was quoted Wednesday night as warning that if the Russian S-300 anti-air missiles are delivered to Syria, Israel will strike them and prevent their deployment for operational use.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens voiced his certainty that the Russians are aware Israel is capable of destroying the batteries.

debkafile’s military sources add: Moscow has made a point of stressing that the S-300s for Syria will arrive accompanied by Russian officers and advisers, in the belief that Israel will think twice before tangling with Moscow by attacking the missiles still in their crates and risking harm to Russian personnel. This eventuality came up in the tough conversation Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on May 14.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem has meanwhile pitched in to warn that another Israeli strike against Syria would elicit an immediate Syrian response. He spoke to the Hizballah TV station Al Mayadin Wednesday night. In answer to a question, he said the Syrian response would be proportional to the Israeli attack.

In Helsinki, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reacted harshly to the European Union’s decision – spearheaded by Britain and France – to lift its arms embargo on the Syrian rebels: He made it clear that this decision had untied Moscow’s hands for supplying Bashar Assad with weapons banned by international treaties.

“Every decision has two sides. If one side lifts its restrictions, then the other side may no longer feel compelled to keep its previously adopted obligations,” Shoigu said Wednesday.

A special interview with President Assad is scheduled for simultaneous broadcast Thursday night by Hizballah’s Al-Manar and Syrian state television channels.

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Parents: Violent Arabs Make 'Superland' Super-bad

Teachers and parents explain why amusement park's policy of separation became necessary.

By Gil Ronen -- Arutz Sheva 7
First Publish: 5/30/2013, 4:50 PM

Israel news photo: Flash 90
The Superland amusement park is under attack in the media and in the political arena for a policy of keeping Jewish and Arab visitors apart, but independent-thinking parents and teachers explained Thursday why they feel the policy is justified and necessary.

Arutz Sheva has spoken to parents of children who visited the park over the past year. They said that the Arab children and youths in the park have a  habit of provoking fights with the Jewish kids, and that they behave similarly in other parks in Israel.

A teacher who did not want to be identified said the Arab groups have a marked tendency of behaving “with insolence and brutality,” turning the Jewish kids' fun days into violent nightmares.
"We often arrive at the parks with dozens of children,” the teacher said. “Arab groups often begin to provoke the Jewish kids. The Arab youths curse, swear and try to provoke a violent fracas. We need to support Superland in its decision. We cannot surrender to the extreme Left in its attempt to harm the park, which simply wanted to have separate days in order to avoid unnecessary violence.”

Another teacher told Arutz Sheva about similar experiences at the Kiftzuba park near Jerusalem, where there have been numerous violent fights between Jewish and Arab kids lately. “The Arab students swear and curse and behave rudely toward the Jews. We can't have fun days if the parks are mixed. That is the truth and there is no other truth.”

"The leftist media is trying to twist the truth, as it always does, and present a picture of poor Arab kids who were not allowed to enter this park or another but that is the truth and this is the real picture. It's not a matter of racism.”

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Assad May be Bluffing on Missiles, Says Expert

Amb (ret.) Yossi Ben-Aharon explains why Russia wants to supply S-300s to Syria and what it means for Israel in this exclusive interview.

By Ben Bresky & INR Staff -- Arutz Sheva 7
First Publish: 5/30/2013, 7:04 PM

Syrian border
Syrian border
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may have been bluffing Thursday morning when he said that his country had already received some of the Russian S-300 missile systems it has purchased, a former top level Israeli government official told Arutz Sheva.

Retired ambassador Yossi Ben-Aharon is a consultant on Middle Eastern affairs, who served as Deputy Director-General of the Foreign Ministry and Director-General of the Prime Minster's Office under Yitzhak Shamir. He gave an exclusive live interview to Josh Hasten host of Arutz Sheva's Reality Bytes podcast about the latest developments in Syria. 

For the full interview in mp3 format click here

Interview with Yossi Ben-Aharon
"Anything that President Bashar al-Assad says should be checked for veracity," Ben-Aharon stated. "He is in dire straits. He is probably trying to set up some type of protective wall in case Israel sees a need to attack a shipment of armaments from Syria to the Hizbullah. He could be deliberately misleading," Ben-Aharon commented. He added, "we do not have information that the S-300 missiles have indeed arrived in Syria."
The Hizbullah organization, based in Lebanon, has repeatedly attacked Israel, most notably in the Second Lebanon War of 2006.

In spite of Israeli and American calls to halt the weapons sale, Russia's foreign minister stated on Wednesday that his government would carry out the delivery in the near future. Ben-Aharon called this a power play on Russia's part. Because of the "Arab Spring" revolutions that occurred in many Middle Eastern countries, the Russians "are left only with Syria and they are trying to hold on to the maximum extent of their power," he stated. He noted that Russia has part of its naval fleet in the Mediteranean sea near Syria, and "Assad is the only Arab leader who has opened the gates for some kind of Russian influence."

In regard to the possibility that the S-300 missiles could be used against Israel, Ben-Aharon reiterated the unofficial response of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon: "We have cautioned the Russians not to supply the piece of armament. But if however it does happen to materialize on Syrian territory, we will know how to deal with it. We have the capacity. If there is a real threat to us, we will have to make a move even if we are taking a risk."

In a previous interview on Arutz Sheva / Israel National Radio which took place following Israel's alleged raid on a Syrian weapons compound, Ben-Aharon spoke of his own personal experiences in talking with Syrian officials. For the May 5th interview with Yossi Ben-Aharon click here.

Syria Preemptive Strike Interview
"We are dealing with a very tough customer," he said. "They are headstrong and very proud. They looked down on other Arab countries. That was their attitude before the civil war started."
Today the former top Israeli adviser describes a fragmented society. What started as a bid to oust a dictatorial leader has become much more complicated. "There are so many outside factors in the web that prevent any chance of a ceasefire. It has become a sectoral confrontation between the Sunnis and the ruling family of Alawites who are similar to the Shiite sect of Islam," Ben-Aharon explained.

"The Iranians offered support to the pro-Shiite minority, and the Saudi Arabians and Qatar weighed in to support the majority Sunnis in Syria. If that isn't enough, you have other factors that poke their fingers in, such as Hizbullah from Lebanon. Assad has supported Hizbullah. When they saw the Assad regime beginning to fracture, they sent their own fighters to help in Damascus. Over and above all of this, western countries have tried to support the revolutionaries that are fighting to bring down the brutal Assad regime, and Russia is trying to maintain its influence. Let's remember that the Russian Soviets were sending weapons to Syria back in the 1970s."

For the full interview, including his comments on United States Secretary of State John Kerry latest announcement, download Reality Bytes with Josh Hasten by clicking here. 

Josh Hasten hosts the Reality Bytes call-in talk show live every Thursday from 10:00 AM - 12:00 noon Israel time on Arutz Sheva - Israel national Radio's live internet stream. For free podcast archives click here.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013


"Clearly this move is a threat to us. At this stage I can't say there is an escalation. The shipments have not been sent on their way yet. And I hope that they will not be sent. If God forbid they do reach Syria, we will know what to do."
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon
Clearly the Sunday Times of London got it wrong when they ran with a scoop that Moscow had changed its mind about supplying the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad with powerful and advanced S-300 air-defence missiles, after all. Russia loves playing its little cat-and-mouse games. Vladimir Putin no doubt enormously enjoyed seeing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu grovel a bit at Sochi, trying to convince him not to send those missiles on.

Even invoking the stability of the region, the potential for the missiles falling into the hands of terrorists; no argument persuasive enough to change his mind. Power, quite the cerebral aphrodisiac.

A top Russian official has since affirmed that his government remains committed to 'honouring' the deal; a contract had been signed and must proceed. All the arguments against proceeding are simply transparent enough fear-mongering. And in this instance the motivating force, fear, is insufficient to halt a process that has been initiated and will proceed.

Fearing the possibility that these weapons might tip the scales and turn the entire geography into a tinder-box is simply absurd. Isn't it?

Israel's concerns that Syria's already sophisticated weapons arsenal requires no additional munitions have fallen on deliberately deaf ears; there is quite simply no argument convincing enough to dissuade President Putin. Hezbollah's affairs are no concern of Russia. That Syria and Hezbollah have openly sworn to attack Israel on a number of fronts is Israel's concern and it will remain with Israel.

Should Hezbollah's haste to throw in its lost entirely with Syria destroying the rebels' advance redound on Hezbollah eventually and somehow spell its own death-knell, now that might become Russia's concern, however.

Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov, remains mute whether any of the S-300s with their striking range of up to 2000 kilometres, the capability to track and strike multiple targets simultaneously, a truly fearsome advantage, have yet been shipped. "We understand the concern and signals sent to us from different capitals. We realize that many of our partners are concerned about the issue. We have no reason to revise our stance." 

This is what can be called the blindness of implacability.

"We believe that such steps to a large extent help restrain some 'hotheads' considering a scenario to give an international dimension to this conflict", said Mr. Ryabkov.

Those hotheads obviously referring to Israel, to the United States. Certainly not to Syria, to Hezbollah or al-Nusra among the rebels. So that, Israel's prospects look grim and dim. There is the prospect that Hezbollah could take possession of the missiles, with its intention of destroying Israel.

And the other option...the prospect that should the rebels succeed in their mission of toppling Assad and seeing him flee, the missiles left behind to fall into the possession of al-Qaeda-linked Sunni terrorists, why then, they too striving to achieve their ultimate goal, the destruction of the state of Israel, would be interested in making maximum use of those missiles.

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Destroying Civilization

"We're talking about a regime that's willing to go to enormous lengths to use massive force against civilians, including Scud missiles and other types. We condemn all support of arms to the regime."
Patrick Ventrell, U.S. State Department

Of course, Russia has expressed its alternate view of the irresponsibility of the European Union in deciding to permit Syrian rebels to be armed. It's a scandalously cavalier attitude on the part of the EU. One that will be responsible, without doubt, in heating up an already fiery situation. And as the conflict within Syria grows and slops over its borders, affecting Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, all countries quite suffused with the tinder-box embers of their own looming conflicts, the European Union's decision is abominable.

The decision by Russia, on the other hand, to proceed to 'honour' a contract signed away back when, with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is infinitely intelligible and obviously just. To arm the Syrian regime with S-300 missiles is simply business as usual for Russia. Russia clearly has legitimate business interests in Syria, and the European Union has not. Above all, any interference by the United States in the chaotic affair of a country defending itself against foreign invaders would be intolerable.

The games that governments play in their clumsily transparent stabs at realpolitik...! Russia and America cannot possibly clash country-to-country in a cataclysmic conflict that would see the world shrivel in exposure to lethal weapons meant to destroy all in their path, but the appetite to lock horns, to gain hegemonic interests and ultimately advantage the winning side, is quite simply irresistible. The U.S. consenting to establishing a 'no fly' zone, and Russia giving Syria the missiles to shoot down NATO planes.

Sometimes things really are black and white. The dark side is the combination of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Russia; grey seems to escape that picture. On the other hand, the white of the EU, United States, Turkey, the Arab States and Israel has turned a little shop-worn grey with the rebels they are in support of being comprised in large part of intruders, al-Qaeda stalwarts among the Syrian rebels. With Saudi Arabia and Qatar quietly supporting them.

This is not a war, however, between good and evil, in the final analysis. Besides that it is also coincidentally a proxy war, it is largely a war between Islam and Islam. On either side there are the spawn of the devil, eager to slaughter their opposites. The religion itself is polarizing and becomes hateful in the extreme when it has been cast as the motivator of conflict, as a morally obligating pillar built into Islam's foundation through jihad.

Europeans and Americans are not unaware of all of this. And Israel most certainly is acutely aware of how fragile her footings in the Middle East have suddenly become, with that realization having come swooping down, carrying all other possible scenarios before it.

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Good Luck On That File

"Public service unions have a lot to answer for in terms of performance. They haven't been a force for improved productivity. I have never seen a union go to the wall in the name of productivity. They go to the wall for a better deal for their members and to protect their interests whether justified or not. And that is a lot to answer for.
"Who can't support improved performance, but performance is in the eyes of the beholder and perceptions don't always match. I'm not saying this is impossible, but implementation is the key here and will be far more important than a speech. Let's see if they can make it stick."
Donald Savoie, public administration expert, University of Moncton

Nothing, says Professor Savoie, can be more demoralizing for a hard-working employee than to realize that some of his colleagues while earning the same salary he does, do so with extremely poor performance; they exert themselves to do as little work as possible. Anyone who has worked for the public service has their very own horror stories about colleagues slacking off in perpetuity. And then, when the union goes to bat for them, that seals the sense of absurdity and dysfunction, creating cynicism and low morale.

There's another culture at play here, as well. It's been reported that incidents of civil servants going on disability with claims of clinical depression a growth industry, rendering them incapable of being on the job, requiring that they have time off, referrals to mental health specialists, special considerations, and the situation has been growing at an astounding rate. Most of them are quite simply, to put it indelicately, humping the dog. Welfare beckons, and the union sees to it that those claims are respected.

In the face of a growing deficit and ballooning debt the federal government is looking to cut costs, to make government operations - starting but not ending with a bloated civil service contingent - work more economically and usefully with taxpayer dollars. Civil servants are an privileged group of employees, with excellent salaries and benefits, along with prospects for advancement and gold-plated extras including a retirement plan most people would swoon to attain.

But there are too many non-workers on the payroll, and it is far too difficult to dismiss them, thanks to union intervention. Laziness and procrastination, an unwillingness to launch an avalanche of paperwork and grievances holds most managers back from taking steps to deal with unproductive employees. And now, Treasury Board president Tony Clement has informed senior federal executives that it's time to take action and he's "drawing a line in the sand" with mandatory performance agreements.

"This is an exciting day. This is the first day of what I see as a brand-new beginning for the Canadian federal public service. It's not often one gets to say that. It's not often that you can draw a line in the sand and say, 'This is the turning point'. This is the day we first glimpsed the light at the end of the tunnel." Groan, hardly an inspired speech but it is likely that most of the 500 public service executives present got the message.

The public service, he said, manages poorly. It does nothing with its poor performers, managers exert themselves not at all to demand better from non-performing workers and even less to get rid of them if they don't improve. A tough new directive now calls for increased training, a new labour relations unit geared to assist, and all employees will have mandatory written performance agreements, laying out goals and objectives.

Um, that's likely already standard. "I want to be crystal clear: either poor performers improve and become productive employees or we will let them go. And managers will have the government's full and complete support behind them when those difficult decisions need to be made. I know there are concerns that if you take action you will be on your own. That you will expend significant effort to do the right thing and that effort will be wasted. I'm here to tell you it will not. We have your back. You will not be alone. I will be behind you."

The dismissal rate for unsatisfactory performance is between five and ten percent of the private sector workforce. In the public service it stands at 0.06 percent. A mere 54 employees were given the boot in 2011 for misconduct and 99 for incompetence. "This is unacceptable. There is simply no way that virtually every single person that the federal government hires is going to perform to the standard we expect. It's impossible."

Nice in theory, though. A new approach to disability management and sick leave is also an obvious requirement. But no new funding; money to be found within existing budgets. It costs $43-billion to pay federal public service wages. Everything is up for review, and pay, pensions and benefits are to be brought in line with the private sector. Sure.

All the best...

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Questionable Job Performance Evaluation

"Here we must ask, who handled this important abduction poorly? ... Does it come from the unilateral behaviour along the lines of our brother Abu Abbas, which produced a blatant inadequacy: Trading the weightiest case (Canadian diplomats!!) for the most meagre price (700,000 euros)!!
"Rather than walking alongside us in the plan we outlined, he managed the case as he liked."
North African Branch, al-Qaeda
"Your letter ... contained some amount of backbiting, name-calling and sneering," they write. "We refrained from wading into this battle in the past out of a hope that the crooked could be straightened by the easiest and softest means. ... But the wound continued to bleed, and in fact increasingly bled, until your last letter arrived, ending any hope of stanching the wound and healing it." 
My, such a querulous, dissatisfied, slandering note of grievance. What might have occasioned such bitterness? That the ransom of a United Nations Niger-employed diplomat of Canadian provenance was insufficient unto the purpose of releasing him back to his country of origin? Tut-tut, shouldn't have made the deal. Shouldn't have entrusted the making of the deal to their own version of a black sheep, someone who wasn't a team player, chafed at taking orders he had no wish to comply with.

So Robert Fowler and his colleague Louis Guay were freed from captivity, from the misery of their forced incarceration by a band of desert jihadists who pay for their operations, their costly purchases of arms, by such abductions and consequent ransoms. Abductions which the world deplores, and most particularly those countries whose nationals have been targeted, and for whom to gain release they pay through the nose.

Insisting vehemently all the while that they paid nothing; it was simply an act of altruism that somehow struck the abductors, feeling badly that they had discommoded those whose lives they made miserable, and simply released them out of the goodness of their shrivelled, black little hearts. Heaven knows, in all likelihood Canadians might have seen a better use of $1-million than to waste it on rescuing Robert Fowler from his misery.

Robert Fowler has often demonstrated his gratitude to the country and to the Conservative government, in power at the time and whose decision it must have been to bring him on home, by sharp criticism and ongoing blame for anything and everything that he doesn't, in his great, good wisdom, agree with. That, of course, is a story other than the one that has led al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to have their 14-member Shura Council moan about being short-changed.

The voluminous letter setting out the Shura Council's disgust with the actions of Moktar Belmoktar, a petty-criminal-minded jihadist they were evidently incapable of controlling to their satisfaction, affirms that ransom payments derived from governments seeking to free their captured citizens are indeed used for the purchase of arms, enabling them to carry out attacks against the very governments that have awarded them the cash to begin with.

It's even likely that some of the arms dealers they do business with are ensconced in those very same European countries.

Life is complicated.

The leaders, in the letter, vent their outrage against Belmoktar who decided in high dudgeon to have no further truck with the group, in any event. And he set out to form his own terrorist group. With some spectacular results, since his was the jihadist group  - including two Canadian Muslims - that planned the largest hostage-taking yet, at the BP-operated In Amenas gas field in Algeria.
aired Al-Qaeda’s dirty linen in public, in online jihadist forums.

A still image broadcast by Algeria's Ennahar TV on January 19, 2013 shows hostages surrendering to Islamist gunmen who overtook a gas facility in Tiguentourine near In Amenas in the south of the country. (AFP Photo / Ennahar TV)
A still image broadcast by Algeria's Ennahar TV on January 19, 2013 shows hostages surrendering to Islamist gunmen who overtook a gas facility in Tiguentourine near In Amenas in the south of the country. (AFP Photo / Ennahar TV)
And just to prove that this was no one-off where he got lucky, planned and carried out simultaneous bombings in Niger last week, at a military base, and at a French uranium mine. Could be that al-Qaeda could use Belmoktar's expertise, after all. They might consider begging him to reconsider and return to the fold and use his bold sense of attack-and-atrocities to their further advantage.

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Israeli forebodings over widening Russian-Hizballah-Iraqi intervention in Syria

DEBKAfile Special Report May 29, 2013, 1:23 PM (IDT)
Russian Syrian military drill
Russian Syrian military drill
Forebodings were voiced Wednesday, May 29, by senior Israeli military officers in the face of the widening military intervention in the Syria civil war by Russia, Iran, Hizballah and latterly Iraq too. They have made Syria’s civil war the platform for a Russian contest against the West and a ladder up which Iran and its proxy Hizballah are climbing to top Middle East regional power spot.

Russia, Iran and Hizballah are winning the contest by default against an unresisting US-led West and a hesitant Israel.

 A senior IDF officer acknowledged on Wednesday, May 29, that Israel’s government and military leaders are at a loss on how to proceed. They have yet to recover from the calamitous miscalculation that Bashar Assad’s days were numbered to which they clung stubbornly for almost eighteen months.
Even today, some spokesmen refer to a “disintegrating Syria,” thereby losing sight of the major strategic and military changes overtaking the country that are entirely to Israel’s detriment as well as eroding its options against a nuclear Iran.

At a time that the US and Israel should be using their heaviest military guns to slow Iran’s race for a nuclear bomb, Tehran with Moscow's backing has brought its military assets up close to Israel’s borders in Syria and Lebanon and openly threatens to use them.

Unlike Syria and Iran, Israel can’t count on military intervention against an aggressor by supportive big powers.  According to debkafile's Washington sources, no part of the Obama administration, including its military and intelligence arms, favors military action in Syria.

Even the direct evidence of chemical warfare already afoot in Syria is unavailing.

In Addis Ababa, US Secretary of State John Kerry repeated the administration’s mantra Wednesday by denying “concrete evidence” of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The Secretary and the rest of NATO were deaf to the vivid testimony brought to Le Monde Wednesday by two reporters, who risked their necks by spending two months concealed in the Jobar district of Damascus. They discovered Russia or Iran had developed a chemical weapon that does not explode. The release of its poisonous gases sounds like popping the top off a can of soda and has "no odor, no smoke, not even a whistle to indicate the release of a toxic gas."

So what does happen?
The Le Monde reporters provided a graphic first-hand description.

"The men cough violently. Their eyes burn, their pupils shrink, their vision blurs. Soon they experience difficulty breathing, sometimes in the extreme; they begin to vomit or lose consciousness. The fighters worst affected need to be evacuated before they suffocate."

Wednesday morning, the Israeli Home Front rehearsed an attack on a Jerusalem suburb by a chemical-tipped missile.

 Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who watched, said the exercise is designed to protect Israeli civilians “from the threats pilling up around us.” Israel’s home front is the best protected in the world but also the most threatened, he said: “We must make sure that defense is in place before an attack.
Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon voiced his certainty that the Syrian President would not use chemical weapons against Israel or treat Israelis the way he treats his own people. There is no indication that anyone in the region intends to challenge us any time soon with unconventional weapons, said the defense minister.

debkafile’s military sources find Ya’alon’s comment delusory. They don’t see why Assad would treat Israelis differently from his own people – especially since the IDF has presented him with no real deterrent. After all, none of Israel's three air strikes in January and May stopped the flow of Hizballah fighters into Syria. And meanwhile, Syrian and Hizballah leaders are declaring loud and clear that a war front against Israel is already operating from the Syrian Golan and Lebanon.

The question is who in Israel is listening. And what is being done to make sure that Assad will be prevented from using chemical weapons against Israeli military and civilian targets at a time of his convenience.

The spate of events in the last 48 hours is troubling - to say the least.
Monday, US Senator John McCain was reported to have paid a secret visit to Syria. What did this "visit" consist of? debkafile reports: The senator entered Syria from Turkey through the Kilis corridor which is the main supply route for the rebels in Aleppo, one of the few still under their control. McCain penetrated some 300 meters into Syria, had his picture taken, and left.

A US publication reported Wednesday that President Barack Obama had ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans to establish no-fly zones over Syria against Syrian warplanes. The Pentagon thereupon issued a denial: “There are no new American operational plans,” said the spokesman.
Moscow’s response was ready in place even before the report was published.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the S-300 anti-air missiles that Russia was supplying the Assad regime were a "stabilizing factor" that could dissuade "some hotheads" from entering the conflict.

In the grades Moscow handed out for foreign interventionists: The US and Israel and their leaders were "hotheads" while Moscow,  the calm, rational stabilizer.

In that capacity, debkafile's military and intelligence sources reveal that a huge Russian cargo plane landed in Latakia airport Wednesday with 60 tons of "humanitarian aid for Syria."

The nature of this cargo was not disclosed, but the last thing it must have been was “humanitarian” given the massive military aid Moscow is extending Assad’s army.

Moscow also knocked on the head the timorous decision by European Union foreign ministers Tuesday to lift the arms embargo for Syrian rebels, which they carefully combined with a decision not to send them weapons.

In sum, the US is not doing anything to help the rebels, Europe is not sending arms, the rebels’ Persian Gulf patrons have bowed to pressure from Washington and slashed their weapons aid, while Israel declares it wants no part of the Syrian civil war – even after it assumed the calamitous proportions of a world power contest with Israel’s arch foes gaining the upper hand.

So who is feeding the flames of the Syrian conflict with a generous supply of military hardware? Who but Russia, the self-styled "stabilizing factor”.

The Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Commander Gen. Salem Idris made a desperate show of bravado Wednesday, by threatening to strike Hizballah strongholds in Lebanon if Hassan Nasrallah does not pull his brigades out of Syria within 24 hours.

Hizballah knows perfectly well that Gen. Salem is starved of weapons, just he knows that the US, Europe or Israel will not interfere with the stream of fighting strength he is pumping into Syria.
At worst, a few rockets will hit Hizballah centers in Beirut and the Beqaa Valley. Early Tuesday morning, the rebels tried to ambush Hizballah forces near the eastern town of Arsal. Their operation went badly wrong and mistakenly killed three Lebanese soldiers manning an army checkpoint.

The senior Israeli officer interviewed by debkafile put all these forebodings into words when he said: "A military and strategic catastrophe for the West and Israel is in full flight in Syria, and no one in Washington or Jerusalem is lifting a finger. Israel’s government and military heads never imagined that the Syrian war would take this turn. But we had better wake up at this eleventh hour - before it is too late.”

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