Monday, February 28, 2005

The Red Ensign Rises, Again and Again

The Phantom Observer has raised the Red Ensign Standard Vol. 16.
There is such a thing as a Canadian vision. We had it, years ago in the era of St. Laurent and Diefenbaker and Pearson ...

... when our flag was not a Maple Leaf, but a Union Jack with a Coat of Arms.

When we looked on America as a senior partner and not a rabid elephant. When we could persuade the world that we could keep the peace, and they believed us.

In the past thirty years, we lost that vision, mired in little arguments about provincial power, spending money, and social rights. Politicians left and right caused the people to lose faith in them ... and thus the vision faded.

But it hasn't completed disappeared. I still have it. And so do others.

We believe that Canada can still play its role alongside the Americans in the affairs of the world, that we can again wield the middle power status which we are so famous for.

And thus, though under a Maple Leaf ... in our hearts we fly the Red Ensign.

Another Domino Topples

Pro-Syrian backed government of Omar Karami has resigned posts The Jerusalem Post:
A historic moment in the Middle East occurred Monday evening when Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karami announced his government's resignation Monday, prompting a cheer from more than 25,000 flag-waving opposition demonstrators protesting against the government and its Syrian backers near parliament.

"I am keen that the government will not be a hurdle in front of those who want the good for this country. I declare the resignation of the government that I had the honor to head. May God preserve Lebanon," Karami said.

The resignation was a huge victory for the opposition and the most dramatic moment yet in the series of protests and political maneuvers that have shaken Lebanon and its Syrian-backed government since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The change marks the first time that an Arab government has been brought down by the will of the people.

Jubilant demonstrators immediately shouted for pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud to step down next. Karami's Cabinet will continue as a caretaker government. The next step is for the president to appoint a prime minister after consulting with parliament members. The new prime minister consults parliamentary blocs to form a Cabinet that must withstand a parliamentary vote of confidence.

As momentous as today’s victory was for the Lebanese people it is important that the pressure for Liberty not let up. I remain skeptical concerning the speed of the government’s fall and until a freely elected government clearly holds the reins of power therein exists a potential opportunity for Syria to wade chest deep back into Lebanese affairs under the guise of bringing security and order. Today, the opposition coalition has united for a common cause but can that relationship survive the coming weeks and months? Ethnic strife has deep roots in Lebanon and a history that suggests time is on the Syrian's side.

Freedom marches on in Lebanon

Is there anything more powerful than an ideal whose time has come? Sunday in Beirut thousands of people gathered to protest Syrian involvement in Lebanon reports the Jerusalem Post:
Several thousand anti-Syrian protesters took to Beirut's streets in defiance of a government ban, while a visiting US official kept up Washington's pressure on Syria by calling on it to withdraw its 15,000 troops from Lebanon following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri earlier this month.

The protest Sunday came ahead of Monday's scheduled vote of confidence in the pro-Damascus government of Prime Minister Omar Karami, which is under intense pressure to find Hariri's killers. Many Lebanese say Karami's administration and its major powerbroker, neighboring Syria, were behind the attack, a charge both governments deny.
The Lebanese parliament meets today for a parliamentary session to deal with the Hariri assassination. Opposition leaders have called on the Lebanese people to take to the streets on Monday, despite the bann on mass gatherings or demostrations issued Sunday by the Karami government, to support the resignation of the current pro-Syrian government and the removal of all Syrian troops from Lebanon. When freedom is on the march can liberty be far behind?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

A bombing in the time of Hudna ll

Go away from the computer for a few hours and suddenly there is a new culprit in the Tel Aviv nightclub bombing. The Jerusalem Post carries the story:
The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility on Saturday evening, from Damascus, for the deadly attack in Tel Aviv on Friday night. "The period of calm was set for one month, and that month is over," said Abu Tark, a senior member of the Jihad movement. "Israel did not obey the agreement, and that's what led to our action." The announcement confirms the security establishment's earlier suspicions, which also estimated that the Hizbulla was not involved. Defense officials estimated that the Islamic Jihad in Damascus had operated via one of its cells in the Tulkarm area.

Well, well, Islamic Jihad had originally claimed responsibility on Friday night along with Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade before they issued denials. In the interest of fair play let's blame Suha Arafat and Abu Mazen's mother as well. The more significant angle that has come out of this story is the emphasis placed on Syrian involvement for sponsoring and harboring Islamic Jihad. This is nothing new and Syria does a history of aiding and abetting various terror networks but as they say; timing is everything.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is said to have issued a freeze on all hand overs of towns to the Palestinian Authority until Abu Mazen acts decisively to disarm the terrorists groups but it is interesting to note that Mofaz felt the need to emphasize that the disengagement from Gaza would remain on schedule despite the freeze or any lack of action on the part of Abu Mazen in dismantling the terror groups. If Abu Mazen cannot be relied upon to rein in the terrorists; how does it benefit Israelis to sleep safer at night if the security sensitive Philadelpi corridor is turned over to the control of the Palestinian Authority?

Just another bombing in time of Hudna

There has been another suicide bombing Friday night at a night club in Tel Aviv which is frequented by young Israelis. Haaretz reports are 4 dead and 49 injured. According to reports, all the usual suspects are making all the appropriate noises of both responsibility and then denials:
Defense sources told Haaretz that the bomber, Abdullah Badran, a resident of the West Bank town of Deir al Ghusun, had connections to Fatah and Islamic Jihad agents in the Tul Karm region as well as with Hezbollah. Palestinian security officials issued a similar assessment.

The village of Deir al Ghusun is adjacent to the separation fence. Security officials said it remains unclear how Badran was able to reach Tel Aviv, though they believe Badran traveled through Jerusalem.

The Israel Defense Forces imposed a curfew early Saturday on a West Bank village, arresting five people and informing a family that their son was the suicide bomber who earlier attacked a Tel Aviv night club, Palestinian security officials said.

The Palestinian Authority's interior minister, Nasser Yousef, told reporters that PA security services had arrested two Palestinians in connection with the attack. No further details were given.


The militant Islamic Jihad organization initially claimed responsibility for the attack, while members of the Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah was involved in the bombing.

A senior Palestinian security official confirmed the bomber was recruited by Hezbollah. The official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the bomber, a Palestinian from the northern West Bank town of Tul Karm, was a member of the Brigades. The army said troops had carried out an arrest raid and that a curfew had temporarily been imposed, but gave no further details. Among those arrested were two of Badran's brothers and the local Imam, Palestinian officials said.


Al Aqsa has largely honored Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' efforts to maintain a recent cease-fire with Israel. But elements of the militant group, which is comprised of many autonomous cells, are widely believed by Israeli and Palestinian officials of receiving orders and funding from Hezbollah.

In Beirut, however, a Hezbollah spokesman denied involvement. "As far as we are concerned, there is no need to respond to such lies," the official said.

Ynets is reporting this:

The Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades initially claimed responsibility for the attack, but later denied any connection. Senior Palestinian Authority officials condemned the bombing and said they accept the later denials.

A Hamas spokesperson said his group is still committed to maintaining the current calm.

A source at the Palestinian Authority said it would "not be silent" about the shattering of the truce and would pursue whoever planned the attack and "inflict the required punishment".

Despite denials, members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Islamic Jihad reportedly fired in the air in celebration after hearing of the attack.

The problem with plausible denials of responsibility from Hamas is that earlier in the day a Hamas member was arrested by Israeli security forces in the midst of preparation for a suicide attack.

Really, I am starting to believe that Arafat is not dead. He is still very much with us, if not in flesh, than at least in spirit. Anyone attempting to catalogue his legacy of terror must also inventory his long history of plausible denialability while the blood ran from his fingers. It is imperative to remember that the current Palestinian leadership apprenticed and thrived under Arafat’s long tenure.

So who might be responsible for Friday’s nightclub bombing in Tel Aviv? Well, the Palestinians Authorities are denying all responsibility and jointly pointing fingers with Israel that Hezbollah is responsible. This story is found at Ynet News:
TEL AVIV - Hizbullah terrorists may have been involved in carrying out the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv Friday, Israeli and Palestinian officials say. A Hizbullah source in Beirut, however, denied his group was connected to the attack, which claimed the lives of at least four people.

Security officials estimate that several terror groups may have been involved in perpetrating the attack. Earlier, both the Islamic Jihad and the Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the bombing. Meanwhile, Fatah and Islamic Jihad members fired shots in the air in celebration following the attack.


Recently, security officials warned of the growing Hizbullah involvement in attempts to carry out attacks in Israel. The group reportedly offered large sums of money to terrorists willing to target Israel. The attack took place as Israel was in the process of lifting restrictions on the Palestinians and allowing freer passage through the West Bank. Security officials will be checking whether the relaxed security procedures helped terrorists carry out the attack.

The Palestinian Authority was quick to condemn the bombing and said the Palestinian government should not be held responsible. There is no room for sanctions against the Authority or freezing contacts between the two sides, spokesman Saeb Erekat said. Palestinian sources said the Islamic Jihad or any other Palestinian group have no interest in carrying out such an attack at this time. "Foreign hands were involved in the attack," a PA source told Ynet. Other senior Palestinian officials told Ynet they tend to agree with Israeli estimates regarding Hizbullah involvement in the bombing.

If Hezbollah is behind the Tel Aviv nightclub bombing than it is the first time since the 1992 Israel Embassy bombing in Argentina that Hezbollah has acted outside of Lebanon. It is important to note that there have been various intelligence reports in the last 18 months that have suggested that Hezbollah has had sleeper cells inside the West Bank and Gaza.

I remain skeptical of all official denials, and my skepticism extends to Israeli officials seeking to point the finger at Hezbollah. Sharon’s Gaza pull-out is increasingly an unpopular move among ordinary Israelis as more and more details come to light about the upcoming pull-out from Gaza. The Sharon government coalition has so far managed to dodge all cries from non-coalition leaders and from a significant portion of Sharon’s Likud party who have now taken to calling for a referendum on the Gaza pull-out. If the bombing was seen to the work of homegrown terrorists the Israeli public outcry could bring down the Sharon government and end the Gaza pull-out.

Since Abu Mazen has assumed the leadership of the Palestinian Authority he has yet to take concrete steps to dismantle the terror networks in his lair but rather has worked diligently in incorporating the various fractions under his plan. What I have yet to hear is what carrots Abu Mazen has offered Hamas & Islamic Jihad for the alleged ceasefire. Both groups are committed to the destruction of the Jewish state and have categorically denounced the two state solution at each and every opportunity. It is commonly assumed that the release of members from Israeli jails and a seat at the table are the carrots but I would not be surprised if the Phased Plan vision of the PLO was not offered as well.

This week the Palestinian Authority has been seeking significant military equipment and hardware internationally which can lead to the plausible conclusion that the Palestinian Authority is not committed to a peaceful two state solution and is still operating under the PLO Phased Plan for the destruction of the Jewish State. A state committed to peace would not use international aid money earmarked for repairing the economy and infrastructure and then choose purchasing armored carriers instead. I remain highly suspicious of the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to the vision of a “two states solution, living in peace, side by side” and speculate that it is all subterfuge on the part of the Palestinian Authority. Official outsourcing of responsibility to third parties for terrorism has been a cornerstone of Palestinian relations since its inception and allowing the vultures to feed now and then only increases the PA’s street creds.

Making Dreams Come True: From Russia with Love

Every rogue state’s favourite international Arms dealer, Vladimir Putin, is now considering the sale of military equipment to the Palestinian Authority reports the Jerusalem Post:
Moscow is considering resuming sales of military equipment to the Palestinian Authority, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday. "There have been requests about extra sales of hardware, including armored personnel carriers, to the Palestinians," Lavrov was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency. "These requests are being considered. I believe this issue will be resolved."

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov points out the rationale for arming the Palestinians:
"The Palestinian leadership has proven its ability to keep the situation under control," Lavrov said. "It has also proven its ability to coordinate the activities of all Palestinian organizations, including those who hold tough positions toward the Israelis."

He must be referring to Abu Mazon’s simply inspired decision to incorporate 350 wanted terrorists from Islamic Jihad, Hama and Al-Aqasa Martyrs Brigade into the security forces of the Palestinian Authority. If this deal goes through who wants to call the odds that the Israelis will be one step closer to the sea?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Not my Neighborhood

One of the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission was that the security apparatus of the United States experienced a failure in imagination for not imaging the potential of a hostile group executing a 9/11-style attack on the United States before it became a reality.

Even after the 9/11 Commission published their findings the majority of Canadians, the mainstream media and the politicians of this country fail to fully comprehend the role imagination plays in the security of the nation. If you try to face the next threat or fight the next war in the same way you fought the last, you doom yourself to failure and oblivion. The attack methods of war are not stagnant and unchanging whether your nation participates or not in the development of tactics and strategy. There are no axioms in waging an attack that can be considered the mathematical equivalent of 2 + 2=4 except perhaps this; threats constantly evolve.

Canadians commonly assume that any entity that is openly belligerent and hostile to the United States recognizes Canada as completely different sovereign state and is therefore undeserving of same attention or treatment metered out to our American neighbors. In fact, groups hostile to the US perceive Canada, (whether Canadians like it or not) as a proxy of the United States. They judge us to have far more in common with our American neighbors and perceive our differences as insignificant. They observe our lack of defense (both capacity and mobility) as further evidence of our proxy statehood and judge us to be an Achilles heel of Uncle Sam. Our very pacifism offers them an opportunity to be exploited and not as a virtue to be cherished for its own sake.

Think I am wrong? Think Ahmed Ressam, the millienium bomber or the Kahdr family. Go travel to a third world country and watch how they roll their eyes when you try to correct them that you are not an American.

If I was a hostile entity/nation wanting to attack the United States and/or Proxy Nation of the US with a ballistic weapon. I would not necessarily plan to execute my attack from the confides of my physical space/nation. Hence, the long-range capacity of my ballistic missiles would not necessarily have to travel 10,000 plus miles to deliver an effective attack. I might develop my delivery system to be capable of launching a strike from a ship disguised as a common commercial vessel traveling the busy waterways of the Pacific, Atlantic or even the Arctic area, which offers several innate advantages in subterfuge. Three lessons to be drawn from the new millennium are that our enemies; do not lack imagination or resolve nor do they suffer from a shortage of volunteers to launch suicidal style attacks.

Mr. Dithers says no to Canadian participation in the development of a ballistic defense shield around the North American perimeter and yet his government seems to labour under the belief that even without Canadian participation in a defensive missile shield Canadians will have a measure of influence and the retain the right to dicker endlessly with our American neighbors on what is the most effective and appropriate course of action to take when the incomings approach our yard.

I’d like to say to my fellow compatriots that the time has come to raise your eyes from the ground, take a deep breathe and look around but with Mr. Dithers in charge -- the safest spot may very well be with your head down and tucked firmly between your knees.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Apologies to Leonard Cohen

Mr. Dither’s missed another opportunity to change his 'cafeteria style fiscal management' and the dead tree pundits are predicting his government will survive to dither another day. They have had their say, so now I will weight in with the Amazonian reaction (and unlike the liberals, I won’t even make you wait till 2009):

So the budget has been presented
And who would have guessed?
It would leave us all so vacant and so deeply unimpressed.
I guess it’s like our visit to the moon or to that other star.
I guess you go for nothing,
if you really want to go that far.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Just another reason not to visit the Nile.

From Little Green Footballs this morning I learned that Israel’s largest daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, has an online English edition. My eye was immediately captured by this article called, "On the Brink of Extinction"; which reports on the various reasons for the accelerated decline in the Christian Communities in the Middle East.
In the 1930s, George Antonius authored his seminal work on Arab nationalism, “The Arab Awakening.” Michel Aflaq established the pan-Arab Ba’ath party, and Anton Sa’ada formed the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

George Habash, Nayef Hawatmeh, and Wadia Hadad established the Arab nationalist movement, which gave rise to the PLO’s Palestinian Liberation Organization’s left wing groups. These educated Christian Arabs and others (such as former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz) attempted to blur the religious distinctions among Arabs, partly by adopting a fiery anti-Zionist stance. Similarly, Christians have also distinguished themselves among the Israeli Arab leadership.

However, the pressure exerted by radical Islam, which barely tolerated the autonomous Christian presence amidst it, had its influence. In the past decade, Christians have almost completely vanished from the Israeli Arab community and Arab world’s leadership.

The reason is, first and foremost, demographic - Christian Arabs are quickly becoming an extinct minority. An especially low natural growth rate coupled with stepped-up emigration have dropped their share to 1.7 percent of Israel’s population (160,000).

The intifada accelerated their decline: thousands left the Bethlehem area to for South America and are not planning to return. Meanwhile, the Copts in Egypt are already paying a "skull tax" (jizyah) to radical Muslims, while Lebanon is continuing to lose its Christians. These data have led the Vatican to estimate Christian communities in the region will vanish in several years.

So, now the secular Egyptian government is turning a blind eye as radical Islamic groups levy a "skull tax"” on Coptic Egyptians. My jaw wouldn’t be dropping off the floor if this were reputed to be happening in Iran, Yeman or Saudi Arabia but secular Egypt? So now I have another reason not to visit.

Domino Watch

I have no idea how many read (or still read as the case may be) the Western Standard’s blog since the Specter commenced flaming; but if you haven’t visited The Shotgun lately, let today be the day to return. Ezra Levant has posted pictures of Lebanon answering Freedom’s Siren call.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Don't ask Canadians, ask Nanny instead

According to a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll 75% of Canadians do not think that the United States should try to promote the creation of democratic governments in other countries.

Geez, what do you expect from a country where an elected member of the ruling political party can stand up and say, "The government will not tolerate statements that create dissonance in our society" and the official Opposition and/or the Canadian public did not howled her down in outrage. She should have been run out of Parliament on a rail and not returned with a majority.

Of course, most of my fellow patriots do not believe in making a commitment to encouraging free and democratic countries – that’s why Mr. Dither’s goes to China to sign trade agreements rather than seeking out mutual interests or common ground in countries like, say Poland or the Czech Republic. Most Canadians think the Americans have it all wrong on Cuba and view Fidel Castro as a benign uncle-figure who brought literacy and health care to millions of Cubans and to hell with the all those poets, musicians, writers or other general malcontents who do not want to wallow in a Cuban style gulag.

Why would the majority of Canadians be interested in promoting freedom and democracy in other countries when the majority of Canadians voted for a political party that is far too busy legislating away their individual freedoms and parliamentary democracy under the guise of Liberal Nanny Knows Best?

(tipped off by Neale News)

Teheri’s Take on Lebanese People Power

I have long been an admirer of Amir Teheri’s political commentary. He is one of the more lucid and politically sharp Mid East pundits writing in the English Press today. Today’s New York Post column does not disappoint:
Hariri's murder has ended elite politics by bringing into the picture a new element. That element is people power, the same force that swept away the totalitarian regimes of Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s and, more recently, led Ukraine into a second liberation.

Over the decades, Syria has become a master in the art of manipulating the Lebanese political elite. It has promoted its clients within each religious community and, practicing divide and rule, set one community against another. Whenever faced with a particularly tenacious adversary, it has used murder as the weapon of last resort.

In that context, it has killed dozens of "troublemakers," including two elected presidents of Lebanon, one Grand Mufti of Sunni Muslims, a paramount leader of the Druze community, several parliamentarians and a number of editors and publishers. The time-tested policy worked each time because Lebanon's politics remained confined to the elites — a sort of aristocracy that feared the power of the people almost as much as it loathed the Syrians.

Hariri's murder, however, has triggered the law of unintended consequences. It has put the people center stage and forced the political aristocrats to abandon their tradition of double-talk and petty calculations. The genie of people power has come out of the bottle and no amount of political chicanery will send it back in. Nor can Syria dispatch its tanks to crush the demonstrators on the streets of Beirut as the Soviet Union did in Prague in 1968.

"This is the start of Lebanon's second war of independence," says parliamentarian Marwan Hamade. "We are determined that Hariri's tragic death be transformed into the rebirth of our nation." Those who have wondered where next the flame of freedom may rise in the Middle East have their answer. After free and fair elections in Iraq, it is now the turn of Lebanon to break the shackles of tyranny and take the path of democracy.


Free elections in Lebanon, after free elections in the Palestinian Authority and Iraq, will speed up the dismantling of other despotic regimes in the Middle East, thus bringing this vital region into the mainstream of post-Cold War global politics. Whether anyone likes it or not, regime-change must remain the name of the game in the region until people-based governments are established wherever this is not already the case.

Regime-change, however, need not be pursued solely through military means (although this must not be discarded). In countries where internal mechanisms for peaceful change exist, the task facing the major democracies is to help trigger them into action. Today, Lebanon is one such case. Any failure to seize the moment would amount to a betrayal of the democratic aspirations of the Lebanese people.


(tipped off by Instapundit)

The Road to Damascus

The Lebanese Daily Star reports:
Opposition politicians led the march, followed by students and citizens of all ages clad in red and white, the colors of the Lebanese flag and the anti-Syrian uprising. Some banged on pots, while others carried mops in response to Jumblatt's pledge that the Lebanese people will "swipe away the dirt," of the Syrian intelligence and the pro-Syrian government.

At 12:55 p.m., the exact time of Hariri's murder, a deathly silence descended on the crowd as the multitude of protesters observed a moment of silence. Showing their support in Doha, Kuwait and Paris, scores of protesters gathered in support of the opposition and to commemorate Hariri's murder. Kesrouan MP Fares Boueiz said, "This is an intifada. People from all religions and areas have come here to cry out for freedom, sovereignty and independence."

The Jerusalem Post posts this:
But the calls were loudest in Beirut, where over 100,000 Lebanese took to the streets yelling "Out with Syria." The city had not seen such a large protest since the end of the civil war in 1990. At 8:55 p.m. they all stood for a minute's silence – in the place and at the time the fatal explosion went off a week ago.

Waving banners reading "Independence 2005" and sporting scarves in the national colors of red and white, the protesters then marched to Martyrs' Square, where they held their demonstration against Syria and their government. The military and police were out in full force, but they were accepting flowers and did not interfere with the streams of demonstrators who walked past their roadblocks.

Tens of thousands took to the streets in Beirut yesterday to protest Syrian involvement in Lebanon. Lebanon has a long tortured history of division by ethnic strife. This is a country where ethnic hatreds rage long and reaches deep into the national psyche. And yet, Hariri’s assassination has done what many thought could not be done; Druze, Shiite, Sunni, and Christian have finally found common cause and ground. That fact alone should be giving the Syrians a long pause. And yet, the best Damacus could do is issue the refrain "leave soon" according to the Taef Agreement.
In a bid to ease tensions, Arab League chief Amr Mussa held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara. Assad is willing to withdraw Syrian troops from neighbouring Lebanon in line with the Taef accords that ended the civil war there, Mussa said. "During our meeting, President Assad expressed his firm desire, more than once, to continue implementing the Taef accord and to withdraw from Lebanon in keeping with this agreement," Mussa said after talks with Assad in Damascus. "The Taef and withdrawal from Lebanon are part of Syrian policy. Steps in these matters will be taken shortly," Mussa added.

The Taef Accord was created in 1989; 16 years after its conception the Syrians have yet to leave Lebanon. The Taef Accord gives no time table for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon and only signals that the Syrians have the intent to do so "one day". There is no time like the present; and today would be better than tomorrow for taking the road that leads back to Damacus.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Remember when Britannia ruled the waves? Well, now she leads the Pink!

The Royal Navy is to place advertisements for recruits in the Pink Paper as part of a new campaign to recruit homosexual sailors. The move follows its decision to sign up to the Diversity Champions programme run by the equal rights charity Stonewall, the first time a branch of the armed forces has done so.

Commander Tim Kingsbury, the Royal Navy's diversity and equality policy officer, said the scheme would initially involve providing commanding naval officers with the necessary information to best understand and support homosexual staff. He said Navy top brass still "needed to understand better the needs of one group of personnel and to encourage them that they are part of the mainstream. Commanding officers have a key role to play in creating a culture in which gay and lesbian personnel feel confident that they work without being harassed or bullied because of their orientation," Commander Kingsbury said.

The move, which follows the change in 2000 to legally permit the recruitment of homosexual sailors, will see seminars, pamphlets and specific advice offered to servicemen, said Ben Summerskill, the chief excecutive of Stonewall. The charity will advise on promoting role models, collecting data on sexual orientation and implementing homosexual-friendly relocation allowances, travel benefits and bereavement leave.

There are an estimated 2,100 homosexual personnel in the Navy and it is hoped the programme will encourage more to "come out". "I think the Navy have been very courageous to engage with this so publicly," Mr Summerskill said. "We hope that the RAF and the army will be following shortly." He said forces staff had become so sophisticated and highly trained that they could no longer afford to lose them as a result of prejudice.

This certainly is not Admiral Lord Nelson's Royal Navy.

(tipped off by Neale News)

Tall Dogs/Small Dogs

When my youngest, the "Dread" was born, he was 24 ½ inches long. From the beginning, he favoured his Da’s physical stature but his mother’s colouring. It made parenting him a bit more of a challenge as that he was well able to reach for trouble at younger age than most of his peer group and he lacked the cognitive reasoning ability that an older child had who was the same size.

By the time the first term ended in grade 1, I came to the realization that I would never have to worry about this child’s ability to make money. Dreadie had begged me to buy him a bag of 100 assorted sized marbles for a $1.49 at the corner variety store. A week later while I was sorting the laundry I discovered $15 in small change in pockets of his pants. Naturally, this lead to an episode of Good Mommy/Scarey Mommy/Bad Mommy. To cut to the chase, he was selling marbles to his classmates at an enormous profit. I let him keep the proceeds, but I did make him re-imburse me for his start-up capital. Personal experience tells me that there might be something to this study:
A boy's height in the first 12 months of his life can determine his job prospects and salary, the latest research suggests.

A study of more than 4,500 men showed that those who were taller than average by the time they were one year old earned more than their shorter counterparts 50 years later, irrespective of their family background. Growth after the first 12 months seemed to be much less important. A child who was 28in or less in height at the age of one was twice as likely to be doing manual work in adulthood compared to a boy who was more than 31½in in height at the same age.

But on further reflection, I am consigning this research to the dustbin of useless trivia, as my late husband stood at 7 ft, ¼ inches, well taller than average, but he died a very poor man.

(tipped off by Neale News)

The Dominos are falling

House speaker Nabih Berri announced yesterday that the government of Lebanon "is willing to cooperate with a UN investigating team, within procedures and terms that will preserve Lebanon's sovereignty and internal jurisdiction" which is in direct contradiction to a statement issued Saturday by Lebanese Defense Minister Abdel-Rahim Mrad wherein he reiterated that the Lebanese government would not accept the proposed investigation demanded by opposition leader Jimblatt.

The UN team will be lead by Irish police officer Deputy Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald and it expected to arrive in Beirut before the weekend.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

CIC attempts to juggle dominos

Just when you thought the Canadian Islamic Congress could not possibly get any stranger it comes out with this statement (taken from their website) supporting the occupation of Lebanon by Syria:
In a letter today to Prime Minister Paul Martin, the Canadian Islamic Congress said it endorses yesterday Martin's characterization that Syrian troops are in Lebanon as peacekeepers, not invaders. "The withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon should be left up to those two countries to negotiate," said the CIC.

CIC also urged the Canadian government to moderate Washington's aggressive and dangerous policies against Iran, Syria and Lebanon, warning that failure to do so will lead only to more death, destruction and human misery in the Middle East.

To date, the American-led invasion of Iraq has resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqis and thousands of Americans. Iraq has been transformed from country with 100% employment and a stable public service infrastructure, into an impoverished nation in disarray, with more than half of its adult workforce jobless. From being one of the leading Middle East states in administration, education and health care, Iraq has fallen to one of the world's most disadvantaged societies.

The CIC is charging that America's aggressive Middle East policies are designed primarily to shore up Israel's military power and economic advantages in the region, while attempting to divert world attention from Israel's territorial expansion into the West Bank through illegal Jews-only settlements.

I suppose that the CIC is cheesed off that they did not have a vote to cast on UN Resolution 1559. Furthermore, it is a shame that the CIC was otherwise engaged dashing off letters to Mr. Dithers supporting the occupation of Lebanon that no one at the CIC had time to read what a Kuwaiti paper published. And just in case Mr. Dithers hadn’t made up his mind on Canadian foreign policy; the CIC goes on to offer a mandate based on the benefit of their wisdom and research for Mr. Dithers convenience. My personal favorites taken from the CIC's 10 point talking memo ("according to CIC policy and research") to the Prime Minister are the last four:
7. Aggressive American policies in the Middle East are fueling radicalism and extremism, thereby sabotaging the cause of peace with justice.

8. The U.S. must pursue Israel to fulfill its promised withdrawal from Gaza, while ceasing the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

9. Aggressive U.S. policies in the Middle East are responsible for bringing chronic economic instability to the region, resulting in more debt being loaded on the backs of the poor. The only benefactors are big commercial banks who will happily lend money to war-ravaged countries at exorbitant interest rates.

10. Political, social and economic reform movements in all Middle East countries are grinding to a halt because of the disruption caused by U.S. involvement in their national affairs.
What an ignominy it is that Dr. Mohamed Elmasry et al were too busy advising Mr. Dithers that they obviously missed the call by not reading this editorial from the Lebanese Daily Star:
Slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has become Lebanon's latest martyr. This much is already crystal clear by the enormous and continuous outpouring of grief, anger and support for his vision displayed by Lebanese of all persuasions both at home and abroad since his assassination in Beirut on Monday.

And already, the opposition - with whom Hariri was quietly allied and was purportedly about to lend his overt support - has galvanized itself. On Friday, the opposition issued a statement that encompassed both demand and appeal. The key demand was for the formation of a transitional government to supervise a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon before scheduled elections in May. Key appeals were for ongoing peaceful protest at Hariri's murder and against the government and the Syrian presence in Lebanon; for a UN investigation into Hariri's murder; for UN protection of the "captive" nation of Lebanon; and for Lebanese expatriate communities across the globe to assist the country in its quest for freedom and democracy.

All of this would have meant very little without the support of the Lebanese people, which brings us back to the fact that Rafik Hariri has entered the annals of history as a patriot who died for his country. The vigils being kept at his grave and at the blast site by a countless stream of Lebanese citizens are testimony to this. Indeed, the Lebanese people have voted in their mourning - their visits to Hariri's grave and to his family are akin to visits to a ballot box, and the vote is one that overwhelmingly says the time has arrived for the government to resign.


This is a call to all throughout the world for those who value freedom and democracy, because the time to assist the Lebanese in their aspirations is now. An opportunity exists for a significant and meaningful change in the Lebanese status quo - this opportunity must be grasped and fulfilled.

The Canadian Islamic Congress will not heed that call but their 10 point talking points could have been dictated by this Lebanese mullah wannabe:
BEIRUT: Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah directly accused the Israeli intelligence of perpetrating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Friday, as the Prayer for the Absent, which is usually reserved for high-ranking personalities such as kings, was held on Friday in Mecca and all the Lebanese mosques to pray for the soul of Hariri and the victims of the blast.

"Israel has exerted violence on the region since its establishment, and allied with the American intelligence in order to implement corruption through political assassinations and attacks on the people of many countries," Fadlallah said. The cleric's statements came during his Friday sermon delivered at Al-Imamayn al-Hassanayn Mosque in Haret Hreik, in the presence of many political, social and religious figures. According to Fadlallah, the Israeli intelligence was responsible for Hariri's assassination because Israel "did not want Lebanon to be a secure and stable country," and was taking advantage of UN Security Council resolution 1559 to stir political conflicts.

He added that Hariri's assassination was within the framework of the "American strategy of political violence" aimed at weakening the Arab world, which spread throughout the region following the American occupation of Iraq and the toppling of its totalitarian regime. Fadlallah said the George W. Bush administration is speaking in the name of the international community as if it was taking total control of it, particularly when speaking about the new Syrian-Iranian alliance and the threat it represents to the U.S.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Domino Effect: Is freedom on the march?

The Jerusalem Post has picked up a report first published Friday in a Kuwaiti paper alleging that Syrian Military and Lebanese government officials planned and executed the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Officials at the highest levels in Syria and Lebanon organized the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper a-Siasa. The report revealed that two high-ranking Syrian generals – including Syrian president Bashar Assad's brother-in-law, Brig. Gen. Asef Shawkat, whom he appointed Friday to head military intelligence – and a Lebanese general. The newspaper did not reveal the sources of the report.

The Lebanese and Syrian governments have denied any role in the death of Hariri, who was killed by a massive bomb as he was driven in his motorcade through central Beirut. The blast killed 16 other people and wounded more than 100.

The murder of Hariri, a politician who was seen as a key figure in applying international pressures to effect Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, was evidently intended as a bloody warning to the Lebanese to think twice before demanding that Syrian troops pull out, the report commented.

A Lebanese opposition coalition led by Druse Chief Walid Jumblatt has called for a pro-independence – pro-democracy” uprising to stage peaceful mass demonstrations on Monday to demand the resignation of the current Syrian-back Karame government and immediate compliance with UN Resolution 1559 requiring a complete Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.

Already Jimblatt has managed to do what had been thought previously impossible by uniting and leading a multi-ethnic coalition made of up Druze, Sunni, Christian fractions in calling for independence from Syria. He has received an endorsement from the Maronite Catholic Arch Bishop, Nasrallah Sfeir, the blessing of the Sunni Muslim Mufti of Lebanon, and the support of Bahaa Hariri, son and heir to the slain former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. This coalition has already raised the ire of Herzbollah Shiite leader Hasan Nasrallah who warned that any popular agitation against Syria could plunge Lebanon into civil war again.

If Jimblatt’s coalition can turn out the numbers and substain demonstrations in the streets the person to watch will be Nabih Berri, House Speaker and leader of the Shiite Amal Party. Berri’s support will be crucial and could ultimately lead to a Syrian withdrawal and the marginalization of Herzbollah in Lebanon. A Syrian withdrawal and the marginalization of Herzbollah would be an act that that has far reaching consequences not just for Lebanon but could ultimately change the dynamics for the entire region.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Liberal Promises

Rarely does anyone not know where I stand, be it in blogdom or the real world. One of the most disappointing things about the Ontario provincial elections was the fact that the McGirlieman liberals were elected with a majority. In fairness, Ernie Eves was not my first choice in replacing Mike Harris and as I am not a member of the Conservative Party I don’t have a dog in that race; therefore my whine factor is reduced to a tisk, tisk level.

What I found so hard to reconcile about McGirlieman being elected for Premier of Ontario is that I only knew one other person who actually admitted to voting for the Liberal Party and I had a bet with that person. He bet me that if the Liberals lied about raising taxes he would graciously pay my portion. July 1, 2004 came and I gave him a call; then I called again, and again. Needless to say, I am still waiting for re-imbursement of my health premium. What are the odds that liberal guilt might be collective and I can collect here? Then again what are the odds that I will actually receive my prize from winning the US election pool? Ah, those liberals, they are so very prone to dithering that they become simply so incorrigible.

It’s official.

The Economist, who dubbed Canada as "Cool" a year ago now publishes that Canada is being lead by a "Mr. Dithers" who applies cafeteria style fiscal policy to run the country.

Sad, but apt.

Well, well, this is 'ironic'!

Guess who just took an oath of citizenship?. Yahoo news is reporting:
Canadian Alanis Morissette is now an American citizen.

The 30-year-old singer was among some 4,500 people who took the citizenship oath during a ceremony last week at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Morissette isn't turning her back on Canada — she's maintaining dual citizenship. "I will never renounce my Canadian citizenship," Morissette said in a statement Wednesday. "I consider myself a Canadian-American.

"There was a turning point during the ceremony where I felt connected to this country in a way that I didn't quite expect," she said. "America has been really great to me and I have felt welcomed since the day I came here."

Did anyone tell her that Bush won re-election and Republicans control congress? Do you think she did it for the tax breaks? Or was it for the censorship?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Palestinian Authority Watch

The Jerusalem Post

In the first decision of its kind since he succeeded Yasser Arafat, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has ratified death sentences against three Palestinians found guilty of "collaboration" with Israel. It is not clear when the three men, whose identities were not revealed, will be executed by firing squad.

However, senior PA officials told The Jerusalem Post that the three were Gaza Strip residents who had been convicted of "high treason" for tipping off Israeli security forces about the whereabouts of wanted gunmen. Sakher Bsaisso, a senior Fatah official who also serves as PA governor of the northern Gaza Strip, confirmed on Wednesday that Abbas had authorized death sentences against three alleged "collaborators."

Scorecard on the Palestinian Police Force in Gaza courtesy of the Yahoo News: (tipped off by Little green footballs)
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip - Palestinian policemen, who have been given the task of restraining militants, say they can't or won't do the job. Interviewed at their front-line positions, some say they feel sympathy for the gunmen, while others fear getting shot at by Israeli troops.

The shortcomings of Palestinian police were evident last week when officers stood by as Hamas militants fired dozens of rockets and mortar rounds at Jewish settlements in Gaza. Officers also did nothing when gunmen broke into Gaza's central jail, killing two inmates and abducting a third who was later slain. "This is all part of the state of chaos we have been living in," said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' security adviser, Jibril Rajoub.

The poor performance is a result of years of rampant corruption, rivalries among commanders of numerous police forces set up by the late Yasser Arafat and a lack of discipline and training. After the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting in 2000, the deterioration accelerated when many policemen joined the battle and Israel targeted security installations in Gaza, leaving the security forces in tatters. Abbas must now depend largely on the good will of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups to uphold a fragile truce with Israel.

Enough Said?

Destiny’s Jews.

The Jerusalem Post is reporting:
Beyonce Knowles is Jewish. So is Leonardo DiCaprio.
Or at least they're ready to go on-air and say they are, to help fight anti-Semitism.

Several stars of the pop charts and the silver screen have agreed in principle to film public service announcements denouncing worldwide anti-Semitism and identifying with the Jewish people. MTV is donating studio time for filming the ads, which are to appear in Europe, the US and even Israel.
What ever happened to Esther? Do you think Babs was asked?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

When De-Nial is not just a river in Egypt:

As much as I am critical of my country and its administration, I find that watching events unfold in the Middle East produces a profound sense of gratitude that I am not there and held hostage to events outside my individual control. I realize that Abu Mazen is doing his best to show the world he is not Arafat but I never envisioned how far he would go to establish his bona fides. How not to sleep safe in your bed at night from the Jerusalem Post:
About 350 Palestinian gunmen will be incorporated into the Palestinian Authority security forces soon as part of a deal reached between PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and leaders of all the Palestinian factions, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The militiamen, who are on Israel's list of wanted terrorists, belong to various factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This is the first time that members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad would serve in the PA security forces. PA Minister of Agriculture Ibrahim Abu al-Naja revealed that the agreement to recruit the fugitives was achieved with the help of a top Egyptian security delegation that visited the West Bank and Gaza Strip earlier this week. The delegation, led by Gen. Mustafa Buhairi, deputy head of Egyptian Intelligence, held a series of meetings with representatives of all the factions and commanders of the security forces.

"The fugitives who will join the security forces belong to all the Palestinian groups and factions," Naja said. "The move is designed to protect them against Israeli assassination attempts." According to Naja, who heads the Higher Committee of National and Islamic Forces in the Gaza Strip, the fugitives included members of the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad – Izzaddin Kassam and Al-Kuds Brigades. The two groups are responsible for most of the suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israeli targets over the past four years.

"The Palestinian Authority does not distinguish between the wanted men," he said. "They are entitled to join the security forces because of their involvement in the resistance." Abbas recently offered to absorb members of the armed wing of Fatah, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, into the security forces, but not all the gunmen have accepted the proposal.

A PA security official confirmed that the PA leadership had agreed to incorporate Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists into the security forces. He said that Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders who met with Abbas last week in Gaza City demanded that their followers be recruited as policemen as a condition for accepting a temporary truce with Israel.

"There's no reason why Hamas and Islamic Jihad gunmen can't join the security forces," the official added. "They are part of the Palestinian people. The Israelis and Americans should be happy about this move, because it means that these men will stop all of their activities."

No, it won’t. It will just mean that the alleged civil authority of the PA will now sanction their actions. What a way to fight corruption; bring in those whose grasp of morality is tenuous at best. Imagine Toronto Police Chief Fantino deciding that the way to fight and control gun crime in the Toronto area was to offer the gunmen positions on the police force. After all, they have shown initiative and have a proven ability to act. G-d save Israel.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Red Ensign Rises: Again and Again

Chris at Striving Against the Opposition has raised the Red Ensign Standard #15; in what I have come to conclude is the closest thing to a hazing ritual the Red Ensign Bloggers Brigade possesses.

Zookeeping: Palestinian Style

The Jerusalem Post reports that Abu Mazen, alleged peace partner, has agreed to release funds held by Hamas in Palestinian banks. Originally these bank accounts were frozen in 2003 by Abu Mazen when he served as Prime Minister to the Palestinian Authority. The article suggests that Abu Mazen only froze the Hamas bank accounts as the results of pressure applied by the US.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to unfreeze Hamas funds held in a number of Palestinian banks, Palestinian sources in Gaza City said Monday. The sources said Hamas leaders who met with Abbas last Saturday raised the subject, urging him to rescind an earlier decision to freeze the funds. They said Abbas accepted the Hamas request and decided to release the funds, including a private bank account belonging to slain Hamas leader and founder Ahmed Yassin.

One source said the move was taken to encourage Hamas to abide by the truce declared by Abbas recently. He noted that Hamas was facing a severe financial crisis as a result of the decision to freeze its funds.

The world must be ending when it is not perceived as a desirable state that a terrorist organization has to pinch pennies or lacks the financial resources to carry out "martyrdom operations" effectively.

Our World: Legitimizing Abbas

I have been reading Caroline Gluck, columnist for the Jerusalem Post for years. Her latest column, Our World: Legitimizing Abbas, is a must read, and asks some pertinent questions about the lengths the Sharon government seems to want to go to legitimize Abbas. On the coming release of 500 Palestinians convicted of crimes against Israeli civilians:
Speaking to his favorite radical left-wing "reporter" Yoel Marcus from Haaretz, Sharon explained that the issue of releasing murderers is of "decisive importance" to Abbas and his deputies and that Israel just has to do this for them to ensure the stability of their new legitimate, democratically elected, anti-terror, reformed regime.

But something is amiss here. If Abbas is supposed to be convincing the Palestinians that they have to reject terrorism, it seems odd for him to be insisting that Israel conduct a mass release of convicted terrorists, let alone murderers. Abbas justifies this demand by claiming that these men and women are Palestinian heroes and that his people won't accept their remaining in prison.

Yet his acceptance of the notion that these war criminals are heroes of the Palestinian people makes it hard to imagine that he has anything but admiration for the crimes they committed – namely acts of terrorism against Israelis. Far from opposing terrorism and being poised to purge the scourge from Palestinian society, in his first act as the legitimate, democratically elected, anti-terror, reform leader, Abbas is sticking out his neck to support terrorism.
The second reason why Sharon and Ya'alon's support for the release of terrorists is jarring is because it constitutes an Israeli acceptance of the Palestinian claim that the use of terror against Israel is legitimate. This point is made even more abundantly clear by Israel's mute acceptance of Abbas's plan to integrate Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad into the official PA militias and bureaucracies.

Indeed. But as outrageous as the decision is to release the 500 convicted terrorists is; the ignominy does not end there. In Gluck’s column we also learn that the Sharon government decided in a separate gesture of good will towards Abu Mazen’s government that the Palestinian terrorists who were exiled in 2002 for their part in the siege on the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem will be allowed to return to the Occupied Territories.
On the sidelines of the government's decision to release the 500 terrorists was a separate decision to allow the terrorists deported from Bethlehem in 2002 – after they took over, desecrated and laid siege to the Church of the Nativity for 39 days –to return to the city and face no charges for their crimes. This decision has the Christians of Bethlehem in a blind panic.

Back in 2002, the members of this gang summarily executed more than a dozen Christians, including children. They raped Christian girls, took over Christian homes in Beit Jala to fire at Israelis in Jerusalem, extorted money from Christian businessmen and expropriated Christian-owned farmlands. As one Christian put it at the time of their deportation, "They hate us Christians more than they love Palestine."

Yet, at Abbas' insistence, and in the interest of bucking up his legitimate, democratically elected, anti-terror, reform minded regime, Israel has decided to let these war criminals come home to a hero's welcome. After two years of rest and relaxation in Europe, they will no doubt resume their campaign to destroy all vestiges of Christianity in Bethlehem in no time at all.
One of the cornerstones of any free society is the enfranchisement of minority rights. The Palestinian Authority has never shown any inclination that it was prepared to establish or protect minority rights. The persecution of ethnic and religious minority groups (Christian, Druze, Domi, Jewish) in the Occupied Territories by the Palestinian Authority is lengthy and well documented.

Conferring statehood on a group of people that is not willing to protect minority rights or offer equal protection to women under the law is to be a party to that persecution. The whole issue of Jewish settlements could be dealt without the forcible removal of those settlements in the Occupied Territories - if the Palestinian Authority was not committed to the persecution of minorities. The settlement question could be dealt with by offering settlers the option keeping Israeli citizenship by returning to Israel proper or conferring Palestinian citizenship on those settlers who for religious reasons wish to remain in their homes. Certainly a population of approximately 338,000 people in a total population numbering in the millions cannot be seen as a viable threat to any potential government committed to a governing on established principles of democracy and freedom. Which begs the question; why are we in the west supporting the creation of another tyrannical state in the Middle East?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

When God plays a Comedian; are we too afraid to laugh?

Normally I consider reading books by Victor Davis Hanson, John Keegan & Michael Oren a little light reading and read them for pleasure. It is rare that I can actually read a book that makes me laugh outright; page after page. I have often felt that Voltaire got it bang-on when he said, "God is a comedian playing to an audience that is afraid to laugh."

I readily own up to possessing a somewhat warped and twisted sense of humour and no doubt this post will potentially offend the few Christian conservatives who visit my blog from time to time. Luckily for me anyone who is offended will potentially send me a scolding email or comment, not come back, or just de-link me. I honestly believe that our ability to laugh at our foibles and our dearly held dogmas is a saving grace. I was visiting the Meatriarchy where he posts a piece on Sunday Bible Class and was inspired to re-read Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The gospel according to Biff, Christ’s childhood pal. This is how it starts:

Chapter 1

You think you know how this story is going to end, but you don't. Trust me, I was there. I know.

The first time I saw the man who would save the world he was sitting near the central well in Nazareth with a lizard hanging out of his mouth. Just the tail end and the hind legs were visible on the outside; the head and forelegs were halfway down the hatch. He was six, like me, and his beard had not come in fully, so he didn't look much like the pictures you've seen of him. His eyes were like dark honey, and they smiled at me out of a mop of blue-black curls that framed his face. There was a light older than Moses in those eyes.

"Unclean! Unclean!" I screamed, pointing at the boy, so my mother would see that I knew the Law, but she ignored me, as did all the other mothers who were filling their jars at the well.

The boy took the lizard from his mouth and handed it to his younger brother, who sat beside him in the sand. The younger boy played with the lizard for a while, teasing it until it reared its little head as if to bite, then he picked up a rock and mashed the creature's head. Bewildered, he pushed the dead lizard around in the sand, and once assured that it wasn't going anywhere on its own, he picked it up and handed it back to his older brother.

Into his mouth went the lizard, and before I could accuse, out it came again, squirming and alive and ready to bite once again. He handed it back to his younger brother, who smote it mightily with the rock, starting or ending the whole process again.

I watched the lizard die three more times before I said, "I want to do that too."

The Savior removed the lizard from his mouth and said, "Which part?"

By the way, his name was Joshua. Jesus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Yeshua, which is Joshua. Christ is not a last name. It's the Greek for messiah, a Hebrew word meaning anointed. I have no idea what the "H" in Jesus H. Christ stood for. It's one of the things I should have asked him. Me? I am Levi who is called Biff. No middle initial. Joshua was my best friend.
Lucky for me and Moore - Christians do not issue or enact death sentences for heresy anymore.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Not My Peace Partner

Colour me cynical while the rest of the world waxed poetically of what great step forward the Israeli’s and Palestinians have taken by having a summit meeting in Sharm el-Sheik. I remember Oslo.

Nor did I perceive the recent election of Abu Mazen to the head of the Palestinian Authority as sign that the Palestinian people want peace with Israel. Abu Mazen did not run on a Peace with Israel platform. If anything he made a deliberate point of reaching out to the various ‘rogue terrorists’ organizations in the Occupied Territories during the recent Palestinian election.

At no time has he ever condemned the use of terrorism for its own sake in achieving political ends; he has only condemned the recent failure of terrorism to achieve the PLO’s Phased Plan agenda. Before I revise my opinion that Abu Mazen is still operating on the old time table of the PLO’s Phased Plan; I will need to see him take definitive action e.g. rounding up and arresting Hamas and Islamic Jihad members and not sitting down to a meal with them to hash out a ceasefire agreement.

Nor can I see it as an opportunity to offer public praise when Abu Mazen announces a decree that all "unlicensed" weapons will be confiscated. Paying for a license for your assault rifle or your gernade launcher is not a step towards ending the conflict. Nor do I consider it an encouraging sign for peace when Abu Mazen fires three top officials in the Palestinian Authority. This is not a sign for the better but as a sign of a much larger on-going power struggle within the current fractious Palestinian Authority.

Even after Abu Mazen issued public instructions to Palestinian Authority Television that it must end the "public" incitement against Israel the following was translated by the Palestinian Media Watch organization of a February 4, 2005 sermon broadcasted on state run Palestinian Television. To date Abu Mazen has not denounced the current incitements. Reported by the Israel National News:

The sermon was delivered by senior Islamic Imam Ibrahim Mudyris. The Imam explained that the limitation of the diplomatic process is that it can only conquer up to Israel’s 1967 borders. He said that at a later stage the PA will achieve its goal of bringing about the complete destruction of Israel - the “return to the 1948 borders” and the towns of “Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramla, Natanyah [Al-Zuhour] and Tel Aviv [Tel Al-Rabia].”

The following is the text of the Friday sermon, broadcast on official PA television on February 4, 2005:

Imam Ibrahim Mudyris:
"We do not love any land more than the land of Palestine. Had the Jews not expelled us from it with their planes, their tanks, their weapons, their treachery around us, we would never leave you, O Palestine. (Quotes Muhammad, who promised he would return to Mecca as a conqueror).

“We tell you Palestine, we shall return to you, by Allah’s will. We shall return to every village, every town, and every grain of earth which was quenched by the blood of our grandparents and the sweat of our fathers and mothers. We shall return, we shall return. Our willingness to return to the 1967 borders does not mean that we have given up on the land of Palestine. No!

“We ask you: Do we have the right to the 1967 borders? We have the right. Therefore, we shall realize this right with any mean it takes. We might be able to use diplomacy in order to return to the 1967 borders, but we shall not be able to use diplomacy in order to return to the 1948 borders.

“No one on this earth recognizes [our right to] the 1948 borders [before Israel’s existence]. Therefore, we shall return to the 1967 borders, but it does not mean that we have given up on Jerusalem and Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramla, Natanyah [Al-Zuhour] and Tel Aviv [Tel Al-Rabia]. Never.

“We shall return to every village we had been expelled from, by Allah’s will. Why? All the international laws deny the Palestinians their real borders. We might agree, but in the name of Allah, our grandfathers’ blood demands that we return to them [the borders]. Your fathers' blood was shed there, at the villages, at Ashqelon, at Ashdod, at Hirbia [a village between Gaza and Ashqelon, where Kibbutz Zikim is located today] and at others places, hundreds of villages and towns. [Their blood] demands it from us, and it shall curse anyone who will concede a grain of earth of those villages.

“Our approval to return to the 1967 borders is not a concession for our other rights. No!. this generation might not achieve this stage, but generations will come, and the land of Palestine will demand that the Palestinians will return the way Muhammad returned there - as a conqueror.”

I do not doubt Palestinian aspirations and yearnings for statehood. Nor do I doubt that the Palestinians want peace but here’s the caveat; only on their terms after the complete destruction of the Jewish state. I truly hope that I am proved wrong on all counts.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Not your mother’s Shylock

Last Sunday afternoon, the Last Amazon and I did a rare thing. We went alone to the movies without the boys. They were farmed out with friends so that we could watch Michael Radford’s film version of The Merchant of Venice. The Last Amazon has already read the play in preparation for third term English and had asked the million dollar question. Ironically enough, it was the question that I too had to grapple with 30 odd years ago in High School English; how is this play a comedy? I didn’t see the humour then and thirty years later, I still don’t get the jokes. I used the standard stock reply in cases of children asking questions that I can’t answer – let’s wait and see.

We were waiting our turn to purchase tickets when the Last Amazon began a rant of her outrage on the Bard’s treatment of Shylock and the ungrateful daughter. We were surrounded by seniors at the matinee viewing who smiled benignly and indulgingly on her tirade until she said some things that struck a cord with all of us. She said imagine that the Christians were Nazi’s – then how would you feel about Shylock’s fate or what could be worse than a child who steals? That wiped the smile of everyone’s face.

It’s with those words in my ears that we sat down to watch The Merchant of Venice. Radford’s Merchant of Venice is no comedy but rather a dark tale that indicts the Christians for hedonism, bigotry and hypocrisy. Al Pacino gives a magnificent performance as Shylock and does something that I have yet to see before. Shylock, no longer personifies the evil greedy Jew but rather a man scorned and reviled without just cause. In the famous trial act wherein Shylock gives his famous speech “if you prick us do we not bleed” his judgment at the hands of the merciful Christians results in the loss of his property, his ability to make a living, and his G-d. Radford shows that Venetian Christian mercy runs on hypocrisy wherein they know that man cannot live on bread alone but by every word of G-d. He is so stripped by the Christians that nothing is left but an empty husk of a man. We see Shylock’s end as he stands outside the courtyard of the temple alone wherein the door to the Lord is closed in his face.

The cinematography is beautifully filmed and edited. The costumes and set design is simply magnificent. The language of the Bard flows and one hardly notices that English is not spoken in this archaic way anymore. There are a few light heartened movements in this Merchant of Venice. Overall the cast fails to live up to Al Pacino’s Shylock which dominates everything.

Would I see this Merchant of Venice again? Absolutely, although I will wait for the DVD to be released. Currently playing at Cineplex Odeon Theatres.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A mother calls for Justice

"As a mother, I beg every Canadian mother and father to help me get justice for my son and bring him home," says Elsamnah Khadr as reported by the Toronto Star. Elsamnah Khadr’s son is 18 year old Omar Khadr who is currently being held as an enemy combatant in Gitmo Bay, Cuba.

The innate issue with the Toronto Star's article is that the focus is on the effect and not the cause that lead to then 15 year old Omar being held as an enemy combatant. The Toronto Star article serves no other purpose than to act as blatant attempt to create sympathy in the Canadian public for the now 18 year old Gitmo detainee. In fact, the Toronto Star article only alludes to Omar’s activities and subsequent capture with two brief sentences scattered throughout the article.
The 18-year-old, whose late father was a close associate of al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, was arrested by American military forces in Afghanistan almost three years ago after he allegedly killed a U.S. soldier.

The U.S. military also accuses him of killing an American army medic with a grenade.

To give the Toronto Star its due, the article does tell us that US Forces shot and badly wounded Omar in the fire fight that lead to his capture. Of course, US Forces freely gave Omar the medical treatment he so sorely needed for his injuries; and consequently, Omar has lived to breathe another day unlike Sgt. First Class Speer.

For those with short memories, Omar Khadr is a Canadian national who fought on the side of the Taliban against Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. He was ultimately captured after a fire fight in a remote village in Afghanistan against US Special Forces but not before he threw the grenade that killed Sgt. First Class, Christopher J. Speer, Combat Medic, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne). Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer was not only a beloved son and brother, but the beloved husband of Tabitha; and beloved father of Taryn and Tanner.

Omar’s lawyers claim Omar has been abused as a detainee in Gitmo Bay. Omar has been made to stay handcuffed in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, he has been subjected to interrogations by intelligence agents, he has been threatened with rape, he was once used as a "mop" after he urinated on the floor. Omar’s lawyers complain that the government of Canada has failed Omar in two distinct ways; by failing to halt Omar’s interrogations and for not obtaining his release from Gitmo Bay. Hence, the Canadian government is complicit in his alleged "torture". Furthermore, the lawyers for Omar are petitioning in Federal court for an injunction against any futher interrogations of their client in Gitmo Bay as well as damages for the amount of $100,000 for violating Omar’s "constitutional rights."

Well, as a Canadian, and mother of many, I too, second Elsamnah’s pleas for justice for Omar. I would heartily support and lend my voice to Omar’s mother call for justice and request that the Canadian government petition US authorities for Omar’s release to the Canadian Armed Forces in order to facilitate his trial for Treason under the Canadian Code of Military Justice, and if a guilty verdict is rendered; I would ask that the court seek the maximum penalty for Treason be imposed and carried out post haste.

Elsamnah, while you taught your sons to fight beside those who seek to imprison and enslave others; my son shoveled snow from the walkways of his elderly guitar teacher’s home. While you allowed your sons to wander the hills and valleys of Afghanistan bringing death and destruction, my son risked his life to save a toddler from an on-coming car. While your sons were shooting at the defenders of freedom, my son was fighting on the school playground to save a female classmate from a beating at the hands of an older male student. While your sons were shooting at Coalition Forces; mine was giving up his lunch to two South Asian female classmates who had nothing to eat because he cannot bear to see females or younger children suffer. While your son willfully lobbied the grenade that killed another woman’s beloved son, mine dreams of one day standing in his place and championing the rights of others who cannot defend themselves. The day you allowed your son to pick-up arms and fight against the soldiers of his native land he forfeited all rights to walk and live freely upon his native soil.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The difference between Liberals and boys is not the size, but the cost of their toys.

There are so just far too many issues with the Gomery Inquiry into a Liberal sponsorship scandal (not the least of which is why it takes a Liberal an estimated $60 million to investigate a $100 million Liberal scandal in the first place) so it becomes a Herculean task to frame blog punditry on just one aspect.

Who would have thought that Confederation was saved by a few flags, a few commercials, a couple of maple leaf ties and golf balls autographed by Da Boss for $1,200 a pop? I certainly would never have found it credible to believe that wooden nickel whores masqueradered as Quebec Separatists; which is probably why no one asked me to investigate. I would have done the whole shebang for $5 million tops.

Speaking of goof balls, the former Da Boss of us all was on the hot seat yesterday at the Gomery inquiry wherein the Globe and Mail alleged he brought down the show with a goof ball prank that the Globe speculated was authored by a Barney Pundit. It was juvenile and lame, so it sounds entirely plausible that Wonder Bread Boy helped Da Boss stage it. The thought did cross my mind when I was reading about the goof ball incident that if a golf balls authored by Da Boss (who gets his talking points from a guy that speaks to Barney dolls) goes for $1, 200.00; what could I get for Bush golf balls on E-bay?

Who says you can’t take it with you when you go.

The problem with UN bashing as a pastime is that the folks at the UN make is so easy that it becomes the equivalent of using a shotgun on a squirrel. The New York Times is reporting on embezzlement and rampant corruption at the UN and this time it is not Saddam’s Oil-for-Food program but stodgy dealings at the UN Weather office of all places.
An accountant working late one night in July 2003 at the United Nations-affiliated weather agency in Geneva spotted a check that he had signed, but noticed that someone had endorsed it to an unknown third party, one L. Khalil. The accountant's curiosity was piqued, and he began nosing around.

"Within half an hour I had found about 25 checks worth about $400,000 that had not gone to where they were supposed to go," said the accountant, Luckson Ngwira.

That led to a formal audit and a continuing criminal investigation by Swiss authorities at the sleepy agency, focusing on allegations of embezzlement of training funds by Muhammad Hassan, a Sudanese employee who controlled that money. Investigators allege in documents and interviews that Mr. Hassan stole as much as $3 million over three or four years.

It gets better. A woman claiming to be Mrs. Hassan had filed for a death certificate in Sudan for Muhammad Hassan, which Sudanese government officials are claiming is bogus. The question becomes: did Mr. Hassan find a way to take his $3 million when he went? Future Saddams need to know.

(tipped off by the Corner)

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Blockbuster & Rogers are looking better than ever

Years ago I went out on a date with a man to the movies. I cannot remember for the life of me what movie we went to see was but it could best be charactized as some kind of romantic chick flick. No doubt he thought he was scoring points taking me to see this movie. All I remember was that the movie bored me senseless and I fell asleep. He woke me up and I said, gee that was fun but let’s not do it again. I seem to recall that I left him standing on the curb while I hit the dance club alone where I knew my friends would be. That one night started a trend that has stayed with me ever since. When movies bore me, I go to sleep. I can’t help it. Put me in a dark room, bore me senseless, and I’ll check out for la-la-la land, hence I am an infrequent movie goer.

Now after 5 or 10 minutes of previews, you have an additional 20 minutes or less to capture my interest or I’m checking out. Overall that has served me well. Otherwise I would have lost my rather tenuous grip on any pretext of sanity if I actually had to stay awake for 90 plus minutes of Barney or Pokemon movies.

What I cannot imagine doing is spending $50 plus dollars to take the family to the movies and watch a treatise on why Gay marriage is a human right before a flick. If I want to learn about an issue; I read the papers or to books, take a course or go to a lecture. Going to the movies for entertainment should not be an opportunity for the movie theatre to host a political stunt without warning me prior to my spending my lucre. I resent having my awake threshold used up by someone’s political or cultural beliefs that I did not knowingly pay to see and hear.

Famous Players feels otherwise, and as a business, they have a right to do as they see fit in running their business but I have a right to know before I spend my money what I am paying to see. From the Toronto Star (registration required):
A group opposed to same-sex marriage is calling for a boycott of Famous Players Theatres, saying it is offended by a 10-second "still" slide that is running in support of marriage rights for gays and lesbians.

Charles McVety, head of the Canada Family Action Coalition that is organizing lobbying under the banner Defend Marriage Coalition, said yesterday it is "shocking" that theatres are running an ad for a "pet cause." The ads were donated by Salah Bachir, president of Famous Players Media, a separate company, to Canadians for Equal Marriage, a pro-same-sex marriage group.

"It's one thing if an outside entity rents ads," said McVety. "I assumed EGALE (a gay and lesbian rights advocacy group) or one of the other organizations had paid for this."

The still slide began running on Feb. 1 in theatres across the country. It says "I Do" is the same whether you're gay or straight, and urges theatre patrons to let their MPs know "you support Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

Now I am not for advocating a boycott of Famous Players. To me, where an individual will or will not spend their disposable income is a personal decision but I will not hesitate to provide the address where you can write or call Famous Players and let them know your opinion.

Famous Players President and COO
Robb Chase
Phone 416.969.7800
or fax at 416.964.5839.

To express concerns to Salah Bachir
Of Famous Players Media (company which handles ads for Famous Players)
(416) 539-8800 ext 222

In my mind; this is an incredibly poor precedent for Famous Players to set. I mean what’s next – a 15 second ad sprouting the joys of partial birth abortion or 20 seconds of watching Jack Layton inform us what a great and fearless leader he is?

(tipped off by Neale News)

Friday, February 04, 2005

Old Sins Cast Long Shadows

Honest Reporting Canada has announced their 2004 Dishonest Reporting Canada Awards and Alexandre "Sacha" Trudeau has taken top honours for his production of "The Fence" for W5 at CTV.
Trudeau then portrayed Zakaria Zubeidi, leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin, as a "skinny renegade" living "from day to day" with his "small band." Yet Trudeau never told viewers that Zubeidi and the Jenin Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have murdered Arabs, Israeli Jews and foreigners stationed in Israel. Rather than telling CTV viewers that the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades murdered a Canadian citizen in a bus bombing and have been designated a "terrorist organization" by Canada, Trudeau instead referred to Zubeidi as a "leader of the resistance" and asked Zubeidi whether he "loves life."

I guess there is more than a grain of truth to that old saying; what's bred in the bone comes out in the flesh.

(tipped off by Recovering Liberal)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Green Baron has found his Baroness

I think this is a first 'engagement' for the Red Ensign Bloggers and I want to send my congratulates Thomas and Karen on their recent engagement. Go wish them well here.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Freedom of Religion as a lamb to the slaughter

Originally I posted this, not knowing what action the Knights of Columbus took after finding out that they had inadvertently rented their hall to a same-sex couple wanting to celebrate their union. In the Globe and Mail today it is revealed how the Knights of Columbus conducted themselves upon learning that a same-sex couple had rented their hall (which is actually owned by the Church, located behind the Church and run by the Catholic lay organization):
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has just finished hearing Ms. Chyoyshyn and Ms. Smith's claim that the Knights, a Roman Catholic men's fraternal and philanthropic society, discriminated against the couple by refusing to rent the hall to them after learning it was for a same-sex wedding reception.

The Knights, adhering to church teaching, which is against homosexual marriage, cancelled a rental contract that had been signed, returned the couple's deposit and paid for both the rental of a new hall and the reprinting of wedding invitations after Ms. Chymyshyn and Ms. Smith complained that invitations listing the hall's address for their reception had been mailed. That was in September, 2003. In October, the couple complained to the Human Rights Tribunal, which heard the case last week.

And yet, the ladies still took the issue to the BC Human Rights Tribunal after receiving compensation for a new rental hall and the reprinting of their wedding invitations. So sorry, but you were more than adequately compensated for the incident and I am not willing to sacrifice Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Association on the altar of sexual politics.

One final heads up ladies. If an organization is located behind a Catholic Church and on church property you can bet the cat that the organization is affiliated with the Catholic Church.

(tipped off by Neale News)

Blood tests aren’t just for proving paternity

I have always been fascinated by how our DNA make-up interacts with our brain chemistry so this story in the Jerusalem Post has wide ranging repercussions and is certainly worthy of further follow-up:
Israeli researchers are the first to discover unique biomarkers in blood taken from patients treated in a hospital emergency room just hours after being exposed to a traumatic event, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

This physiological "signature" has been found to accurately identify the 12 percent or so of people who, about four months after the event, will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a serious mental condition whose symptoms can persist for years.

The discovery, to be published Wednesday morning in the on-line edition of Molecular Psychiatry, one of the world's leading psychiatric journals, offers the hope that eventually, a simple blood test can be used to screen trauma victims at high risk for PTSD and give them urgent therapy and/or medication.

PTSD is most successfully treated up to six months after the trauma. A highly reliable blood test would free professionals to focus immediately on those at high risk, treat them and follow them up rather than waiting until they complain of symptoms when it may be too late. Such focused screening would also save vital resources that would otherwise be spent on all trauma victims.

Among the symptoms of PTSD are sleep disorders, difficulty in concentrating, irritability, nightmares and flashbacks to the traumatic event. These can occur not only among those who were physically injured in traumatic events, but also among those who survived without a scratch.

The results describe how the researchers, headed by Hadassah University Medical Center psychiatry department director Prof. Arieh Shalev and colleague Dr. Ronen Segman, spent two years searching for and finding a physiological signature in peripheral blood cells, even though the changes that can be caused by a traumatic event occur mainly in the brain.

They took blood samples from 24 "shock casualties" who witnessed traumatic events and were brought to Hadassah's emergency department in 2003. Using a highly innovative methodology, they simultaneously examined thousands of possible biomarkers using microarrays (gene chips). Microarrays, which have been used to measure the activity of thousands of genes at one time in cancer or immune cells, have given scientists "snapshots" of gene activity that lead to better understanding of the cells and genetic machinery.

Of the 24 blood samples, certain biomarkers were found in 12 of the patients both in the emergency room and four months later. When all two-dozen patients were followed up four months later – generally considered the period after a traumatic event when PTSD sets in – the same 12 patients were diagnosed clinically with PTSD; the other 12 had none of these biomarkers, Shalev told the Post.

The researchers believe that after some improvement in the testing process, it will be possible to predict who will develop PTSD symptoms. Hadasit, the Hadassah subsidiary in charge of promoting and commercializing its researchers and intellectual properties, has already patented the findings and is in advanced stages of developing a commercial diagnostic kit for PTSD. Investors are being sought.

Shalev and Segman said that after discovering the signals, they were now concentrating on detecting the actual genes involved in PTSD. Their discovery is likely to lead to a blood test for PTSD in a few years, but it is also expected to shed more light on the biological processes that cause mental diseases and – it is hoped – to develop ways in four or five years to prevent them.

Shalev said that they did not take blood from trauma victims who suffered physical harm because "then we could not prove that the biomarkers were not affected by medications and treatments that they underwent in the emergency room. Those we tested did not undergo any physical medical procedure." Susceptibility to PTSD is apparently not a hereditary trait caused by a defective gene, Shalev said.
"We all have these genes. The question is which of them are expressed in the cells, meaning that they produce proteins that cause the brain to react differently and PTSD to appear."

Shalev and Segman hope the discovery will induce other researchers to investigate the connection between peripheral expression and central nervous system expression of disease that affects the brain. "If there is a peripheral signature in one psychiatric disease, there can be in others," Shalev said.

If you really must spend the public's purse, this seems like such a much more productive/beneficial medical research project on which to settle Cdn $8.1 million of the public’s largess on when compared to funding a study to learn how productive junkies are when the state becomes the supplier.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Long-haired freaky people need not be socialists

North Korea's communist government is waging war against men with long hair, calling them unhygienic anti-socialist fools, and even leader Kim Jong Il has trimmed his famous bouffant locks.

The hair campaign comes as North Korea's dictatorship struggles to tighten its control over information, monitor its population and dictate cultural tastes. It is directing men to wear their hair "socialist style," deriding shabbily coifed men as "blind followers of bourgeois lifestyle."

Somebody needs to tell the Bush=Hilter crowd that a new look has been ordered and for all those aging men who are losing their hair Uncle Kim feels your pain:

The hair campaign, which began in October and is dubbed "Let's trim our hair according to socialist lifestyle," requires that hair be kept no longer than five centimetres. But the state trendsetters allowed an exception: old men can grow hair up to seven centimetres to hide balding. The campaign claims that long hair hampers brain activity by taking oxygen away from nerves in the head.
That really could explain a lot.