Friday, September 28, 2007

Burma - Where Neocon is not a dirty word

The Times Online
There are so many heartbreaking things about what is going in Burma, but for a foreigner one of the hardest to bear is the optimism. There are few foreign journalists here, but people treat them as saviours, encouraging them to get the story and the pictures out, with a touching faith that it will make a difference.

"Tell them to send foreign troops, UN troops," said a young monk at the Mwe Kya Kan pagoda. "Please, fly them to our country to save our lives." An American in Rangoon told me yesterday about an opinion poll carried out on Burmese attitudes to US foreign policy. "Like most people, they thought that it sucks," he told me. "But not for the usual reason. Burmese wanted to know why George Bush hasn't invaded their country yet."
I don't have anything more to add.

File this under - you can run, but you cannot hide

I meant to comment on this story yesterday but time was a little too tight. Ynet News:
IDF forces in Nablus on Wednesday arrested 36-year-old Tanzim member Hayman Zaban, who was involved in carrying out the lynch in Ramallah some seven years ago in which Israeli reserve soldiers Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami were killed. Zaban is the last of the suspects in the incident to be arrested, and was transferred to defense forces for investigation.

"Zaban was shocked when the soldiers came to arrest him," an IDF official said, adding that the Tanzim member was unaware that Israeli security forces were still on his trail. The military said Zaban had eluded IDF forces up until now by moving from one West Bank city to another. Following the lynching, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak vowed that the IDF would reach all those involved.

Nurzhitz and Avrahami entered Ramallah by mistake while driving to an IDF base in the area. They were stopped by Palestinian officers and taken to the local police station, where they were beaten and stabbed to death by an angry mob that stormed the station while hundreds of locals cheered the killers on.
Justice will not ever be fully rendered for Nurzhitz and Avrahami in this life, but a start could be made if someone could be found to restrain Olmert from freeing him in the future.


I have been highly skeptical of most of the reports explaining the IAF incursion into Syria, and as the tales of nuclear stockpiles grow, I grow far more skeptical. I saw this piece Silence in Syria, Panic in Iran at The Spirit of Man. It probably contains the sanest explanation I have read for the Israeli incursion into Syria.

On September 12th the FARS news agency announced that Vladimir Putin would be making a personal visit to Iran within a month's time. At the time, I wondered what possible back story there was to this visit. Now I suspect Vlad may have some explaining to do or just maybe he has to offer a few new tweaks to placate his one of his loyalist and biggest customers? How I would love to be a fly on the wall for that state visit.

Settlement Irony

The Jerusalem Post carries a report of a crackdown on "illegal settlement activity" by Jews:
Binyamin police and the IDF detained for questioning overnight three Hashmonaim residents suspected of planning to erect an illegal outpost in the West Bank at the beginning of next week.

Forces discovered equipment that was thought to be planned for use in the establishment of the outpost as well as what security officials called "propaganda material." The three refused to cooperate with their investigators and claimed that that probe was politically motivated. On Tuesday, settlement activists said that they intend to preempt the political agenda of territorial concessions by creating five new West Bank outposts during Succot.

According to one of the organizers, Datya Yitzhaki, some 25 families are ready to defy security forces and establish the new communities on Sunday.

Meanwhile Ha'aretz is reporting that the Jerusalem municipality can find room to authorize another 1900 homes for Arabs - in Jerusalem. Go figure.

I'd rather the gravy train passed me by so I can live

John Ivison of the National Post sees signs of the Harper government's new more pragmatic approached to China.
All the signs point to a more nuanced approach to China than the one initiated by Mr. Harper last year, when he promised he would not "sellout to the almighty dollar" by allowing concerns about human rights to be overshadowed by the prospect of improved trade.
When it comes to China, a new pragmatism has usurped the "principled" foreign policy the Conservatives advocated in opposition. As one official put it: "Harper caught so much criticism that he has calculated that whatever points he scored standing up to the Chinese, he lost more by risking the biggest gravy train going by." Tomorrow: Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics offers Canada and the world an opportunity to pressure China on its human rights record.
I hope for all our sakes and lives he is dead wrong, and if anything, the Canadian government will take a much harder line on the Chinese government as well as encouraging Canadian companies to diverse the hell out of China. Soft power diplomacy is utter bunk, and should be known henceforth as a bankrupt political philosophy.

There has yet to be a totalitarian government who has been pressured into making substantial human rights concessions because of diplomatic pressure brought by its trading partners. If soft power diplomacy is so effective; ask yourself why the international track record so abysmal, and why isn't Cuba one of the freest nations on the face of the planet? Concerned Cuba librarians are literally dying to know. Poisoned pet food, toothpaste, toys, food, cribs…the list of consumer goods and produce from China literally grows weekly with toxicity.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A woman of valor

Forget Christiane Amanapour. Karnit Goldwasser asks the hard tough questions. Ynet News
During the questions we made eye contact, we looked at each other more than once. The look on his face changed the moment he realized who was facing him and what I wanted from him," Karnit Goldwasser, wife of kidnapped soldier Ehud Goldwasser, said after her meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York.

Goldwasser managed to enter Ahmadinejad's press conference at the United Nations building in New York on Tuesday, and told Ynet that the she was surprised by the treatment the Iranian leader received upon his arrival. "He came in and started to smile at everyone. The reporters gave him great respect… As he walked by me he said hi to me, because he still didn't know who I was. He thought I was one of the supporting journalists, and that he was walking into a place where everyone loved him. He seemed very pleased," Goldwasser recounted.

Goldwasser said she was not afraid to present the president with her question, and asked him, "Hello, my name is Karnit, the wife of Ehud Goldwasser, the soldier who has been held captive for over a year. Since you are the man that is behind the kidnapping due to the aid you grant Hizbullah, why don't you allow the Red Cross to visit the two soldiers?" she asked. The president ignored the question. "Now he knows that the kidnapped soldier's wife can reach him too," Goldwasser told Ynet, "he knows that he does not scare us."

Not carrying the proper press pass, Goldwasser was escorted by security out of the room towards the end of the press conference.
Shame. And not one reporter objected to Goldwasser's ejection.

Fishing in Cyberspace

The Globe and Mail is reporting that the Canada Revenue Agency's merry band of bureaucratic thieves is fishing in cyberspace.
The Canada Revenue Agency has won a Federal Court order requiring eBay Canada Ltd. to turn over the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of all high-volume sellers on the popular website. The CRA wants to find out whether those individuals or companies are reporting the income they made from online sales in 2004 and 2005.

"The CRA is seeking to verify compliance with the obligations and duties under the Income Tax Act of certain Canadian taxpayers selling goods in an online marketplace," said an affidavit filed in court by Aziz Fazal, a Toronto tax officer who heads an audit group within the CRA that is leading the probe. "In particular, the CRA seeks to verify the reporting of income by certain Canadian taxpayers selling goods via the eBay marketplace."

Is it really so much to ask that Canada Revenue Agents have at least some evidence or grounds for reasonable suspicion of wrong-doing before initiating law suits and tax witchhunts on the public dime? And if you cannot comprehend why the behaviour of the CRA has no place in free society - perhaps you should give serious thought to relocating to a country which is more simpatico with your worldview. I hear Beijing is pleasant this time of year.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Talk about those unintended consequences.

Fatah in its desperate bid to win Palestinian hearts and minds away from Hamas has arrested most of the local imans from the 'West Bank' which in turn is causing a severe iman shortage. Taken from the Globe and Mail:
The strategy has helped Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas strengthen his hold on power here, after losing Gaza to Hamas in bloody clashes last summer. But now, his government faces a new problem: a chronic shortage of preachers across the West Bank during Islam's holiest month.

"We are in the midst of a major imam shortage," said Jamal Tawalbeh, the Palestinian minister of religious affairs. "Many of our mosques are now empty. We have requested emergency help from the government," he said. By the government's own estimates, nearly 2,000 mosques lack qualified preachers.

Local "volunteers" have temporarily taken up those posts. In some cases, these new recruits are unlikely stand-ins."The local commander of the al-Aqsa martyrs brigade was leading prayers for several weeks. And he had a gun," complained one worshipper at the al-Raouda mosque in Nablus.

Got to give Fatah credit for employing a real win-win strategy - call to prayer today and be prepared to implode tomorrow.

Brotherhood in the Holy Land

Ynet News is reporting this sad tale of woe:
Three youths from the Galilee village of Arabeh were indicted on Monday on charges of physically assaulting and attempting to murder a Palestinian illegal alien suspected of stealing Koran books from the mosque in the village. The Haifa Magistrates Court heard that the three youths had kidnapped the Palestinian man with the intention of causing him severe bodily harm.

Two of the accused, aged 21 and 19, took the 24-year-old Palestinian from Hebron to an olive orchard where they threatened to kill him if he did not admit to having snatched holy books from the mosque. The two suspects picked up the Palestinian man in their Subaru car at the village's entrance where he was hitchhiking. Amer Asala and Mohammad Yassin were also accused of striping the youth naked and tying him to a tree.
The prosecution told the court that the suspects had set up makeshift gallows where the placed a noose around the Palestinian's head and threatened to pull the chair from beneath him if he did not confess to the theft. Asala is accused of kicking the chair from under the Palestinian who hung in the air for a couple of seconds before fainting.

I do believe the medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch accurately captured the spirit of a Palestinian state in action.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Morning After the Release of Halo 3

At work yesterday I kept soliciting opinions on whether or not I should let my teenage son leave the house at 11pm to pick-up his pre-ordered copy of Halo 3 last night. The river of opinion was running firmly against but an odd thing happened. The more I heard from the entrenched “NFW” crowd the stronger my gut instinct swung towards the yea crowd. Well, maybe calling the “yea” people a crowd is a bit of an exaggeration.

Just before I left work for the day, Montana called me to add a little more pressure to my decision. Montana’s friend Peter would not be allowed to go to the game store unless Montana was with him. In fact, Peter would not even be allowed to leave the house unless Montana picked him up at the door. Apparently, I now held the fate of two boys in my hands.

Montana’s friend Peter is not just a favoured child but the only son as in ‘only child’ of Vietnamese immigrants which means he is cuddled and suffocated to the extreme. Peter can never get a cold. Sniffles and a slight fever almost always mean potentially TB. A headache may be the sign of a brain tumor. Do you see where I am going with this?

For some strange and inexplicable reason, Peter’s parents trust Montana. Montana has become the gold standard for Peter’s parents to judge all over males. This is really quite surprising given that Montana is not even close to being Vietnamese, and Peter’s parents probably know only 50 English words between the two of them. It is not like Montana has ever waxed poetically about his values, ethics or sense of life to Peter’s parents. In fact, Peter’s parents don’t even trust any of Peter’s male cousins/uncles but they implicitly trust Montana to look out for their son.

I didn’t think the idea was particularly wise and I could come with very valid reason to say NFW, but when I walked through the door I told Montana he could do it. As lame and as anal as it sounds, years ago, I consciously made a decision about the kind of children I wanted to raise. I thought long and hard about how I would go about creating the environment which would work best to produce thoughtful independent adults who would be an asset to the community in which they lived in.

I didn’t think it was particularly strange that Montana sought my permission because he knows I am both reasonable and fair-minded – he has a track record with me. He knows when I do say ‘no’; I try to do so in a way in which he can understand my rationale is just. He might not agree with my decision but he trusts I have a valid point. But more importantly; Montana has a track record with me. He doesn’t usually make outrageous demands or ask for general frivolousness.

This little midnight jaunt obviously meant a great deal to him. He has spent most of the summer getting up 5 days at week at 3am to shower, eat and get ready to walk out the door by 4am in order to be at work at 4:30am. He has never been late and he has worked a 12 hour day as hard as any grown man. He saved his money and this was to be his reward for a hard earned wage.

One of the things I believe as a parent is that if you want to raise responsible children you start by giving them responsibility. A little at a time. Otherwise don’t presume because when they reach the magical ages of 12, 14, 16, 18 years they will suddenly, via osmosis, know how to act responsibly. If Montana can work like a man, and he wants to assume the freedoms of a man; than what better way to ensure he acts like a man than to put the safety of another human being under his charge. Besides even Peter needs time off from his prison of love for good behaviour.

Last night, Montana knew he had to be home by 1:15am (at the latest). He knew he had to be bright eyed and bushytailed to get to school before 8:50am.

He left the house to arrive at Peter’s house by 11:00pm. By 12:15am, Montana had managed to pick up his Halo 3 Special Edition, walked Peter to his apartment door, got home and played a few rounds of Halo 3 so that when his 1:15am curfew came round he was found safely in his bed. And all is well in our world.

PS - HALO 3 has become a religious gaming experience for me and totally outclasses HALO 1 & 2.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Even the Elders just aren't what they use to be

So has anybody thought to ask Mearsheimer & Walt why the Israel lobby had not been able to stop Ahmadinejad from speaking at Columbia University?

Speaking of speaking – best line Ahmadinejad uttered has to be a cross between "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country" to Iranian women are the freest in the world. Tell it to Zahra Kazemi.

What do mother and mean have in common?

My oldest son has asked permission to go with his friends to the midnight launching of Halo 3 at our favourite gaming store tonight. He wants to pick-up his pre-ordered copy of Halo 3 with his friends.

So the issue becomes; do I let my 14 year old, 5’11” 175 lb son leave the house at 11:30pm on a school night to go with his friends to pick up a copy of a video game? He promises to a) be home by 1:15am, and b) not to play the game until school Tuesday afternoon.

There is a ‘C’’ too. If I let him go he will let me play the game first. So far I have only committed to a "maybe - I'll think on it". My inner Mother is saying, "No Fracking Way!" which conflicts with my inner woman who says "DEAL".

Who are you going to blame?

I figure it must be an emotionally liberating experience for Palestinians to be able to blame absolutely anything and everything on the Zionists/Jews. Think about it. Poor communal sanitation habits caused your home to be washed out in a sea of sewage – blame the Zionists/Jews. Your son eats bananas, and then dies of cancer; it’s the Zionists/Jews fault. Your daughter is caught shagging same Fatah official for pita money; it’s the Zionists/Jews fault. Ha’aretz:
The four children, aged 9 - 14, were treated for light to moderate injuries, said Health Ministry official Moaiwa Hassanein. They were playing in a former Israeli settlement, Hassanein said.

Hamas security officials said the explosives were left behind by the Israel Defense Forces. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, removing 21 settlements and all its army bases. However, Palestinian militants also use the settlement to launch rockets into Israel.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

a canadian natural disaster

Internationally, Canadians have this reputation or image that we are culturally boring people. Boring as in bland - like toast. What I really don’t understand how we get this image/reputation given that our “public intellectual class” is almost always mentally ill and it shows.

Robert Fulford’s book review of Naomi Klein’s latest “shocker” carries a by-line which also doubles as the most apt description of Naomi Klein I have ever read outside of “fucking loon.”

“A friend to Hezbollah, an enemy of logic.”

h/t Daimnation!

Olmert insanity continues

Relentlessly. Ha’aretz reports:
The cabinet on Sunday approved the release of 90 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture for the holiday of Eid el-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The prisoners slated to be released are members of the Palestinian factions Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), and are all considered without "blood on their hands" - meaning they were not directly involved in the killing of Israelis.

The original list contained 100 names, but 10 prisoners were removed after it emerged that they did not fulfill all the criteria. The updated list of 90 names will be brought before the cabinet subcommittee for the release of prisoners later Sunday for individual approval. After it is approved, the list will be published, and the public will be given 48 hours to appeal.

Just remember, the Palestinians will not release the Israeli being held hostage as a gesture of goodwill for Ramadam.

Same old, same old truce offered

The first line of this Jerusalem Report really says it all:
Israel has rejected an offer by Hamas to renew a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported Friday.

But here is the context:

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's office reportedly contacted a senior diplomatic source in Jerusalem through a third party before the cabinet decided on Wednesday to declare Gaza a "hostile territory." After the cabinet decision, the source responded to Hamas's proposal, saying Israel would not hold talks with the group at this time.

On Thursday, Haniyeh met with representatives of the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza and asked them to abide by any cease-fire agreement Hamas would strike with Israel. The groups expressed willingness to assent, but wanted to wait for Israel's response.

Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin said Friday that if Israel has in fact rejected Hamas's proposed cease-fire, it is an irresponsible decision both for the residents of the western Negev and for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit. "Israel has no other real solution to these problems, and it must reach a cease-fire with Hamas," Beilin continued. "Israel can do so through a third party, parallel to the diplomatic process with the PLO," Beilin said.
Like neogiating with the PLO worked out so well and Oslo Accord was a great success – just ask the thousands maimed and dead.

In November 2006, Hamas in the Gaza Strip agreed to stop launching kassam attacks against Israeli civilians in exchange for a full military pull-out of the IDF from the Gaza Strip. The IDF were operating in the Gaza Strip (Operation Summer Rains) after the June 2006 kidnapping by Hamas of an Israeli soldier from Israel proper.

Here’s the NY Times account of that truce:
SDEROT, Israel, Nov. 26 — A cease-fire in Gaza appeared to be holding on Sunday after Palestinian factions stopped firing rockets at Israel in exchange for an Israeli troop withdrawal from the territory.

The cease-fire, part of an agreement reached late Saturday by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to end five months of fighting in the territory, was to have taken effect at 6 a.m. but got off to a shaky start when Palestinian militants belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched nine rockets into southern Israel.

One rocket crashed through the roof of a house in this Israeli border town but caused no injuries. The other rockets landed in open areas. By 10:15 a.m., the rocket fire had stopped.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel, who had been under intense domestic pressure to authorize an even bigger military operation in Gaza to stop the rocket attacks, spoke of restraint. “The state of Israel is a very strong country,” Mr. Olmert said. “It is strong enough to fight terror, and it is strong enough to show restraint in order to give an opportunity for the cease-fire to come into full comprehensive and practical effect.”

In Sderot, which has borne the brunt of the Qassam rocket attacks, residents ventured out in the streets to shop and get some air, some of them for the first time in days.
Since allowing the ‘opportunity for the cease-fire to come into full comprehensive and practical effect’ more than 700 kassams have been launched Sderot and a whole new generation of Sderot children have been growing up to the sounds of air raid sirens.

And Hamas wants another truce for exactly the same thing. Yossi Beilin thinks it’s a good idea. Theses guys are such jokers.

Friday, September 21, 2007

My fridge is kosher

My grandmother (who raised me) was a remarkably well-schooled old-world-style woman for a woman who never stepped foot in the old Europe until long after she was grown-up. She literally saw everything and anything as a sign or omen of what only she could correctly interrupt. This made her the augur of the family, and depending on your point of view; either the scourge or saviour of the neighborhoods we lived in. While I am a thoroughly modern woman, in a decidedly New World kind of way, there is still a little part of me, who remains the daughter of my old world grandmother.

I just learned my refrigerator died on the eve of Yom Kippur. The Last Amazon told me everything in it smells really bad. I told her to just toss the lot out and I would speak to the landlord right away. According to my landlord, no one can fix the refrigerator until well after Yom Kippur has ended. I find this surprising since this is Canada, and not say a Jewish state, like say - Israel. My daughter, having inherited her great-grandfather's paranoia, believes this is a omen for fasting. She almost had me convinced until I remembered that since I am the first direct female descendent of my grandmother's lineage, I can safely declare - only the fridge needs a truly long fast. G’mar Chatima Tova

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Iran’s Doggie Jail…or why Lassie could not last on Tehran's mean streets

Iran is fast becoming a Monty Python skit come to life Persian style:
September 14, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Since the creation of the Islamic republic in Iran in 1979, the acceptability of dog ownership has been debated by the authorities. Iranian officials say that according to Islam, dogs are considered to be dirty animals, and people who own dogs are viewed as being under Western influence. Some conservative clerics have denounced dog ownership as "morally depraved" and say it should be banned.

Friday prayer leader Hojatoleslam Gholamreza Hassani, who is known for his hard-line stances, was quoted a few years ago as saying that all dog owners and their dogs should be arrested. In the past, dog owners have received warnings or were forced to pay fines for having a pet dog. Despite such harassment, dog ownership has increased over the years, especially among young people in Tehran.

One of them is 23-year-old Banafshe, whose dog was recently detained in Tehran for 48 hours and then released on bail. Banafshe says she was walking her young puppy, Jessica, when Iranian police snatched the dog and took her to a dog "jail." The dog's crime was "walking in public." Banafshe claims the police insulted her, but out of fear for her dog, she didn't protest. She said she told the police that Allah says in the Koran that nothing bad has been created in this world.

"They said, 'We want to get rid of Western culture,'" Banafshe said. "They said, 'You live in an Islamic country, it's not right to have dogs. Are you not Islamic? Why does your family allow you to own a dog?' They insulted me, they even told me that they hope my dog will die. But there was nothing I could do but cry. You can't imagine how badly I was insulted." The new clampdown on dogs follows a recent order by the head of Tehran's security forces, Ahmad Reza Radan, who said it is against the law for dogs to walk in public. The order has left many people baffled.
The Islamic bias against dogs had me baffled me until I remembered this from the Perek Shirah – “No dog sharpened its tongue against any of the children of Israel” (Exodus 11:7). Can the Mullah’s really hold a grudge that long?

H/t Winston @ the Spirit of Man

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Iranian Air Farce

Nothing says 'all hat-no cattle' like threatening to turn out your seventies-style-sub-par-no-parts air force against your ‘sworn’ enemy. Take from the Jerusalem Post:
Supporters of the "Zionist regime" will receive a response from Iran during the world Qods Day rallies on October 12, the IRNA news agency reported government spokesman, Gholam-Hossein Elham, saying Wednesday. Qods Day is held each year on the last Friday of Ramadan as a day to voice Islamic opposition to Zionism.

"The US loses all opportunities to cooperate with regional and other world states by trying to support a regime [the Zionist regime] which is now at its weakest political and social position," Elham said. The spokesman, who was addressing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Israel, did not specify what an Iranian "response" would entail.

He also warned that Washington's insistence on its wrong policies and arrogant approaches would have no result "but further political disgrace" for itself. Elham's remarks came hours after a report by the Fars news agency that the deputy commander of Iran's air force said that plans have been drawn up to bomb Israel if it attacked Iran.

"We have drawn up a plan to strike back at Israel with our bombers if this regime (Israel) makes a silly mistake," deputy air force chief, Gen. Mohammad Alavi was quoted as telling Fars in an interview.

Wow - October 12th. Well, I won’t be holding my breath this October 12th but I do think it’s a tad irresponsible for the Associated Press not to have asked the Iranians to commit to which millennium the Iranian Air Farce was taking out the IAF in.

I just can’t see the shock and awe factor of a tutu

Let me say it so you don’t have to. I know I am a relatively cold and unfeeling individual and having established my credentials, let me say this plainly - This has to be one of the most whacked initiatives in the military I have heard of for sometime. Ynet News:
In an effort to fight the spreading phenomenon of draft dodging, the IDF has decided to form a military dance troupe that would allow outstanding dancers to continue pursuing their vocation within the army. The troupe is the initiative of prominent dancers and choreographers David Dvir and Ido Tadmor.

"Talented dancers do not enlist in the army and leave the country for a career or studies abroad," Dvir explained. "Unlike exceptional athletes, an outstanding dancer needs to be in a supportive environment constantly, and the arrangement that had existed so far – of service that allowed limited time to dance - hurt their career," he added. "Therefore, many of them decided not to enlist and we felt that an entire generation of dancers was slipping through our fingers."
An IDF military dance troupe. Let me guess, they will call the dance unit "Nutcrackers". This ought to shock and awe the Syrians, Hezbollah, Hamas, Fatah et al into submission.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Another vice

There really is a reason why I haven't been doing any am postings. I am creeping out the door at 5am to pump some iron. Just like the old days, I am once again hooked. Look for pm postings only.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pot! Kettle! China Moment!

China bans imported Canadian pork products. For real - like seriously. It kind of makes you wonder if we coated the pigs in anti-freeze would the Chinese would change their minds?

Irony is just not a literary term

Madonna is in Israel and met with Shimon Peres. Madonna tells Peres she was wants to be an ambassador for Judaism...and asked for advice from Shimon Peres of all people (the man who once claimed he lost an election because the Jews all voted against him) rather than say - the Chief Rabbi. Of course, Madonna/Esther, might have a better chance of being the international ambassador for Judaism if she officially converted first.

Real women don't look like 12 year olds

Lately, real life has a disturbing way of changing all my best laid blogging plans, and by the way a belated l’shanah tovah to all my Jewish readers, so I really only have time for a quick hit or two.

John Howard is the man. I wonder if he ever thought seriously about immigrating. The commonwealth could use a little more Howard-type sense.

Personally, as a general personal rule, if a 12-13 year old wears it - I deliberately try to avoid buying it for me to wear. Consequently, this is why I do not own Sponge Bob or Winnie the Pooh thongs.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

To prick or not to prick

The Globe and Mail carries an interesting article on the Gardasil vaccination program in Ontario. What makes it really noteworthy on my radar is how it de-emphasizes the major reasons I have yet to put my daughter under the needle.
On this day, nearly all of the 72 Grade 8 girls at Westheights will receive the HPV vaccine – a drug that studies show will give them immunity to a sexually transmitted virus that could some day grow into cancer. The school is one of the first in the country to begin administering the vaccine. Over the next few weeks, however, girls in specific grades will be offered the drug for free – with parental consent – in the rest of Ontario, Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland. The rest of the provinces and territories have either delayed their programs until next year, or announced no decision.

For many Canadian parents, the vaccine program is controversial. It was rolled out in lightning speed after Ottawa announced a $300-million funding package for participating provinces. If it lives up to its potential, the vaccine will significantly reduce the incidence of a cancer that on average kills more than one Canadian woman every day, and often leaves those who survive infertile. According to trials, the vaccine, marketed by Merck Frosst Canada Ltd. under the name Gardasil, provides nearly full immunity to four types of the human papillomavirus, which causes 70 per cent of all cervical cancer and 90 per cent of genital warts.

For many parents, it's a no-brainer: Anything that will protect their daughters from cancer, even one of the more uncommon types, is worth the risks. But at the same time, mothers and fathers are grappling with a fear of side effects, questioning the motives of a drug company that stands to make big profits and politicians who may be pandering for votes, and feeling a certain queasiness about dosing girls as young as 10 years old with protection for an STD. At the very least, the needle is making for some interesting – and awkward – family conversations.

They don't have long to mull it over: Once those consent forms come home this month in the four provinces with a program, families will have days to send them back. Adding stress to their decision is money. Parents who decline the school-based program and then change their minds, or choose to wait until their daughter is older, will have to pay for the vaccine themselves, if they don't have private insurance plans that cover it. That's roughly $400 for three doses over six months.

I have the cadillac of private medical insurance with one of the largest insurers in this country. This vaccine is not covered, and if you know of insurer in Canada who does cover the cost of this vaccine - let me know, I just might change.

But why hasn’t my daughter gone under the needle? It has nothing to do with sexual morality or lack thereof. Nor has it had anything to do with the actual cost of the vaccine. It has all to do with the potential risk of this vaccine. No long-term studies have been carried out on this vaccine. Even the human trials on this vaccine were speed-dated through the process due to the alleged “success” of this vaccine. Forgive me, but I really have a problem in general with the idea of trusting the integrity and research methods of the manufacturer of VIOXX.

The vaccine will not prevent any inoculated female from developing cervical cancer. The vaccine does offer some promise of protection against a few strains of the HPV (but not all strains of HPV), which may cause some cervical cancers. Condoms, when used properly, offer protection against all strains of HPV. As far as cervical cancer killing one woman a day in Canada - let’s put it in perspective. More women will die from heart attacks and strokes in any given year than will die from cervical cancer…a very treatable cancer I might add. I’d rather teach my daughter how to ensure condoms are used properly. My daughter is many things, but a human guinea pig for Merck - she is not.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Where's the line?

Requisite US Pleas for Israeli Restraint. Ynet News:
The United States expressed hopes that Israel would show restraint in its response to Tuesday's rocket attack on Zikim army base, which left 67 soldiers injured. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the US advised Israel to consider the impact its response would have on the peace process.
Where is the line drawn between peace and war for the US State Department? And is it right at the shoreline or after the Jews are in the Mediterranean?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Olmert mulls over resignation....

Not, but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been busy mulling over the correct response to a kassam attack which injured 69 IDF recruits. The Jerusalem Post reports Olmert will not be playing into Hamas’s hands...big sigh..
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continues to oppose mounting a major IDF operation in the Gaza Strip or cutting off Israeli-supplied utilities to the region, despite Tuesday's Kassam attack on the Zikim army base, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The attack wounded 69 soldiers, the highest number of casualties in a Kassam attack, including one critically, four seriously and 10 moderately. Most of the soldiers suffered shrapnel wounds. Olmert did not convene a special session of the security cabinet or any extraordinary security consultations in response to the attack, as was done last week after a Kassam rocket slammed into the courtyard of a day care center in Sderot, sending a dozen children to the hospital with trauma.

Senior government officials said that the decisions reached at last week's meeting - including preparing a plan to disrupt the fuel, electricity and water supplies to the Gaza Strip and continuing "intensive military operations against all those involved in launching rockets and in perpetrating other terrorist actions"- remained in effect and that there was no reason to meet just to reiterate them.

Olmert's position on cutting the supply of utilities is that this would not be effective in stopping the rockets, and would bring in its wake a huge international outcry and harsh condemnations. Although there was no meeting of the security cabinet on Tuesday, Olmert did hold his regular weekly meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv.

Government officials said a major IDF incursion into the Strip was unlikely. "By going into Gaza," one official said, "we would be playing into their hands. That is exactly what they want. It resolves a number of issues for Hamas." Among those issues are uniting the Palestinians against Israel, involving Israel in a battle that would inevitably lead to "collateral damage" for which Israel would be widely condemned, and possibly scuttling fledgling Israeli-PA negotiations.

Or it could be just like former IDF Brig.-Gen (Ret.) Amidror says in Arutz Sheva:
Former Deputy Intelligence Chief in the IDF, Brig.-Gen. (Ret.) Yaakov Amidror, says that one major reason the government is so hesitant to retaliate with a ground offensive is because it "is made up of people who carried out the ridiculous and irresponsible Disengagement; they know they are responsible, and it is hard for them to admit their mistake." Amidror said that ordering the IDF back into Gaza to retake the very region that they ordered the IDF to withdraw from in the 2005 Disengagement is tantamount to a confession that they erred.

I never thought I would live long enough to see the day when an Israeli government would be lounging around in their swimwear while sitting on their thumbs. Truly, it makes me long for the old days when the Arabs would only be able to shout about wanting to drive the Jews into the sea. Who would have thought in 2007 that the Israeli leadership was willing to jump right in on their own initiative? The only downside to Olmert et al - is how actively and collectively they are working in order to make sure every other Israeli goes in before them.

saying it was so doesn't make it so

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour is reporting the alleged IAF strike last week on Syria was a weapons transfer from Iran in Syria. Taken from the Jerusalem Post account:
The Israel Air Force jets that allegedly infiltrated Syrian airspace early last Thursday apparently bombed an Iranian arms shipment that was being transferred to Hizbullah, CNN reported Tuesday. A ground operation may also have been part of the foray, according to the network. Neither Jerusalem nor Damascus have confirmed the report. But Damascus has denied the presence of any Israeli ground forces on its territory.

CNN said the operation involved ground forces and that the aerial strike left "a great hole in the desert." Although it did not name a specific source, the network cited "US government officials." The jets have been identified by the Turkish authorities as IAF F15Is, Israel's long-range bomber, after fuel tanks were found in Turkish territory.

The CNN report said the IAF's targets were likely weaponry delivered to Syria that was possibly intended for use by Hizbullah. CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, delivered the report and quoted sources saying that Israel was "very happy" with the results of the operation. Damascus complained to the United Nations about an "aggression and violation of sovereignty," saying Israeli warplanes dropped "military munitions" in Syria, the country's ambassador to the UN said Tuesday.

A US military official described the Israeli incursion as an air strike "deep into Syria" that succeeded in hitting a target. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it was an intelligence issue, said he did not know what that target was. Syria has called the incursion a "hostile act," but has been largely silent on the details of what happened. Israeli officials have refused to comment.

Baloney. Phooey. I haven’t heard the CNN report but I can’t help wondering if Christiane Amanpour got to slip a few “God’s Jewish Warriors” in. CNN should be so ashamed. If only it were so. Look, if anyone else was running the country or even if Sharon (from his coma) was; it would be feasible and probable.

No IAF jets are going to target anything outside of Israeli airspace without the direct authorization from the Israeli Prime Minister, and after last summer’s misadventures in Lebanon, Olmert isn’t about to give the IAF a green light to risk an air strike on anything which could potentially go south in a big way in the blink of an eye.

Let me put it another way. If the best the Olmert Cabinet is prepared to do is complain to the UN when Israeli school children are deliberately targeted and under fire in Israel proper - the Olmert cabinet will not give the green light to the IDF act to against Syria. Who knows, maybe it was a USAF kind of Op, but everybody agreed to call it the IAF to save a lot of faces.

not so harmless kassams

A kassam attack launched by Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip finds its not so harmless mark. Taken from the Jerusalem Post:
A Hamas spokesman praised Tuesday's rocket attack on an Israeli army base, calling it a "victory from God." "We consider this a victory from God for the resistance," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said on Hamas radio. "We consider the resistance as the legitimate right of the Palestinians to defend themselves and restore their rights."

The rocket strike, which wounded 69 IDF soldiers, was followed by a mortar barrage on the Gaza border. The Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the attacks. Although Hamas was not directly involved, Israel has said it holds the group responsible for attacks out of Gaza because it rules the area.

Although nobody was wounded in the latest incident, the attack will undoubtedly add to the calls for action which reached fervor pitch following the earlier Kassam strike. Yet despite these calls, predictions are that the IDF will still hold back from launching a large scale operation in the Gaza Strip. According to reports, the hesitancy is in large part due to the upcoming peace summit in Washington, mounting tensions along the northern border, and the fact that Sderot remains largely unprotected. Defense officials are, however, calling on the political echelon to allow the IDF to deepen their operations in Gaza. At the moment the army is allowed to penetrate up to 2 km into Palestinian territory from the security fence.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi were meeting late Tuesday morning to discuss possible military responses to the attacks.

Sixty-nine soldiers were wounded, one of them critically and three more seriously, after one of two Kassam rockets fired by Palestinians on Monday night landed in an IDF basic training camp. On Tuesday morning, another rocket was fired into Israel, landing in a Sha'ar Hanegev Council community causing no casualties.

The Gaza Strip is not chalk full of innocent or moderate Palestinians nor is it a breeding ground of peaceniks. I am not saying they don’t exist over six years old but the numbers certainly hover below underwhelming. Hamas did not change or misrepresent the type of genocidal organization it is for the sake of winning the election. The Hamas Charter was not changed or was deliberately concealed during the election process. Hamas did not lie or misrepresent its political aims. Everyone single Palestinian who voted for Hamas knew exactly the kind of organization Hamas represented, and then, still cast their vote for them.

Islamic Jihad does not operate independently from Hamas in the Gaza Strip. I cannot imagine the individual who is equally naïve and stupid enough to believe that it does. Islamic Jihad is one of the smallest Palestinian terror fractions. It has an almost non-existent operating budget and receives the bulk of funds and supplies from the larger Palestinian terror organization. Its primary role is to take credit for operations while allowing the larger networks the plausible deniability.

Every day in Sderot there are Israeli school children who are afraid to go to school and rightly so. Jewish school children are being deliberately targeted by rockets several times a week with the complete approval of the political infrastructure of the Hamas led Gaza Strip government. Make no mistake, Islamic Jihad could not fire a single kassam without the tangible and material support of the Hamas run Gaza Strip government. For the Hamas run Gaza Strip government to claim the injuring of 69 Israeli soldiers in Israel proper ‘a victory from God’ is almost, but not quite, beyond the pale. What is really beyond the pale is the fact the Olmert Administration is more afraid of jeopardizing the ‘peace process’ than protecting its citizenry.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Palestinian Refugee Camps aren't going all Gush Katif

Even in Lebanon, no one quite does refugee camp like the Palestinians. The Jerusalem Post reports:
The Lebanese government said Monday it would cost $382.5 million to rebuild a Palestinian refugee camp shattered by the summer's fighting between the army and al-Qaida-inspired Islamic militants, and appealed to the international community to help.

The UN relief agency, meanwhile, appealed for $55 million in emergency funding. The appeal came at a donors' conference in Beirut that Lebanon called to seek international help to rebuild the Nahr el-Bared camp in the country's north, and allow over 30,000 of its residents to return.

(…)A government estimate said the $55 million was needed for emergency relief for the camp, and further $28.5 for nearby Lebanese communities affected by the fighting. It also said $249 million would be needed to rebuild the camp and $50 million for reconstruction in surrounding Lebanese towns.

The battles broke out May 20 between militants of the Fatah Islam group holed up in Nahr el-Bared camp, just outside the port city of Tripoli, and Lebanese troops surrounding it. It was the worst internal violence since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.

The prolonged battles, which ended Sept. 2 with the collapse of Fatah Islam and the army's takeover of the nearly totally destroyed camp, left 164 soldiers dead and dozens of militants killed. Abbas Zaki, the Palestinian representative to Lebanon, said at the gathering that Nahr el-Bared fighting also claimed the lives of 47 Palestinian civilians. About 310 others were injured. Groups such as "Fatah Islam should no longer find safe havens and fertile grounds in the refugee camps," Saniora said.

Karen Koning AbuZayd, the UN agency's commissioner-general, told the conference that the appeal includes the funding requirements for the critical needs of 5,449 affected families from Nahr el-Bared and areas adjacent to the camp in northern Lebanon. The UN agency will provide temporary shelter, assist in rent payments by refugees, provide prefabricated homes and support to host families, as well as health care and education for the coming year, AbuZayd said.

The United States promised $10 million in assistance, in addition to $3.5 million pledged in June, Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman told the conference. Germany said it had contributed the equivalent of $5.5 million recently and was willing to look into other contributions. Italy said it expects to contribute the equivalent of $2.74 million while Norway pledged US$1.7 million. The European Union, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Canada also said they would help but did not provide any figures.

$382. million to re-build a “refugee camp”. Well, I’d say that’s some tents. The UNWRA should be invoking the Pottery Barn rule on the Lebanese government. And if the Lebanese government baulks at paying the piper for their army’s bill of incompetence – they can always send the tab to Syria.

Do Nazis ever die?

By now, most have heard some accounts of the neo-nazi youth gang which was just busted in Israel (even the Toronto Star has an account), but if your head really is that far under the sand, here is a background link from Arutz Sheva.

All of which got me to thinking; when will the appeal of Nazism just end? As a way of life or political philosophy hasn’t history shown that it has a very limited shelf life? I just don’t understand how it continues to pick up adherents in 2007 nor do I comprehend the willful glorification of Hitler or Nazis by these groups. It is beyond bafflement to me.

Perhaps, me and mine will never be able to understand it as long as we can look at pictures taken long ago from places like Auschwitz and see the outline of our family faces etched among the dead. But one hundred years from now, when the last holocaust survivor is long dead and buried, and all traces of their memory has slipped from their families collective remembrance - will the world once again see the rise of those who claim the Nazis had a point or even a new fourth Reich rise? Ten years I would have bet no fourth Reich would ever rise but now I am not so sure. I just know I wouldn’t lay any money down on that bet.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

neither my pot or kettle are black anymore

I could blog about the current provincial election but I am afraid if I start giving voice to the disgust and outrage I feel towards all the political parties involved in this election travesty; I will never be able to stop raging. And contrary to some, I really don’t walk around angry all the time, so instead, I will blog about what excites me.

I got new, and I due mean new, cookware. I am one of the few women I know who have actually managed to go through 4 complete sets of pots - in addition to the literally legions of odd pots and pans. Things were so desperate with the overall current state of my pots/pans that my small enamel roasting pan was nominated for top pot in my kitchen, even though, I do have to clean it with the utmost care. One vigorous swipe along the bottom and all three hot spots will be showing daylight. But if the worse happened, I suppose I can what my grandmother always did (and patch them with nuts & bolts).

I will admit a great deal of my pots were not the greatest quality cookware. My Jamaican cast iron pots were great (even if they are a bugger to lug or clean) but mysteriously, I seem to be down to only one pot and two lids….and I haven’t a clue where my favourite cast iron frying pan has disappeared to. Through the years, my pots and pan collection hasn’t always fared well when my mother came on her annual visit. She has burned beyond repair at least one pot or pan per visit - when she wasn’t busy boiling my kettle dry or melting the coffee machine. And if you want to know how one melts a coffee machine here’s the hat tip - move (for no reason known under heaven) the coffee machine from its nice safe spot on the counter to the back burner on a stove when your daughter is slow cooking a roast in the oven.

Anyway, I found this cookware store going out of business. There was an incredible commercial set of German steel pots and pans on sale for $199….marked down from $699.00. I also managed to pick up a decent pasta machine which I could not resist possessing. I know some incredible pasta dough recipes, though sadly, only one of my children will eat pasta. How sick is that? The only way I ever managed to get all three heathens to even eat the littlest bit of spaghetti requires I start the sauce from scratch as in 'tomatoes just off the vine' scratch. And then they will eat it but only grudgingly.

I suppose I can hope that one day I will have legions of grandchildren who will love to eat pasta and then the machine will finally get a decent work out. Or I could break down and invite my mother to leave the wilds of Oakville to come spend the weekend eating pasta with me in Toronto….but before I do - what I need to know is if there are guardian angels for pots?

Friday, September 07, 2007

education is so doomed in this country

The two big “kids” have more or less settled easily back into secondary school this week. They know what they have to do, and therefore, just do it. The only blip on the back to school road map - was having to lay down the law to my 14 year old son who thought he could continue to work every night after school.

Montana has taken to working this summer in a really big way. His sister got him a job at the bakery she was working at. The bakery was in desperate need of a few good men, and in spite of some initial misgivings centered around his age, the bakery decided to give him a shot. It’s not every 14 year old boy who can be counted to arrive every day at 4:30am and be ready to put his shoulder to the grindstone.

The bakery bosses like him. He does exactly what he is told to do, he doesn’t whine or complain, and he can be trusted not only with money but to be on time. What’s not to like? Besides, they have also taken to feeding him lunch. But I really think the real pull is the money thing for Montana. He does whatever his boss wants and then they pay him in cash once a week. For him it is all good, though he has developed the rather strange habit of staring at his bank balance in a kind of wistful way.

In comes Momma to rain on your parade every single time. You can count on it. Not only did I insist he be home every night for dinner but I still say he needs to fit things like boxing, guitar lessons/practice and homework in his schedule - so work is cut back to one night a week and a Sunday or no job.

But it is my youngest, Isaiah Sender, who has my eyebrowing twitching this year. I suspect this year will so suck for him. Not only did he have probably one of the worst summer vacations known to man (watching his grandparent’s marriage go south) he got the ‘crier’ for a grade 8 teacher. I loathed her when Montana had her. She goes running out of the classroom on a regular basis in tears while the class sits in utter befuddlement as to what brought that on.

Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think a serious depressive should be teaching children. Apparently the teacher’s union doesn’t see it as a cause for concern or dismissal. She started the current school year by informing the class of the need to be really nice to substitute she always needs a great deal of sick days. Gee, go figure.

Yesterday, Isaiah Sender brought home this children’s book catalogue published by Scholastic Canada. I suspect every parent in the country has their children bringing home these magazines from school. The magazine allows you to order discounted Scholastic children’s books. I was looking over the description of the books in the “Teacher’s Pick” section and was forced to conclude there must be a severe literacy crisis in this country. Here’s a word for word description of a Newbery Medal award winning book:
By Susan Patron 144 pages Gr.6-up Girls

Life is hard for Lucky without her mother. When she about this Higher Power by eavesdropping on support groups, she sets out in search of it hoping for newfound happiness
Or the entire editorial staff at Scholastic has been taught language skills by a compulsive/depressive crier.

Almost a bummer

A big provincial election is coming up in the fall and everyone is campaigning in full force. Too bad the only realistic choices to vote for are dumb, dumber and dumbest.

To date the liberals have made 71 election promises (and more probably to come) but not one that directly benefits me or mine. How sad is that? I’d be really bummed out over it if I thought Mr. Dalton ‘I will not raise taxes’ McGinty was a man of his word.

And for the record, any so-called conservative party whose membership duly elected Red John as party leader deserves to lose, and lose badly.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Hidden Treassure

I have a confession to make. Even though, I am big fan of historical fiction, it took the watching the movie version of Master & Commander to motivate me into reading Patrick O'Brian.

I use to see his books in the bookstores all the time and I admit to being intrigued in a kind of 'Britannia rules the Waves' kind of way but I hadn't succumbed because the book covers looked far too promising. I was afraid of being disappointed… I have been badly burned by spectacularly well-designed book covers before. So much so that my personal rule became the uglier/plainer the book cover the better the book.

It took falling in love with the Master & Commander movie before I felt O'Brian might have serious potential to live up to being one of the few exceptions to my rule. Hollywood usually manages to mangle the best of stories and so for a film to remain this strong after the celluloid treatment it had to possess real literary meat.

Me, being me, decided to plunge right in and buy the first three books before I had even read the first book. The first book was a little on the dry side – much like toast is without butter and having been left lying on the counter for days. Actually, I found it so much like dry toast that I shelved the other two books indefinitely. Yesterday, I came home early from work due to illness and was desperate to find something to curl up with and read between the bends. Post Captain (book #2) was the closest book. I am now on page 420 of 473 pages and I would have been done if things like sleep, going to work and children didn't get in my way.

Say Sleaze!

The UK Telegraph is running an explose on those lying French Wine labels:
Up to a third of wines sold under France's regional appellation system might be from an entirely different region, according to a French consumers' group. The Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, or AOC, once a gold stamp of origin and quality, is fast turning into a national joke, UFC-Que Choisir said.

It claimed this was due in large part to AOC award panels made up of local wine professionals with vested interests.Unscrupulous "judges" on local panels were accused of giving lesser wines the prestigious AOC label in the face of increasing competition from New World wines, whose world market share has risen sharply in recent years. Slack controls saw 99 per cent of all candidate wines awarded their AOC label in 2005.

As a result, a third of AOC wines were "sub-standard" and of dubious geographical origin, UFC found. Alain Bazot, the head of UFC, said: "For a number of years, we've seen a steady fall in quality in a number of AOCs, which has undermined consumer confidence."

The association called on the national appellation institute to take urgent steps to correct the situation, preferably by removing fraudulent or poor quality wines from AOC lists. It warned that it may be "the last chance" for the system to reform. AOC wines, which come from 470 regions, account for 44 per cent of all French wine production, a share that has doubled since the 1970s.

Apparently, this is not the first time the French wine labeling system has been caught playing fast and dirty with the labels either, but really, who is actually surprised by this? All of which means this is an outstanding time to start checking out the alternatives to French wines…like say trying Israeli ones. Carmel has become one of my Israeli favourites.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Mid-East; where nothing is as it appears

The never-ending siege has apparently ended reports the Jerusalem Post:
Lebanese soldiers fanned out along the Mediterranean coastline in northern Lebanon on Monday, hunting for fugitives a day after the army crushed the remnants of a militant group and ended a three-month siege at a Palestinian refugee camp.

The army searched buildings and bushes for Fatah Islam fighters that may have escaped Sunday's battle at the Nahr el-Bared camp. Patrol boats were out looking for bodies in the sea. The camp remained off limits to its Palestinian civilian population which had fled in the early days of the fighting that erupted May 20. Inside the camp, military sappers were combing devastated neighborhoods, looking for booby traps, unexploded shells and mines. Investigators, meanwhile, were questioning captured militants.

The search followed Sunday's final battle between the army and al-Qaida-inspired Fatah Islam militants that left 39 of them and three soldiers dead, as the militants attempted a dawn breakout from Nahr el-Bared. Some of the militants tried to sneak out through a tunnel, while another group tried to escape through a different path. Outside fighters arrived to help them, said security officials.

Army quickly deployed reinforcements to the camp, just outside the port city of Tripoli, blocked surrounding roads and set fires to nearby fields to deny fleeing militants a hiding place. Helicopters provided aerial reconnaissance for the military inside the camp, and checkpoints were erected as far as Beirut and southern Lebanon. Villagers of nearby settlements, armed with guns and sticks, also came out to help the army and protect their houses, the state TV reported.

By the end of the day, the camp was in Lebanese army control and authorities declared victory over Fatah Islam. Officials said the army killed 39 militants and captured 20. It was not immediately known how many militants managed to escape. The army said three soldiers were killed in Sunday's fighting and two on Saturday, raising to 158 the number of troops who have died in the conflict - Lebanon's worst internal fighting since the 1975-90 civil war. More than 20 civilians and more than 60 militants have also been killed.

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora declared victory Sunday "over the terrorists in Nahr el-Bared," saying in a televised speech to the country this was "an hour of pride, victory and joy." At the news of the militants' collapse, celebratory gunfire erupted in villages. Townspeople and troops celebrated in the streets, waving Lebanese flags and flashing victory signs into the night. Other regions celebrated with fireworks, drumming and dancing.

The Lebanese army had military carte blanche to lay siege to a Palestinian refugee camp in order to take off the board approximately 100 Syrian affiliated ‘fighters’. It takes the army three months and costs the lives of 158 soldiers. Not exactly how I would measure an ‘hour of pride, victory or joy’.

To date, no one has even begun to ask serious questions in the international press on how an obscure Palestinian militant group managed to re-supply themselves with food, water, and ammo/weapons while being completely surrounded by the Lebanese Army. But I will give credit to Caroline Glick for being the only reporter I know who can feed my paranoia when she is not busy acting as the rah-rah chorus for Bibi Netanyahu:
The Lebanese army's pathetic performance at Nahr el-Bared tells us something important about the loyalties of the Lebanese military - 40% of which is Shi'ite. During the war last summer, Lebanese forces openly assisted Hizbullah in identifying and marking Israeli targets for missile attacks. Since the war it has paid the pensions to the families of Hizbullah fighters killed in the war.

THE QUESTIONABLE loyalties of the army extend beyond its soldiers. Army Commander General Michael Suleiman enjoys warm relations with Syria. As Barry Rubin reported yesterday in The Jerusalem Post, the Syrians are supporting Suleiman as a potential candidate in the Lebanese presidential elections scheduled to take place on September 25. With a "glorious victory" at Nahr el-Bared behind him, Suleiman is being hailed as a national hero.

Of course, it takes a Lebanese General three months to take out a Syrian backed militant group. It makes a kind of sense. The problem with this kind of thinking is that it leaves my mind mulling over the possibility that the whole never-ending sorry siege was staged managed by the Syrians from the get-go.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Palestinian War against Israeli Children

The various Palestinian “militant” movements have always made Israeli children the special targets of their murderous spleen. Long before Beslan lived in the annals of infamy there was Ma’alot. Today, from the Gaza Strip Palestinians deliberately aimed and timed their kassam attacks to rain down on the children of Sderot. The Muqata is hosting a special video taken today of a Sderot school under fire.

Arutz Sheva reports on the aftermath:
( Twelve Sderot children were hospitalized at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon Monday morning in the wake of a barrage of seven Kassam rockets fired by Islamic Jihad terrorists in northern Gaza.

The missiles had slammed into various parts of the city, including one that scored a direct hit on a house next to a day care center. A staff member at the day care center told Army Radio that the director ran into the room to give warning that an attack was underway. None of the staff heard the Color Red alert system that provides a 20-second window in which to seek shelter from attacks.

IDF soldiers raced into the building and carried 15 babies out to safe shelter, despite confident declarations by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert a day earlier that all the schools in Sderot were adequately protected against Kassam rockets. The home next to the daycare center was damaged, but no one was physically wounded. Many people were treated for shock, while others worked to assess the damage wrought by the rockets.

Some parents rushed to pull their children out of school, but in general, classed continued as usual, with teachers attempting to comfort themselves and their pupils. Tomorrow, however, school may not be held at all, as the Sderot Parents Association says parents will not send their children.

"No one in power seems to care less about us," said the secretary of one school. "The politicians build themselves shelters, while our children are like sitting ducks. My 13-year-old son refuses to go to school, and he has to have psychological treatment twice a week - but no one cares. We practically live inside the shelter, on the ground floor, and my kids can't even take a shower - does anyone care?" Asked what she would advise the government to do, she said, "They should bomb Gaza from the air! I don't want to have to live in fortified buildings; let the people in Gaza fortify themselves. Nor do I want any soldiers to get killed because of us. An air attack to wipe out all traces of those who have sent us rockets for the last seven years and made our lives unbearable - that's the solution."

Arutz-7 contacted Kadima MK Avigdor Yitzchaki, who was heavily involved in the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in his capacity as Director of former Prime Minister Sharon's Bureau, and asked his opinion on the Sderot/Gaza situation. Yitzchaki refused to comment.
This was planned, designed and implemented with only one objective: to perpetrate terror, death and grief to the children of Sderot and their families. There was no reasonable objective or hope that this outrage would lead to anything other than to manufacture mayhem and destruction. The intended consequence was to cause acute anguish and set in motion a million new fears. This is the face of terrorism and those who commit such acts of senseless barbarism are terrorists.

Time to take off the board every last barbarian from the Gaza Strip. At the very least - the water should not be flowing or the lights left on until every last barbarian of this kind of infamy is lying deader than dogs in the street of the Gaza Strip.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I am in love.

I mean 'swept off my feet', 'cannot breath, sleep or think' in love. I know I have never so lusted for a computer as much as I have for the 24" iMac's I was test driving one last Tuesday night at the Apple store. Apple's new iMac makes my relatively new PC look like a '74 Ford Pinto of personal computers.

And the price. How many ways can one say incredible bang for your buck?

It all started because my mother decided after spending the first year of her retirement doing nothing more than changing position on the sofa while watching a succession of day time talk shows that it was long past time to find a new direction for her life. Yes, even couch potatoes get the blues.

Her lack of inherited wealth meant she could only afford to study things which she had no overwhelming desire or passion to study but the program guaranteed a certain amount of liquidity when plying the benefits of her degree in the wider world. Now that she has a relatively secure pension and the only constraints on her free time are the limits of her imagination. So she decided it was time to go back to school and study something she always wanted to study but didn't dare study back in the day.

Last spring she was accepted at a small suburban college outside of Toronto and starts her first day of school on Tuesday in a Fine Art & Design program. She needed a new computer and wanted my help in buying a new one. She claims I always have better computers than hers (guilty as charged) and she always likes mine better.

Tuesday night I suggested we check out what Apple has to offer only because I knew many of the art programs run by the colleges in the province lean heavily towards Apples. I really haven’t not paid much attention to Apples computers since my Apple lle days, but I do love my iPod.

At first, all I got was no, no, no, but persistence pays off and I wore her down (just like in the old days) and off we went to the Apple store. The iMac was the first computer which was free to play with and play I did. All I could do was ooooh and ahhhh. Then I took her for a coffee to discuss the “iMac”. I suppose, in retrospect, I got carried away with my enthusiasm and my voice got a little loud. Turns out, across the room, was one of those “Apple Geniuses” (technical experts) who just happened to be having an early dinner. He decided an intervention was needed when I took offense at Momma dissing the keyboard.

Anyway, she brought the “iMac”. Mostly because I am in serious lust and she knows it. This is her way of thinking she has finally has the upper hand. I sent Montana to set up the iMac as I couldn’t stand to do it. It took him all of 45 seconds (it would have been shorter but it got stuck getting out of the box). I thought about offering her my new pc as a trade. I figure I might have a decent shot at it as she already called me this morning to complain she couldn’t find the backspace key. On the iMac keyboard it is in exactly the same place but it reads “delete” instead of “backspace”. I'm crossing my fingers....