Friday, November 30, 2007

High School Confidential - Redux

I went back to High School last night and it wasn’t much fun. In fact, it was almost as bad as the first time except this time no one hated me except the Ukrainian math teacher. Well, maybe she doesn’t hate me, but ignoring my phone calls for two weeks and then standing me up at her office door for our meeting does not bode well for “like” status. I knew our conversation would not necessarily be pleasant but usually people wait to meet me before they come to any firm aversions.

It was parent-teacher interview night at the local secondary school my children attend. It is very strange but I don’t remember my parents or family every going to parent’s night in High School. I do remember my mother getting annoyed when she got called to the office regularly and frequently but I don’t remember any parent’s night. Who knows, maybe I skipped that week or it could be a case of parent’s night not being a very seventies kind of thing.

Anyway, I came a rather startling conclusion. The teachers at my children’s high school are decidedly freaky and weird looking. Not all of teachers- just most of them. You got your basic Goths, general punks, drag queens and witches, but oddly enough, it was the teenagers who looked ordinary, normal and sane. What struck me as even odder was - mostly the teachers were from my generation. Did I ever feel left behind, as I did all the weird and freaky shit when I was a teenager - obviously even then I was ahead of my time.

There were a few teachers who looked normal but those ones looked somewhat older than me. Every time I saw one in the hall, I had to fight off a two fold compulsion to stalk the teacher and then beg him/her to teach my child. My son did give me a warning that most of his teachers were “sensitive” so I wasn’t to say or do anything to either offend them or jeopardize his working relationship with them but he hadn’t warned me they were freaks – almost down to the last one. The exception was the Latin teacher. He not only looked normal but he sounded ordinary. I had fun in that interview. We re-enacted sack of Carthage with his action figures. I cannot remember why I never took Latin as it looks like great fun.

Apparently little clues to the teacher’s sex like Ms, Miss, Mrs or Mr are too old school. Instead the teacher’s signs or name tags are identified strictly by last name. I still can’t figure out if the Canadian history teacher I was speaking to was a man or a woman. Let that sink in – the CANADIAN HISTORY TEACHER’s sex could not be readily determined by a visual examination. Public School in the Centre of the Universe. Nothing else like it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Let's talk about boomers

I was reading an article on the decaying infrastructure of Canadian cities and another thought struck me. In twenty year's time, my mother's generation will be in their mid-80's – that is, if the majority are even living at all. As a nation, we have only briefly talked about the ramifications of the aging boomer population in terms of government revenues, pensions, services, and healthcare related to the needs of the elderly, but when has the national discourse every verged out of this paradigm?

As a nation, we need to stop and think about what the dying baby boomers mean to the ordinary lives of younger Canadians. Even with a huge massive immigration push started yesterday, we cannot replace the aging and dying boomers with immigrants in any viable way. The largest available pool of potential immigrants comes from third world countries that possess limited literacy and/or skill sets. These immigrants are in no position to waltz into the country and pick up the boomer's slack – pants maybe, but certainly not the slack.

Our standard of living is set to undergo one of the most massive and unprecedented changes of history. Canada is a small country of approximately 33 million people. The boomer generation represents approximately 9.5 million Canadians. I cannot think of any country, in any period of history, where a top-heavy third of the population was elderly.

When the aging boomer population is discussed, everyone talks about the consequences to our social service safety nets and government debt financing but what about the economies outside of public service sector? For example, take construction/housing industry. In 10 to fifteen years time, when the boomers hit the seventies- to-early eighties mark, our cities and rural communities could potentially be hit with the mother of all housing gluts. If you think Canada has regional disparity now - wait until the boomers start dying off.

The average house price in Toronto has currently hit around $400,000 mark. Twenty years from today, it might be one of the few times, when a resident/owner of a home in a major Canadian city will see a marked depreciable value from the original purchase price of their home. No region throughout the country would potentially be immune from this glut/surplus since one cannot take one's house when one goes into the great beyond.

Of course, the Canadian construction/housing industry will probably undergo the lengthiest and longest depressions in it's history - from which it might never recover. Along for the ride are all the other industries and trades, which tap into and feed the construction/housing industry. Of course, going hand and hand with housing gut, will be depreciating property values, and with declining property values, means less revenue to run municipalities. Less revenue for municipalities means less tradition means of raising funds for things like education, hospitals, nursing homes and infrastructure repairs.

Then there is the fashion industry. Elderly people are generally not clotheshorses per say, and if they are not going to work, there is even less reason to dress relatively stylish or buy new clothes. The Elderly are not big eaters so let us just nix fashion, food and retail industries by at least a third of their current size. Of course, what will our auto industry look like when a potential third of all cars on the road are driven by retirees? While it is true health services, nursing homes, and the death services industry will be in big demand it is only for a very limited cycle, and then, the boom period for these industries will go bust as the population stabilizes once again.

So what is the solution? I simply have no idea but until we start to pay attention and think about the ramifications of when tomorrow cometh; we are sunk. Or in the words of the Who….I hope I die before I get old.

Vatican-Israeli Relations hit bottom. Vatican continues to dig and

As long as Vatican officials continue to make remarks like this one (taken from the Jerusalem Post):
A Vatican official said Wednesday that Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homeland, and said he hoped Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would address the issue. Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the Vatican's office for migrants, said an agreement to restart peace talks, reached Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland, was encouraging and that he hoped by this time next year concrete measures would be under way. "It is my hope that all the parts of the problem are taken into consideration such as that of the Palestinian refugees, who like all other refugees, have the right to return to their homeland," Martino said.

It will continue its southernly dive.

And how good of the Cardinal to wholeheartedly support the “right of return” I wonder if the Cardinal is prepared to extend that right to Jewish refugees? But why stop there? What about extending the ‘right of return’ to property? I believe there is millennium plus of priceless Jewish religious artifacts currently residing in the Vatican’s archives which were stolen from various Jewish communities throughout the ages. As long as there exists a Jewish state, there exists only one legitimate home for the religious artifacts of the Jewish people.

as the beat goes on

The debate rages on. One argument used regularly to bludgeon the so-called black community over the head pits the success of Chinese or Jewish children against black schoolchildren, and then asks why can’t black kids mimic the same success? Actually, some do but it’s the other half who does not which we all should be concerned about.

Then reasons are legion, but the first problem is in defining the black community because, contrary to many, it is not a single homogenous community. It rarely comes together outside of cultural constraints. In fact, the cultural prejudice among competing groups within the black community rarely finds a common platform or speaks with a single voice on any issue.

Earlier this fall there was a debate before the Trustees of the Toronto district school board on the establishment of one or two black focused schools. This sparked off a debate within the larger Canadian community with editorials from the larger Canadian dailies issuing a flat out large dose of “no” to the return to segregation in education. It was one of those rare times when the black community was actual able to pull itself together and get out a single dominate message to the utter bafflement and total amazement of the larger non-black community.

What the larger non-black community failed to fully comprehend is that a return to black-centric education was asked for by black educators and parents. The ills of black society cannot be fixed from outside the community. It cannot be resolved by sending in legions of well-meaning social workers, community activists or even throwing more money into diversity programs within the larger school system. This is one time when the patient must also be the physician and heal thyself.

Fifty years later and with the debate raging on, the words of Ralph Ellison from the Invisible Man still ring apt.
It goes a long way back, some twenty years. All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naive. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!

It is a powerful book which is masterly written with as message as timely and true as it was in 1953. A major theme of the book deals with the empowerment which lies in defining oneself. I am not surprised if you haven’t heard of it as it goes deeply into ‘black’ identity politics but it is the kind of book which would be on a required reading list for black secondary students in a blackcentric school and a book which would almost be impossible to teach in our current public system.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Who knew there was a black hole in the Centre of the Universe?

I also want to give a big ‘YOU SUCK’ to the folks in charge of keeping the electrical grid glowing in the Centre of the Universe. Last night’s outage was not the first blackout, we have been averaging 2-10 minutes at least once a week for the last two years, but it was the longest outage in a while. Of course, the whole ‘root causes’ of the outage thing remains a mystery. It always does.

I say the mayor goes to the next Israeli-Palestinian peace summit and lobbies hard to get the Israelis to take over the running of Toronto Hydro. If the Olmert Administration won’t keep the lights off on those who regularly lobby rockets at them, destroy their homes and terrorize their children on the way to school; there has got to be a better than average chance that the power will stay on for weeks at a time.

The Peace Games

The Israeli Palestinian conflict has now had its peace in our time moment but what struck me as intriguing was the Russian announcement that the next peace summit will be held in Moscow. Taken from the Jerusalem Post:
"The next peace summit between the Israelis and Palestinians will be held in Moscow," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Wednesday morning, confirming a Jerusalem Post report from Tuesday. According to Lavrov, the date and content of the meeting have yet to be determined. He did not mention which parties, if any, have committed to attending, Army Radio reported.

Now we can turn these peace summits into a kind of Olympic event and have different cities around the competing for the chance to host the next summit.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar.

Taken from the Jerusalem Post:
The majority of Hamas detainees arrested by PA President Mahmoud Abbas's security forces in the West Bank since June have been released, sources close to Hamas have told The Jerusalem Post. According to the sources, not a single Hamas detainee has been put on trial so far. In a bid to defuse tensions with Hamas on the eve of the peace conference in Annapolis, the Palestinian Authority on Sunday also released three Hamas members from prison.

The decision to release the Hamas men was taken by the PA leadership in Ramallah shortly before Abbas and members of the Palestinian negotiating team headed to the US to participate in the conference. The decision was taken in spite of Hamas's increased threats, in the past few days, to foil the peace conference. Hamas spokesmen have also stepped up their criticism of Abbas, warning him against making any concessions to Israel during the conference.

One of the three men who were released was Ahmed Dolah, a senior Hamas leader from Nablus. He was arrested more than three months ago in the context of a massive PA clampdown on Hamas figures and institutions in the West Bank. The other two who were released Sunday were Ala al-Titi and Assid Amarneh, both from Hamas. The two, who work for Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV in Hebron, were arrested by the PA security forces 30 days ago.

The release of the three came as a surprise even to Hamas leaders. Only a day earlier, the PA security forces prevented two senior Hamas officials, Hassan Abu Kwaik and Faraj Rumaneh, from holding a press conference in Ramallah. The two were briefly detained and warned against making public appearances against the Annapolis conference.

Who knows, maybe Olmert is a bad influence on Abbas?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Let’s talk about sex.

I could never talk to my mother about sex. I remember our one and only painful discussion on the topic. It last 3 minutes and I couldn’t wait for her to be done. I would have rather stuck a needle in my eye than go another painful round with my mother. In fact, I believe it took her at least a month before she could look me in the eye. This ‘discussion’ happened years after my grandmother and great-grandmother had taken the time to sit me down and explained the facts of life to me as well as my obligations towards myself, my family and the wider community. I think I was about 12 years old when the Grannies set me straight. They didn’t trust my mother to do it properly, and in retrospect - they had a point.

For years, I have been waiting for the children to show enough interest to ask me questions about sex so I could share all my Granny wisdom was well as a few tips I have learned along the way but a funny thing happened. The tribe has been actively avoided asking me any questions. Even when something of a sexual nature comes up which seems like a natural starting point - like when we are watching television; all three of them desert the room enmass rather than watch it with me.

When Isaiah Sender was about 9 years old he came home one day from school and at the dinner table he announced he had Sex Ed class in school. So if I had any questions, he felt confident in being able to supply me with the correct answers. He felt the class was great because all his questions were finally answered. I was a little taken back by this because I didn’t know he had any questions so I asked him why he didn’t ask me. Isaiah Sender told me I was not enough of an expert because I only had three children and Mrs. M was on her sixth which effectively shut me up. I mean, what was I suppose to do at that point – debate a 9 year old that I knew way more about sex than his teacher?

It is not that I haven’t tried bringing up the topic of sex through the years but it is just that I get shut down by my children every time I do. They are still mad that I made all of them learn how to put a condom on a banana while blindfolded. I thought it would be an important life skill to acquire and I did think it would be more fun if I made it into a competition. Apparently, the children have pit it down to one of the worst parenting moments possible in which they have had to endure.

Montana had at least enough confidence to come to me just shortly after he had been boxing with a question about masturbation. We were walking along Bloor Street West at the time, just as most of the office buildings were letting out for the day. He wanted to know if it was a good idea to masturbate with a shop-vac. The older guys at the gym recommended the shop-vac because it could take both wet and dry. The question really startled me. I never thought I would ever be asked my opinion on the effectiveness of vacuum cleaners and masturbation, but hey, I am no prude. It would take more than to throw me completely off my game. I even managed to establish a few basic rules like “keep your hands off my Hoover Upright”. Apparently, I told him more about masturbation than he wanted to know and he ended up sulking for a week.

So why all this talk about sex? I was in the used bookstore yesterday with the Last Amazon and she got all excited about finding a “Sex for Dummies” book but refused to buy it as long as I was with her. I have to admit to having my feelings a trifle hurt that she has obvious questions but feels too insecure to ask me. It got me to thinking. Maybe children really don’t want to learn about sex from their parents and all those who complained that the parents told them nothing were, in fact, just general whiner kind of people.

Orthodox Fringe

Last August I posted a piece I called Peace Partners or What Lefties do on their downtime when visiting Israel. Basically, it was a story published by Arutz Sheva detailing the attacks against a Jewish farmer within the disputed territories. It was picked up by a few other bloggers and it came under criticism as my source was “Orthodox extremist fringe newspaper (censored by the military)”.

This week I found this piece in Ha’aretz. I was rather taken back they had even published it. Ha'aretz is one the oldest dailies in Israel, as well as being a newspaper. which is so far to the liberal left that their editorial staff is permanently bent.
West Bank settlers say there has been a recent spate of Palestinian vandalism on property belonging to Jewish farmers, and an Haaretz investigation has found evidence of arson, sabotage of equipment and destruction of crops.

The farmers claim that the police are not designating their complaints as high priority, because they do not fall under the rubric of "hostile terrorist activity."

A new report by a settler civil rights group cites several examples of damage to Jewish farmers' property. Under the heading, "Who will protect my olive tree?" the report describes the torching of 900 dunams of grazing ground, a stable, and 30 pomegranate trees belonging to Yehuda Cohen of Bat Ayin. Shamai Pozak at Ofra had young saplings chopped down, tons of grapevines destroyed before the harvest, and irrigation pipes torched. Moshe Kedem of Pnei Kedem had 500 olive tree saplings uprooted.

At Sde Calev, in the Hebron Hills region, arson consumed more than 100 cherry trees, and assorted buildings and storage sheds were set on fire. Just recently, another 400 grapevines were uprooted.

Shlomi Cohen's vineyard in the Dolev region was uprooted four times, which finally prompted the Shin Bet security service to investigate. Suspects were subsequently arrested, but the Shin Bet does not ordinarily get involved in these cases.

Israeli police hardly ever enters Arab villages in the West Bank, and as with cases of agricultural theft within Israel, the moment the stolen property makes it into the nearby Arab village, its owners usually have no chance of getting it back. When farmers occasionally have conducted their own investigations and located their property in the surrounding villages, the police refrained from entering the villages.

An exception was the case of Yehuda Cohen, who persuaded the police to intervene by threatening to go into the town of Dahariya himself to retrieve his stolen horses.

Settlers complain that irrigation systems are prime targets for repeated vandalism by Arab shepherds, who slice the pipes to water their flocks, and by Palestinian farmers or others who tap into these systems for free water. The new report lists a series of cases in which "Israeli and international leftist groups were clearly involved in incidents of rioting that damaged agricultural plots of Jews in Judea and Samaria."

This claim proved correct in at least two of the cases Haaretz checked. For example, in the course of a protest march by leftists, anarchists and Arabs on August 22, dozens broke into Shlomi Cohen's vineyard at Neria and uprooted some 5,000 vine saplings.
On October 17, a left-wing activist was caught along with Arabs from the West Bank in the act of setting several fires around the illegal outpost Havat Gilad. There are indications of leftists' involvement in several other cases, and police sources confirm the matter, but no suspects have been arrested.

When all is said and done, I would still rather hang out with fringe of the Orthodox than be left at the end of a bottom feeder.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Blowing the boys out of the water

There is a reason why I have hardly blogged of late. I finally found a game in which I stand a fairly reasonable chance of beating either of my sons’ scores.

It’s been years since I could blow them away in a game unless we were playing something like Risk or Battleship. Not only do the boys hog the Xbox360 but I find it nerve rattling to play when they are around. Usually, they will sit behind my chair and shout at me in irregular intervals. This has a way of putting me off my game.

It doesn’t matter in this game because - this got to be the dumbest game ever invented though it is addictive. Oh yeah, Van Halen might have had a hit with You Really Got Me but it’s a Kink’s Song

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Not only is the house divided - so is the school

One Palestinian university has decided to close to the doors to its’ hallowed halls of learning out of concern for the physical safety of the student body. Apparently, fractional in-fighting between the various and sundry other terror groups and Fatah has taken a decidedly bloody turn. The Jerusalem Post reports:
"We have decided to suspend studies and evacuate all students from the campus out of concern for their safety," said a spokesman for Bir Zeit University. He said the decision was made following an assault on one of the students late Monday. Students said four men from the PFLP attacked a Fatah student in the dorms, wounding him seriously. The assailants used charcoal to burn the student's face. They also hammered nails into the victim's feet, the students said.

According to the students, the decision to suspend studies came after Fatah gunmen appeared on campus and threatened to kill PFLP supporters. Earlier this week, scores of students from both parties clashed on campus, using clubs and stones. At least 10 students were wounded.

The tensions have also spread to Al-Quds University in Beit Jala, where supporters of the two parties were involved Tuesday in a brawl that also led to the suspension of studies. Sources in the university said the two sides had used knives and clubs, and some students claimed that shots had been fired during the melee.

Later in the day, clashes erupted between Fatah and PFLP supporters in the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem. The camp has long been a traditional stronghold of the PFLP.
The problem with the Americans betting the proverbial farm on PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' to carry the day and deliver Palestinian compliance on any given issue is that it is a fool’s bet. While Mahmoud Abbas struck the Americans as an imminently reasonable ‘moderate’ figure; he was also a deeply flawed choice. Abu Mazan never had a broad support base or inspired respect among the various Palestinian terror fractions. The real surprise wasn’t so much that Hamas rebelled against rule by Fatah in the Gaza Strip but that Hamas waited as long as it did to take control.

"Next year" - and the year after, and after, and after until the end of time - in Jerusalem!"

I have shamelessly stolen this blog title from the ending of an opinion piece running in the Jerusalem Post today which was originally published in the Times of Israel shortly after the Six Days War circa 1967. The piece not only still resonates (well at least with me) but is also extremely relevant given the lead up to Annapolis and beyond.
I am not a creature from another planet, as you seem to believe. I am a Jerusalemite - like yourselves, a man of flesh and blood. I am a citizen of my city, an integral part of my people. I have a few things to get off my chest. Because I am not a diplomat, I do not have to mince words. I do not have to please you, or even persuade you. I owe you nothing. You did not build this city; you do not live in it; you did not defend it when they came to destroy it. And we will be damned if we will let you take it away.

There was a Jerusalem before there was a New York. When Berlin, Moscow, London and Paris were forest and swamp, there was a thriving Jewish community here. It gave something to the world which you nations have rejected ever since you established yourselves - a humane moral code.

Here the prophets walked, their words flashing like forked lightning. Here a people who wanted nothing more than to be left alone, fought off waves of heathen would-be conquerors, bled and died on the battlements, hurled themselves into the flames of their burning Temple rather than surrender; and when finally overwhelmed by sheer numbers and led away into captivity, swore that before they forgot Jerusalem, they would see their tongues cleave to their palates, their right arms wither.
For two pain-filled millennia, while we were your unwelcome guests, we prayed daily to return to this city. Three times a day we petitioned the Almighty: "Gather us from the four corners of the world, bring us upright to our land; return in mercy to Jerusalem, Thy city, and dwell in it as Thou promised."

On every Yom Kippur and Pessah we fervently voiced the hope that next year would find us in Jerusalem. Your inquisitions, pogroms, expulsions, the ghettos into which you jammed us, your forced baptisms, your quota systems, your genteel anti-Semitism, and the final unspeakable horror, the Holocaust (and worse, your terrifying disinterest in it) - all these have not broken us.

They may have sapped what little moral strength you still possessed, but they forged us into steel. Do you think that you can break us now, after all we have been through? Do you really believe that after Auschwitz we are frightened of your threats and blockades and sanctions? We have been to hell and back - a hell of your making. What more could you possibly have in your arsenal that could scare us?
I HAVE watched this city bombarded twice by nations calling themselves civilized. In 1948, while you looked on apathetically, I saw women and children blown to smithereens, this after we had agreed to your request to internationalize the city. It was a deadly combination that did the job: British officers, Arab gunners and American-made cannons.

And then the savage sacking of the Old City; the willful slaughter, the wanton destruction of every synagogue and religious school; the desecration of Jewish cemeteries; the sale by a ghoulish government of tombstones for building materials, for poultry runs, army camps - even latrines.

And you never said a word. You never breathed the slightest protest when the Jordanians shut off the holiest of our holy places, the Western Wall, in violation of the pledges they had made after the war - a war they waged, incidentally, against a decision of the UN. Not a murmur came from you whenever the legionares in their spiked helmets casually opened fire upon our citizens from behind the walls.

Your hearts bled when Berlin came under siege. You rushed your airlift "to save the gallant Berliners." But you did not send one ounce of food when Jews starved in besieged Jerusalem. You thundered against the wall which the East Germans ran through the middle of the German capital - but not one peep out of you about the other wall, the one that tore through the heart of Jerusalem.

And when the same thing happened 19 years later, and the Arabs unleashed a savage unprovoked bombardment of the Holy City again, did any of you do anything? The only time you came to life was when the city was at last reunited. Then you wrung your hands and spoke loftily of "justice" and the need for the "Christian" quality of turning the other cheek.
There is more here, and if I were to quibble with this piece, it would be in referring to the Kotel or Western Wall as "the holiest of our holy places". It is not. The Temple Mount above the Western Wall is the holiest place in Judaism, and ironically a place where no Jew can openly pray whenever the spirit so moves him to do so without facing penalties under Israeli law. Time to take back the Temple Mount too.

connecting the dots

On Monday night an Israeli man was murdered in terrorist attack. Ynet News carried this report:
Ido Zoldan, 29, of the settlement of Shavei Shomron was murdered Monday in a late night shooting attack near the Palestinian village of Funduk in the area of the Kedumim settlement in the northern West Bank. The terrorists opened fire at the Israeli from a passing car at around 11:30 pm. Magen David Adom paramedics who were called to the site attempted to revive the man, but pronounced him dead a short while later.

And one of the usual culprits quickly claimed responsibility:
Shortly after the attack, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah's military wing, announced that it was assuming responsibility for event. A spokesman for the organization said that the terror attack was "an act of protest against the Annapolis conference and a response to Israeli crimes".

So Fatah acts with two faces - again. Nothing really new with that state of affairs, but it wasn’t until I was reading this Jerusalem Post report:
Right-wing lawmakers on Wednesday lashed out at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert following an announcement the he had agreed to allow Palestinian security forces in Nablus to receive 25 armored vehicles, reversing two years of IDF opposition. Likud officials said the plan was "the continuation of the moral deterioration of Olmert, [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak and [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni, which will only lead to a further deterioration in security." Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu added on Army Radio that "these armored vehicles and weapons will eventually fall into the hands of Hamas."

...that the full measure of the insanity of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert becomes woefully clear:
The IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) have opposed supplying Abbas's forces with armored vehicles, in part out of concern that they might fall into the hands of Hamas or other violent groups.

The security establishment questioned the judgment of such a move, citing Monday's shooting attack near Kedumim that emanated from the Nablus area, which the PA was supposed to be controlling with its newly-deployed police force, Israel Radio reported Wednesday morning. Security officials said this proved that PA forces were not capable of reining in terror groups.

Monday, November 19, 2007

All hat, no cattle

I haven’t done much blogging about the upcoming Annapolis Summit between the Israelis and Palestinian Authority even though the Mid-East news is full of reports in the lead up to the conference. Frankly, the rationale for this conference keeps eluding me. I keep waiting for a moment of clarity which never seems to come….

For example, the Palestinian Authority negotiators refuse to recognize or acknowledge a key fact on the ground - Israel is a Jewish state. Apparently to insist on having the Palestinian Authority do so - amounts to a “poke in the eye”.

Then there is today’s report in the Jerusalem Post:
The Annapolis conference will be important, despite the fact that no negotiations will be taking place there, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday. Olmert told the ministers at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting - which was held on Monday this week rather than on Sunday - that negotiations would only begin after the conference and would "deal with the most fundamental issues in order to arrive at two nation-states alongside one another."

Saying negotiations will only take place after the conference is like saying negotiations will only take place sometime after the sun rises. It is not like Olmert and Abbas have not met in public before. In fact, Olmert has even had Abbas over for dinner – long before this conference took place.

Friday, November 16, 2007

well, I was punk in the seventies...

The children insist on watching music videos on television which becomes part of the background noise to either my reading or even gaming activities. For months, I have been hearing about the “antics” of one Amy Winehouse. I finally got a look at her the other night. And you know - any woman with that much long hair, and that much eyeliner can’t be all bad even if she can’t hold her booze in public. Up until last night I couldn’t tell one of her songs from say…Britney Spears…I have been literally tuning out more or less the last 10 years of popular music or I was until last night. Oddly enough she does manage to get a groove on…

How come the pollsters never poll me?

I get a number of friends and acquaintances suggesting things I should blog about all the time. Usually I hear them out and go my own way. A lot of the helpful suggestions are just things I don’t care about or even have nothing to say about. Sometimes I read things in the papers, day in and day out, and no matter how many articles are written, I just can’t get all blogged up the issues. I feel strangely out of whack when that happens.

What brings this on? Brian Mulroney. I thought he was a condescending sob and I didn’t much like him at the time but he wasn’t Trudeau and that was a relief. The man hasn’t been Prime Minister in about a gazillion years and hopefully it is relatively safe to eat tuna now; so like can we drop it and move on?

And for all those frustrated types who just can’t let go I offer this piece of advice. If you really want to poke Mulroney in the eye - just stop writing, talking or listening to the man. Trust me, being assigned to the dustbins of history with no hope of reprieve will rub him the wrong way more than a million official inquiries.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

And don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

The Toronto Star reports the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to grant a hearing to the appeal of two US Army deserters for refugee status in Canada.
Two U.S. army deserters have lost their court fight to stay in Canada, but supporters say the political battle will continue. The Supreme Court refused today to hear appeals from Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, who sought refugee status on the grounds of their opposition to the war in Iraq.

As is usual in such decisions, the high court gave no reasons for its ruling.
Disappointed supporters say the pair’s only hope of staying in Canada lies in the political arena. Otherwise, they say, the Immigration Department will likely start the deportation process to send them back to the United States and the military justice system.

“I think the focus now turns to a political solution to this problem,” said Jeffry House, lawyer for the men. Jane Orion Smith of the Quaker group Canadian Friends Service Committee said the next step is for Parliament “to create a provision for them to stay.” “We will be working with our community and others to encourage MPs to help create such a provision. . . There simply needs to be political will.” Smith said exceptions have been made in the past for Vietnam-era draft dodgers and for the Vietnamese boat people.

New Democrat MP Olivia Chow said she will introduce a motion urging the Conservative government to step in: “The minister must intervene and allow the war resisters to stay in Canada.” Immigration Minister Diane Finley’s office had no immediate comment.

Oy. War resisters my butt. The term is “deserter”. And whatever is Chow thinking? It is not as if there is a current shortage of freeloaders, welchers or cheaters in this country; so I hardly think we need to import a few more from America to fluff up the ranks of the retrobates. Cut them loose – Now.


The Toronto Star is carrying a report and a video link to the last few minutes of Robert Dziekanski’s life at the Vancouver Airport. The following is the Toronto Star’s script of what transpires in the last few minutes of Dziekanski’s life.
Four RCMP officers arrive, the camera panning from the frustrated looks on security guards' faces to the men in uniform striding through the hall.

Loud cries of what sound like "polizia," can be heard as the officers are told by someone that the man is behind the door and only speaks Russian.

They vault over a railing and walk Dziekanski behind the glass doors. He gestures at his luggage as they appear to be talking to him.

He throws up his hands in the air and walks away.

The officers follow, apparently indicating he should put his hands on the counter of an information desk behind the glass.

Dziekanski stands with his back to the counter and the officers fan around him.

Crack – the sound of the 50,000 volts of electricity zapping from an officer's gun can be heard.

Dziekanski winces and starts screaming, his hand waving a stapler madly in the air.
He grabs at his chest and lunges through a doorway, howling.

Crack – a second shot, electricity sizzles, and Dziekanski writhes on the ground, spinning in circles.

Police surround him again, the bystanders gasp in amazement. A voice can be heard yelling "hit him again, hit him again."

The four officers clamber on top of him, restraining his arms, his head.
Dziekanski twitches as they fight to restrain him.

Finally, he is still.Though the video doesn't show it, paramedics were called to the scene. Dziekanski died there.

The RCMP response:
"Our officers would like to comment, but there is an ongoing investigation," said Cpl. Dale Carr, a spokesman for the Integrated Homicide Team leading the investigation into the incident. A coroner's inquest has been called into what happened at the airport that night and the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP has also launched their own investigation. Carr said the four officers involved in the incident that night will testify."That's the venue where they will be scrutinized," he said. "This video is one small piece of evidence. We are not making a case based on one piece of evidence."

When news first broke about the incident at the airport, police said the man they encountered was out of control. Though agitated, in the video, Dziekanski responds to bystanders and security by putting down furniture or calmly standing still. Police also said even after he was zapped once, he remained combative.

But the video shows that after the first shot, Dziekanski fell to the ground and was writhing in agony.

It might be only one ‘small’ piece of evidence but it is utterly damning and unless one is committed to being willfully deluded and/or blind; there is no way one can rationalize or justify the behaviour of the RCMP. The Mounties are reputed to be the premier police force in this country, and G-d help us all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Well at least the blog made it out of high school

I’m really not up to speed yet but I saw this test at Treppenwitz and decided to see how the blog measured up.
cash advance

Finishing college wasn’t the issue for me, on the other hand, there is simply no telling when I will get around to finishing my undergraduate degree at university.

Retail Lobby now lobbies the Taxman

Generally, when one has dug a hole for oneself, the prudent course is to stop digging, but I guess no one at Retail Council of Canada or the Cornwall & Area Chamber of Commerce figured that out. Who knew RCC or the CACC would chose to go out and scout more places to dig? Taken from the Toronto Star
Endless lineups are common at border crossings these days as retail groups, stung by the surging loonie, pressure the government to diligently collect taxes and duties.

After a full day of discount shopping in the U.S. with her friend, Jessica McCulloch, stocking up on designer jeans, Moran hit the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge lineup around 11 p.m. Moran and her friend had spent a combined $200.

After two hours waiting in her car, Moran then joined the tax and duty line. A handful of the 250 other angry day shoppers huddled outside the customs building were cloaked in old blankets typically stored in car trunks in case of an emergency. Two agents assessed duty and tax and while another two collected the cash, most people paying about $20 to $30. That led to a roughly hour and a half wait time.


Part of the issue is that retail groups have put customs under intense pressure not to just wave shoppers through. The Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce have called on the federal government to ensure appropriate taxes are being collected on U.S. purchases. The Retail Council of Canada has sent a letter to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day on the issue as well. The chamber issued a release last week saying the Canada Border Services Agency may not be acting as diligently as it should be in collecting taxes.
Maybe a little re-branding is in order - sort of a like - a truth in advertising moment. RCC now morphs into the Retail Council of Snitches as in keeping with their new found role.

Monday, November 12, 2007

not just another monday

Now that the weekend is over and there isn't the slightest possiblity of lounging around drinking cuppas, the cold bug I have been fighing launched an all-out offensive around 0200 hours this morning. I'd be back to regular blogging once I have licked this bug.

Friday, November 09, 2007

This would fit in a plot by Kafka.

From the Jerusalem Post:
The Israel Football Association's (IFA) disciplinary committee on Thursday banned fans of the Betar Jerusalem soccer team from two home games as punishment for heckling during a moment of silence for late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in a match on Sunday.

The IFA's disciplinary committee found the fans guilty of "unsportsmanlike behavior," according to a statement on the association's Web site. "It must be emphasized that the event ... in which we remember the day a prime minister in Israel was murdered is a day that unifies all those for whom democracy is valued and important, without any political differences," the committee wrote.

Attempting to punish fans for voicing their opinion of one of the primary architects of the disastrous Oslo Accords makes me wonder if Israeli political echelon has been hanging out to long with the neighbors. Maybe the fans would exercise a little more tolerance for Rabin’s legacy if a special week of memorials could be held for the victims of the Oslo every year. It could even be scheduled for the week before the Rabin memorial, and in memory of Rabin’s legacy, it could be referred to as Rabin’s Victims of Peace Week.

may goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life

Most of us, at one time or another (providing we live long enough) have done something which we knew might be considered either morally or legally wrong. Whether it is speeding or smoking a joint to cheating on a spouse. Most of us never get caught, let alone punished for all our transgressions. Some of us have gotten nabbed but have had the good fortune to experience a little mercy and compassion at hands of a police officer, a judge or a wife, and walked away relatively unscathed - and hopefully even a little older and a little wiser from the experience. But not everyone catches a little mercy and compassion when it is most needed. Nor can everyone dig themselves back from the brink even when they do experience it.

One of the last cases I worked on during my time as a criminal law clerk concerned a 12 year old boy who stood accused of three counts of robbery. One the surface the charges were very serious, and because of the gravity of the charges and his age, he could not be released from detention until his legal guardian appeared in court so that a judge could set conditions for his release.

The boy had spent three weeks in detention from the time of his arrest. Normally, his parents or legal guardian would appear in court the day following his arrest and a justice would hear the charges and decide if detention was warranted, and if not, set conditions for bail. One of the crown prosecutors called my law office looking for a regular defense counsel for this young boy.

The Crown counsel was moved by the plight of this young boy to try to find him a regular lawyer in the hopes of convincing his legal guardian, the boy’s grandmother, to appear in court, so the child's release could be arranged. Even if we could not convince his grandmother to appear in court, we as regular counsel, could make an emergency plea in family court to have the Children’s Aid Society take temporary custody of the child. Either way, he would be released.

Once a synopsis of the charges was read there was no way any judge would order the detention of this child until trial, and at the time, a criminal trial in Toronto could take up to a year to be held. The crown counsel faxed over a copy of the police disclosure in the hopes of swaying me, and by extension, one of the lawyers to represent the child.

The police disclosure read that at lunchtime in the school playground the accused approached three other boys who were each eating a bag of potato chips. The accused approached the victims and demanded some chips from each of them. They refused. Then it was alleged that the accused reached in and grabbed by force chips from each of the bags of the boys. The three boys immediately ran with their bags of potato chips to the school office and told their story to the principal. The principal called the police as was his directive according to the school’s zero tolerance policy. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The little boy had been abandoned by his mother who was a known drug addict and his father had died from aids while serving a long term jail sentence. He came to live with his maternal grandmother who was a religious fundamentalist. When she heard he had been arrested by the police for three counts of robbery she washed her hands of him. She claimed he was a demon spawn from the beginning and this was her proof. And for the record, potato chips were the devil’s food. It was a conversation I have yet to forget, and never have I so despaired of another human being like I did of this woman.

I cannot tell you how the case was resolved and if the boy went on to be a productive member of society. I left the law firm before the matter was resolved but my experience suggests it highly improbable. Too many strikes against him with so little love and compassion always equal a bad end.

But I think about him all the time when I read about young accused, charged on the surface with very serious crimes, just like this group of 12 to 13 year olds alleged offenders – taken from a Toronto Star report:
Seven boys charged with sexually assaulting four girls at a northwest Toronto middle school made their first court appearance today, with two of their parents complaining that their children are stressed out from the charges, which they call exaggerated.

"He's losing his hair. He can't sleep," said the mother of one 13-year-old boy facing two sexual assault charges.

"He said, 'Mom, we were just playing around. I hugged her around the waist,' " the mother told reporters.

Eight boys, 12 and 13, are accused of holding and groping four 13-year-old girls on Smithfield Middle School property in northwest Toronto during an after hours basketball game on Sept. 25. All are students at the school.

And I think that somewhere between the strict adherence of dotting every ‘I’ and the crossing of every ‘T’ of the law and the application of common sense; there has to be a balance. I just despair of every finding it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

whole lotta of noxious going on

I may have to re-think my pleasure in having the subscriber wall come down for the NY Times.
Americans spent more than $2.3 billion on deodorant and antiperspirant in 2006, according to Euromonitor International, a market research firm. Yet few people stop to consider the rationale for performing their morning elbow dance.

Advertisers would have consumers believe that simply washing their armpits isn't enough to stave off embarrassment and attract mates. But considering the lackluster efficacy of many gels and sticks, deodorants and antiperspirants may be nothing more than security blankets against the social ostracism some fear.

"Most people who are not in constant high-stress situations could get away with wearing a lot less than they do," said Dr. Jeanine Downie, a dermatologist in Montclair, N.J. "They'd probably be fine just using a little powder." Six other dermatologists interviewed for this article echoed Dr. Downie's comments. "Those shelves and shelves of antiperspirant and deodorant at drugstores would be put to better use if they were filled with sunblock or even lotion," she said. "There are a lot more people with dry skin than with serious body odor or sweat issues."

Do not believe a word of it – most of you smell, and smell badly. The one major disadvantage of standing 5'1" means my nose stands dead centre at armpit level on public transportation. I never had a fracking clue as to how much and how badly you all smelt until I quit smoking. It has been choking me up regularly ever since. Frankly, I have seriously pondered why there are so many non-smokers up and about, because the stink is positively horrendous. I have no idea how non-smokers stand it, and if there is one thing that could push me over the edge and return to smoking, it would be prolonged it exposure to people who reek. Wash up people! Use extra strength deodorants

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

There is no return to Jim Crow

There are so many ironies in the black separate school debate it is hard to just pick one but a blog posting does need a starting point. So let me start by saying Toronto already has schools segregated by religious faith, language, and ethnicity. Currently, I believe there is even a secondary school for Gay and Lesbian teenagers. But it is only when the school board enters into discussions concerning the establishment of one, or possibly two, schools for black students (at the request of the black parents/educators) it becomes controversial. Trust me, there is a message here for the black community and it is not the most positive one.

One or two schools which focus on black students and their potentially special needs is not the harbingering of a return to segregation or Jim Crow laws. It is not about teaching or developing a group of black supremacists to loosen onto the city either. Nor is about de-funding and providing a separate and substandard education for black children in Toronto. What it is about is acknowledging a serious number of black students are failing in the current system, and failing badly.

The reasons for failure are complex and not all of them can be rectified with a change of an educational environment, but potentially, some of them could. Not all parents of black children will want to enroll their children into these schools. I guarantee you there will not be a mass exodus from the public schools. So the parents of little Johnny and Susie can relax and not have to worry about Johnny and Susie missing out on the experience of having a Kneisha or a Trevor sit beside them in the classroom. Nor is there any guarantee that a predominantly black-centric school will have a better higher success rate but what do we lose by trying? Though we have much to learn and gain if the school succeeds.

And you could not find a more ringing endorsement than Premier McGirlieman is against it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Why Not?

The Toronto Star is reporting that the Toronto school board trustees are once again examining the idea of establishing a black-centric school.
Admitting it is failing some students of colour, the Toronto public board could open a black-focused school as early as next fall.

Two community meetings are planned in the next week to discuss the idea of an "African-centred alternative school" from junior kindergarten to Grade 8 that would have more black teachers, black mentors, more focus on students' heritage and more parent involvement.

A staff report is expected later this month with details on how the concept would work. If trustees approve such a school, it would be a first for Ontario and possibly Canada, although there are some in the United States in cities such as Detroit, Washington and Kansas City.

"Whatever is being used in the system at this moment is failing a lot of students – and more specifically a lot of black students," said Donna Harrow, a community worker who is behind the push for such a school, along with Etobicoke parent Angela Wilson.

I was automatically against the idea in a 'knee-jerk kind of way' years ago but now I am not so sure. One of the things I have learned watching my children and their peers navigator the school system, is how wide the actual cultural disconnect is. I will add this caveat - if the school is predominantly Afro-centric as opposed to more Caribbean-centric, I am not so sure it will be a great success.

Just to throw out one example, I was always amazed at the number of elementary school teachers who were unable to effectively manage young Caribbean boys in the classroom. It wasn’t really a divide along colour line but one could be forgiven in thinking it was. In essence, the solitude was all about culture.

I know from living in Jamaica that Jamaican parents might complain about the stubborn and feisty qualities in their sons, but it is also done so with great pride. I have witnessed many a competition between parents for whose son’s were the feistiest. Naturally my boys beat all comers but easy compliance, passivity, and automatic obedience are often perceived as ‘weak’ or ‘undesirable’ character traits in one’s son.

If you have a decent understanding of the cultural norms of your students, you are in the best position in knowing how to tailor your teaching behaviour to effectively channel their behaviour in the classroom. It was really quite informative watching how settled the so-called ‘behavioral’ boys of Caribbean extraction became when the teachers were more reflective of their grandmother’s age.

But a far more interesting point in this debate is looking at who is objecting to the very idea of it a blackcentric school. I will offer a hint – it is not the black community - how’s that for an act of irony?

And if one believes black-centric education cannot possibly provide any viable alternative - eyeball this article about the Shiloh Christian Institute in Brampton.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Lights on in Gaza, not so much in Sderot

The power continues in the Gaza Strip, and now, thanks to the IDF expediting the process, the Palestinians will soon have the feces flowing smoothly reports the Jerusalem Post:
Ahead of the winter and fearing that sewage cesspools in Gaza could once again spill over and flood nearby villages, the IDF Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) has stepped up efforts to enable the Palestinians to complete the construction of a new sewage plant in the coming months.

Under the direction of the World Bank and with the financial support of the United States, France, Belgium and Sweden, the Palestinians have been working for the past year to establish a new sewage purification plant just south of Beit Hanun in northern Gaza.

The new plant, at a cost of some $60 million, will help take the load off the current cesspools near the village of Beit Lahiya. Those cesspools overflowed last March, killing four local residents and causing severe ecological damage. Defense officials explained that the decision to expedite the construction was made despite Hama's control over Gaza.

"We are doing this to help the Palestinians and to prevent another overflow," a defense official said. "There are security risks involved, but this is an important project and it is our job to figure out how to deal with them."

Meanwhile, the power was out in Sderot yesterday due to kassam acts launched from the Gaza Strip:
Three Qassam rockets were fired Sunday afternoon from the northern Gaza Strip towards the western Negev. One of the rockets hit a house, causing damage to the building and its surroundings. IDF forces arrived at the scene shortly afterwards and removed the debris at the spot where the rocket landed

A second rocket hit a power line, starting a small fire. Several people suffered from shock. The damaged power line also resulted in a temporary blackout in Sderot. "We heard three loud explosions, but the Color Red alert system didn't sound… my whole house was shaking," one of the residents told Ynet.
Okie dokey.

the Fall of discontent in the Centre of the Universe

I left the Centre of Universe yesterday to spend the day at Brock University’s open house. I discovered just how much I loathe living in the Centre of the Universe and it was just not me. The Last Amazon and I went to St. Catharine’s with her adopted aunt and uncle. I cannot speak for the Last Amazon or the Kat but Ron and I were ready to pull up stakes, move and enroll in Brock.

It was interesting spending the afternoon watching the Last Amazon talking to the various professors. Quite a competition developed between Neuroscience and the Chemistry department for her attention. But I couldn’t get over how wholesome everyone appeared from the professors to the students to the parents. I did not see one young man with baggy pants. Not one. And it wasn’t just the baggy pants. There were no obvious tattoos, non-traditional hair colour/styles or piercing in sight; though, there was a high geek quota throughout the campus. The scariest people in the entire room were manning the nearly empty booth at the Women Studies department.

They suckered both Kat and the Last Amazon by offering chocolate and then they pounced. Luckily I saw what was happened and went to the rescue. It takes more than a few pieces of high quality chocolate to get to me. I am glad to see I haven’t lost ability to use my haughty and scary face. The claws were retracted immediately but the death blow to their aspirations came when the Last Amazon announced she thought a science was more her style than oppression.

We did a tour of St. Catharine’s after the open house and were amazed at the number of churches but we did find the Jewish community centre…on Church Street of all places. We teased the Last Amazon that she would be able to continue her good deeds there. Currently, she has been acting as a mentor/tutor for under priviledged youth at a computer lab at a JCC in Toronto.

Touring around St. Catharine’s I was struck by just how friendly and livable small town Ontario really is. I think those of us at the Centre of the Universe forget that. We may have high rises and bright lights but the quality of life is lost in the high cost of daily living and the stress of long commutes. Imagine living on a street where trees are not a sidewalk ornament? Sigh.

This is why I often think about giving back my VRWC decoder ring.

A Toronto black man and known crack addict spends five years imprisoned awaiting trial for charges robbery and manslaughter which he had not committed. The media refer to the case as the “Just Desserts” trial, named after the pastry shop where the murder/robbery takes place. A jury acquits this man of all charges in 1999 and a few days ago he is the victim of a murder in Jamaica.

I happen to know a great deal about this particular case but I am not at liberty to disclose my knowledge or sources but let us remind ourselves that O’Neil Grant was acquitted because there was not even one shred of compelling evidence to find for a finding of guilt. While it was true that Mr. Grant was a crack addict and had previous convictions for the typical drug addict type offensives; it was also true he had not been convicted of an offense for two years prior to the 1994 Just Desserts slaying.

A number of VRWC blog sights seem to think the intentional murder of an innocent black man makes their day, or the victim is finally justified in receiving his “just desserts” while others think the murder is “karmic”. I really don’t know what to say to you people except you are guilty of a far greater evil than you can begin to imagine. And my sympathies, at this time, go out to the family of O’Neil Grant – his mother, his wife and their three fatherless Canadian children.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Al Jazeera lets one fly - right out of left field

If there is one truism in the Arab media it is this; no matter what feats the Israeli military does - it could not be done by the Israelis. Case in point – Al Jazeera is reporting the IAF did not launch an air strike at targets in Syria. The Americans did it. Taken from the Jerusalem Post report:
The September 6 raid over Syria was carried out by the US Air Force, the Al-Jazeera Web site reported Friday. The Web site quoted Israeli and Arab sources as saying that two strategic US jets armed with tactical nuclear weapons carried out an attack on a nuclear site under construction. The sources were quoted as saying that Israeli F-15 and F-16 jets provided cover for the US planes. The sources added that each US plane carried one tactical nuclear weapon and that the site was hit by one bomb and was totally destroyed.


Steering one’s destiny

Ha’aretz TV reports on another Mid-East first:
One of Israel's more primitive stereotypes is against the female driver, so it's no wonder heads turn when people see a woman behind the wheel of a bus. And not only is Nabila one of the country's few female bus drivers, she is the first Muslim to drive a bus, which makes her a particular rarity in her profession.
Watch the report in English here. Now, if only we could get the Saudis to pull their heads out of the sand and follow the Zionist lead…

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sometimes a duck is simply just a duck.

The problem with political commentary at the Toronto Star is that it all just goes one way no matter what the issue. Take the ousting of a conservative candidate in my federal riding of Toronto Centre:
OTTAWA – The federal Conservatives have ousted their candidate for Toronto Centre, 43-year-old international-trade lawyer Mark Warner, and he says it's because he wanted to play up urban and social issues that are at odds with the master Conservative campaign strategy.

"We've had, for a number of months, a series of differences between our campaign and the national campaign, over the degree to which I could run a campaign that would focus on the kind of issues that matter in a downtown urban riding," Warner told the Star.

Conservative officials have been actively resisting Warner's emphasis on housing, health care and cities issues, he said, even blocking him from participating in a Star forum on poverty earlier this year and pointedly removing from his campaign literature a reference to the 2006 international conference on AIDS in Toronto – which Warner attended but Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not.

Don Plett, Conservative party president, signed the letter that was delivered to Warner this week precisely as the government was unveiling its mini-budget on Tuesday afternoon. Plett said yesterday he didn't want to elaborate on the decision to oust Warner, for privacy reasons. However, Plett didn't argue with Warner's characterization of the dispute. "Well let me just simply say this; that in a national campaign, that is exactly what it is – a national campaign. There are certain things that we expect all of our candidates to do in a national campaign," Plett told the Star yesterday.

I don’t know if the “urban & social issues” could be accurately characterized as conflicting with the master conservative campaign strategy because no enterprising reporter bothered to either ask those pointed question and/or report it in this article.

It might just be a case of those “urban & social issues” happened to be more ‘provincial’ in nature, and therefore, be irrelevant in a federal campaign. We will never really know if I am right or not; because the Toronto Star’s report chose to focus on the scary conservative hidden agenda ethos rather than the potential conflict between provincial and federal concerns.

Oh, and for all those who insist on putting their big girl/boy diapers and make ‘race’ an issue - let me remind you that Megan Harris won the conservative nomination and ran in the 2004 election for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. All of which means, there is a far greater chance of the Conservative party riding association of Toronto Centre electing a more ethnically diverse and/or female candidate – than say - the Liberals - who have yet to nominate a woman and/or a visible minority candidate in the last 14 years of this riding.

If CNN falls in a forest will anyone notice?

A large Israeli cable system provider dropped CNN from their line-up reports the Jerusalem Post.
In a surprise move, HOT Television terminated its contract with CNN on Thursday, despite saying on Tuesday that it would continue to broadcast the international news channel at least until November 10th.

"The decision to end our contract with CNN comes after the network's chief executive in the Middle Eastern region, Ron Ciccone, refused to come to Israel to negotiate with us," said Yossi Lubaton, HOT's Vice President of marketing. "We feel that they never took seriously the negotiations and did not make an offer reasonable enough to allow us to enter into serious negotiations."

CNN contends however, that over the last few months, they have made repeated contract offers to HOT, not one of which was met with a "serious" counter-offer, leading to a breakdown in negotiations between the two companies, with HOT accusing the network of "unrealistic" demands and CNN describing an initial offer from the country's largest cable provider as "insulting."

HOT, under CEO David Kamenitz, has embarked on an aggressive cost-cutting campaign that seeks to lower company expenses by 30 percent to 40%. Earlier this month, HOT refused to match the terms of its previous contract with CNN, saying expectations that it do so were "unrealistic" because CNN had lost its status as the top-rated news network to Fox News.

In 2002, Fox passed CNN as the most-watched cable news network. Earlier this week, the Knesset Economics Committee summoned representatives of HOT and CNN to a special committee session in a last ditch attempt to prevent HOT from dropping broadcasts of the news channel, however the effort was in vain.
The question becomes (with the exception of Meretz voters, Peace Now members, and Shimon Peres) will any Israeli notice CNN is off the air?

The Band's Visit

I have a secret confession to make. I will probably have to give back the VRWC decoder ring after I make it but I missed reading the NY Times online. I admit to not being prepared to pony up out of my own pocket for 90% of the content online at the NY Times. Most of it I couldn’t abide, but there were always stuff I did enjoy reading from the Johannesburg Journal to ones just like this one about a new Israeli film called The Band’s Visit:
JERUSALEM, Oct. 30 — “The Band’s Visit” tells the story of an eight-man Egyptian police orchestra that gets lost in Israel and lands in a dead-end desert town, where bemused and amused locals take the musicians into their homes, and into their weary hearts.

Offering a glimpse into a better world, one where the distance between strangers can miraculously melt away, “The Band’s Visit” triumphed at the Israel film academy’s 2007 awards and has reaped accolades at film festivals abroad.

So it seems unfortunate — or perhaps simply typical, given the unforgiving nature of the Middle East — that a film trying to bridge the region’s bitter divides has been blocked from film festivals in the Arab world and become the focus of a rancorous dispute at home.

Bootycall of War

This is really quite an old report from Arutz Sheva but no collection of the Zionist consipiracies would be complete without it. H/T Israellycool.
The Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida carried a story this week about IDF tactics that surpassed all previous accusations of supposed Israeli deviousness - poisoned candies, hormone-laced gum, poisoned wells, magnetized belts - in its bizarreness.

According to an Al-Hayat Al-Jadida front page report, the IDF has turned to using armed, female strippers in its war on upstanding Palestinian boys. The newspaper reports that when the Arab rock-throwing begins, IDF soldiers run for cover. Then, the story continues, after some time of hiding, an Israeli woman stands up on top of a barricade and begins to perform an alluring strip tease. Innocent Arab teenage boys, distracted from the business of rioting, are enticed to approach, when, according to the newspaper, the woman, an IDF soldier, shoots them with a pistol she had hidden in her underwear.
Imagine if the US did that in Iraq?

socioeconomic hardships

Yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury had this to say to the Jerusalem Post:
Socioeconomic hardships caused by the West Bank security barrier are contributing to the decline in the Christian population in the Holy Land, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

"I recently met with Christians in Bethlehem, people by no means extreme, and they told of the daily burdens driving in and out of the city that were created by the wall," Williams said by telephone during a break in his 24-hour visit to these parts.
Williams said he was aware of "claims" that the project had reduced the number of victims of Palestinian terrorism, but felt that in the long-term, building a barrier between two populations was "causing deeper problems" for the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations. "The fence does not solve the basic underlying causes of the conflict. That's why I am unhappy with it," Williams said. It was not just the present route of the barrier that he opposed. Rather, barriers between populations were inherently problematic, he said.

Too bad he didn’t meet with this Christian pastor from Ramallah:

An Arab-American evangelical pastor said Wednesday that he has been threatened by a Palestinian security official Ramallah, and has fled to Jerusalem for safety. Pastor Isa Bajalia, 47, a US citizen born in Birmingham, Alabama, said that he had been threatened over the last two months by a Fatah security official from the Tanzim militia who also demanded $30,000 in protection money. Bajalia said he had moved to nearby Jerusalem since the threats began.

The pastor has been living in Ramallah, considered to be the most liberal of all the West Bank cities under Palestinian control, since 1991, together with his American wife and son, who attended school in Jerusalem and has since joined the US Air Force. For the last decade he served as pastor for a group of 30-35 people in Ramallah, holding Sunday services in private homes and carrying out missionary work among the Palestinians, who are predominantly Muslim.

Initially, Bajalia said he was treated with respect, but some suspicion, by the locals, and viewed as an outsider coming in with a foreign concept. The pastor said the threats began about two months ago after a group of church workers were seen praying on behalf of Palestinians. "We will do to you what Hamas did to Fatah in Gaza," Bajalia said the Palestinian security official warned him. Bajalia, who has a vision problem, said he was also told that in addition to his eye problems he would not be able to walk anymore.

The Palestinian security official subsequently told Bajalia to register some of his family's land in the official's name and pay him $30,000, the pastor said. Bajalia said he had also been watched for six months. It was not immediately clear Wednesday if the pastor was threatened specifically because of his missionary work among Muslims or as a result of the land his family owned in the city, or a combination of the two.

Last week, Bajalia filed a complaint with the US Consulate in Jerusalem over the threats, he said. The consulate, which is responsible for US citizens living in the West Bank, told him that they were aware of the problem, but had no response or follow-up to his complaint, he said. "You would think that they would have gotten back to me and said something," Bajalia said. A US Consulate spokeswoman declined comment Wednesday, citing privacy regulations. Bajalia said he became more concerned for his safety after a prominent Christian activist, Rami Khader Ayyad, 32, was killed in Gaza last month. "It made me take the threats more seriously," he said. He has moved to east Jerusalem, and is uncertain when he will go back to Ramallah.
Let us not forget the significance of the Pastor fleeing to safety in Israel. And how ironic that the good Pastor looks for relief and resolution from the US government; when it is the US government who is busy propping up the very organization which is threatening him. Maybe the good Paster needs to find a cheaper hell hole. I suggest Columbia - as I hear shakedowns by the cops are cheaper.

Playing roulette with civilians

Another rocket barrage hit Sderot reports Ynet News and the Israeli government seems to lack the political will to do anything meaningful about it.
A barrage of 13 Qassams was fired by Palestinians in north Gaza on the western Negev region Thursday morning. So far nine rocket falls have been located in Sderot and the vicinity. Most of the rockets landed in open fields. No injuries were reported in the attack, but slight damage was done.

Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Brigades and the Popular Resistance Committees' Salah al-Din Brigades claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.
Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip is pretty well absolute and without the full cooperation of the Hamas; today's barrage would not have happened.Yesterday the Israeli government released a video showing showing Gaza terrorists launching a kassam strike from Gaza school building. Ynet carries the footage here.

If the Israeli government gives the green light to actively target these groups in real time the potential for civilian causalities is high and the international political fallout takes on a catastrophe of biblical proportions. If the Israeli government fails to act it plays roulette with the lives of her civilians and it loses the rationale for its continued existence. Then there are the unintended consequences of the Israeli government’s failure to act decisively. The Jerusalem Post reports Fatah wants in on the act:
The Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threatened Thursday morning to fire hundreds of rockets at Israel. (…)The group announced that they have commenced "Operation Gaza Autumn," which would include, among other things, firing rockets at Israel. In a flyer distributed Thursday morning they said they have not tired of the resistance, and will continue with the military operation, Walla reported. "Autumn 2007 is arriving without a national unity government. We hear talk of summits here and there. We are marking 90 years since the evil Balfour Declaration, continuing IDF operations into Gaza, killing of Palestinians and destruction of houses."

Forty Kassams have been fired at Israel since the beginning of the week.
Stop for a moment and try to put yourself in the civilian shoes of the people of Sderot. What if it was your town? What if it was your children running for cover in the schoolyard when the alarm went off? What if it was your mother and daughter who were watching television in the living room when the mortor round came through the roof?

It is long past the time, that we, in the international community, remove all political cover from these groups and stop trying to rationalize these intentional acts of evil.