December 13, 2004

Light posting apology

Dec. 13 - Sorry for the non-blogging; I've been fighting a cold and going full speed at work (which is normal for the Christmas shopping season.) Things should lighten up in early January, although as retail sales have been spectacularly high throughout the fall (due in part to the high Canadian dollar, I suspect) it will be interesting to see how much of a drop we actually see in winter.

Can a person actually live on coffee alone? I'll let you know!

One cliche I can shoot down is that of the Surly Christmas Shopper. The vast majority are cheerful, patient, and a pleasure to deal with. Why stress about a few bad apples?

Stay safe, and enjoy the season. My blogroll is full of some excellent bloggers, and I hope you give some of them a read.

Posted by Debbye at 08:41 PM | Comments (11)

December 02, 2004

U.S. Ambassador Danforth resigns

Dec. 2 - U.N. Ambassador John Danforth resigns. No explanation given thus far, but it certainly is curious.

Posted by Debbye at 07:20 PM | Comments (23)

Americans implicated in UNSCAM

Dec. 2 - The revelation that Kojo Annan continued to receive payments from Cotecna finally brought the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal under the scrutiny of the mainstream media, and now that they're digging, they are finding things that have been known in the blogosophere for a while but seem new to them, including the involvement of some well known and well-connected Americans and companies which were named in the Duelfer Report: Marc Rich, Ben Pollner of Taurus Oil, ChevronTexaco, and ExxonMobil.

From ABC News: Americans' Role Eyed in U.N. Oil Scandal:

Former American fugitive Marc Rich was a middleman for several of Iraq's suspect oil deals in February 2001, just one month after his pardon from President Clinton, according to oil industry shipping records obtained by ABC News.

And a U.S. criminal investigation is looking into whether Rich, as well as several other prominent oil traders, made illegal payments to Iraq in order to obtain the lucrative oil contracts.


Another broker was New York oil trader Ben Pollner, head of Taurus Oil, who investigators say handled several billion dollars worth of the transactions now under investigation.

Pollner told ABC News he paid no bribes or kickbacks to the Iraqi regime.

Rich is still living in Switzerland and unavailable for comment.

The roles of several American oil companies, including ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil, are also under investigation. ChevronTexaco received subpoenas requesting information for two separate grand jury proceedings, and said they were cooperating fully with both investigations.

The U.N. oil-for-food corruption scandal only continues to grow in scope. Today, Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who is leading the congressional investigation into the program, said that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan should resign because the scandal occurred on his watch.

The remainder of the item concerns the allegations about Kojo Annan.

An interesting column on these names by William Safire in his column in the Oct. 13 NY Times can be read online here at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies website.

I always figured that American businessmen might have been part of the scandal, and am glad that those named are being investigated. The name Marc Rich, however, is likely to spark attempts to drag President Clinton into this to which I say: Don't.

Let's break some new ground and focus on just the facts without partisan bias and opportunist attempts to besmirch either Clinton. I witnessed the ugliness of the last four years of Bush-hating and the previous three years of Clinton-hating and I. Am. Sick. Of. It.

(ABC link via Instapundit.)

Posted by Debbye at 09:03 AM | Comments (8)

December 01, 2004

The Halifax Speech

Dec. 1 - Mike from Halifax writes 99.99% of Nova Scotians don't protest Bush! There's a great deal more in the post including a link to an editorial in the Halifax Herald that makes some of the points about the history of the courageous and stalwart Canadian military that Keith made yesterday and commentary by the CBC on the speech.

The Halifax speech (text here) went over well. President Bush thanked Canadians for their hospitality in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and for their efforts in Afghanistan and Haiti. Despite predictions, I didn't detect any statement in U.S. foreign policy that deviated from past speeches. He made many of the same points here as he made both at Whitehall and at the U.N.: a declaration that freedom is the right of all people, that the focus on talk is insufficient if they aren't prepared to take action to enforce that talk, and gave a Canadian context to those points and to the right for taking pre-emptive action.

The speech was also more relaxed than that delivered at Whitehall, and he exhibited knowledge of one important key to Canadian hearts:

Paul and I share a great vision for the future: two prosperous, independent nations joined together by the return of NHL hockey.
That comment received much laughter and applause.

When he thanked the Maritimers who opened their homes and hearts to travellers stranded on Sept. 11 he expressed it in terms of a personal thanks to the people who undertook that task rather than a government-to-government expression of gratitude. That is important, because the Canadian government itself was not involved in the massive efforts to find shelter and food for those travellers - it was a community effort, the kind that comes from open hearts that aren't in the habit of expecting the "government" to take care of things but stem from universal laws of hospitality, or, as my grandmother used to say, "that's what neighbours are for."

After some talk about NAFTA and trade relations between the two countries, he stressed those shared values from our British heritage (although he elided that last point!):

Our community of values reaches back centuries.

Canada and the U.S. may have disagreed on the wisdom of separating from the crown, but we've always agreed on the great principles of liberty derived from our common heritage.

We believe in the dignity of every human life. And we believe in the right of every person to live in freedom. We believe in free markets, humanized by compassion and fairness. We believe a diverse society can also be united by principles of justice and equality.

Then he tackled the problems with the U.N., which is a bit more thorny in Canada as the formation of that organization was led by the Canadian Prime Minister of the day and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lester Pearson, and thus occupies a special spot in the Canadian mind:
America always prefers to act with allies at our side. And we're grateful that Canada [is] working closely with us to confront the challenges of Iran and North Korea.

Multilateral organizations can do great good in the world.

Yet the success of multilateralism is measured not merely by following a process, but by achieving results. The objective of the U.N. and other institutions must be collective security, not endless debate. For the sake of peace, when those bodies promise serious consequences, serious consequences must follow.

America and Canada helped create the United Nations and because we remain committed to that institution, we want it to be more than a League of Nations. (Emphasis added)

He also referred to that part of Canadian history which too many have forgotten:
In the early days of World War II, when the United States was still wrestling with isolationism, Canadian forces were already engaging the enemies of freedom across the Atlantic.

At the time, some Canadians argued that Canada had not been attacked and had no interest in fighting a distant war.

Your prime minister, Mackenzie King, gave this answer: "We cannot defend our country and save our homes and families by waiting for the enemy to attack us. To remain on the defensive is the surest way to bring the war to Canada."

Of course, we should protect our coasts and strengthen our ports and cities against attack.

But the prime minister went on to say, "We must also go out and meet the enemy before he reaches our shores. We must defeat him before he attacks us, before our cities are laid to waste."

Mackenzie King was correct then, and we must always remember the wisdom of his words today.

From what I saw on CBC, the speech was fairly well received although comments after the speech indicated some irritation that the president hadn't backtracked or apologized for the decision to go to Iraq.

Posted by Debbye at 03:54 PM | Comments (17)

A different message for Bush

Dec. 1 - Among the many protesters of yesterday, Ottawa Sun columnist Earl McRae found one with a different message:

John Al-Hassani is Canadian, too. He's 48. He drove to Ottawa from Oshawa where he's an engineer. He stands on the fringe. His sign says: "Support President Bush."

"I came to this country from Iraq," he shouts in staccato bursts. "I have family there. I talk to them all the time. Look at these fools. They have no idea. They are idiots. They are simple babies. The majority of Iraqis are glad Bush liberated them from Saddam Hussein. But, you don't see that on TV, only the terrorist gangsters blowing people up. They don't speak for the people of Iraq.

Good read.

Posted by Debbye at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

Ukraine elections V

Dec. 1 - 10 days!

KIEV, Ukraine - Ukraine's parliament brought down the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich on Wednesday, approving a no-confidence motion as international mediators gathered in the capital to try to bring the spiraling political crisis to a peaceful resolution.

The dramatic vote came only days after the Election Commission certified Yanukovich as winner of Ukraine's disputed presidential run-off, though opposition leader Victor Yushchenko has said the vote was fraudulent, an allegation backed by Western governments and tens of thousands of opposition supporters.

A caretaker government must be approved in accordance with the Ukraine constitution and then ... what?

President Kuchma, who was to step down after the election, "announced he supported holding an entirely new presidential election, not just a revote of the disputed second round."

The Washington Post is speculating that Kuchma is trying to "buy time" and end the mass demonstrations and vigils that have blocked government buildings. That seems about right; they hope to gain some breathing room to try to figure out what should be done next.

16:46 - Captain's Quarters reports on a rumoured compromise and a Reuters story which disputes that story although it allows that some grounds have been reached for agreement between the two contending parties.

Posted by Debbye at 08:56 AM | Comments (0)

The President comes to Canada II

Bush-Martin Sun front page.jpg

Dec. 1 - Interesting front page for the online Toronto Sun today and caption.

The Sun is more supportive of President Bush than many Canadian newspapers and their coverage of his visit is fairly positive. Some aspects of the meeting not mentioned here:

U.S. PRESIDENT George W. Bush trumpeted a renewed friendship with Canada during his first visit to Ottawa yesterday, but bristled at criticism of his decision to invade Iraq. The president arrived at Parliament Hill surrounded by a 40-car motorcade overseen by police snipers on every rooftop and all manner of aircraft in the sky above.


Singling out Canada's military contribution in Afghanistan, Bush stressed that Canada and the U.S. share common values and stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the face of terror.

"The United States is fortunate to have a neighbour with whom we share so many ties of values and family and friendship," Bush said. "We look forward to an even stronger relationship in the years to come."


The Canada-U.S. relationship has been in a deep chill since Bush was first elected in 2000. Former PM Jean Chretien, who had a warm friendship with former U.S. president Bill Clinton, did not build the same ties with Bush.

Martin has worked to repair that during the past three meetings with Bush. The president previously visited Canada to attend two international summits, but this is the first time he has travelled to Ottawa for private meetings with the PM.


Bush raised the controversial ballistic missile defence shield during discussions with Martin, a topic the Canadian government had kept off the agenda. "We talked about the future of NORAD and how that organization can best meet emerging threats and safeguard our continent against attack from ballistic missiles," Bush said.

Senior Canadian government officials downplayed the discussion, saying Martin reiterated his opposition to putting weapons in space and reminded the president that Canada is still debating whether to jump on board or not. Officials said Bush did not ask for Canadian support.

CNN coverage gives more detail about the beef ban which is hurting the cattle trade:
Bush said he understood Martin's frustration but that U.S. law requires the White House Office of Management and Budget to review proposed Agriculture Department regulations before his administration can lift the ban.

"I fully understand the cattle business. I understand the pressures placed upon Canadian ranchers," he said. But he noted, "There's a bureaucracy involved. I readily concede we've got one."

PM Martin's and Pres. Bush's full statements and response to reporters' questions are here. The president noted past wars in which Canada and the U.S. have fought side by side as well as the current campaign in Afghanistan:
Canada and the United States share a history, a continent, and a border. We also share a commitment to freedom and a willingness to defend it in times of peril. The United States and Canada fought side-by-side in two world wars, in Korea and the Persian Gulf, and throughout the Cold War. Today, we're standing together against the forces of terror. Long-term success in this war requires more than military might -- it requires the advance of liberty and hope as the great alternatives to hatred and violence.

All free nations appreciate Canada's leadership: leadership of the security and stabilization mission in Afghanistan; leadership which helped make possible the first free nationwide election in that country's history. Afghanistan is a world away from the nightmare of its recent past, Mr. Prime Minister. It is building a decent and democratic future. And I want to thank you for your help.

He didn't shy away from Iraq and re-asserted the right of Iraqis to consensual government and brought up Canadian involvement in Haiti:
We're also standing with the brave people of Iraq who are preparing for elections on January the 30th. Both of our nations have a vital interest in helping the Iraqi people secure their country and build a free and democratic society. I want to thank the Prime Minister's resolve and his support for this great cause. The Canadian government has pledged more than $200 million U.S. in humanitarian aid and reconstruction assistance, and have agreed to relieve more than $450 million U.S. in Iraqi debt.

A free and democratic Iraq is rising in the heart of the Middle East. The success of liberty there will be a decisive blow to the ideology of terror and a model to reformers and democrats throughout the region. As we seek freedom for the Afghan and Iraqi people, America and Canada are working to further the spread of democracy in our own hemisphere. In Haiti, Canada was a leader along with the United States, France, Chile, and other nations in helping to restore order. Canadian police are standing watch in Haiti at this hour, and the Prime Minister just visited the country to further the cause of political reconciliation. I appreciate your briefing on your visit.

On Ukraine:
Prime Minister Martin and I also discussed the situation in Ukraine. I informed the Prime Minister that I talked this morning to President Kwasniewski of Poland. President Kwasniewski will again lead a delegation, which will include a representative of the European Union, to the Ukraine to encourage the parties to reject violence, and to urge the parties to engage in dialogue toward a political and legal solution to the current crisis. Our common goal is to see the will of the Ukranian people prevail. The Prime Minister and I want to thank President Kwasniewski for his efforts, and we wish him all the success.
On the decriminalization of marijuana in response to a question as to if it would affect the border:
It will probably affect those who use marijuana a lot more than it will affect the border.
and he then returned to the issue of security at the border and attempts to prevent "those who would do harm to either the United States or Canada from being able to do so ..." The next question also focused on marijuana, to which the president replied
I don't have a comment on what you're doing internally about that.
The claim has been made that marijuana hasn't been decriminalized yet due to pressure from the USA which feared it would enable more importation of the drug into the USA. I never quite understood that argument; it doesn't decriminalize the growth or distribution, only possession. The issue of medicinal marijuana usage is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

There has been a great deal of speculation about the speech President Bush is to give in Halifax today and whether it will be on a par with the landmark Whitehall speech.

8:33 - Air Force One is now departing from Ottawa Airport. The CBC is reporting about 40 protesters have gathered in Halifax.

Posted by Debbye at 07:11 AM | Comments (2)