Feb. 28 - Brig. Gen. David Fraser, Canadian, takes over in southern Afghanistan, but it's a bit more complicated than that.
Feb. 28 - You got to have somethin' if you want support from us! La la la!
(If this musical outburst appears unseemly it's on account of all is right with the world because Jimmy Carter and I are on opposite sides again. Thank goodness. Those brief days of agreement were scary.)
Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, UNHR Commissioner Louise Arbour*, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch support a severely compromised U.N. proposal to create a new human rights council within the U.N. and John Bolton doesn't (U.S. Opposes U.N.'s Planned Rights Panel.)
John Bolton is holding out for a proposal tough enough to exclude nations that abuse human rights from the panel. His line of reasoning seems reasonable: the inclusion of so many countries that did not practice human rights discredited the current U.N. Commission on Human Rights to the point of rendering it absurd, so why repeat the fiasco?
Support for the proposal seems to stem from fatigue and resignation:
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and other supporters of the compromise warned that there is no better deal to be struck and that the U.S. strategy could undermine their efforts to create an improved, though imperfect, human rights body. "I think we should not let the better be the enemy of the good," Annan told reporters Monday in Geneva.That Kofi can obfuscate with the best of them. His homily, in that that the compromise cuts the legs off the proposed panel, suggests that unnecessary (and unethical) amputation is the "good," and that choosing a whole and healthy body is the "better."
The United States and the United Nations have been pressing for nearly a year to create a strengthened human rights council to replace the 53-member Human Rights Commission. The reputation of the Geneva-based panel, which helped draft the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has recently been tainted by the frequent election of members with dismal human rights records, such as Sudan and Zimbabwe.and Egypt. and China. and Cuba. Aw heck. Membership list from 2001-2005 and membership from 1947-2003 broken down regionally is here.
The new panel has the same problem as the current commission: it will be too easy for countries with poor human rights records to be on it. And this is the huge fraking clue:
Senior U.S. and U.N. officials had sought to prevent countries with poor rights records from joining the new organization by raising the membership standards and requiring a two-thirds vote of the 191-member General Assembly for any nation's admittance. But the proposal met stiff resistance, and the current draft resolution would require members to be elected by an absolute majority -- at least 96 countries.
Annan, who discussed the human rights council Sunday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, appealed Monday for the United States to "join the vast majority of governments who seem ready to accept" Eliasson's proposal. He and other supporters said the proposal constituted a serious improvement on the existing Human Rights Commission.(Let's just skip over the peer pressure. Most of those countries are not our peers anyway.) The majority of governments represented at the U.N. are totalitarian governments -- and they support this compromise because
a) they've seen the light and meekly realize they must respect human rights;
b) they're suicidal;
c) they know it's just a coat of cheap paint over mouldy walls.
They noted that provisions to subject all council members to scrutiny of their human rights record would discourage countries with poor records from joining. They also said that council members suspected of abusive behavior can be suspended by a vote of two-thirds of the U.N. membership present.Two of the supporters, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, already subject every country to scrutiny and publicize their findings. And to what effect? Nary a blush, much less reform. Get real.
The new council would consist of 47 members selected by secret ballot on the basis of "geographical distribution" and committed to "uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights."The only democratic country in the Mid-East is Israel. Second-runner up is Iraq. Any bets on how many votes either of those countries will receive?
*Louise Arbour is a Canadian.
Feb. 28 - It's staggering to think that, given so much societal focus on "thinking of the children," that more books like these haven't been written. But leave it to the Marines or, in this case, a Marine Wife and Mom Who Pens Books to Help Military Kids Cope:
Angela Sportelli-Rehak, wife of Marine Corps Lt. Col. Dennis Rehak, combined her personal experience with background as a professional counselor and professor to write two children's books about the challenges facing military families.I really hope these books get the distribution necessary so that they can fill what is a definite need, as those of us who read blogs written by family members of military personnel can attest, and it would be wonderful if Sportelli-Rehak continues the series right up through the teen years.
"When Duty Calls" and "Moving Again Mom" are part of a series called, "Uncle Sam's Kids" that follows a fictitious military family through the ups and downs of military life. The books are written for children in kindergarten through fourth grade and focus on the stresses of deployments and the disruption of being uprooted during permanent-change-of-station moves, Rehak explained. The stories are based largely on the Rehak family's personal experiences, as well as those of other military families, said Rehak, who teaches child psychology and education courses at Ocean County College in Toms River, N.J.
With 13 military moves under her belt, Rehak said she was often frustrated that no books on the market addressed the stresses her three children endured when they left their school, friends, sports teams and neighborhood behind during moves. "So I decided to write one myself," she said.
But as military deployments began stepping up after Sept. 11, 2001, Rehak temporarily put that project aside to write a book for the children of deploying troops. "My husband has been on many, many deployments, and I know there are a lot of stressors that come along with that," she said. "I thought a book about it might help a lot of people."
The third book is also written for children and helps them cope with a different kind of stress: Why Mommy is a Democrat (that's my interpetation and I'm sticking with it.)
Feb. 27 - The cartoon controversy has just taken on a new aspect, according to Ace: Iranian Scholar: Tom And Jerry Cartoons A Jewish Conspiracy.
You just know they're priming the pump before they go after Mickey Mouse and Stuart Little.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Feb. 26 - In yesterday's Opinion Journal was an interview with Yenny Wahid, Daughter of Islam
The main goal of ideologues like Osama bin Laden is to topple the governments of Muslim countries, including, most famously, the Wahabi royal regime of Saudi Arabia. But the real strategic plum, Ms. Wahid says, would be her native Indonesia and its 220 million citizens--with the largest Muslim population on earth.The 2002 attack in Bali awoke Indonesia to the terrorist element there and it is heartening that one result of their recent elections was that this most populous Muslim nation seems committed to keeping a strong, secular government.
"We are the ultimate target," she told me in Washington during a trip to the U.S. earlier this month. "The real battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims is happening in Indonesia, not anywhere else. And that's why the world should focus on Indonesia and help."
The war on terror has many fronts but most of the media scrutiny has been to the east. As to why they overlook the west, it is probably related to the ease with which they also ignore the partnership of Indonesia (as well as Australia) in the war on terror.
The Whalid Foundation noted in the article is an interesting site and well worth exploring.
Feb. 26 - If you haven't already done so, be sure to read The Cartoon Jihad by John Thompson of The MacKenzie Institute. It is uncompromisingly and blunt:
... After years of seeing freedom of speech being defended by the likes of pedophiles, pornographers and Neo-Nazis, it is a welcome relief to speak up for editorial cartoonists against the two-faced demagogues of the Islamic World.This is a good place to note that the Crown has declined to lay criminal charges against the Western Standard for publication of the cartoons because the intent was clearly not to incite hatred.
The seeming outrage is only expressed by a tiny minority within the Islamic world, and could be characterized as the work of rabble-rousers and professional activists from the Jihadist movement. To acknowledge their point and adjust our behavior in any way only rewards this group and invites their next act of carefully coordinated 'spontaneous' outrage. Their concerns neither merit serious consideration nor our respect.
In most cases, the first protests have been small but intense and few foreign journalists have bothered to ask why so many of the signs are in English…
As for Laban, he has returned to Denmark to practice the other old tactic of the political front, that of standing to one side while attempting to look sorrowful and reasonable. To understand how this role is played imagine, for example, the outraged survivor of a sexual assault being told by a seeming passer-by (who is related to the rapist), “Oh, if only you hadn't been so provocative”.
(MacKenzie Institute link via Newsbeat1)
Feb. 26 - A Canadian soldier was slightly wounded after two grenades exploded near a Canadian patrol on the Kandahar road between two Canadian camps. The attack was made at approximately 10:30 p.m. and and, as too often happens, it was a hit-and-run attack and thus no chance to return fire (Canadian patrol under rocket-propelled grenade attack in Afghanistan):
The first round exploded on the road between vehicles. The second projectile struck a rear door.As the article notes, the soldiers were traveling in G-wagons, which replaced the unarmoured Iltis vehicles after Corporal Jamie Brendan Murphy was killed in January, 2004.
"It was bang, bang," said Grimshaw. [Maj. Nick Grimshaw, the senior officer on the patrol.]
Capt. Jay Adair was standing through the hatch in the rear the lead LAV-3 and saw the RPG attack firsthand.
"I heard the bangs and I also saw the explosions," Adair said.
"I'm not sure whether I saw the explosions from the weapons being fired or the weapons striking the ground and the vehicle. But certainly a bright flash and two loud bangs."
The attack was on the main road from the city to Kandahar Airfield, the same road where Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry died in a bomb attack.
Properly funding and equipping the military is going to be a major challenge for the newly installed minority Conservative government. Canadian chief of the defence staff Gen. Rick Hillier lays it out:
"We remain short about three quarters of a billion dollars just to sustain the present Canadian Forces," he said.Although I can't scientifically prove it, I do believe that the impact of American Milbloggers on communications between the American public and military has been immense. As this chart indicates, though, there is a decided lack of them in Canada.
"That's everything from married quarters to spare parts, to ammunition, the running of simulators, to gas and oil, to rations and to everything else necessary to march or fly or sail."
Beyond these day-to-day expenses, there's an enormous backlog of repairs and maintenance that has been deferred for years.
"The bow wave of things that we have not done, that we have put off . . . is enormous," he said. "It is going to take us billions of dollars to get out of that hole and I mean billions with a capital B."
Hillier also said that the military has too many buildings, hangars and other infrastructure on its bases that cost money but add nothing to the Forces.
"My estimate is that we have anywhere up to a quarter of our infrastructure that is not operationally required."
Hillier has welcomed the Conservative government's proposals for new planes, bases and 13,000 new troops.
Hillier seemed to be taken aback by a new poll published Friday which suggested almost two-thirds of Canadians oppose Canada's involvement in Afghanistan.
Hillier also said he wants to build a stronger connection between the Forces and the rest of the country after years in which the military and the civilian community have drifted apart.
"Having been disconnected from the population for many years in my view, disowned by Canadians in this past decade and seen their confidence in us plummet, we have an obligation to ensure that we as Canada's armed forces are seen by our population . . . as exactly that; as their armed forces."
Bloggers do have a way of filling a vacuum, though, and Damian Brooks and Chris Taylor are part of a new enterprise to fill that need: The Torch, a blog focused on the Canadian military and which already has an impressive series of posts including this one which takes on the notion that Canadians are a nation of "peacekeepers." Be sure to bookmark and visit The Torch.
Feb. 26 - Munu changes servers (insert mumbled techno-stuff) and I too had difficulty logging on but everything seems to be back to normal.
As weeks go, last week was a sorry example of our ability to differentiate between the war on terror and fear of all things Arab. I am referring, of course, to the sensationalist fear-mongering over the sale of a British company to a company run out of the UAE and both Democrats and Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. I'm just a private citizen and even I know that security at ports is run by federal agencies not private ones, so why don't U.S. Senators? As someone quipped, "We're all racial profilers now."
Crucial to al Qaeda's successful attacks has been the recruitment of and deployment of home-based terrorists. The attacks in New York, Madrid and London were performed by people residing in those countries and, although security in ports remains a gaping question, so does security in chemical factories, electrical plants, subways, and just about everywhere. Fighting the war on terror while also retaining our society as an open one remains the paradox and the challenge.
Has everyone already picked up on the fact that the same company that has raised such alarms in the U.S. already leases a container facility in Vancouver?
Duncan Wilson, spokesman for the Vancouver Port Authority - basically P&O Canada's landlord - said security at the port is the responsibility of the RCMP, the local police and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, whose agents inspect containers.So do we want to isolate all Arabs, or encourage Arabs to join in the effort to isolate terrorists?
"It's a business arrangement. Our other terminals are also operated by offshore companies."
Isn't it curious that the American news media which, with only a few exceptions, declined to publish the Danish cartoons (although I did see two of them broadcast by Fox News during a clip about the support demonstration in front of the Danish Embassy in D.C.) yet was so willing to misinform the public about the sale of the British company to a Dubai based concern? I guess they figure it's safer to target our allies than to annoy our enemies ...
Feb. 21 - The third in a series of articles in the Washington Post as to how the internet works - and hinders - freedom in China: Bloggers Who Pursue Change Confront Fear And Mistrust.
The irony in the final paragraph is outstanding.
Also pertinent is the article Free Software Takes Users Around Filters in the same issue.
Feb. 21 - I promised on Saturday that I would explain why I liked the Tunnel of Tolerance cartoon published by The Strand, a Canadian student newspaper. My reaction to it was immediate but it was hard to pinpoint why it struck me favourably because, although I primarily was struck by the political statement it made, I recognized there was a religious element. I eventually realized that, for me, the religious element was irrevelant because it didn't affect my faith.
Jesus was not a micro-manager. I don't believe that Jesus was a homosexual but then I've never spent any time wondering about that aspect of his life because he himself didn't address it. His message transcends sexual considerations because he taught us to regard one another as brothers and sisters, a message which is as profound and immense in this age as it was in his.
I have no doubt that the cartoon angered a lot of people for a great many reasons, but I also believe that darned word "tolerance" put those who might be inclined to over-react on the defensive. In both military and moral grounds, that gave the cartoonist the high ground if not the win outright. It also outflanked many in the liberal left who didn't want to be accused of homophobia.
The cartoonist outmaneuvered too many interest groups not to be worthy of respect.
Angry or not, I doubt Christians will hurl molotov cocktails into the newspaper offices and demand that the editors be beheaded and the cartoonist's hands be cut off. It's all about how faith is rooted in free will. My faith is freely given so is not shaken by "harmful" influences. If indeed any cartoon is sufficient to shake my faith then the question must be asked: is my faith based on sand or on rock? (That's a religious metaphor, not a topographical one.) If one really takes the riots over the cartoons as expressions of religious outrage then it is hard not to wonder how insecure many of the participants - and those who incited them - are in their faith.
But of course the controversy over the Danish cartoons was not about the cartoons and the riots were incited to intimidate Western publications and governments. They posed the question as to what extent a religion - any religion - is allowed to influence secular institutions but too many journalists failed to accept their responsibilities as members of the secular press and were complicit in subjecting themselves to religious censorship either through fear or an innate failure to recognize their own bias.
However much I might regret that the latest battle lines have been drawn over cartoons I still march under that banner which reveres freedom of expression. The principle must be emphasized: if you don't like what you see or read then turn the page, cancel your subscription, and write a scathing letter. The reality is that Christians can respect Muslims without believing in the sanctity of Mohammed and a Pope can kiss the Koran but Mohammed remains, to many of us, a false prophet and pictures depicting him are not blasphemous. We've tried to be polite about it but that's the way it is.
The cartoon may offend many but it's how we respond to such provocation that affirms our ability to co-exist. The Tunnel of Tolerance is aptly named because the capacity for tolerance is what is being tempered in this age of globalization. Fire and ice, people. Fire and ice.
Feb. 20 - Another outstanding piece in the Washington Post about attempts by the Chinese government to limit access to the internet. Today's article is about the attempt to control information, including the banning of reference sites like Wikipedia, and the inherent paradox of censorship in todays world:
The party appears at once determined not to be left behind by the global information revolution and fearful of being swept away by it.Again, it's a long read, but I think you'll find Reference Tool On Web Finds Fans, Censors worth the time.
Besides, can you think of a more appropriate way to celebrate the legacy of George Washington
two days before on his birthday?
Feb. 20 - A bit of vindication for Ezra Levant and the Western Standard: according to a recent Compass poll, about 6 in 10 Canadian journalists say Publish cartoons.
Interesting breakdown of options:
According to Monday's report, about 17 per cent of those polled felt all major Canadian media should have reprinted the images. Another 18 per cent said most media should have carried the cartoons and 25 per cent said at least some of Canada's biggest outlets should have used the caricatures.The great divide:
By contrast, about 31 per cent of respondents said major media were correct in the decision not to use the material.
Of those who supported non-publication, most cited respect as the reason.Encouragingly, the poll also found that the journalists who participated understood the implications of not publishing the cartoons:
The bulk of those who said the cartoons should have been carried said fear was the primary motivator for not publishing.
Still, the majority of Canadian journalists also said they had at least some concern that not publishing the cartoons increased the power of extremist groups at the expense of Shia Muslims who include portraits in their every day lives and pluralist Muslims who want the Islamic world to accept diversity of opinion.
Journalists were asked to score how strongly they agree with that argument on a scale of one to five, with five being the strongest point of agreement. A total of 62 per cent scored three or more on the scale.
(Via Neale News.)
Feb. 20 -
"You must be the change that you want to see in the world."These words were spoken by Steve Pacquette of the new Toronto chapter of the Guardian Angels..
The creation of the Guardian Angels up here has sparked a lot of controversy. The stated concerns are that the Guardian Angels might operate as vigilantes. I believe that there is an underlying issue, though: citizen-based groups like the Angels threaten a mentality that would have us be passive victims and wait patiently for the government to "do something" -- inevitably after things have gone wrong due to government policies.
The Guardian Angels, in fact, are like preventive medicine, and they have the potential to stop trouble before it starts simply by their presence. What's not to like and admire?
It comes down to this: should citizens step up and take responsibility for themselves and their neighbourhoods? Or, to put it another way, if we don't take responsibility then who will?
People who live in rural areas are likely smiling at all this. After all, they have a robust history of belonging to fire and police auxiliaries and all the twitter over the Guardian Angels must seem insane. Communities are stronger, not weaker, when citizens take responsibility for themselves and their city. It's just, you know, common sense.
The creation of the Guardian Angels was a major first step for the people of New York to take back their city. I earnestly hope that the sight of red berets will restore a sense of pride and dignity -- and safety -- in Parkdale.
Feb. 19 - Victor Davis Hanson addresses the question behind the issues raised by the Cartoon Controversy: are we finally seeing A European Awakening Against Islamic Fascism?
(Via Newsbeat1, who has a terrific line-up of solid reading. Just start at the top and keep scrolling.)
[Aside: Canada trails Finland 2-0 in men's hockey. This seems like a really good time to get out of the living room and grab some sleep.]
Feb. 19 - It may be underfunded and underequipped, but the Canadian military in Afghanistan does this country proud and doesn't back down when it comes under fire from insurgents:
Military officials told The Canadian Press that attackers fired three rocket-propelled grenades at a platoon from Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry taking shelter in a compound in Gumbad, about 60 kilometres northeast of Kandahar.There will probably be accusations that this attack was a direct result of the decision to publish the Danish cartoons in the Western Standard (as though there had not been prior attacks on Canadian Forces!) Damian has a thoughtful essay (which predated this recent rocket attack) and questions whether we can keep our soldiers safe without becoming something less than we are now.
No Canadians were reportedly injured in the attack, which occurred at about 7:30 p.m. local time. The rockets fell into fields surrounding the camp, just south of the small village.
Military officials said a patrol was sent out to investigate the enemy firing positions, but found no sign of insurgents.
It's the first minor skirmish reported since a new rotation of Canadian soldiers began arriving in the country for Task Force Afghanistan during the past month. The number of soldiers is expected to reach 2,200 by next month.
(N.B.: The headline reads the troops "exchanged fire" with insurgents although nothing in the story indicates there was actually an exchange of fire. I can't account for the discrepancy. Nevertheless, the fact that a patrol was sent out implies the willingness to shoot back.)
Update: The CTV account has been expanded and it appears there was indeed a firefight:
The soldiers returned fire using rifles and their new 155-millimetre M777 howitzer, a towed artillery piece. Military officials said a patrol was sent out to investigate the enemy firing positions, but found no sign of insurgents.There's a somewhat detailed account of the procedure the patrol undertook in their effort to locate the enemy:
"There were no locals, there was no enemy traces found," Lt.-Col. Ian Hope, the head of the PPCLI battle group, told CP. "But that's quite normal too because normally they shoot and they run.''I've probably quoted more than I should have, but after calling them on what they left out I wanted to fully acknowledge the additions they've made to the original story.
The troops did, however, find a series of trenches and tunnels which were likely used as an escape route.
"According to our American counterparts, it is a well-known area that the Taliban have used for fortifications in the past," said Hope.
"They've conducted several ambushes there. They've actually killed some (Afghan National Army soldiers) from those positions, so it was no surprise ... that that was an area that they were firing from."
(Via Neale News.)
Feb. 19 - A demonstration yesterday in front of the Danish Embassy in D.C. had an unusual component:
The demonstrators were met by 20 counter-protesters from the conservative Free Republic group, who stood in front of the embassy on Whitehaven Street NW waving Danish and U.S. flags and holding large letters reading "Human Shields."I spent a good part of yesterday morning looking for Danish feta and butter cookies yet it never occurred to me that the Danes also export beer (maybe because we Americans tend to think of European beer as ... well, you know.)
The defense of Denmark no longer has anything to do with the cartoons because, as the following post illustrates, defending freedom of the press and refusing to allow governments to censor the news has deeper implications than hurt feelings.
Feb. 19 - Wonderful account in today's Washington Post concerning The Click That Broke a Government's Grip (free registration may be required.) The story illustrates the futility of locking the barn door after the horse has bolted - or censoring something after it has already been posted on a computer system, copied and sent through text messaging and email, and posted on bulletin boards.
An attempt to intimidate writers of the newspaper China Youth Daily by docking their pay if their articles upset party officials was leaked by Li Datong, senior editor of the paper, who had posted a letter on the newspaper's computer system which exposed and attacked the move. The capability of the internet to spread information quickly fully earned its nickname "information highway" as attempts to censor the letter could not catch up to its distribution.
It's no secret that China has, with damnable complicity from Google, Yahoo, et al.,
a censorship system that includes a blacklist of foreign sites blocked in China and filters that can stop e-mail and make Web pages inaccessible if they contain certain keywords. Several agencies, most notably the police and propaganda authorities, assign personnel to monitor the Web.Attempts to stop the letter were too little too late, and we can credit the slowness of bureaucratic response (yes, even bureaucratic lethargy has an upside!)
The system is far from airtight. Software can help evade filters and provide access to blacklisted sites, and Internet companies often test the censors' limits in order to attract readers and boost profits. If an item isn't stopped by the filters and hasn't been covered in the Friday meetings, the government can be caught off guard.
That is what happened with Li Datong's letter. Minutes after he posted it, people in the newsroom began copying it and sending it to friends via e-mail and the instant messaging programs used by more than 81 million Chinese.
It was midafternoon before someone in the party bureaucracy decided Li Datong's letter should be removed from Chinese cyberspace and government officials began calling executives at the major Web sites.It's a long read but well worth it.
Some said they were contacted by the Beijing Municipal Information Office, others by its national-level counterpart, the State Council Information Office. None reported receiving a formal notice or any legal justification for the decision. As usual, they were just told to delete the offending material.
There are at least 694,000 Web sites in China, according to official statistics, and the party didn't try to contact them all. They called the most popular sites in Beijing first. Hours passed before some smaller bulletin board sites were notified. Forums with national audiences in other cities received calls only at the end of the day.
Even as Li's memo began disappearing from some Web sites, it went up on others the authorities had not contacted. Shortly before 10 p.m., it was posted on the popular Tianya forum. At 11 p.m., it became a featured item on Bokee, China's top blog and portal site.
The next morning, officials continued calling Web sites, but readers started posting the memo on sites that had already removed it. Some Web site managers said they tried to drag their feet or leave copies on less prominent pages. One said the memo was viewed 30,000 times before he took it down.
Feb. 19 - The capability of the U.S. military to respond quickly to civilian emergencies and the willingness of our government to render aid to those in need is incredible. Be it a tsunami, earthquake or a mudslide, the U.S. is there long before the U.N. has held its first meeting to address the catastrophe (with an energetic nod to our Australian friends, who have much the same attitude to active response.)
The recent Phillipine mudslide is only the most recent example and, as soon as the request went through the necessary protocols, we were on our way to aid and assist (Amphibious Ready Group Responds to Philippines Landslide.)
WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2006 – Sailors and Marines from the Forward Deployed Amphibious Ready Group and elements of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade were called upon yesterday to help the victims of a mudslide on southern Leyte Island in the Philippines, U.S. 7th Fleet officials reported.There are those who talk and those who do. Godspeed to the service personnel of the USS Essex, USS Harpers Ferry and elements of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in this errand of mercy.
USS Essex, USS Harpers Ferry and elements of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade immediately left port Subic Bay en route to the disaster zone area.
"Our primary mission is to provide as much assistance as possible to the victims of this tragic event," said Capt. Mark E. Donahue, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11, the task group commander of the Forward Deployed ARG. "We are here to prevent the further loss of life and to mitigate any further suffering."
The Philippine Red Cross has asked the United States for helicopter support to assist with rescue and relief operations in the area.
Just as in Operation Unified Assistance, a multi-nation effort to help victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the ships of the Forward Deployed ARG will use various ship-to-shore assets to get landslide victims the assistance they need in the form of food, water and medical supplies, officials said. During the tsunami operation, USS Essex and USS Fort McHenry delivered about 6 million pounds of relief supplies.
Feb. 18 - The University of Toronto's student newspaper, The Strand, has published a cartoon depicting Mohammed and Jesus kissing.
The cartoon, "Tunnel of Tolerance," and editorial, "To print or not to print," can be viewed here (registration may be required.)
Unsurprisingly it has caused a bit of an uproard , but the U of T student newspaper refuses to apologize for publishing the Muhammad and Jesus cartoon.
I am in the usual evening rush (wake up, gulp down coffee, dash out) and don't have the time at this moment to properly formulate and present my thoughts, but my immediate reaction is that I like this response to the Cartoon Controversy. I'll try to put words to my thoughts tomorrow.
One sees what one wants to see. I don't see this as a gay statement but as a kiss of peace -- a symbol of acceptance and tolerance between two of the world's largest religions.
Bottom line: the war of terror is not a war on Muslims.
[As I noted, I'm in a horrible rush and thus reserve the right to edit this for the sake of clarity.]
Feb. 17 - Canada has won the gold and silver medals in the men's skeleton events! Great news, but ... um, what is a skeleton event? I didn't know and Mark didn't know so I did a quick google and came up with one answer by by Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press in an extremely humorous article Why skeleton is a dumb sport.
A brief primer: Skeleton is exactly like luge, except that instead of flying down the track on your butt, you fly down the track on your stomach. Skeleton athletes (that's what they call themselves, which is title inflation of the worst kind) say skeleton requires a totally different skill set than luge. Let's just take their word for it. Otherwise, they might explain.Aw, unruffle your fur. He's poking fun at the U.S. team, not the Canadian team, and tells you much more than you want to know about how the "U.S. skeleton team brought sex, drugs and violence to these Winter Olympics, and not even in a good way."
I know: It sounds like a ridiculous, inane, stupid, non-sport kind of sport. But that's what people said when luge first became an Olympic sport in 1964, and now, 42 years later, many of those same people are dead. So maybe we shouldn't question it.
Mark and I can't quite figure out how a hair restorative can be considered a performance enhancing drug (in sports, for crying out loud. Sheesh.)
Feb. 17 - We have a couple of sayings back home:
"Talk is cheap."
"Put your money where your mouth is."
For some reason those cliches came to mind when I read NATO allies cut military since 9/11.
Feb. 17 - The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) has ruled that overcharging customers is a Canadian value. No, that's incorrect. What I meant to write is that the CRTC ruled that customers of Bell Canada and Telus Corp. were overcharged and, rather than ordering the two companies to reimburse those customers, the money be used for 'an important social and economic goal' (CRTC vetoes repayment).
I'm not the only one who is unhappy with this ruling:
Consumer groups and one dissenting commissioner said the money belongs to consumers and should go back to them.Parliament failed to allocate money to expand broadband services so the CRTC has decided to appropriate money for the cause - money which rightfully belongs to those who were overcharged.
CRTC chair Charles Dalfen told reporters yesterday that expanding broadband services, also known as high-speed Internet, is an important social and economic goal.
It has been a federal government priority for at least five years, although Ottawa has yet to allocate enough money to provide access in most rural and remote communities. "We think this is in the broader interests of the consumers," Mr. Dalfen said.
The CRTC said in its ruling that the companies will have until June 30 to outline how they will use the money to expand broadband. They are also ordered to use at least 5 per cent of the money to improve broadband access for the disabled.
This sets a very dangerous precedent.
Feb. 17 - What on earth has prompted Warren Kinsella to sue a Canadian blogger, as Bruce reports in Blogging is a dangerous game? The defendent is Mark Bourrie, an Ottawa bogger, and Kinsella is demanding $600,000.
The claims of Kinsella's suit are here. As there is something of a history of bad feelings between Kinsella and Bourrie one has to wonder if this is a "gotcha" suit rooted more over an issue of English grammar than a serious claim of defamation.
Jay Currie has a great deal more here.
Mark is doing the right thing by fighting this suit, but his defense will cost a great deal.
Donations can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org on www.paypal.com , and I would encourage everyone to contribute what they can. Defending Mark now will be less costly than the long term harm which will be done to Canadian political bloggers should frivolous suits as this one be permitted to proceed unchallenged.
There was an ugly spate of threatened lawsuits last June which threatened the Canadian news media. Now it's the unofficial news media which is being targeted and, as was done then, it's fighting time.
Feb. 14 - I have some kind of virus thingy and my brain is fuzzy.
We're all having a good laugh at the Vice-President's hunting mishap. Lord knows we need it - and the icing on the cake has been the indignation by the White House press corps that a local Corpus Christi news reporter scooped them. Only in America!
I'm posting a too true email that Dex sent me and heading back to bed.
25 SIGNS YOU HAVE GROWN UP
1. Your house plants are alive, and you can't smoke any of them.
2. Having sex in a twin bed is out of the question.
3. You keep more food than beer in the fridge.
4. 6:00 AM is when you get up, not when you go to bed.
5. You hear your favorite song in an elevator.
6. You watch the Weather Channel.
7. Your friends marry and divorce instead of "hook up" and "break up."
8. You go from 130 days of vacation time to 14.
9. Jeans and a sweater no longer qualify as "dressed up."
10. You're the one calling the police because those %&@# kids next door won't turn down the stereo.
11. Older relatives feel comfortable telling sex jokes around you.
12. You don't know what time Taco Bell closes anymore.
13. Your car insurance goes down and your car payments go up.
14. You feed your dog Science Diet instead of McDonald's leftovers.
15. Sleeping on the couch makes your back hurt.
16. You take naps.
17. Dinner and a movie is the whole date instead of the beginning of one.
18. Eating a basket of chicken wings at 3 AM would severely upset, rather than settle, your stomach.
19. You go to the drug store for ibuprofen and antacid, not condoms and pregnancy tests.
20. A $4.00 bottle of wine is no longer "pretty good stuff."
21. You actually eat breakfast food at breakfast time.
22. "I just can't drink the way I used to" replaces "I'm never going to drink that much again."
23. 90% of the time you spend in front of a computer is for real work.
24. You drink at home to save money before going to a bar.
25. When you find out your friend is pregnant you congratulate them instead of asking "Oh S*$# what the hell happened?"
26: You read this entire list looking desperately for one sign that doesn't apply to you and can't find one to save your sorry old butt. Then you forward it to a bunch of old pals & friends 'cause you know they'll enjoy it & do the same.
Feb. 11 - Are they determined to piss us off? I'm trying to maintain some calm about this but when people keeping drawing lines in the sand it's darned near impossible: Top Saudi cleric says authors, publishers of prophet drawings must be punished:
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - Saudi Arabia's top cleric called on the world's Muslims to reject apologies for the "slanderous" caricatures of Islam's Prophet Mohammed and demanded the authors and publishers of the cartoons be tried and punished, Saudi newspapers reported Saturday.Let's be real: the over-the-top response is more surely making a mockery of Islam and the Prophet than any cartoon could, and the pathetic need to bolster their case by fabricating cartoons indicates how very unremarkable the original 12 were.
Speaking to hundreds of faithful at his Friday sermon, Sheik Abdul Rahman al-Seedes, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, called on the international community to enact laws that condemn insults against the prophet and holy sites.
"Where is the world with all its agencies and organizations? Is there only freedom of expression when it involves insults to Muslims? With one voice . . . we will reject the apology and demand a trial," Al Riyad, a Saudi daily newspaper, quoted al-Seedes as saying.
Al-Seedes said the cartoons "made a mockery" of the Islam and the Prophet and called them "slanderous."
Despite my personal decision not to publish any of those cartoons, I understand completely why many chose to do so - and make no mistake, we are talking about choice, not legal compulsion or proscription. It's a bit hard to maintain the notion that Al-Seedes represents a "religion of peace" when demands are made that we be punished for exercising our freedoms, and it's hard to maintain respect for a religion that responds so irrationally to a series of cartoons.
The demands of any religious leader in Saudi Arabia are even more insulting when we consider the following:
Are Muslims in Western countries denied the right to worship as they chose? Are Christians and Jews allowed to worship as they please in Saudi Arabia?
Will there ever be an end to the insults and defamation of Jews and unbelievers in mosques?
What goes around comes around. It doesn't make it right, but it does make all the outrage and indignation said to be sparked by the cartoons easy to dismiss.
Equally easy to dismiss is this:
A local Muslim leader has filed a police complaint and will be seeing a lawyer over the running of controversial political cartoons in two Calgary-area publications.Quote of the, er, month (bit early to make it the year!) should go to Ezra Levant (editor of the Western Standard) who makes this observation in the Calgary Sun article:
Alaa Elsayed of the Muslim Council of Calgary (MCC) said he will also be asking The Jewish Free Press, which published the cartoons Jan. 9, and the Western Standard, which is expected to feature them in tomorrow's issue, to apologize for the slight.
"In Canada, we don't call the police when our religious sensitivities are offended -- we write letters to the editor."Those words should be posted everywhere.
I dislike having to constantly remind myself that the extremists demanding a free people exercise censorship do not represent all Muslims. I dislike having to struggle against my contempt for those who do not respect me and my values but who have the nerve to demand I respect them.
I'm going to keep reminding myself that this is not about tolerance but about suppression, and the real threat the cartoons pose is to the imans, mullahs and clerics is people (like me) who may not laugh at the cartoons but can laugh at anyone, be it the Pope, Jerry Falwell or Sheik Abdul Rahman al-Seedes, who would try to impose censorship on us by religious decree.
14:30 - The Western Standard website seems to be inaccessible. I hope it's due to traffic.
18:00 - A Shotgun blog post (no reference to VP Dick Cheney) confirms that it is indeed the traffic. But, yes, I wondered. Also, Ezra Levant speaks out here and spells out the fear factor that played a part in the sudden reluctance by the news media to offend religious sensibilities.
Feb. 11 - When the first set of churches burnt I was dismayed. When the second set were set ablazed I was alarmed. Now I'm getting angry (10th Alabama church burns) and I mean angry American-Style ... the kind of implacable, watchful anger that can be mistaken for calm and even forgetfulness by those who don't know us.
Can you imagine the response if 10 mosques had been burnt down in two weeks? The horror! And I'd be one of those horrified and angered. The fact that it's Christians being targeted doesn't change the fact that this is a hate crime and is not only unlawful but threatens a fundamental value for which our ancestors fought: the right to worship as we choose.
That evidence indicates that at least some of the fires were set by the pulpits may contain an somehwat threatening message. That they started so soon after MLK Day is disquieting (need I remind anyone that Dr. King was a Baptist minister?) even though I realize that these arsons seem aimed more at Baptists generally and are not colour-based. Nevertheless, Dr. King appealed to Christian consciences which was why, in large part, his message could not be disregarded and why he remains to this day an inspirational and visionary American figure as well as a refutation to those who despise religion.
Whatever, the motive, whoever is doing this don't know Southern Baptists. I think it likely the parishioners will still attend services tomorrow whether the location is a neighbouring church, a barn, a tent, or the open air. I also think they will, even as they mourn for the loss of their churches, pray for those who are doing this evil. (Although I also think it might be better for the perpetrators if the feds catch them, if you know what I mean. It's unlikely that anyone will read 'em from the book, but still.)
[No, I'm not a Baptist but I've attended Southern Baptists services and they bowled this sophisticated urbanite over and filled me with humility and joy. But then maybe urbane is just another word for jaded. Or pretentious.]
Feb. 11 - There are so many things wrong about the events outlined in this story. David Archuletta of Colorado was told that his child was stillborn. It was a lie, and the mother had actually put the child up for adoption in New Jersey with an agency called Children of the World. She had told the agency that the father was unknown, but then tried to extort money from the prospective adoptive parents by threatening to contact the biological father. They did the right thing and their lawyer contacted the executive director of the adoption agency, Veronica Serio, by letter but no one at the agency attempted to contact the now known father during the next nine months before the adoption was finalized.
The bureaucratic mind-set of the people at Children of the World is appalling. Once they learned that, contrary to the mother's initial claim, the father was "known," they must have realized that the case was more complicated than first thought and immediately halted the adoption process. They must have known they needed to initiate a different process which must begin by contacting the child's father. They didn't.
It's easy to speculate that the agency ignored the father because fathers have been more and more deemed expendable these days, but it may well be that the fault lies in a rigid bureaucratic mentality. No matter the cause, the easy manner in which the father and his rights were banished - as well as those of the child, who was entitled to the chance to be with his natural father - is disgraceful.
When, a year later, Mr. Archuletta was finally told the truth by the child's mother he began trying to fight for custody of his son but has no money to pay for attorneys.
Maybe someone will take his case pro bono? It seems a worthy cause.
Feb. 10 - Noteworthy item here, although the interesting part is not even in the story: Malaysian recruited for attack on U.S. pulled out after seeing Sept. 11 on TV. The Malaysian in question is Zaini Zakaria. (I suspect Australians and New Zealanders are familiar with that name, hmm?)
Duly note this:
It quoted Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the reputed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks who was captured in 2003, as saying "three potential pilots were recruited for the alleged second wave."I immediately recognized the name of Jdey. In that this is a story on a Canada's supposed primary news site (funded by the taxpayers) and written by writers for the Canadian Press one might think they would blink (if not shoot out of their chairs) at the name "Abderraouf Jdey" but, while providing some information about Moussaoui and Zaini, they passed on Jdey.
It identified them as Zacarias Moussaoui, Abderraouf Jdey, and Zaini. (Bolding added.)
So why am I making such a fuss? Because Abderraouf Jdey is a Canadian. He moved here in 1991 and became a Canadian citizen in 1995. His suicide tape was found in Afghanistan and the FBI issued a world-wide warrant for his arrest some years ago. He is considered armed and dangerous. (Heh. Wikipedia has an entry on Jdey including some allegations which are highly, um, speculative.)
It's absolutely incredible that they fumbled on some rather obvious Can-con (that's a phrase we give to the mandatory inclusion of Canadian content imposed on radio and television.) Journalistic malpractice or willful ignorance? I can't read their minds so can't make a determination in this matter but I do think either is pathetic.
Moussaoui, of course, was already in jail on September 11, 2001, so his participation in any plot planned for 2002 was foiled, and Zaini Zakaria is currently being held for his involvement in Jemaah Islamiya, the al Qaeda-linked group which planned and carried out the 2002 Bali terror attack.
I knew Jdey's name already -- it also came up during the Sept. 11 hearings in the U.S. -- but had to google to get information about Zaini. (That's because I'm just an amateur and forgot his mention in the Sept. 11 Commission report.)
The true wonder is how they concluded the item in the best tradition of the Sob Story without blushing.
Feb. 10 - From the clash between civilizations to the clash within the civilization: commemorations of Ashura are again deadly: Pakistan suicide blast kills 27. Twenty-seven killed. Over a succession issue more than a thousand years old. The closest equivalent would be armed struggle between Greek Orthodox Christians or Protestants and Roman Catholics -- and however profound the differences between them remain, we have learnt to agree to disagree. That's the Western value we are trying to "export."
Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed condemned the attack, calling it a "conspiracy to trigger clashes between Sunnis and Shiites."As too many blithely opine that the "clash of civilizations" is epitomized by the "spontaneous" demonstrations over the cartoons (hey, it's not the fault of the arsonists that Flags 'R' Us was slow filling the order for Danish flags) it's too easy to forget that the primary target for the fundamentalists are other Muslims.
Recapping my favourite theme: the showdown in Western countries is between those who have an embracing world view which lends more than lip service to "diversity" and those who don't, and that in turn is a surer guide that tells us whose side we are on more than any pandering to what some would simplistically characterize as "the underdog." (Nods to a wise woman who, by setting it out in straightforward terms, clarified the tendency to automatically "side with underdogs" as a leftover knee-jerk response from which I suffered but am recovering. Maturity is a frustrating enigma.)
Feb. 10 - Sorry for the longer than expected hiatus from the blog. The anticipated flurry of activity during the Chistmas shopping period was co-joined to another flurry and then yet another flurry. I would love to employ the term fugue but the addition of the 3rd element ruined that along with most of January and the first part of February. The element that all three complemented one another does, however, hold true.
In short, I'm still waiting for the much-needed post-Christmas slowdown, but at least I am working what passes for normal hours (at least this week -- but don't take any bets that I won't have to work this Saturday although, with luck, next Saturday is reserved for personal time!)
The Canadian elections were interesting and, although the Tories lead a minority government, perhaps the most important thing is that a balance has been restored to Canadian politics in that there are two functional national mainstream parties vying for power. Liberal corruption was enabled in part by the lack of a credible alternative for the electorate -- a lesson both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. should already know but don't.
Andrew Coyne has written brilliantly on some weird appointments by the new government. Just a note to American readers: Cabinet members up here are supposed to be elected Members of Parliament which is why the appointment of Fortier is such a shock. I should also note that Fortier doesn't have to be confirmed by Parliament which is in some ways a mixed blessing given how acrimoniously political such things have been but the appointment is, nonetheless, disconcerting.
Note to Democrats: re-read Sen. McCain's letter to Sen. Obama on developing legislation for lobbying reform and pay special attention to this:
They [the American people] see it as yet another run-of-the-mill Washington scandal, and they expect it will generate just another round of partisan gamesmanship and posturing.Attempts to run campaigns around corruption will fail for precisely the reason cited above: we see it as irritatingly business as usual. As JFK famously said, every mother wants her son to grow up to be President but no mother wants her son to grow up to be a politician.
Back to the point, Americans who have a post-Sept. 11 mentality realize that securing the defense of the nation is not the most important job of the national government but is the only job of the national government. With that understanding, those with a grasp on reality, like Sen. Lieberman and Robert Livingston, lend respectability to a party that has irrationally wedded itself to the mindset of the 1960's without remembering that those days were molded by a generation that rebelled against the kind of mind-controlling authority such as Orwell wrote about in 1984. Those of us who cherish liberty regard "politically correct" speech more as confirmation of Orwell's fears than any supposed enlightenment and if the Democrats really want to look at the future maybe they should start by not forlornly wishing for the past. It's no accident that the intensely irreverent South Park is so popular.
If you've noticed that any attempt at a segue was incomplete then you got my underlying point. Canadians are not Americans, and among other differences, most people up here regard the war on terror as not that much a Canadian thing (despite the presence of and and casualties inflicted on Canadians in Afghanistan.) Nevertheless, as an American I want to say again that the participation of Canada in the WOT is, although often obscured, important and greatly appreciated. It does not, nevertheless, drive Canadian politics.
There isn't much that can be stated about Coretta Scott King's passing that others haven't said. My generation owes much to this woman who symbolized dignity and strength because she held us together when we were torn with grief and fury over Dr. King's murder. (I guess only people of my generation can know what I mean about that time, as with all things some people read about but which others of us lived through. Those were dark days during which many of us lost hope as well as our way, and focusing on the erect figure of Mrs. King restored a point on which to focus.)
Lastly, I'd like to thank President Bush because his revelations about the plot to attack a Los Angeles building gave me the opportunity to drag out one of my favourite photos:
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Isn't he cute? And I would like to note that something that may have been vital to thwarting that and future plots could have been the arrest of a Canadian-based terrorist and no, I'm not referring to any member of the Khadr family, but to Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, who was a prominent member of Jemaah Islamiya (see here for his role in JI) until his capture and incarceration with the assistance of Canada. (His brother was killed in a shoot-out with Saudi police. Sigh.)
P.S. What, I should weigh in on those cartoons? I intensely dislike anything that is racially stereotypical whether it be of Muslims, Jews or Condi Rice, but didn't find the cartoons to be all that terrible (especially compared to those I've seen over at lgf from the Arab media) so although I will pass on re-producing the Danish cartoons I do defend anyone else's right to do so. I just don't see them as advancing the struggle against terrorism. Besides, Calvin and Hobbes they ain't.
Free speech does mean that we will see things that we may find offensive. We handle it. Freedom often means having a thick skin, but hot damn! it's worth it.
On the recent Palestinian elections, is anyone really all that surprised? Yes, I know many say they are, but the difference between Hamas and El Fatah is more one of perception than reality. Neither is interested in peaceful co-existence with Israel and both have deep roots in terrorism. I'd rather deal with the wolf than the fox any day.