April 21, 2006

Happy 80th to the Queen

Apr. 21 - Cheering crowds greet Queen on birthday walkabout but the real tribute is from Beaverbrook.

Off to work.

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Better get those passports

Apr 21 - Fox reports some interesting news - FBI: Two U.S. Citizens Met With Islamic Extremists in Canada to Plan Terror Strikes - with one glaring omission: Canada is a big country and the "where" might be of interest to folks up here and, I suspect, to folks down there.

Get with it, FoxNews.

(The alleged meeting was in Toronto.)

[Just to clarify that post title, it is in reference to people up here who oppose the new regulations requiring people from Canada to present passports when they try to enter the U.S.A. There seems to be some weird attitude by Canadians that they have a God-given right to enter the US at will, which is kind of funny coming as it does from a country in which the English population doubled by the many Loyalists who left the USA after the Revolutionary War.]

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Hugo Chavez does Cleavon Little

Apr. 21 - Blazing Saddles much? Heh.

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"Too soon? This story never stopped."

Apr. 21 - The quote in the title of this post is from Deroy Murdock's concluding sentence in his review of the movie Flight 93 and the sentiment of that sentence started another train of thought.

I will probably cry during the movie but those tears will be not only of grief but also of gratitude and joy - joy that, on one very dark day, some very ordinary and very determined people united to perform a heroic act that earned them a place beside some other ordinary yet determined people who were later immortalized by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, or leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

The story of those aboard Flight 93 isn't a new one but one that began in the 18th century - in fact, the Minutemen mark the beginning of the American nation. We are formed in the knowledge that those who stood at that Concord bridge as well as on Boston Commons were, as are most of us today, not military types but everyday folk - farmers, shopkeepers, printers and local businessmen - who found within themselves a resolve to stand firm for liberty.

That legacy passed to the crews and passengers aboard Flight 93 and they did not shirk. Their example will long remain a flame of inspiration in our hearts and, should we find ourselves in a like situation, will serve to strengthen our hearts and lend clarity to our minds as we too, in their memory, seize whatever means are at hand to fight those who would try to destroy us.

Too soon? More like long overdue.

(National Review link via Newsbeat1)

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The ship of state

Apr. 21 - Great read: Charles Krauthammer explains how the "I-know-better" generals get on the slippery slope (which is something of an understatement as that slippery slope leads toward a chasm of Grand Canyon proportions.)

This latest controversy would be more at home in Bizarro Land. Those who are seriously in favour of letting the military dictate policy need help -- fast. The others - those who advocate such for their own opportunistic reasons - have revealed so total a lack of understanding about the relationship between the military and civilian government and especially why such safeguards are necessary that they manage to be both pathetic and dangerous.

The eagerness with which much of the anti-war left has grasped at any and all straws to stay afloat has become tiresome, but this latest instance just might amuse Plato.

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April 20, 2006

I love April (but hate tax time)

Apr. 20 - Mark's youth team (he's a lowly coach) had some exhibition games on Saturday. They seemed to field and pitch okay, but don't have game sense, i.e., they don't seem to know what to do with the ball when they field it.

It ought to be simple. Before the ball is put into play, fielders need to have a notion as to what they will do if the ball is hit to them and what they will do if it's not hit to them, i.e., what position they will back up. It's not exactly hard to figure; after all, a 3-1 play is fairly routine (that's the first baseman tossing the ball to the pitcher for the out at first) and I know the kids have seen it several times.

And relay. It's a baseball fundamental, but kids don't get it - they want to be the hero who throws it into home from left field. They also don't get why trying to hit a legitimate home run (as opposed to a single and 3 errors) is selfish. The sorriest statistic in the world is "runners left on base."

And deeking out a baserunner? Dude, we call that a balk.

Strikes are fascist, ground balls are democratic. The truth and implications of that statement is crystal clear to me but very difficult to explain to those who don't already know it. Luckily I don't have to; Mark does. Heh.

I hate the way the concept "team work" has been bastardized. In a sports setting, team work is the magic that happens when the players have a winning attitude and bust their asses to win the game. The fielders do their utmost to retire batters and "passed ball" is regarded by catchers as grounds to commit suicide. Everything comes together and the bang-bang plays create an intensity and excitement that drives the entire team. Who doesn't love a clutch hitter?

Team work is that intangible thing that cannot be artificially created but comes straight from the heart - a stubborness and perseverance that marks those who strive to win.

In a work setting, though, team work seems to be code for "some people need to work harder to cover up for those who refuse to perform." If a company really wants team work they need to do as sports teams are supposed to do: bench or release players that won't or can't strive to win in order to keep that winning edge.

It's going to be an interesting season.

I managed to get a few consecutive days off work before Easter and resolved to do those things most easily deferred: my taxes, and washing the windows and curtains.

The windows and curtains really do need to be done. I haven't done them since Sept. 11 despite my earnest intentions. Somehow it always seemed more important to surf the news channels and internet to see if there had been another terror attack - and, too often, there had indeed been one.

But I found we had only a tad of window-washing solution, so I did my taxes - sort of. Mind, I was very well prepared. I had sharp pencils, the correct forms, my adding machine, scratch paper, all my receipts, and some cold beer in the fridge to celebrate the successful conclusion of this annual ritual. When I went to get my T-4, though, it wasn't where I had seen it less than 24-fraking-hours earlier.

I began to search, and boy did I search. I found all sorts of papers and mailers and stuff I meant to look at (some of it went back to the beginning of Gulf War II, which I guess is a commentary as to how long I've been shutting out everyday stuff) and, because I still suffered with a mild variety of the spring cleaning bug, I began to toss or file. Then I went through the newly bulging files; I'm not sure why I had baseball registration lists from 1997, but I can honestly say that now I no longer have them. Was I still procrastinating? Yes, because all the figures I needed were on my final pay voucher of 2005 so I finally bit the bullet and did my stupid taxes (and called work Monday morning to humbly request a replacement T-4.)

Then I noticed this weird smudge on a wall. You know what happens when you wash a smallish section of a wall, right? Right.

If anyone next to you has just fallen off their chair you are undoubtably sitting beside someone who knows me and how much I hate housework. It was all very well and good when the kids were little (and, come to think of it, spending most of my time trying to up clean the dirt they and the dog brought in from outside) but that was the in the pre-Internet era as well as those days when all history ended and life is much more exciting now - and considerably more dangerous.

Solutions seem harder to come by now (maybe because the Cold War strategy was conceived before I was even born.) Except for Iraq: that one is as simple as A-B-C. We keep faith with the people of Iraq. We don't flinch. We stick it out.

Iran, though, is hard. Those who discount the messages coming out of Iran as simple rhetoric simply haven't been paying attention. Bin Laden used to be dismissed too, until we learned to our shock that he meant business.

We can't go back to 1979 (which is why a long vacation would look good on President Carter right now) and have to deal with what is happening today. The U.N. will likely be useless - will there likely be a new Oil-for-Food program for Iran after sanctions prove to be a burden on the Iranian people? Puh-leeze.

And then there are those voices that are carefully implying that if we abandon Israel we'll end the "root causes" that caused Sept. 11 and the threat from Iran. But let's get serious: the root cause of barbarism is, you know, barbarism, and even the barbarians didn't occupy Rome until the Romans had lost the will to fight -- most clearly evidenced in that they had sub-contracted their fighting out to others.

Come to think of it, one of Bin Laden's grievances was on behalf of dead infants in Iraq which he attributed to the sanctions. Has he lifted the jihad now that the sanctions have been lifted? Or directed one to Saddam for diverting money from health care for his own personal gain? Of course not. There will always be grievances because there will always be those who will justify unbelievable acts of savagery for their own ends. But do we have to play along?

I would be willing to go on a bit of faith that the cartoon controversy was viewed by many national leaders as a skirmish and the feckless response was simply a feint, but something very precious was seen to be surrendered: the right to be irreverent, and without irreverence we lose our joy. No South Park? No Simpson's? Or, and this is really scary, no Monty Python?

Those who take themselves too seriously run the risk of ulcers and migraines, but I doubt waiting for the dour mullahs to develop life-style health problems is a useful strategy.

So the spectre of nuclear weapons in Iran - a country that has absolutely neither reverence for international relations much less a sense of humour - continues to pose a problem that challenges us all. I do feel certain we need to come up with a strategy that differs from those employed in both Afghanistan and Iraq and the best one I've heard thus far is to give more tangible support to the pro-democracy forces within Iran. It's a long shot, and I guess that even though I never would have characterized myself as a gambler I do remain, at heart, a liberal (in the classic sense) and I'm willing to gamble on my belief that the yearning for freedom remains the most compelling urge in the history of humanity.

Relying on the choice less hopeful is straight out of Tolkien - the quest to destroy the ring was one such choice, and Arvedui's claim of the kingship in Gondor was another. [That's an admittedly obscure reference; my fellow explorers in the the History of Middle Earth will undoubtably recognize it and others can find it in the Appendix of Return of the King where Earnil's ascension to the throne is discussed.]

Oh well, I'll do the stupid windows and curtains over the weekend but place the responsibility on Mark to remember to buy window cleaner. That might work, but I know I'll have to keep reminding him. And if it rains, maybe he'll have to cancel practice and then can help me take the curtains down!

Yeah, sometimes team work means cursing obstinate household fixtures together.

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Update on my stupid cat story

Apr. 20 - Okay so I asked Mark to look into the cats mouths to check out their toothy status. He simply gave me That Look (the women know what I mean and the men are allowed to look perplexed) and left the room to, you know, do something. When he returned he remarked that the cats tend to yawn prodigiously and we I could take a peek then. Very logical (don't you hate that?)

Naturally I have consistently failed to remember to look when they yawn, but I remain guilt-free as both cats are content with their soft food diet and, as they continue to be nuisances, I'm going on faith that they are just fine.

Archie pulled another stupid act. I went through my pseudo-furious routine when he jumped on the table as I was eating my Steak and Potato With Mushrooms Chunky Soup and when he jumped off, his hind foot clipped a chair and it fell on top of him. He limped away but still managed to look offended. There was a lot of cat hair but no blood, and the limp was gone before I went to work.

Why did I think my life would be saner just because the kids grew up and moved away? I am beginnng to conclude that children are like dogs and teenagers are like cats. Unfortunately, cats never grow into adulthood.

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April 06, 2006

Sometimes they get it right

Apr. 6 - I must be a very bad person because this headline made me laugh: Saddam-era judge insists 148 Shiites sentenced to death all confessed. Right. I'm sure they did. Torture has that kind of effect.

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Some days are stupider than others

Apr. 6 - Can cats lose a tooth? (I mean due to causes other than injury or trauma.) I found a small, hard object on the floor and finally decided it was either a small tooth or a deformed clove and, as our cats are getting old, thought I'd better check them.

I approached the older one with my flashlight and he immediately became defensive.

Hold still, I said. I just want to look at your teeth.

I'm not taking a pill, he stated and commenced to stare me down.

I'm not trying to give you a pill, ya stupid cat. I just want to get a look at your teeth. (A firm statement of intent should work.)

I'm not taking a pill he insisted, and then did that acrobatic squirm thing cats are famous for and got away. He's a mean, ornery bastard on his good days and bites - not to draw blood but to bruise, which hurts a lot more - so I figured I'd tackle an easier target.

Naturally the younger cat had been watching the whole thing. He's the needy, velcro kind of cat that requires two legs to eject him from the bed or couch and just won't leave you alone, but he did the unexpected and fled when I approached him. I finally located him at that sweet spot under the bed where he couldn't be reached without a baseball bat and tried to coax him out.

I'm not taking a pill, he said.

Sometimes I hate these cats. The only thing they're good for is blocking and tripping us when we come home and, of course, shedding, but I and most of North America have been brainwashed into thinking we owe them something because we rescued them from pounds and feed and shelter them.

Anyway, I got even with them for their stubborness because, still fretting over the tooth issue, I added water in their kibble. Soft food diet! Take that you stupid felines! Watch your steps or it will be jello and watery soup for the rest of your natural lives!

They liked it. They really liked it. The younger and usually more apprehensive one even finished it and wanted more (thus rising to the position of most likely candidate for tooth issues) and the nasty older one even purred when he tried to take over my pillow.

It was much, much easier raising the children. Ever try to give a cat a time out?

As for checking their stupid teeth, I'm waiting for Mark to get home. It will be entertaining to say the very least because he may be patient with kids but not with the cats and he can swear like a sailor when they piss him off. I can observe and come up with all manner of useful suggestions safely behind enemy lines ...

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The Gatorade Conspiracy

Apr. 6 - Any introduction is impossible, so just click and go read The Gatorade Conspiracy.

(Not safe for work. Or drinks. Or your mother. It is, however, completely safe for children who don't know how to read.)

Link from the always surprising Rocket Jones.

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April 05, 2006

Spirit still limping along

Apt. 5 - The right front wheel of the rover Spirit is not operating and the rover is having problems negotiating onto higher elevation with northern exposure, which it needs to do to survive the Martian winter (see here for rover updates.) The "work arounds" the team back on earth are attempting in order to maneuver the rover are indicative of one of those inherent characteristics which, in the Darwinian sense, accounts for the success of the human species: ingenuity.

It's nice to note that we still got it in us.

(Opportunity remains healthy after more than a year on Mars. Spirit has been on Mars for over 2 years, and both rovers have far exceeded their life expectancies. Long robotic life to them both!)

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Worthington on Saddam's trial

Apr. 5 - Peter Worthington reprints a column he wrote in 1959 about another trial during Baghdad's bad old days.

It's pretty illuminating and, through the comparison, indirectly chastizes those who may be unhappy with the way Saddam's trial has been proceeding. One could say that Saddam is getting far better than he deserves or swing the other way and call it a travesty, but this column refutes both extremes.

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Kindly define "friend"

Apr. 5 - The Globe and Mail headline shouts Brief Throne Speech hails U.S. as 'best friend' - death quotes theirs, as though that statement is a bad thing - which is why it continues to bewilder me that so many in the MSM express opposition to new regulations which require Canadians crossing the border to carry passports. Are we to suppose that the Globe and Mail thinks Canadians should have the kinds of consideration merited by long-standing ties of friendship between the two countries without the friendship part? (Actually, yes, but don't ask me to explain it.)

It seems below much of the media's radar up here that some decidedly unfriendly words and actions by columnists, activists and even members of the previous government have led many Americans to not count Canada as a friend and, too well aware that Canada was a member in good standing of the Axis of Weasels, regard this country as little better than France and deserving of the same disdain and treatment.

The formation of the Congressional Friends of Canada was widely hailed up here but should have been a huge warning flag. It was reactive, not pro-active: a reparative act in response to a woeful admission that relations between the two countries have deteriorated to the point that such an organization is needed, for why bother if there was no need to counteract the altered perception of Canadians by Americans?

Things have changed since Sept. 11. Before that day we tended to brush aside the slings and arrows thinking that we were "big enough to take it" but once we were attacked we took careful note of who were friends and who were foes and Canada came up sadly short. Blame Chretien, Parrish and Martin or applaud them, just don't overestimate our willingness to overlook or forgive because it's no longer about hurt feelings but about our very survival.

Also, for all the anti-Bush sentiment and professed preference for Democrats up here, please don't fail to note which party is increasingly becoming the party of protectionism and isolationism. Those who don't believe such sentiments will hurt trade are sadly mistaken.

The funny part is that the Globe and Mail is supposed to be business-oriented, yet the attitudes and policies they promulgate would have a devastating effect on the Canadian economy. Go figure.

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A New Leaf - Speech from the Throne

Apr. 5 - The Speech from the Throne was delivered to Parliament yesterday and the 2006 session opens today under something of a cloud due to the pay increase that puts MPs in the top 2% of income earners.

The themes of the speech echo much of the philosophy and promises made during the election campaign but, as always, the test will be in the ability of the minority government to get legislation passed by the House. Nevertheless, the opposition would be foolish to block the passage of a bill to strengthen accountabiliy and protect whistle-blowers (although they may try to water it down.)

The issue of child care will continue to be a major bone of contention. Those who claim that lack of child care forces many women to stay at home overlook an uglier reality: high taxes and prices force many women to work outside the home even when they'd much prefer to raise their children themselves. The Throne speech affirmed that parents should be able to choose the form of child care that works best for them.

The extent to which the federal government plans to return power to provinces in unclear. The speech spoke of facilitating "provincial participation in the development of Canadian positions that affect areas of provincial responsibility" which is not the same thing as returning power formerly held by the provinces.

We'll see how it goes.

Lorrie Goldstein looks at the double-standard and hypocrisy by Liberals criticizing yesterday's speech.

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Doc Halladay - 88 pitches in 7-2/3 innings

Halladay 06 home opener eIh6zrEB.jpg
Roy Halladay in home opener 2006
Picture from Toronto Blue Jays

Apr. 5 - How about them Jays? Great home opener winning 6-3 against the Twins. And that Halladay? He tossed a mere 88 pitches allowing only 5 hits in 7-2/3 innings.

He made everyone sit up and take notice when, on the last day of the season in back in 1998, he nearly tossed a no-hitter only for the Tigers get one off him in the 9th inning (I think that is when he became known as "Doc" Halladay.) His season ended prematurely last year with a broken leg from a line drive shortly before the All-Star break and his much anticipated return last night did not disappoint more than 50,000 fans who attended the game.

And it looks like we have a closer. B.J. Ryan picked up his first save last night.

Of course the temperatures dropped last night in honour of the opener. (It's tradition!)

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April 03, 2006

Whittle goes Heinlein

Apr. 3 - Or at least that's my take on the parameters he sets in LOST IN SPACE.

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PM speaks on crime

Apr. 3 - Good news and good news: Police cheer PM's tough talk on crime and I cheer his resolve to abolish the long gun registry ... but leave it to the Star to search out and quote someone who supports keeping the gun registry. Is there a policeman in Canada who assumes that someone doesn't possess a gun just because they aren't a registered owner? The illegal, unregistered hand-guns used in the incessant gang warfare here in Toronto answers that question pretty decisively.

PM Harper's speech today on crime is here and the speech of Vic Toews, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, before the Canadian Professional Police Association is here (via Newsbeat1.)

Parliament opened today. It will be interesting to see how much this minority government will be allowed to accomplish inasmuch as the leadersless Liberals are not likely to want an election any time in the near future.

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The plight of the Palestinian people

Apr. 3 - Skillfully done post at Newsbeat1 contrasting propaganda with unspeakable exploitation: Their cousins had no intention in resettling them............despite the billions they made over 60 years.

Has another group of people ever been so callously used and betrayed over so long a period under the banners of solidarity and brotherhood?

I don't know. Maybe I'm just weary of all the bloodletting in the pursuit of deflected angers. Although my reason insists that a resolution can and will be found, I just can't see where and when it will happen. The nascent civil war between the different militias (for lack of a better definition) seems to argue that bloodletting remains the preferred political tool and, under such circumstances, attempts to create a Palestinian state that can offer its people a future seem doomed.

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"It's time to do something about the CBC"

Apr. 3 - Richard has written a persuasive, low-key open letter to PM Harper about continued federal funding for the CBC over at Cannuckistan Chronicles.

It's a nicely restrained letter with lethal pin-point accuracy. After citing some examples from Tony Burman, Editor in Chief of CBC News, of his self-aware political bias the letter concludes:

Freedom is an interesting word Mr. Harper. As Canadians we have the freedom to provide funding and support to any number of activist groups should we choose to do so. We have the freedom to make that choice. Except when it comes to the "activist" CBC, as it's funded by our tax dollars.

As such Mr. Harper, I respectfully request that you level the playing field. ..

Well done.

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Oh, that liberal media

Apr. 3 - M.K. Braaten proves that pictures are better than words and in doing so utterly discredits the Wardrobe Controversy the media has tried to create over PM Harper's choice of apparel during the Cancun summit.

(Note to Americans: the first photo is of former PM Paul Martin and the second is of current PM Stephen Harper. If you thought much of the American media gave Clinton a free pass ...)

(Via Newsbeat1)

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Moussaoui eligible for death penalty

Apr. 3 - It's official: Moussaoui Eligible for Death Penalty.

This has been a hard case. I don't mean just legally but emotionally as well because there really are wounds that never heal.

I am against the death penalty. I believe that the death penalty is instutionalized pre-meditated murder and, however much I burn for vengeance, I believe that it's wrong.

I've said often enough that someone deserved to die and God knows they probably did but therein lies the problem: I'm not God.

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Signs of Spring

Apr. 3 - Robins are all very good and all but there are some more tangible signs of spring today: York regional police warn that the ice on Lake Barrie is unstable and the 2006 baseball season begins!

2006 Bush opener pitch 5469892_38_1.jpg
President Bush throws out the first pitch at the Reds home opener.
(Photo via FoxSports)

The Cubs win was a welcome bonus: with President Bush on hand, Cubs rout Reds.

The answer to The Burning Question: the president says he threw a slow ball and it was high and off the plate.

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Coffee shop incident ruled to be a fire

Apr. 3 - Terorism has been ruled out as a motive in yesterday's incident at a downtown Tim Horton's (Deadly Tim's blast) and, although there's a degree in comfort in that conclusion, I find the bizarre nature of the incident is even more disturbing.

The official word is that it was a fire, not an explosion. The deceased, who has not yet been identified, allegedly entered the coffee shop with a container of gasoline and took it with him to the men's washroom in the back.

The police have secured what they believe to be the car of the deceased which was found parked nearby, but other than that are releasing little information on the case. The question now is whether it was a bungled arson attempt or a suicide. Self-immolation as one's death of choice is horrific.

I try to keep track of terror attacks so of course such would be my first guess but I'm surprised that so many non-political, non-news-junkie people drew that as a conclusion. I guess that, try as we might, the terror threat really isn't that removed from our consciousness.

I confess: I double-checked my flashlight before I went to work last night to make sure it had a strong beam and wore sturdy shoes just in case.

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April 02, 2006

Explosion at Tim Horton's (Updated)

Apr. 2 - 13:36 - This just in: Reports say one person dead in explosion in downtown Toronto Sunday at a Tim Horton's Donut Shop in Yorkville near Bloor and Yonge.

Live coverage says they still don't know what happened and unconfirmed reports say that the explosion happened in the washroom.

I'm trying not to speculate - and failing - because my mind inevitably flashes to one possible scenario.

14:39 - A police spokesman just confirmed the explosion happened somewhere near the back of the shop.

15:04 - The victim was male, and there was some sign of burns on the body.

15:34 - CP 24 just reported a witness who claims a man walked into the restroom wearing explosives. It's a beautiful day so no one is wearing winter coats (most of us are tempting the fates by wearing no coats) but even so I'd put a caution on the explosives theory just yet.

But, since it's been broached, my first thought was that someone was adjusting his explosives before boarding the subway. But I have a pretty active imagination.

15:45 - CNews seems to be updating its reports fairly regularly and they repeat the unconfirmed report from radio station AM-640 that someone wearing explosives entered the washroom shortly before the blast. That is downright bizarre; I should think an intentional bomber would at minimum attempt to conceal the explosives and pick a more populated area than a washroom or the back of a coffee shop.

It is possible that nerves are a bit jittery after the arrests of several terror suspects recently in the Toronto area and some recognize that there could be an attack for both revenge purposes and to serve as a deterrent to further arrests, or even in response to the recent offensive in Afghanistan which involves Canadian troops.

Both CBC Newsworld and CTV Newsnet are only reporting official police and fire department statements and, for Toronto area people, CP 24 has the best live coverage thus far, but it's unlikely any new information will be released soon.

16:47 - It has been confirmed that the dead man was not an employee.

I'm lazily just copying the portion of a post in progress which has news links to recent arrests (remember that an arrest is not the same as a conviction, okay?)

Truth is, I've lost track of the the growing number of Canadian terrorists that have been arrested, killed abroad, or for whom arrest warrants have been issued and far too many of which lived in the Toronto area. (Updates on Mustafa, or Murtaza, here and here.)

And then there's everyone's favourite terrorist family, the Khadr's. Omar Khadr, dubbed the "Toronto Teen" by the Star, is scheduled to face another hearing at Guantanamo and his brother Abdullah has been accused by the U.S. of supplying al-Qaida with weapons and explosives.

I've including this more to explain why so many of us are trying so damned hard not to jump to conclusions; the Jabarah brothers come to mind as well.

I'm going out because (a) it's a beautiful day and (b) the speculation and suspense is killing me. I may counsel patience but find it hard to follow my own advice.

Newsbeat1 is staying on top of this and will likely catch new developments as soon as they break.

Apr. 3 - Police have ruled out terrorism. Update here.

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Oh, frak

Apr. 2 - Sometimes I could kill Tuning Spork. Or myself.

His latest story here got me good.

Be sure and check the date. I know I didn't.

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Speaking about the U.N.

Apr. 2 - Claudia Rosett asks - and answers - Commentary - How Corrupt Is the United Nations? Keeping up with U.N. scandals is definitely a full-time job, and there are some worrying implications about Ted Turner's foundation and the influence it wields.

David Warren doesn't pull any punches here:

one can’t refer to a “low point” in an institution that is morally bottomless
in his latest essay about the total failure of the U.N. to deal with Iran.

(Via Newsbeat1)

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April 01, 2006

Popcorn time

Apr. 1 - That's all for now. Time to watch Supernatural, followed by Battlestar Galactica, then the movie Army of Darkness, or, if you prefer, time to get scared, time to get serious, and time to get slapsticky.

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Operation Peacemaker

Apr. 1 - Operation Peacemaker is a Canadian mission in which Troops will go deeper into the Taliban zone:

The aim of the latest mission - essentially Phase 2 of Operation Peacemaker - is to further extend Afghan National Army and coalition influence into districts such as Maywand, and to solidify their hold on Shah Wali Kot, where Hope said he wants to build "a sustained presence."

Earlier on, the Taliban had largely avoided combat, prompting some soldiers to christen this the "ghost war."

Over the last few days, however, Canadian troops and other coalition soldiers have faced a vicious series of assaults. They included two rocket attacks on the principle coalition base at Kandahar Airfield, a suicide car bombing, roadside explosives and a Taliban attempt to overrun a remote outpost in nearby Helmand province.

The brazen assault early Wednesday with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and guns on the newly established military outpost in Sangin district resulted in the death of Pte. Robert Costall. Coalition commanders conceded the attack was bigger and more intense than expected.

And they rose to the challenge.

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Attack kills bomber

Apr. 1 - It brings a tear of joy to my eye when a suicide bomber only succeeds in killing himself.

From the Dod: Attack Kills Bomber, Slightly Injures Afghan Soldier,

According to this report from CN News, the coalition forces to which the DoD report refers were Romanian.

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That rebellious youth

Apr. 1 - In repressive action reminiscent of the 60's, school authorities have cracked down on the rights of high school students to express their views: Flag Waving Banned at Colorado School.

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Abderraouf Jdey (and Harper's wardrobe)

Apr. 1 - Some Canadian exposure of revelations about Abderraouf Jdey that emerged from the Moussaoui trial: Al-Qaeda plotters sought Canadian as pilot, court told because al Qaeda believed that those who held Western passports would more easily pass through security checks. One correction though: the Sept. 11 commission was in fact told specifically that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed claimed that Jdey and Moussaoui were both to have hijacked planes out of Indonesia to attack the U.S. west coast (more on that here and google search results here.

Note to Globe and Mail: Kindly check your ... Oh forget it. I realize your people have far more important things to do, like complain about Harper's wardrobe.

18:07 This goes beyond the ridiculous: today's CTV poll question (on their main page) is if I think it matters what Stephen Harper wears when he attends high profile meetings with foreign leaders. What are they trying to do, turn him into a metrosexual?

It's nice to note that there are so few issues of substance these days that the Canadian news media can address this sort of urgent issue. And they wonder why Canadians watch US news channels.

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Rally to defend freedom of the press!

Apr. 1 - It appears that there is more than one way to supress press freedoms, and I'm finding it hard to restrain the contempt I feel as I report that a Canadian human rights commission in Alberta is complicit in an attempt to do just that.

The Western Standard magazine published those Danish cartoons last February. Attempts to get the police to stop publication were denied but now a complaint has been filed - and accepted - by the Alberta Human Rights Commission that claims that reglious rights were violated by the publication of the cartoons and charges Ezra Levant with hate mongering.

Few things anger me more than the frivolous manipulation of those agencies which are intended to protect citizens' rights, and when the agencies themselves are complicit in the frivolity they destroy their own credibility. But it's not just stupidity propelling this but action by the usual, politcally correct suspects to limit freedom of expression.

But herein lies the rub. Although there is little if any chance that the Western Standard will be found guilty they will have to pay for their legal defense (whereas of course the complaintant's bills will be covered by the taxpayer) and, being a small newspaper, it is going to hurt because those costs are not reimbursible.

So I'm asking you to help not only this Canadian magazine but also yourselves, because unless suits of this nature are immediately met with outrage and direct, tangible support to fight them they flourish, and that's bad news for all of us.


There is more information on the suit here and a link to a .pdf file of the complaint. I doubt I need to remind anyone reading this that defending press freedoms is part and parcel of the war on terror or how imperative it is that we rise up as one when our freedoms are attacked.

So I'm asking you, no, begging you to click on the image above or go here to donate to this fight. (In truth, American readers, if only because a small Canadian newspaper shamed a lot of big American ones, I'd say that donating to this cause is even more incumbent upon Americans!)

Canadian and American soldiers are protecting our freedoms overseas and we owe it to them to do our part to protect those freedoms when they're attacked here. It really is that simple.

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The Maple Leaf Forever!

March 31 - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Afghanistan could not have been timed better coming as it did right before the annual spring Taliban offensive. In contrast, the calls by the Opposition parties to debate the Afghan mission in Parliament could not have been timed worse. It effectively gave the Taliban reason to hope that Canadians would cut and run once blood had been drawn and why the assault on the base was stronger than expected; they well understand the nature and tactics of opposition parties which hope to bring down a minority government by any and all means. It was essential that Harper renew Canada's committment then and there, with his boots on the ground, and assure the troops (and Afghans) that the Canadian government and people supported them.

Not bad for a rookie prime minister, eh? And the response here has been overwhelmingly positive and makes one wonder what the heck is going on with Canadian sensibilities. Media pundits, meanwhile, gripe that Harper, who never received any respect from them, doesn't respect them. There have been major firefights in Afghanistan and the media is focused on themselves. Right.

Harper's visit and brief speech also marked a welcome shift in policy as he asserted his confidence in Canada - not as a heckler but as an active player on the world stage by recognizing that you can't "lead from the bleachers." Andrew Coyne's analysis on this is well worth reading and I won't go over the same ground but want to speculate about some possible implications on how that speech might affect the role of the Canadian military in foreign affairs and how it might affect Canadians as they perceive themselves.

Significantly, Harper asserted that the troops were in Afghanistan to "defend our national interests." Now I don't know how often the Liberals openly justified foreign policy on the basis of national interests but I'd hazard it would be somewhere between "not often" to "rarely if ever." Canadian participation in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, for example, was portrayed as one of altruistic peacekeeping -- as though Canada did not have a stake in the establishment of a democratic, peaceful Afghanistan. (Harper did elide over the fact that it is a NATO mission by referring to it as a U.N. mandated mission. The political reality is that Canada tends to regard the U.N. as a Canadian accomplishment so invoking the U.N. confers better legitimacy. Sigh.)

He also stated that Canada has a stake in the role on terror, and by affirming that Harper broke new ground - not so much because of what he said but because he was completely and utterly sincere. If Americans regarded former prime minsters Chretien and Martin as indistinguishable from France's Chirac maybe it's because that perception was accurate: the previous governments were perceived to be paying token lip service to the war on terror and justified Canadian participation by playing the trade card, as though Canadian security and national interests were not at stake and as though terror attacks on innocent civilians were not an affront to Canadian values. Yet, like France, Canadian security forces have been more active than is publicly recognized here. It's as though they are contributing but don't want anyone to know about it - something that is insulting to Canadian citizens who are entitled to know what their government is doing.

Harper also reminded the Canadian troops of the two dozen Canadians that died on Sept. 11, something the Liberal government had been quick to shrug aside just as they underplayed the deaths of Canadians who have lost their lives in other terror attacks. The previous government followed much of the world by pretending that the U.S. alone was the target -- as though the name World Trade Center was as devoid of symbolism as was the death roll of citizens from around the world.

Right about this time three years ago the booing of the U.S. national anthem at a Montreal Canadiennes game was noted by the American news media (although not so much the determined cheering of the anthem at a Blue Jays game in Toronto.) There were a lot of people up here who recognized that, despite one's attitude about the war in Iraq, the ties of friendship and shared values were worth defending, and it was in that spirit that the Friends of America organized rallies across Canada in early April of 2003.

The Toronto rally was on a Friday afternoon and, despite the freezing rain, some 2,000 people attended. One of the most spirited speakers at that rally was Stephen Harper, then leader of the Alliance Party, who ended his speech with the cries "God Bless America" and, very significantly, "The Maple Leaf Forever!"

The response was electrifying. By invoking that cry he hearkened back to an earlier, pre-Trudeauian era when Canadians were internationally regarded as tough and gritty - bold men and women who strode down from the North with determination and got the job done. (The song Maple Leaf Forever is quickly recognizable because it was often background music in war films where Canadian troops were featured, and was the unofficial song of Canada before Oh Canada was institutionalized.)

The capabilities of the Canadian military have been so diminished that that when Canadian soldiers first arrived in Afghanistan they were wearing forest green uniforms. It is to their credit that they scrounged for paint in order to create desert-camo fatigues and blankets but they shouldn't have had to go to such lengths, nor should Canadian troops have had to hitch a ride for the deployment. Sea Kings should not fall out of the air nor should a sailor die on a second-hand submarine and it is hard to swallow the pious sentiments expressed at cenotaphs on Remembrance Day when it is government indifference that most puts military lives at risk.

Polls indicate that Stephen Harper's approval ratings shot up after his trip to Afghanistan and it has been reported that enlistment numbers for the Canadian military are steadily increasing. Is it possible that a long-stifled urge is at work here, an urge for Canada to count as a player on the world stage and be recognized by her deeds rather than by the empty words of past governments? Is it possible that the energy checked by too much political correctness is about to spring free?

I still can't gauge how Canadians are reacting to the reality that her soldiers in Afghanistan are engaged in active warfare as well as reconstruction efforts but the lack of demonstrations argues that Canadians are fine with it. American forces in Afghanistan as well as Iraq have been doing both for a long time and I suspect that Canadians are sensible enough to recognize that there is no reason why, with proper support, Canadian troops can't do so as well, but there is also a deeper recognition that springs not so much from American sentiments but from Western sentiments: we are not only willing to die for our values but also willing to kill to defend those values.

There is a part in most of us that is dismayed when we ask our sons and daughters to kill. That is it should be in a moral society and is a key value that separates us from those who enthusiastically rejoice when their children commit murderous terror acts which kill inocent civilians. Yet the fact is that killing and detaining terrorists are the best if not only ways to protect civilians - including Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus - from terror attacks, and those who will not defend the innocent are selfishly immoral.

As I prefaced earlier I'm just speculating, but there's a reason why Don Cherry was voted to the Top Ten List of Canadians and why hockey thrives up here. If the Canadian youth are totally anti-war then why are they wearing desert camo clothing? There's something askew, and as neither Don, hockey nor military wear are for sissies, maybe there's something going on that neither the media nor the polls have addressed but which Stephen Harper has.

Confidence is a concept that has been eroded by fretting over self-esteem. It takes confidence "to do" but one needs neurosis to obsess over self-esteem, and a less neurotic and more confident Canada can be a strong and valuable participant on the world stage. I sincerely hope that Harper can tap the wellspring of Canadian confidence sufficiently to render ludicrous accusations that such is an American-style approach to life and the world because the detractors are dead wrong: confidence is not the sole province of Americans but is God's gift to the world as surely as is liberty, and there are no more confident people on the planet than free people.

To repeat Harper's exhortation of three years ago, The Maple Leaf Forever! Stride onto the world stage with the same gritty confidence that once marked Canada as a force to be reckoned with and show 'em what Canadians are made of and yes, do it for the children - including mine.

[It only took me three days to write, edit, and re-write this. Heh, maybe that's why I don't post as often as I used to. Oh well, Stephen den Beste and Bill Whittle I ain't.]

Posted by Debbye at 11:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack